Wanted to share what worked for me as the posts here helped me inform my approach. Spoiler, TAKE PRACTICE EXAMS!!!
- Ballast PPI ARE 5 Review Manual
- PPI ARE 5 in a Flash
I read every page in the Ballast Review Manual for the PA section and took notes on flash cards, and sticky noted what was too long to hand-write. Aside from the "History" chunk, that whole PA section was helpful to read through.
The PPI flash cards were more of a vocab game than something to rely on. The questions are very simple and just give you an idea of what words you should familiarize yourself with.
- Erik Walker PA Practice Exam
- 2 PPI Practice Exam Bundle
- DesignerHacks 25 Question Free Quiz
Practice exams were the most helpful part of my studying. I took my first one about a week before the test and wanted to cancel my appointment because of how bad I did. I took the first 20 questions of the Erik Walker exam and got 5 right and it took me 2 hours... I thought just reading and studying the Ballast book would have prepared me pretty well but I was wrong. You really need to get familiar with the way the questions are asked. The questions on the PPI Flash cards are non-analytical, unlike the questions on the actual exam.
I took the rest of the Erik Walker exam the next day and of course did horribly. I reviewed the answers with his very detailed answer review and retook it a few times over a few days just to commit the processes of some answers to memory. I'd highly recommend his PA exam, I also bought the PcM exam which I'm looking forward to using later.
After having scared myself with my poor performance on the Erik Walker exam I knew I needed more practice exams. PPI offered a bundle of 2 PA exams for a reasonable price, $34. Those were just as helpful as the Erik Walker exam because I did very badly on my first attempts on those too. 60% on both so I had a lot of reviewing to do with the answer key. The answer keys for the PPI exams were not as detailed as the Erik Walker exams, but they're still worth the money.
- Black Spectacles
- DesignerHacks Premium Practice Exam
If I failed the exam, I might have found a way to justify the high price tag of Black Spectacles. I was just interested in collecting practice exams, not all the rest of the stuff BS comes with.
DesignerHacks was almost purchased too, but the 25 question free quiz reminded me of the PPI flash cards in that they weren't that challenging and felt more like a vocab review. I didn't want to pay for a full premium exam with the same types of questions.
My NCARB record shows 6 years of experience, and I have worked entirely for interior architecture firms for those 6 years so the Site Analysis and Environmental aspects of this exam were my weak point. I was comfortable with the Building Analysis and Code sections because that's what I mostly interacted with in the past.
Hope this helps someone!
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