I took PA yesterday for the first time and received my official pass today - so happy! Here is what I studied, my suggestions, and what I thought of the test.
- Ballast - I began studying by reading the PA relevant chapters of Ballast to get an overview of the testing material. I actually found Ballast to be much more helpful for this exam than I did for PcM, PjM, and CE.
- Site Planning and Design Handbook - I found this book extremely helpful for the environment conditions and site analysis areas of the test. Chapters 3-8 and the addendum about ESA were where I focused my reading and note taking.
- Problem Seeking - (just the first half) This book is definitely necessary for the building analysis & program area of the test. I also honestly enjoyed reading it.
- Building Codes Illustrated - I don't think this book was totally necessary, but I did find it helpful, especially the chapters on accessibility, fire protection, and soils.
- Architectural Graphic Standards - I mostly used this book for reinforcing concepts, I would not say it's a must-have for this exam.
- Designer Hacks and Black Spectacles for practice exams. I took a Designer Hacks quiz usually twice a day throughout each work day and took a Black Spectacles practice exam twice a week. Of course the real test is harder, but these are helpful.
- Other than those resources, I found additional information online such as ADA 2010, NPS guidelines, Green Building Alliance's information on brownfield remediation, and examples of boring tests.
I took copious notes from everything I read. The week leading up to the exam, I typed those notes into one study guide- organizing all the information by test sections. It is really important for this exam to constantly reference back to the ARE handbook so you don't get too far deep into subject matter.
One big thing that really helped me for this exam was having (minimal) experience with code. If you work at an architecture firm- ask if you can work on the code summary sheets of your project. (This request will probably be welcomed!) This really helped me understand real life implications of code, and I was much more confident with those questions.
I did find the actual exam to be pretty difficult, especially because there are a lot of questions requiring calculations (efficiency, FAR, etc.). My usual test routine is to aim to get to the case studies with 1.5 hours left, and I found myself really rushing to get there. Luckily, the case studies weren't terribly complicated and I ended up finishing with more than enough time to check my marked answers.
On to PPD, good luck everyone!
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