Finished my PPD exam yesterday evening with a pass. With this being my first big technical exam and it having the lowest pass rate, I was more than a little stressed. The shear quantity of material topics and resources recommended ("you absolutely NEED this book"...) is daunting beyond reason. In reality my test focused on a much smaller set of concepts and did not verge very far at all into the technical/calculation side of things. It honestly (and surprisingly) felt more like an extension/evolution of PA than a truly deep dive in systems to the max.
For context, I took PA back in February, took a month or so off, started studying for PPD in April, then fell off for the late summer and fall. I only started studying on a schedule again a couple months ago. I ended up with a full spiral notebook and a half of notes to study from over the course of those months.
My main resource is and has been the Ballast book along with the accompanying Practice Problems and Practice Exam books. I've heard a lot of conflicting opinions about Ballast but I genuinely believe it's the best set of resources as applied to the tests as they are (so far, PDD and CA omitted from my experience). The material is worded plainly, the accompanying graphics/figures are helpful, and (most importantly) the examples questions are formatted extremely similar to the real test. I've yet to find another resource that comes close to the writing style match that Ballast has - I was recommended WEARE recently and found their practice problems horribly overwritten and complex. The real exams do include extraneous info, but not to the extent than many sites try to portray in their examples. Ballast gets this spot on.
My formula has been reading through chapters, taking notes, then trying the practice problem sets, usually in chunks of 2-3 chapters at a time (some practice problem sections are quite bare, 3-4 problems, in comparison to others). Once I got through the entire PPD section, I redid the problem sets, then gave my first attempt at the practice exam - this is always painful and exposes all the knowledge holes. It really can't be overstated how helpful these practice problems and exams are. You get the answers along with an explanation for each question. Correcting my answers led to a whole other set of side notes to study from.
For Mechanical and Structural systems, I HIGHLY recommend the Architect's Studio Companion. I printed out the overview sections for both and read them over numerous times this last month. Great diagrams for the different HVAC types. And Pro-Tip: you can find free versions of just about any book online if you know how to search right... not condoning anything illegal here, but man are some of these books absurdly expensive...
Another great resource: Desk Crits. This is an excellent summary style book with great formatting for all 6 exams. I got this after I went through Ballast and it filled in gaps and reinforced the major takeaways of each chapter. Keys terms are bolded and defined. Concepts are broken down in main ideas (bullets and small blurbs). This really resonates with my style of learning, so I loved the book. Also included a few key graphics of systems that distilled the more complex ones in other resources. I made a set of flashcards from this book that were really helpful.
I also read on here (and other places online) that MEEB was a 'critical' resource to have for this test, and I completely disagree. The information in Ballast was more than enough. I truly don't know how people have the time and capacity to read through a 2000 page book like this. Instead of skimming tons of giant resources trying to find the golden nuggets, going through Ballast more slowly and methodically worked out great for me - its already distilled from much larger topics anyway and extremely close if not identical to items on the exams. There's already enough fluff jammed into this exam - don't make it more complicated/in-depth than it needs to be!
I haven't bought or subscribed to any online service beyond those two book sets (Ballast and Desk Crits). The free quizzes on DesignerHacks are great. Weare free was overkill but probably helpful for the most part. And the free BlackSpectacles videos online going through small problem sets are awesome (beyond the author often going on craaazy long tangents and ramblings).
Overall I felt over-prepared for this test. There was still a number of things on the exam that I had to flub entirely, but it never felt unfair and biased towards an obscure topic. The horror stories of endless topics and the need to know a lot of technical details scared me - don't let them scare you. Take the subjects slow and steady. Focus on ideas rather than memorization of minutia.
Please sign in to leave a comment.