I failed PPD, just barely about 2 months ago, took a few weeks off to relax and then hit the books hard for PDD. I passed that and then circled back around to wrap up PPD last week. I think that this was a good course of action to attack the exams. With a 60 day wait after a fail I think your in a good position to take an exam and if you fail it, take a short break after making notes on the test, then get up and start studying again for PDD. Staggering the exams every 30 days will give you chance to think of yourself like a prize boxer who fights the same opponent every 30 days and either knocks out the exams or gets knocked out by them.
The exams are in fact rather similar and you will basically be studying for the same test twice so even when your prepping for PPD your really prepping for PDD and vice versa. This seems wierd but when your feeling down about it remember all the BS that used to happen with the exams, like the personal interview or the hours spent drawing it all by hand to have it reviewed by someone else who would make a personal decision on whether or not you passed. These two exams are essentially the last chance for NCARB to say if you can make it in the industry.
Here is what I studied and the resources I used:
Ben Norkin at Hyperfine The practice questions and his case study are your most important test question prep work you can do. Solve the problems, look at his resource material and get to know it because your going to see it again in your other books ( when this happens, pay close attention to the material around it, the context that its showing up in) and then again on your exam. Get to know all the questions and the math behind it until its down solid!
Buy a copy of the IBC and get used to reading it. Know the sections on Fire Separations 508, Mezzanines 505, Building Height and Area 501, occupant load 1004, exit access and travel 1017, stairs 1011, guardrails 1015, classifications chapter 3, atriums 404 and construction type 601. You don't need to memorize the code, but you do need to be very familiar with it and know the code section numbers so you can find it on test day (esp with the horrid UX that the test provides.) Knowing some parts of the code (like that in the Hyperfine questions,) will help you save a lot of time on some questions.
Get a copy of MEEB and read it, or at least skim through the whole thing and highlight all the material that seems important. YES ITS 1700 pages, but it took me about one week to do and it should be the same for you. You can consolidate it down to about 800-900 pages to skim until you find stuff that are interesting to you, or that you saw in other books or in other study material. THEN READ THAT PART one because its truly fascinating and two because that is the stuff you will see on the test. Think about site, mechanical, electrical, elevators and plumbing for sure, then fire and go through all the sections that you recognize from or Architects Studio Companion and Hyperfine.
Ching building codes illustrated and building construction illustrated. Read and highlight all the chapters. Paying close attention to site issues (like parking and contour lines) wall systems, connections, parking, foundations (like the surface bearing area of a wall footing,) structural and hvac and then the various code issues like mezzanines, fire safety and atrium's. Your going to need these two books for PPD and CE, so read, highlight and reread the important stuff again and again.
Architects Studio Companion HVAC and structural systems, review parking basics and elevators. Understand why and how the various HVAC and structural systems are deployed. Expect to be tested on which type of structural system you would use in certain situations, especially in regards to fire safety, span and costs.
Graphic standards for Architects: I spent time just looking at all the pages and trying to digest the material. When you find written material that seems interesting (or that you saw in another book or study source) then digest it and try to hold on to it. The details are amazing and you will see them again in ching and maybe on the test.
The ballast book is a great idea and the first book I ever got for the ARE, dont give up on it if it has a bad review or two, or ten.... Read the PA, PPD and PDD sections. They are all so close together and you will need it as a reference for all the other books your reading. Dont worry so much about the method of sections or frankly all the other math functions they throw at you (literally skip that, outside of the PA net to gross calcs,) count on Hyperfine for 90% of that material. Once your done with those three sections, review your highlighter parts a few more times and think about how much overlap is in all these books, by this time you've seen a pattern among all these books and don't be surprised then your tested on the overlap areas.
Lastly for the math,see youtube for the Engineer4Free bending and moment diagrams. They have about 10 practice problems to freshen up your statics and free body diagrams, THAT YOU WILL NEED. Dont stress, its super easy and you will remember the material, especially if you do 2-3 problems again before test day, unless your a math-a-holic then practice makes perfect and working on the problems will help out a ton.
When your taking the test, remember how to attack it. Remove unlikely answers, dont read into the question for whats not there take it at face value and no more, Flag questions your unsure of but remember that your first answer is usually the right one. If you feel like your failing then take a moment collect your thoughts and attack the test not the material, seriously, the case tests are fascinating, but do you really need to read all that material to answer the question? What if you try to limit it to 2 mins can you get the answer then, hmmm I bet you can... Think about where the weakness is in the exam and try to use it to your advantage. If you do fail, get to a pad and paper right away and take down all the notes you can for your next review, and I bet you'll find the answers in your highlighted material, then 30 days later get back to boxing.
Best of Luck.
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