Passed - study and testing strategies

Passed - study and testing strategies

Postby cmoserdesign » Tue Jun 05, 2018 8:20 am

I took PPD yesterday and passed. I'm in a bit of a unique situation as I passed all ARE 4.0 until I took BCDS, where my computer crashed and failed me on two of the vignettes (but I passed the MC with flying colors). Before you ask, yes I pursued getting NCARB to review but they were (big surprise) less than helpful and I just wanted to be done so decided to take PPD and PDD in short succession. So in short, I had basically studied for, and demonstrated mastery of, all the ARE 4.0 material before transitioning. This means most of what I did was review. However, here is my approach and the strategies that were key to taking the exam successfully. Time management is big here - I test incredibly well and usually have over an hour left when I walk out the door, but on the PPD I only had 25 mins left at the end, so if you test more slowly knowing how to manage your time will be a hurdle.

Resources and Study Materials.
Unfortunately as 5.0 is still in its infancy, the study material isn’t quite there yet - you’ll have to be a lot more proactive about how you study. Here is what I’ve found to be most valuable:
• Ballast 5.0. Ballast is still a good resource, but I’d use it more as a guide than anything else. It’s not in depth enough to get you a pass unless you supplement. Use this as a starting point.
• Building Construction Illustrated, Francis Ching. This book is pure gold, and should be read cover to cover by anyone taking the exams. It’s comprehensive, thorough, beautifully illustrated, easy to follow, and a godsend if you are a visual learner.
• The Amber Book. Right now they only have the 4.0 Building Systems book out (practice exam is saved in our resources and I highly recommend going through those questions), but they are putting a 5.0 book out soon. Once they do, this will probably supercede Ballast in terms of best foundation study guide.
• Amber Bundle. Apart from the book, they offer a full tuition study guide, if you’re looking to have someone walk you through the testing process and can spare the cash to make your life easier, this might be for you. You get a pretty deep discount if you team up with a partner or as a group.
• NALSA 4.0 flashcards. Even though these are divided by 4.0 category, if you can get through these flashcards solidly, you can be pretty confident you’ll do well on the 5.0 exams.
• Jenny’s Notes (https://arendurance.wordpress.com/study-guides/). Again, 4.0 categories but highly comprehensive study notes which are very helpful as review material. This should not be where you build your foundation though.
• Mechanical and Electrical Equipment for Buildings (MEEB). To be honest, I haven’t cracked the cover of this book since graduating, but if you need a solid refresher on M/E, this is where to go. It’s dense and a pain to read but would be helpful to have as a reference.
• FEMA 454 – Designing for Earthquakes.
• Kaplan/Brightwood. This CANNOT be your foundation material – Kaplan is notorious for rampant mistakes, and their 5.0 literature is not nearly comprehensive enough to get you where you need to be. However, I used it as a practice exam – I took all the lesson quizzes at once and graded as I went (they explain their answers which is helpful). If I missed too many questions on any one chapter, I spent some time reviewing that topic using other sources. It’s also helpful to take the Kaplan practice exams for SS, MEP and BCDS from the 4.0 material.

Strategies:
• It makes a lot more sense to study for these exams all at once and take them very close to each other, as there seems to be a significant amount of overlap. Michael Ermann of the Amber book shared his strategies here: viewtopic.php?f=28&t=49684
• I use this forum as a resource – just focus on posts from people who passed, and ignore the people stressing about failing - it will just make you nervous.
• Get a good meal before your test, and have a snack available for your break (the break is now optional and you can take it at any time, but you’re probably going to want it).
• Don’t wait to do the case studies at the end. I did about 20 regular MC questions to get my brain going, then skipped to the end and did the case studies. The last thing you want is to rush through those.
• Know how to navigate your case study documents - be familiar with where to find information like occupancy classification, occupancy separation ratings, parking, etc. The case study has a search/find function. Use it!!!!
• On regular questions, don’t get stuck on any questions. Read the question carefully, highlighting the pertinent information. Read through all the answers, eliminate those that are obviously wrong. Input your best answer, and if you are unsure, mark the question for review. Then move on.
• When you go back to review marked questions, only change your answer if you know for sure why your first choice was wrong. Do not change your answer on a guess, as it’s statistically proven that your first guess is more likely to be correct.
• Don’t get rattled by the “wtf” questions. You’ll always get a few where you think NCARB has gone insane for expecting you to know that material – just chuckle, mark your best guess, and move on. Everyone gets these questions.
• Remember to breathe :)


Good luck everyone! You can do it!
Last edited by cmoserdesign on Wed Jun 06, 2018 8:55 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Passed - study and testing strategies

Postby Coach » Tue Jun 05, 2018 1:32 pm

cmoserdesign wrote:• It makes a lot more sense to study for these exams all at once and take them very close to each other, as there seems to be a significant amount of overlap.

Yep.

Also, if you don't have a medical condition prohibiting it, take an aspirin while studying and right before taking exams. (Thanks to pipes for the tip)
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Re: Passed - study and testing strategies

Postby drummer03 » Fri Jun 08, 2018 12:11 pm

Congrats and Thanks for the Strategies!
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Re: Passed - study and testing strategies

Postby kakadutt » Thu Jun 21, 2018 7:57 am

Hi there,

I'm on the same boat- failed SS so now I have to transition. Passed everything else in 4.0, so now I have to do PPD and PDD. I have a couple questions for you in terms best way to ‘REVIEW’:

Did you mainly focus on practicing multiple choices questions or reading different materials? If you were mainly doing MC, did you focus on doing 5.0 MC in the new format or just about everything?

I’m giving myself 3 weeks to do review and take one exam in the end, and in the end of 4th week will do the other. Would you feel that was enough time to ‘review’ for both? Would you recommend longer than a week in between PPD and PDD?

Many thanks! Really like to get some advice from you. Congrats again for your finishing the journey!!
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Re: Passed - study and testing strategies

Postby jdunks » Thu Jun 21, 2018 10:26 am

Congratulations. Same boat too, due to one single vignette. I'm curious whether you took time to memorize things? Like concrete spans, for instance, or anything else. Trying not to go too deep this time, but don't want to go too light either. Thanks!
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Re: Passed - study and testing strategies

Postby Sarcasmo » Thu Jun 21, 2018 10:46 am

Coach wrote:
cmoserdesign wrote:• It makes a lot more sense to study for these exams all at once and take them very close to each other, as there seems to be a significant amount of overlap.

Yep.

Also, if you don't have a medical condition prohibiting it, take an aspirin while studying and right before taking exams. (Thanks to pipes for the tip)


Well, PPD and PDD definitely have a lot of overlap, but let's be clear -- not all of the exams in ARE 5.0 overlap content with each other.
Basically, most everyone who has taken the 5.0 agrees that the ARE breaks into three subsets:
1. PDD and PPD
2. PA
3. PjM, PcM, and CE
The exams within each of these three subsets can be grouped together very effectively for study purposes.

That said, the leap from the three subsets approach to "studying for these exams all at once" is a big one. Of course it can and has been done -- a candidate recently knocked them all out in one week. Which, is awesome -- but how common is it? It's very, very unusual. I don't doubt that candidates will begin completing 5.0 faster than the 2.1 to 2.5 years recently required on the average for 4.0. But I also don't see the "all at once" approach gaining a whole lot of ground -- as evidenced by NCARB's own stats -- and for some very practical reasons.

Having passed the six 5.0 exams, my general advice to others has always been to plan on about one month prep time for each exam -- aim for scheduling exams on about the same date each month. For the average candidate, this approach keeps you moving, but also gives enough time to get through the material without going bananas. You can finish in about six months -- much faster than the average 4.0 time to completion -- while still managing other parts of your life... you might even be able to enjoy the process.
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Re: Passed - study and testing strategies

Postby cmoserdesign » Tue Jun 26, 2018 6:18 am

kakadutt wrote:Did you mainly focus on practicing multiple choices questions or reading different materials? If you were mainly doing MC, did you focus on doing 5.0 MC in the new format or just about everything?


Hey kakadutt - honestly if you've passed the SS, MEP and BCDS in 4.0 you have everything you need to pass PPD and PDD. Don't spend time memorizing things like spans and formulas, it won't help you. I reviewed the chapters on CDs and cost estimating most, since it had been a while (know your spec divisions). But I didn't really study for these exams, just some review to keep things fresh in my mind. The NALSA flashcards are great for this.

5.0 is a much better reflection of real life architectural practice - a lot of the problems are multi-level and require you to draw on multiple areas of knowledge and expertise at the same time. If you have solid experience in an office putting together CDs, you should be fine.

Good luck!

Also I just passed PDD yesterday - I could have taken them back to back, they're close to identical (more focus on CDs and construction admin in PDD).
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Re: Passed - study and testing strategies

Postby cmoserdesign » Tue Jun 26, 2018 6:22 am

jdunks wrote:Congratulations. Same boat too, due to one single vignette. I'm curious whether you took time to memorize things? Like concrete spans, for instance, or anything else. Trying not to go too deep this time, but don't want to go too light either. Thanks!


Don't memorize that stuff! You won't need it. 5.0 tests your conceptual understanding and whether you know how to apply formulas, but almost all the formulas are given to you. Just review what you know, spend time going through the flashcards or Building Construction Illustrated. If you have a decent amount of practical experience you'll be fine. But let me be clear - 5.0 doesnt' require more knowledge, but tests your ability to apply that knowledge much more. It's an exhausting test to take, but totally doable.
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