PA Pass Tips!
I took PA this Monday and received a PASS. This is my second time taking PA and I felt more confident going through the exam this time around! Since this community has helped me so much, I wanted to take the time and give some tips that helped me along the way. Hope I can help the next candidate get through this exam!
1. ARE Handbook
The PA section in the ARE Handbook should be your absolute guideline for studying. It's critical. (As Marina Curac advises, read it every other day! https://www.marinacurac.com/post/passed-pa-here-s-how-it-happened)
I ended up breaking each summary for all the modules word-for-word and studied exactly the content they mention. I had notes for each module and broke everything down to possible scenarios I might be quizzed on. If I came across study material that was beyond what's asking, I did not spend time on it. Remember NCARB is trying to help you here. Do NOT skim through the handbook.
2. Get comfortable with space adjacency diagrams
I remember first taking the exam and did not expect much space adjacency diagrams. With the amount of content showing in the question, it can be very overwhelming at first! But if you break it down, it's easier than you think. Unfortunately, there aren't too many sample practice questions for these. But if you review the Demo exam provided by NCARB and the ARE Handbook exam, and practice your timing in completing it in less than 90 seconds... this will help.
Again Marina's advice for tackling these mini puzzles was super helpful! Check the link out here: https://www.marinacurac.com/post/how-to-pace-yourself-for-pa-or-any-other-test-really
3. Get comfortable with navigating code
It's important to feel comfortable navigating the IBC and ADA, along with zoning documentation. Don’t memorize the charts, but be very familiar with how to use them. In addition to reviewing IBC and ADA, going over Building Codes Illustrated was also helpful in nailing down concepts.
4. Cross-reference materials
Aside from the required readings for this exam (Site Planning, Problem Seeking), I did a lot of cross-referencing different materials to fill the gaps. This includes Ballast, Black Spectacles, Pluralsite, AEP (Architect Exam Prep), and my independent research. (Aside from third party material and the required readings, don’t forget to dig into Historic conditions outlined Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties, Geotechnical Reports, Boring Logs, etc.) For some, this might be a bit of overkill, but personally going over different sources helped me nail down concepts quickly. The more I read, watched (videos), and listened (podcasts) of different materials, the more I was able to grasp concepts and piece everything together. Again NCARB isn’t testing your ability to memorize, but to understand concepts and make wise judgment calls.
Okay, so now you feel you’ve read everything possible. You know the content but are you in the right mindset for the exam? Check out Eric and David’s Architect Exam Prep podcasts and coaching materials. I was able to attend their coaching session and it was helpful addressing the issues regarding mindset, not necessarily concepts of the exam. Also how to tackle questions quickly! Time management is an important factor for this exam.
6. Read everyone’s experience passing here!
Here are some great blog posts that were quite spot on and helped me along the way:
7. Test your ability to move QUICKLY during the exam
Remember each question is worth one point. For the multiple-choice questions, move through it quickly. I recommend spending no more than 90 seconds on it, except for the few harder ones. If you really don't understand it, flag it and move forward. Once you get through the exam, come back to it with a fresh mind. Most of the time, you'll be able to answer the question once you completed the majority of the exam. Don't stress... keep going!
For environmental and puzzle type questions. I recommend Walking the ARE 5.0 PA Exam. Now keep in mind, some of these questions will actually try to trick you! NCARB isn't that tricky, so if you get majority wrong. Don't feel bad! But I felt it still definitely helped for environmental and puzzle questions.
Also take Marina's advice here when reading puzzle questions as mentioned above. This was a huge help too: https://www.marinacurac.com/post/how-to-pace-yourself-for-pa-or-any-other-test-really
In the exam, remember the questions aren't as tricky as you think. If you just look at the keywords and focus on what they're asking ONLY. You can do it. Don't overthink it.
Congrats on the pass!
If anyone else is looking for study advice for the PA exam, I made a YouTube video about how I was able to pass the exam. I cover the best resources to study from and a sample study schedule. Feel free to check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HPKOq9rqgMg
I will also be releasing a new video every week, so be sure to subscribe so you don't miss any future videos!
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