I took PPD yesterday, and found out today that I passed (I did not have it in me emotionally to find out right after I took the test)! I wanted to share my studying techniques & resources here as reading through how other people have succeeded was tremendously helpful for me.
I studied for about 8 weeks, 20 hours per week. The last two weeks I strictly took practice problems and using those was able to focus on the areas that I was not as strong at after the previous 6 weeks of reading reading reading. I divided up the different topics into different groups and would focus on each group one at a time, spending 7-10 days on each and utilizing multiple applicable resources for each. This helped me not get completely overwhelmed by just how much information I had to learn.
1: Environment, Context, Site
2: Codes & Regulations
3: Mechanical, Electric, Plumbing, Lighting, Acoustics, Vertical Transport
4: Structural and Materials
5: Practice Questions and Review
I have been very conscious about how much money I have been spending on materials as it can add up fast. I am recommending purchasing only the absolute necessary for reading resources & practice questions. This whole exam journey is already so expensive paying for each exam at least once :') Of course everyone is different, so what has worked for me may not work for anyone else, but thought I would just share my journey.
Here are the reading resources I HIGHLY RECOMMEND:
- Ballast (PURCHASED) - I have been using this for every exam and it is a must buy, in my opinion. I read & took notes through all of the PPD section. I also ended up reading the PDD section, mostly just a quick skim without taking notes. I found there to be helpful structural and material information in the PDD section to support PPD.
- FEMA (FREE ONLINE) - chapter 4 & 5 - This was an absolute must as there were quite a few problems on the exam relating to seismic design: weak/soft stores, shear walls vs. rigid/moment connections vs. braced frames, torsion, re-entrant corners, best building shape, etc.
- Architect's Studio Companion (I borrowed a digital version from my local library) - ALL - Truly an incredible, must-read for this section as it reviews structural systems, HVAC, plumbing, electricity, vertical transport, passive/solar design in such a clear and accessible manner. I read through this at least twice, & kept coming back to it as I was trying to get down all these concepts.
- Building Construction Illustrated (PURCHASED) - ALL - Another must-read for this section as I found it to be such an accessible & helpful visual tool for almost all the topics. I read through all of this once & also kept coming back to it for most topics.
- ADA ( FREE ONLINE) - Not necessary to read this all but you should know: ramp design, minimum door width, minimum corridor widths, minimum stair widths, curb design. ADA excerpts may very well be a reference in your case studies.
- IBC (FREE ONLINE) - Please do not read all of this but you should know what is generally in chapters 3, 5, 5, 7, 10 and honestly would not hurt to SKIM these chapters. Know where to find the necessary tables for building area/height/stories, occupant load, fixture count. Know how to classify general occupancy types, construction types, egress sizing. Be comfortable referencing the IBC for specific questions in these chapters, which will be necessary for your case studies. arequestions.com (see below) really helped me practice looking through the IBC.
Here are reading materials that are OPTIONAL (IMO). I only referenced them because I could access them for free at my public library. If they had not been available there, I would not have purchased them:
- Sun, Wind, Light - I skimmed through this in one day and honestly felt like most of the information that was in it was explained better in Architect's Studio Companion.
- Site Planning and Design Handbook - I used this only to confirm a few concepts that I wasn't sure about when taking practice questions.
Here are reading materials that other people have recommended and some swear by but I honestly did not look at:
- Heating, Cooling, Lighting
- Mechanical and Electrical Equipment for Buildings
PRACTICE PROBLEMS are a must and truly test if you can reference all this information you have just been reading about & apply to different applications. Here is what I used:
- NCARB's free practice exam (finally!) - I found this practice exam to be more environment/site/programming (felt almost like PA) centric than anything else, definitely a must.
- tryweare.com ($39) - I think these questions are great quality and harder than the actual exam (try the free questions first before purchasing).
- arequestions.com ($40) - Another great set of questions that I highly recommend and again, are harder than the exam, so will really prepare you!
- Designerhacks (free questions)
- https://community.blackspectacles.com/t/ppd-practice-quiz/608 (free questions)
I would take the practice quizzes/exams and then go through every question after and make sure I double down on understanding what I got wrong and made sure to understand the encompassing topics. I feel like taking the practice problems is when I really start to cement an understanding of everything.
- Also very helpful is YouTube! Visuals and having someone talk though topics for me really helps me retain the information so if there is any topic you are struggling with it is very likely someone has made a YouTube video explaining it.
Random specifics you should know and understand inside and out that I haven't mentioned already: best building shape/ orientation/location for each climate, sun path diagrams, window shading for different directions, lamp types, general acoustics/sound protection inside and outside, different types of windows (SHG, low-iron, low-e), passive solar, design, coniferous/deciduous trees for wind & sound protection, easements/deeds/setbacks/covenants/etc., how compressive/absorptive refrigeration works, all HVAC types, elevator/escalators, where the vapor barrier goes, roofing materials, stormwater management, brown/green fields, foundation types (piers, piles, caissons), exit access/exit/exit discharge, embodied energy of building materials, one-way vs. two-way structural systems, parts of specific HVAC systems, joint types, mortar types, pre/post-tensioning, and more...
This looks overwhelming, I KNOW, but once you start getting into it, dividing topics up, taking practice questions, staying true to your study schedule but also feeling okay taking a day off if you just can't some days, the exam won't look so scary. I was very nervous for this exam (it is my 4th pass) and went into it as confident as I could and thankfully all the hard work paid off.
I hope this is helpful to at least one person out there :) Good luck!
I am taking a day off and then starting the studying for PDD!!!
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