I'm grateful that ARE accompanied me like a cold but faithful friend for the past two years. The knowledge learnt especially during the PPD and PDD preparation really helped me at work. On the not-so-bright side, I read slower than my native English speaker colleagues and I'm a professional procrastinator and a hopeless perfectionist. If you are like me or in most cases, better than me, please allow me to share with you my thoughts.
- Study strategy and material
- I think the most important lesson is to build your own notes as you read through multiple books/materials as opposed to when I started preparing, just read. Just reading and underlining worked for me for the other 4 divisions but not ppd and pdd. Two reasons. Firstly, the sporadic nature of the materials. For example, one book may cover cement types better while the other one does a better job explaining how precast works. Secondly, the sheer quantity and broadness of ppd and pdd require one to "build a shelve first before you put books on it", meaning one need to generally find a way to gain an overview- set up different chapters, before you dive into each and fill it with your notes.
- For me Amber book videos are the best tool to help me build this framework. I used the following as section titles of my note.
ADA; IBA; Site; Thermal; Lighting; Acoustic; Seismic & Structure; Concrete; Masonry; Metal; Wood and Plastic; Enclosure; Opening; Interior Finish; Fire and smoke protection; MEP; Conveying Equipment; Cost and Spec.
- Fundamentals of building construction is another "overview" book that touches every point regarding construction and material. Plus it has a lot of construction photos in construction sequence! For this reason I really don't recommend starting form Ching's Construction illustrated, which tells the story in a very fragmented way: beautiful drawing and axon with tons of leaders.
- I use digital notebook for this task (Microsoft OneNote) because it offers a platform I can have access from PC, iPad… I can easily paste screenshots from YouTube, Amber videos, books in digital format. I can also take photos with my iPad from a hardcopy. This is critical for any knowledge better explained in a diagram than words.
- Once the notebook is built, congrats, you can "go through everything for a second pass" in 3 days, cause you distilled, reformatted and restructured every piece of knowledge in the first pass. In case you need to strengthen your grasp of a specific chapter, you can also go directly to it without cross referencing different sources.
- I don't use flashcards. It's too fragmented and not systematic. The tests are about understanding/application not rote memorization.
- Create a spreadsheet to track your progress. Treat it like work/research plan. Better be very specific to which chapter/pages form which source you plan to cover in which week. I envy my colleague Melissa's calendar, and I stole this skill from her. Here is the format:
- (Before Spreadsheet, watch Amber videos to build the framework!)
- Then start planning in spreadsheet
On X axis I have all the chapters, maybe in groups for better time management: ADA+ IBA; Site; Thermal+ Lighting+ Acoustic; Seismic & Structure; Concrete+ Masonry…….;Practice Tests; Second pass of notes
On Y axis I have all the names of study materials:
Heating, cooling, lighting; Ballast; Fema; Architect's Studio Companion; Fundamentals of building construction; Building construction illustrated; ADA; IBC.
ARE Questions by Elif; ARE Black Spectacles Test, ARE 5.0 handbook; Designer hack; Ballast practice problems; Hyperfine.
In the cells, put pages and days to finish. Use color of the cell to track: Yellow=finished
- Pace during the test: for pdd and ppd, I only took one break before case study. 1.5 hr left will be a good target cause the case studies in ppd or pdd takes longer than other 4 divisions (one or two drawing set + IBC+ zoning)
- Prep time between ppd and pdd: 1 month. They do overlap, but pdd is more about construction detail than program planning. One way to think about it is that ppd is SD, while pdd is DD or CD. It's worth revisiting your note or picking up a new book on construction. Typical ppd question: what is the minimum construction type that can fulfill the area and height requirement. Typical pdd question: which of the detail should be used in this scenario.
- About the new release of ARE 5.0 and pros and cons of online proctoring, please read my other post
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