I just passed PDD on my first try. This was the second test I take, PA was the first. I come from a family with high expectations (and I don't have a ton of money) so failing was not an option for me. I've been working in smaller residential firms in Seattle for 4 years now.
My study strategy:
I first read the Ballast. For PA I thought it was useful but for PDD it was pretty terrible. There are really long explanations of math calculations that you don't need to know, and it is just poorly written. I did a super fast pass just to get a sense but if I did not understand something from it, I just moved on.
The main book I read was 5th edition of Fundamentals of Building Construction (Allan & Iano). I know it looks big and scary but there are a ton of pictures and examples, so it is actually a lot less reading than you would think. I read up to chapter 19, I would have read it all if I had the time, but I just played my odds.
My goal was basically read a chapter every two days and spend an hour or so on the question at the end of each chapter, some feel exactly like what you see on the test.
Once I was done with those 19 chapters I did the Ballast practice exam. It was great to jump into Ballast after spending time in FBC and getting roughly 55% right. I studying the questions I got wrong and a did it again. I know it does not make sense to do it a second time since you know the answers but I found the second pass as super helpful to solidify all the things I got right and make sure I understood and learned from what I got wrong. I got 95% of my second shot.
Then I used https://arequestions.com/. They have 20 quizzes and 2 mock test for a really good price. I would do 3 quizzes a day. I usually was getting 50~60% on them on my first go. The next day I would retake the 3 quizzes and get passing grades, then take 3 more, then repeat. Once I did all of them, I took the mock test (which are actually their quiz questions in a different order, but again, still useful to solidify your knowledge).
You need to know the following:
Galvanic Action (minimum: zinc, aluminium, copper, steel)
Mortar strengths ("MaSoN wOrK", get on that FBC!)
Divisions of labour (0-15, 21-27, 31-33)
All in all, I think it was a little over a month and a half of studying from 2-4 hours a day with some longer days scattered throughout. I would always take at least two days a week to rest and do some exercise which is just as important as the days you are studying, no joke. This may seem like a lot, but like I said, failing was not an option for me.
I do the Ballast mock test two weeks before my actual tests. I always schedule the tests on Mondays at noon, so I can take a long walk in the morning. I NEVER study the day before the test (trust the method, trust yourself)
I'm gonna keep it short here because with these new testing protocols my whole strategy will need to change and I am pretty pissed off about it. I would do all the multiple-choice; if I spend more than 3 min on a question I would flag and move on. I would take a break right before the case of studies. Do the case studies and then loop back to the flagged questions.
The fact that you can no longer go back to the questions you looked at after a break is the silliest thing ever. I get it if people are home and they could possibly cheat. But I think that if you go to a test site you should be able to review your previous questions.
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