Passed PA a few days ago. My primary resource for structuring my study was this forum, so am hoping to contribute something fresh.
Strategy: Saved the most interesting forum posts to PDF for three years prior to this exam. When beginning to study, I reviewed all of the PA ones (83 PDFs) and took notes, compiling a topics list. I studied hard for this exam for four months. Even so, I found it very challenging, but primarily because of the time constraint.
I went into the exam with a plan. Go through all the questions, skipping anything requiring calculations, and then jump to the case studies when the clock had 2:00 hours remaining. Well, it turned out the calculations weren’t the only challenge and I ended up skipping a bunch of questions that were highly complex. I am a fast reader, but my “thought processing” is slower and more deliberate and was definitely not aided by fatigue from a bad night’s sleep and a headache. So I ended up skipping quite a few. I did not take note of how many unanswered questions were remaining when I jumped to the case studies because there was no time to count anything. Got through the case studies with 44 min. remaining on the clock. I must say that one of the case studies used nomenclature that was unnecessarily confusing. Wish I could discuss this with NCARB, but.....
Anyhow, at 44 min. left on the clock I took my break and was so sure that I had failed that I could not even consider ingesting my candy bar and had to force down some water. Could not fathom how I would get through this entire exam. Nevertheless, I went back in quickly and hit the “review incomplete” button. My estimate was that I had skipped at least 10 (or more) difficult questions and so had less than 5 min. for each one. Tried my best and ended up guessing on the last couple with not. one. second. left for reviewing the many flagged questions (possibly half of them). This was my very first exam that had not one second left for review.
I fully expected to be short on time (based on forum posts) but was shocked by what I was presented with. Many of the questions in the first half were wordy and long – so complex that I thought I was getting three or four case studies instead of two. Panic set in quickly. One question would have required (I kid you not!) a good half hour to figure out and I didn’t have time for that, so I gave it a wild guess and moved on.
I have a technical question for NCARB. In my three previous exams and also in the demo exam at home, I was able to zoom using “CTRL” + mouse middle roller. For the first time in this exam, I could not use that function. That led to a lot of time lost having to click click click on the zoom menu. What’s up with that? Overall, I would say that a ton of time was lost in just opening PDFs and zooming.
Also, I have no idea how this will work with the new “locking” of items after a break – that is set to launch in December. My (thus far successful strategy) of jumping around will not work. If I had broken this exam up into 2 or 3 sections, I would not have been able to anticipate that the questions in the latter half would not be as long and I would have had absolutely no clue as to what amount of time to assign to unanswered questions before taking the break. Estimate wrong, and you run out of time for case studies – plain as the nose on your face. I apportioned my remaining time at the very end to the unanswered questions and ran out the clock. NOT POSSIBLE in your new version! As I mentioned before in another post, the medical exams have “blocks” of items that are grouped separately. In terms of ergonomics, can we safely assume that the doctors have a better handle on bladder anatomy? And how about hand and wrist anatomy for unnatural mouse manipulation? And for left-handed people? A suggestion -- Give the doctors a call and ask for a consult before foisting this new system on us.
From the beginning, I viewed this as kind of an aggregate study program looking ahead toward PPD & PDD, so was not laser-focused on PA. I now see that, indeed, a lot of what I studied will be useful going forward. In fact, it was kind of astonishing to see that there were whole subject areas that I was not tested on at all or maybe had one question. Some of those will be on future exams and others clearly won’t. As many, many others have said before me, there were LOTS of “puzzle” type questions. I heeded their warnings and used some third party sources to help to exercise my brain in anticipation of that. (Remembering that old joke: How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.)
Third Party Sources:
Ben Norkin’s Hyperfine – probably the most helpful in stretching my thinking and reflexes. Went through the entire PA course and reviewed pretty much all the linked resources.
Amber – have been using it for quite a while and focused on review of my notes for site, MEP, structures, etc., and particularly the case study. Excellent resource overall and does a great job with explanations.
Designer Hacks – everyone knows it’s not really for “study” but rather for highlighting areas of study to delve into further. I have done tons of these little quizzes for each exam and will continue to do so. This is something you don’t rely on at all for actual “study” but just to point your brain in certain directions.
Ballast Practice Exams – did the PA ones. Did 10 or 12 questions at a time, again for mental lubrication. Don't worry about your score. I typically got anywhere from 50% to 80% on these.
Ballast Review Manual – read through the PA section many months ago, but did not return to it for my 4-month pre-test review/study period.
WeARE Practice Exams – only signed up for this rather late and didn’t do too many exams but there was at least some benefit, I’m sure. Never got above 70% on these.
Local AIA Webinar – my local branch offers prep webinars and I attended the PA one. It was helpful to go back later and review the topics in the detailed handout. (To make sure I wasn’t overlooking anything.)
Several years ago, I completed an Autodesk certificate course (no longer available, but they may offer something similar?) called “Building Performance Analysis” that was Revit-based and also based on other softwares. It took me about a year to complete (working sporadically) and provided a firm foundation in climate/environmental studies, so I didn’t need too much of a refresh in that area. They have posted a ton of material that is similar to that certificate course here:
Won’t bore you with a repeat of what scores of others have said. Read and took notes on primary references/sources -- SPDH, Problem Seeking, ADA Standards, ASC, IBC, Sec. of Interior Standards for Treatment of Historic Properties, FEMA.
YouTube videos – viewed and took notes on LOTS of them and learned a whole lot about soils, testing, remediation, etc.
Accidentally found something I really like (for PA/PPD/PDD) that I don’t think anyone has mentioned. It’s an ebook called “Applying the Building Code: Step-by-Step Guidance for Design and Building Professionals” (Based on the 2015 International Codes) 5th Edition by Ronald L. Geren, FCSI, AIA. For someone (like me) who doesn’t get to do much code research, this book really explains everything in a very user-friendly, project-based format from start to finish. Unlike Building Codes Illustrated (which I have but didn’t use), this book takes you through a project and explains all the thinking and code strategies. For someone who does a lot of code research, though, this would be unnecessary and redundant. It’s a Wiley publication with a proprietary ebook format similar to Kindle. I went through the first couple of parts and took notes.
That's about all I can think of right now.
My best to all,
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