I passed PDD on Monday and am done with the ARE. This was my third attempt. I haven't written a study post before but since NCARB is deleting old and useful posts that helped me I wanted to write to those who are still studying.
I started taking the tests early 2018, six months after I graduated from a five year degree. I took PcM, PjM, CE, PA, PPD, PDD in that order so by the time I passed PDD I had all the knowledge of the other tests under my belt. As far as taking PPD and PDD, I failed both back to back in mid-2019. Then retook PPD and passed, and retook PDD right before the pandemic and failed. I thought passing PPD was an indicator that I could pass PDD but I don’t think they are as close as others have made them out to be.
I also wanted to share that I have a learning disability. I don’t see it being shared here a lot and I wanted to give hope to those who struggle with these tests. I have always felt like I have to study 4x more than others to reach the same goals especially when it comes to reading. Just know that if you are like me, you need to understand what works best for you and run with it. For me it was reading book sections, typing notes for organizing my thoughts, and making handwritten note cards with questions and sketches to understand the information.
I studied for six weeks. 1-2 hours on the weekdays and 2-3 on the weekends. The last two weeks I averaged 20 hours a week. The first five weeks were for reading, taking notes, and practice problems, and the last week was just for review, practice problems, and note cards. I did not want to be cramming new information in at the last minute. I also wanted to read the books once, take good notes, and reference the notes only during review week. After I finished my book notes, I started making note cards where I would come up with questions and try to further understand the notes I had taken. By making questions from my notes I found out quickly what areas I wasn't understanding. I can’t make questions about comparing two things if I don’t truly understand what they are.
I read Fundamentals to Building Construction almost cover to cover. My strategy was to read the sections on materials first. I read the sections on concrete/foundations, steel, masonry, wood. Then I looked at the building systems and those chapters such as glazing, cladding, and roofs. After each section I would go and look at the corresponding material sections in Building Construction Illustrated. BCI is organized by systems, wall, roof, foundation. For example I would read Fundamentals chapter on concrete while taking notes on what I thought would be important information. Then I would go through all the concrete sections in BCI which was a lot of flipping around and would add important details to my notes. I read the rest of the sections in BCI such as hardware and finishes but essentially I read BCI cover to cover. I used Olin’s Construction to fill in the gaps by reading the chapters on thermal, sound control, elevators, fire suppression. I also used Olin’s for plumbing and electrical. I used Architect’s Studio Companion for mechanical because I like that they compare systems, have diagrams, and say when and where these systems are used. For Project Manual and specifications I used Architectural Graphic Standards. For codes I read Building Code Illustrated. I use codes a lot in work and have previously read it cover to cover so I only went over chapters that I needed to but if this is your first time reading it I would read it cover to cover. I also use the 2010 ADA Guidelines at work but if you don’t have much experience with that I would go read the ADA for clearances on bathrooms, stairs, ramps, and doors. To prepare for the Cost Estimate section I would review the best methods for pricing a project at each phase in design. Also know basic conversions for feet, yards, acre. Know at least how to use the formulas that are given on the exam resources which are found at the end of the ARE Handbook. You don’t need to memorize them but if a question comes up you need to know how to use it.
Third Party Materials:
Karin’s notes: Make sure you know everything in these notes. Use them as a tool to see what areas you still need to cover and as a quick guide on what you’re still having trouble with. https://gumroad.com/arevisuallearning#DnOkN
Hyperfine: Even though I had done these problems for PPD, I printed out all new packets and went through them all. I would also read and watch all materials that are referenced for each problem. https://hyperfinearchitecture.com/
Elif Bayram’s Mock Exams: These are great questions that went more in-depth to what I was reading. It made me apply what I had read instead of just knowing the facts of the materials or systems. It also gave resource references that you can use to go look up more. There are 12 PDD quizzes and I would take one every other day for about 3 weeks. Anything new I learned, I would look up in the books and add it to my notes. https://arequestions.com/
NCARB Handbook Problems: I did all the problems in the handbook the night before the test. Even though none of the exact questions came up on the test, there were a few that I got because of the way the questions were set up. It helps to get you in the mindset of how the questions are asked.
This is a hard test. Even if I had used this formula of studying the first time around I probably would have failed still. It took me a lot of reading and rereading of the same information in different materials to understand what was going on, like in plumbing and electrical. Don’t be afraid to use or not use certain materials because it didn’t work for someone else. I started out reading Olin’s but the way the information was being presented was not clicking. Switching to Foundations was so much better for me but I know others who only used Olin’s and it worked for them. We all learn in different ways so my study plan may or may not work for you. I took small pieces of a bunch of people’s study plans posted here and made my own that worked for me.
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