SPD Pass

Site Grading & Site Design Vignettes and Multiple Choice

SPD Pass

Postby ThomKat » Thu Oct 12, 2017 9:22 pm

I got my SPD pass this morning after taking the test last Thursday (10/05). This was my first attempt at this exam and I previously took CDS and passed it so I used the same study method going into SPD. I plan to do the same for PPP in December.

MC Study Approach:
-I started with Kaplan SPD, read cover to cover, made flash cards with info I thought was important. I took each practice quiz at the end and if I missed a question I turned the question into a flash card and reread the information pertaining to the missed question. I also took the practice exam in the back of the book and did the questions in the Kaplan Q&A book, same approach with these and making flash cards for missed questions.
-Next I read Ballast Chapters 2 (skimmed), 5, 29, 30, 32, and I skimmed over all of Section 8 (previously read for CDS) and skimmed Section 9 (previously read for CDS) and made flash cards as I went. I also took the Ballast practice exams and made flash cards for questions/topics I got wrong.
-I previously read SWPPP for CDS, but I skimmed it again and reviewed the flash cards I made for the CDS exam. I have a bit of an advantage here, because I recently took a Florida DEP Stormwater Management and Erosion Control Inspector class and became a certified Stormwater Inspector. The two day class covered everything regarding SWPPP, BMPs, NPDES, etc. so going into the test I was confident about this material.
-I read Caroline’s notes twice and Jenny’s notes three to four times. When I fully understood a concept, I highlighted it in the reading so when I came back to review again I could focus on the information I needed work on.
-A former coworker gave me a copy of the Site Planning and Design Handbook by Thomas H. Russ two days before my exam. I didn’t have time to read the entire thing, but I skimmed it and I felt like the visuals were helpful. There were a few sections in the book with brand new information that I felt was very helpful for the exam.
-I read the chapters regarding soils and foundations from my Fundamentals of Building Construction Materials and Methods book.
-Skimmed chapters of MEEB (Mechanical and Electrical Equipment for Buildings) that related to SPD or anything environmental. I had this book from college (one of my professors cowrote the book so he required we have it) so I went ahead and used it, but I don’t think this made that much of a difference for this exam.
-Skimmed Jenny’s notes for PPP and BDCS.
-Skimmed Architectural Graphic Standard and Green Studio Handbook (more books from college).
-I found #AREsketches on Pinterest and I felt like they were very helpful. You can also do a Google Image search for #AREsketches to see them. These are good for visual learners like me.
-Free multiple choice questions from Designer Hacks

I know it sounds silly, but for a lot of my studying I read out loud. I retain the information better when I read it out loud and it makes me read slower and absorb the information. Sometimes I would even treat the material as if I was teaching someone else so I tried to explain the topics/information in my own words (out loud) so essentially, I have spent the last two months talking to myself.

Research shows that you need 17 minutes of break time for every 52 minutes of studying for your brain to really absorb the information. I set my timer on my phone for 52 minutes and break for 17 minutes before I get back to it.

Vignette Study Approach:
I started studying the vignettes 3 weeks prior to the exam. DO NOT LEAVE THE VIGNETTES TO THE LAST MINUTE. I did every vignette sample I could get my hands on (NCARB, NALSA, Alts that are just floating around out there). I practiced on the hardest Alts I could get my hands on so I would be fully prepared. The NALSA Solutions book has been amazing, because it offers two additional programs for every vignette on the ARE and usually one of the additional programs is pretty tough so it really tests your knowledge.

Exam Day:
Walking out of CDS previously I was certain I had passed, but with SPD I was on the fence. During the exam, I marked quite a few to go back and review on my first pass and finished the MC with 11 minutes left. There weren’t really any “WTF” questions, but one that I just had no flippin’ clue so I attempted an educated guess. Overall, aside from the one question where I guessed, I felt like all the exam information was related to what I studied, maybe just a little more specific that what I studied. I will say that I feel like just reading Kaplan and Ballast would not have fully prepared me for this exam.

I felt comfortable with my vignettes because I had so much practice. I finished the grading vignette in 15 minutes and got started on site design. I feel like the most helpful approach for site design is to write the program down on your scratch paper so you don’t have to click back and forth between screens and you can use what you wrote down as a checklist (double and triple check if you have time). I finished site design within 45 minutes of starting, but found a small mistake and fixed it. Then I just checked and rechecked everything on both vignettes until there was nothing left to do so I ended the exam.

Hopefully this information helps, wish I could say more, but I obviously can’t get too specific and wanted to share my study materials and excessive flash card approach. I’ve already got PPP planned for December then a transition to 5.0 in January since I’m not confident I can pass another 4 exams by the end of June 2018.

Thank you to all (especially Sparky83 and Coach!) for the assistance and commitment to this forum. Tomorrow morning I leave for a Disney vacay with my family, woohoo! Glad to have this exam behind me.
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