I ended up putting this at the beginning rather than the end of this post because I realized that most of you would not get through my rambling. Personally, best resources for helping to pass the exam...
Hyperfine - full disclosure, I am a bit biased. I went to school with this guy and he is really on his A game. Great site that he started from scratch. His videos and resources are very clear, and focus on what you need to pass the exam. He also is a Revit master and offers great intro courses for learning the software and using it efficiently. He offers lists of invaluable resources that every architect should have in their digital and paper library.
Amberbook - Great course and well worth the money. The thing I appreciated most about this course was the presentation. It was really refreshing to hear these same concepts that I had been studying over and over again presented in a way that was engaging. He exhibits actual materials in his videos, i.e. different valve types, insulation types that give a real-world perspective (not just images and text in a book)
Funkar - This is an organization out of California that gives web-based online courses. They do a great job and are very thorough. This course is very similar to an online class that you take at university. Great for understanding concepts and getting real-time feedback about specific problems. They put together a great study guide that is continually being updated.
Black Spectacles - great resource but I felt that the videos were a little too broad-based. They give you the big picture and cover all the topics but it felt too general to me. This is one of those where if you are somebody that is going to pass all the exams in six months to a year, then this is a great option that gets you familiar with the ideas and concepts that are going to be covered in the different exams. I found their practice exams the most useful and wish that there more of them.
Architect Exam Prep - I like the audio that this team provides and this was the first study guide that I tried out. I just kept the audio CD's in my car on repeat and refused to listen to the radio till I passed the exams.
I just recently got my license late last year. I made the transition from ARE 4 to 5 and, in retrospect, wish that I had finished up with 4 when I had the chance. The general consensus is that 5 is a more case-based exam which requires less memorization and more critical thinking. In theory, this translates to requiring candidates to use applied knowledge rather than raw memorization. Overall, a great idea and a welcome change. However, if you work in a small firm and focus primarily on single-family dwellings, the tests can be extremely challenging. I have a feeling that passing all the exams could have been significantly easier if I worked in a large commercial firm. And probably for the best.... much better to recognize and understand the complexities and liabilities presented by a large commercial structure compared to the relatively straight forward means and methods used in stick-built construction for a 2 or 3 story structure. Ok, so that is my take on the exam. Overall, it is a beast and PPD and PDD are not to be underestimated. I passed PPD on my third try and I am not going to tell you how many tries it took to get through PDD. My takeaway from multiple tries and failures.... you will eventually pass if you stick with it. I know that sounds a little cliche, but just from a probability standpoint, multiple tries means multiple tests. Yes, there are questions that keep popping up on each exam. But during my final PPD exam, I realized that I had finally gotten an exam that was asking all the questions that I spent so much time studying. Like many candidates, my biggest frustration is studying every book and taking every practice exam and then taking the actual exam and feeling like most of the questions don't match. I felt like there was some kind of secret book or practice test that I was missing. So I did them all... Ballast, Black Spectacles, Funkar, Amberbook, Hyperfine, PPI, formerly Brightwood, formerly Kaplan?, Architect Exam Prep. and the winner is....all of them. Ultimately, all of these resources helped and kept me staying fresh - not getting burned out listening to the same lectures over and over again and not passing. That being said, I am not a great test taker and I have friends from school and in practice that passed everything g in 6 months or less - not me. Overall, if my experience sounds similar to yours, just keep at it and eventually, you are going to sit down, put the headphones on, and realize that, finally, this exam was made for you and all your hard work. At the end of my last exam, I had no problem hitting "yes" to the annoying "would you like to see how you did on this exam" because I knew that I had passed. Hope this helps.
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