I thought it would be beneficial to share my experience here, perhaps it would help others, and maybe someone would offer new valuable advice to help me with my retakes.
I'm a foreign architect with 12 years of experience abroad, I am licensed in other countries, and have worked on several large-scale projects in various countries and in different sectors. I recently moved to the US and would like to get my license here. I have a full time job, and can study on weekends and evenings only.
Take 1 >> PcM and PjM Pass, CE Fail
I took PcM and PjM and CE back to back within a week or two apart. Passed PcM and PjM first try, failed CE.
- AHPP: The only resource i really studied was the AHPP, i read it cover to cover. Took me two months (or more, lost track!).
- YouTube: i recommend watching AIA official contracts page + the financial formulas for PcM + Black Spectacles/Amber Book/ Hyperfine explanation practice problems.
- Black Spectacles: i signed up and used their practice questions. They were as close as it gets to NCARB's 100-word-essay trick questions. Their YouTube videos explaining the thinking behind the practice questions were very helpful. Nevertheless, i did not find their subscription video lectures useful at all, watched the first 10 then stopped.
- PcM and PjM exam experience: I was able to confidently answer PcM and PjM questions by studying only AHPP.
- CE exam experience: this exam is a mix of everything, AHPP and YouTube were not enough to pass. I failed the test by 1 question only (frustrating!).
Take 2 >> PA and CE Pass, PPD and PDD Fail
I signed up for the Amber Book, studied for 8 weeks, then took PA, PDD, PPD, CE on 4 consecutive days. Passed PA and CE, failed PDD and PPD.
- Amber Book: studied from the Amber Book ONLY, took me exactly 8 weeks. Though i skipped their Pro Practice chapter and their Practice Exams.
- YouTube: i watched the official AIA Contracts YouTube videos, Archicorner's code and ADA videos.
- Ching's Building Construction Illustrated: reviewed building envelope details.
- PA exam experience: the exam was as expected, it was not easy. But what i studied in the Amber Book was sufficient to pass. Black Spectacles YouTube practice questions with explanation were beneficial.
- CE exam experience: As i mentioned above this exam was a mix of everything (refer to NCARB guidelines), it is not only Contracts and Admin, the NCARB guidelines clearly say there's a construction site observation component to it. The Amber Book was the perfect resource for this exam because it addressed all various relevant topics: Site, Code, Pro Practice, Construction. Therefore, in my opinion, CE should be the last exam you take, not the first one. I passed CE second time around.
- PPD exam experience: as i mentioned i studied the Amber book for this, and it had a lot of great content that perfectly handled the building systems component of this exam (refer to NCARB guidelines). However, the Amber book was not enough to pass. I strongly recommend and encourage to review the study resources outlined in NCARB guidelines in detail, specifically: "Heating, Cooling, Lighting: Sustainable Design Strategies", and "Designing for Earthquakes FEMA 454" - someone recommended FEMA on YouTube and they were right. I failed the test by 3 questions only (was so close!).
- PDD exam experience: this was a nightmare! It had nothing to do with Amber Book or Building Construction Illustrated. It was waaaaay more complicated. All possible math questions you can ever think of across all possible topics that you can imagine in all disciplines. Impossible unrealistic questions. I failed miserably and have no clue how will i ever pass this test.
Take 3 >> Next Steps, any advice?
My plan is to no longer take shortcuts, and study the actual books. This will take me forever. Thoughts?
For PPD, i am thinking to review my Amber Book notes, study FEMA, and "Heating, Cooling, Lighting: Sustainable Design Strategies Towards Net Zero". I feel i can handle this one.
For PDD, i am planning to focus on "Fundamentals of Building Construction: Materials and Methods Edward Allen" and "Building Structures James Ambrose", and maybe "Olin’s Construction Principles, Materials, and Methods H. Leslie Simmon" too? Not sure. Any advice?
I will also purchase some of the recommended practice problems (I heard Elif's were good). Any other recommendations?
Any advice on how to deal with the extensive math questions?
Appreciate all the advice i can get! Thank you in advance!
- The official AIA Contract Documents Page: https://www.youtube.com/c/AIAContractDocuments
- Black Spectacles practice questions with explanation ONLY: https://www.youtube.com/c/Blackspectacles
- Amber Book: https://www.youtube.com/user/professorermann
- Archicorner - great ADA and Code videos: https://www.youtube.com/c/archicorner
- Hyperfine: https://www.youtube.com/c/HyperfineArchitecture
- Design Make Launch - financial formulas: https://www.youtube.com/c/HyperfineArchitecture
- RMSM: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdAMp1P2NGtUYSod0ny0JDw
- US Access Board: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5tRWTtV5eSw68N3tSpmyWw
- Designer Masterclass: https://www.youtube.com/c/DesignerMasterclass
You can find the FEMA book online:
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