PA Pass - Third Try
These posts have been incredibly helpful for me on my path to completing this exam, so I thought it was only fitting that I chime in now that I have officially passed the PA exam.
Let me first start off by saying - this exam is hard. There is no sugar coating it, no getting around the fact that I firmly believe this test is very difficult even for experienced licensure candidates. A little background about me - I am 28 years old with a master's degree and 4 years work experience. PA was my first exam, and the reason I chose this exam first is because I have completed my hours in this category and it just seemed like that logical exam to begin with since I have the most experience.....I think I was wrong. Nothing about this exam is relevant to work experience and real-world situations cannot really prepare you for it...so if that is your reasoning for starting with this one - don't!
Unfortunately for me and my bank account, I failed this exam twice before finally passing on the third try yesterday morning. What I found most frustrating about these exams is the fact that of the three exams I took - probably 75% of the questions were the same across all three tests. This might sound like a good thing to some, but when you aren't given any real feedback on what questions you got right or wrong, you're faced with the possibility of answering the same questions wrong every time. To each their own though, if some of you have a good photographic memory it may be helpful for you, because you will be able to remember the questions and answers and maybe better prepare yourself for your second try.
As far as studying goes, I practically studied for 6 months straight with the exams sprinkled in between, so I don't know that it is really all that helpful to spell out exactly what I did. In a general form, I read through all of the resources listed in the handbook and took notes, read them again and highlighted as I went, then made notecards and a study guide from all of the notes and highlights to review in the evenings as I would watch TV. I watched the Black Spectacles video lectures before the first exam, and they were just okay. Very broad in topics and information and don't really help with the logical thinking you need to use during the exam. For this last exam (the one I passed) I took the BS practice exams several times. They offer 4 different forms and I'm pretty sure I took each of them 2-3 times. Though I did find myself sort of "memorizing" the questions and answers, I do believe it helped me learn how to read the questions and answers in a way that would help me understand what was being asked. I also took the designer hacks practice exams a few times, which aren't really great comparable question types to the actual exam, but they are good for quizzing yourself on terms, vocabulary and concepts. Well worth the $40.
As for the actual exam, the new process is funky. The first two times I took it, it was before these changes were enacted and I must say I prefer the process of those. I didn't like not having scratch paper - not that the whiteboard technology gave me any issues, it was just inconvenient to use. I found that I didn't take a break this time either, because the questions lock at that point and I was afraid if I took the time to review questions in the middle of the exam, I wouldn't have enough time to finish.... so that was a bummer. But overall the new process went smoothly, so I can't complain too much.
The study guide I created is, I believe, 20-21 pages long and full of relevant information necessary to pass the exam. I've attached it to this post if anyone would like to use it for their own studying process. Needless to say, I don't want to ever read that thing again, LOL!
Good luck to all of you, and keep your head up if you've failed - I know first hand what a punch to the gut it is to see "fail" on that score report, but you've already come this far so you just have to keep pushing forward.
Link to my google doc study guide:
Congratulations and thanks for sharing your notes. I have a similar story as yours, I thought PA will be a walk in the park because I had the experience working with Civil engineers for three years, I failed my third attempt recently, and I'm going to retake in three weeks. Other than repeating practice questions, did you change your strategy while taking the exam? especially with the new WB tool?
I didn't really change my strategy from the second to third attempt, other than the fact that I didn't take a break halfway through the general questions as I had before. I'll break down all three strategies below so that I don't get my words all scrambled:
Attempt 1: Started from question 1, answered 50 questions, took my break, came back and finished the exam. I ran out of time and did not have any remaining time to review any marked questions. This was NOT a good method.
Attempt 2: Started with the case studies, gave myself 90 minutes to answer all case study questions plus 25 general questions then took my break. I came back, finished the remaining general questions and had about 20 minutes to review all marked. This was a comfortable strategy and I actually felt really good about my test, even though I still failed.
Attempt 3: Similar to above. I started with the case study questions, only I gave myself 1 hour to answer and review all the case study questions (I had 14) then took my break. When I came back from break, I started with question 1 and ended up not taking another break and just answering and reviewing all of them (the remaining 61). I was afraid if I split it up to answer and review, I would run out of time due to the fact that the questions lock when you take a break. So I just didn't take another break. I don't think this is ideal, but time management is huge and I really didn't want to risk it.
No matter what your break strategy is, I definitely recommend starting with the case studies for the simple fact that they take more time and it's much harder to quickly answer them if you are running low on time.
As far as question types/topics that I had on each test - it seemed to focus on space planning diagrams, ADA diagrams, locating a building on a site plan, and topography. I didn't have any questions on structure really, just a few on soils and geotech reports. A few questions on Historic Preservation so make sure you have a general knowledge of the 4 processes. I didn't have many calculation questions, so the whiteboard issue that other people were having didn't have much of an effect on me, but the few times I did have to use it, it was inconvenient for sure.
GOOD LUCK! You've got this. In my opinion, the new exam format is less intimidating with the lower amount of questions, so go in with confidence and that will be a great first step.
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