Hey all, I took my 5th exam yesterday, PDD, and just found out that I passed. I thought I would share my experience here!
I took PPD (and passed) about six weeks ago. After coming out of that exam I honestly felt like I had over-studied - I spent 8 weeks, 20 hours/week studying and had included study material that was technically covered in PDD. I had been unsure how in-depth and detail-oriented PPD was so went with being overly cautious in what material I focused on. This approach did made me feel very overwhelmed when studying for PPD but when I switched over to studying PDD, it paid off as I already was coming into it feeling well-versed in many of the topics, and ultimately it paid off! To be completely frank, I feel like I studied maybe half of the total amount for PDD than I had studied for PPD. Again maybe because I had studied so much for PPD ahead of time.
Here are the study materials I used:
Ballast (PURCHASED): I have been using this for every exam. I read & took notes through all of the PDD section and found myself referring back to topics in PPD because there is so much overlap.
- Building Construction Illustrated (PURCHASED) - I had read this in entirety for PPD but came back to it to re-read areas I felt like I needed to focus on, mostly for understanding construction details and specifics about materials.
- Fundamentals of Building Construction: Materials and Methods by Edward Allen and Mechanical and Electrical Equipment for Buildings by Grondzik (I borrowed from my local library) - I picked these up and did not read cover to cover but used them to focus on certain areas I knew I needed to focus on - acoustics, roof assemblies, plumbing systems, etc.
Like for my past exams, taking practice problems was when I felt like I was really learning & able to memorize/understand all the topics. For studying for this exam, I only strictly was reading without taking practice problems for about two weeks and then I jumped into taking practice questions - I wanted to get an understanding of how different PDD was from PPD and what I needed to focus on as soon as possible.
Here are the resources I used:
- ARE Handbook - Of course, always start here for getting a overall grasp on what the topics are you should be studying.
- NCARB's free practice exam - I found this practice exam to accurately prepare me for what the real test was like and what topics were covered.
- arequestions.com ($40) - I purchased these questions for PPD and can't say enough good things about how great they were for preparing me for PDD. These questions are challenging (I would get 60-70% correct on all the quizzes), maybe more involved and difficult than the actual exam, so it sets you up well for the real thing.
- Designer Hacks and tryweare.com (free) - I did not purchase questions from these websites this time (I have for every other test) and just utilized their free quizzes.
- https://community.blackspectacles.com/t/pdd-practice-quiz/609 (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.
This exam is all about the details. I think no matter how much you study there will always be at least a few questions that you'll get on the exam that feel completely unknown to you, because there is just so much that is covered. Construction details are a big part of this exam - understand different roof assemblies, wall assemblies, R and U value calculations, where the vapor barrier goes (!!!), curtain walls etc. Understand all the different parts of a detail and be able to point them out in a detail - flashing, sealants, ICUs, insulation types, roof membranes, etc. Know specifics like - mortar types, Portland cement types, single-ply membranes, insulation types, plumbing riser diagrams, plumbing vents/stacks, sprinkler types, fire suppression, everything about glass (U, SHGC, annealed, safety, tempered), shear/moment connections, electricity breakers, doors & windows, how structural members are connected (bolts, nails, welding), concrete & plaster, galvanic action. You get it - it's a lot of details & I definitely did not list everything here.
I think what was very helpful for me was spending time reviewing/reading/skimming everyday. Just looking at details over and over, reviewing practice problems over and over. Having just taken PPD and still retaining so much of that information was key so I highly recommend just powering through and taking one after the other. I left the exam feeling unsure about how I passed but knowing that in order to pass, you only need to get 58-65% correct, it felt like it was possible that I succeeded.
I am so thrilled I passed and can't believe I only have one more exam.
Good luck to all!
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