Took PA on 02/22/2021 and thought I would share my experience and method since I have found the posts on this board extremely helpful in my studies.
Luckily no technical issues during the exam as other people have mentioned. I am not a fan of the new whiteboard, personally I can write and sketch a lot faster than opening up the whiteboard tab, resizing it to not block the question/answers and then typing or drawing in it. I hope NCARB does give the option of scratch paper to whoever wants that. That's my only complain thought, the rest went smoothly(testing in San Diego).
As for the exam, I encountered a lot of adjacency diagrams and site plans for placement of buildings taking into account, climate, flood zones, wind, etc..
I planned out 6 weeks of studying since I noticed that this exam had a lot of reading than the previous ones I had taken. I noticed that there are a lot of post of what to read/study but I came across the link below that has a cool chart of materials to use for each exam.
Using the link above I came up with the schedule below
Week 1: I had intended to read the same chapter of IBC/BCI per day, but I was able to skim through the IBC but read chapters on BCI. BCI has sketches, and it's a lot easier to read than the code. However, do look over the code so you are familiar with the format and how it looks and it does not take by surprise during the exam. [Update]
Week 2: I did download that 2010 standards but like any code handbook it's really dry. I ended up finding another book similar to BCI but for ADA called "ADA in Details: Interpreting the 2010 Americans with disabilities act standards for accessible design". This book has the code references, sketches, and the difference between CA and IBC which you don't have to know for this exam but definitely a good resource to have.
Week 3: SPDH reading as planned, these are long chapters but in my opinion a lot of the terms and concepts in the exam when it came to sustainability, site, soils came from this book.
Week 4: This week was the worse for me. Seeing that it was only 3 chapters I figured I would done pretty early on in the week but it was the complete opposite. The chapters are long, the text is small so prepare for this one and maybe plan more time. Planning and Urban Design Standards shares a lot of concepts as SPDH, they compliment each other.
Week 5: This week was solely dedicated to taking exams and reviewing my answers. In my opinion the black spectacle videos are not the most helpful and too long but their exams are decent compared to what is out there and also the interface is the same as when you are taking the exam.
Week 6: This week I read Brightwood to recap. I would take the chapter quiz to see where I was and I would read the sections where I got the wrong answers. I ended up having extra time so I read most of the chapters and really focused on the sustainability, soils, site orientation.
*I can't remember if it is SPDH or PUDS but one of them has a breakdown for historic preservation and working on a historic building. Understanding the concepts there will save you in time in reading the secretary of interiors historic preservation and in my opinion was enough for the test. [Update]
Other resources I used were:
ARE Sketches by Lara Nicole Teagarden. These were gifted to me a a few years ago and came in handy for PA, it is all sketches and easy to understand.
Also, the channel below on youtube has been the best one I have found that explains concepts really well and they are short also, which is very helpful on busy days. Highly recommend this channel, I watched these videos the day before the exam to review.
Consistency is key when taking these exams, make a schedule and stick to it. Even when you don't feel like reading or worked late. Listen to some videos to keep your mind on the exam. I'll try me best to answer any questions that come up.
Good luck everyone!
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