PDD Pass ARE 5.0 – Study Materials and Methods

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own.


Project Development and Documentation, or PDD was my final exam. This one was challenging in a lot of the ways that I was expecting, and I was not surprised when I failed my first attempt at this exam. The PPD/PDD combo is known for being one of the hardest exams in the entire ARE exam process.

I initially studied for this exam and the PPD exam at the same time, over 10 weeks as recommended by the Hyperfine guide. I passed PPD on the first try, but failed PDD. One out of two is not that bad, for exams with a 50% pass rate. Like I said, it was expected. I immediately rescheduled my exam, giving myself two months to start my study process again from scratch (for a full list of my exam timeline go to my Frequently Asked Questions page). I’ll do a separate post on my actual registration process and getting my official license.

I definitely had to take a different approach after my fail. In my initial take of the exam, I think I focused on systems. In my retake I focused more on the materials section, which is why the Fundamentals of Building Construction was one of the textbooks I reviewed the most.

Throughout studying for this retake, one of the aspects that was the most frustrating for me was the sheer volume of the content I had to get through. Even if you gave yourself 4 months to study for the ARE exams, you would still come to the exam center and wish you had just one more day. You never know exactly what each test will focus on, so you try to be as thorough as possible, and hope your hard work has not betrayed you. In retaking this exam, I also started my study clock again from zero, and studied 113 hours in total for the exam. To find out how I spent all that study time, read on.

Books

Fundamentals of Building Construction – This was one of the books I used most heavily for the PDD exam. I read from chapters 1-10, reading almost 18 hours in total. It covers a huge amount of material related to building materials, going into detail on classification and grades and installation techniques. From wood to metal, it has it all in this book.

This book (which I shorten to FBC to save time) is chock full of pictures showing all the steps of the fabrication process and how that specific material is used in construction. It also goes in depth on site information, which can be very helpful for those taking CE after this exam, instead of earlier in the process. I used the fifth edition of this book.

This book is also heavily referenced in the C144 Grant Adams Videos on Vimeo.

Price:

Fifth Edition Hardcover: $111

Seventh Edition Hardcover: $70.45

Seventh Edition Rental (3 Months): $22.08

Mechanical and Electrical Equipment for Buildings 12th Edition – My approach for MEEB was a bit unusual, since it is an absolutely enormous book. I actually only reviewed the graphics as recommended in this guide from the NCARB ARE 5.0 Community (told you it was helpful!). So instead of reading thousands of pages, I reviewed the graphics and diagrams in detail, redrawing them in my sketchbook, and trying to understand the concepts they described, including consulting other resources to understand them more concretely.

This is similar to what I did when I was studying contracts, instead of putting them in my own words, I’m redrawing them for my own understanding. I also simplified the diagrams as much as I could so I could still understand the concept if it was described in a different way in a question.

I only used the 12th edition for my review, and I didn’t look at the thirteenth edition to see if the image references are still the same, let me know in the comments if it still applies.

Price:

Twelfth Edition Hardcover Rent (Three Months): $20.48

Twelfth Edition Hardcover Rent (Three Months) : $70.40

Thirteenth Edition Hardcover: $153.35

Building Codes Illustrated – I didn’t spend as much time with this book as I did on the PA exam. I was also reading a lot of the actual code while I was doing practice questions or when discussing with my study group, just because it can be difficult to find specific code provisions. This is due to the visual nature of the book, it summarizes a lot of the code language, which practice questions can be very specific on, requiring you to check even the footnotes of the code.

I was still using the 2015 version of this book, as I still don’t think the differences between 2018 and 2015 were big enough to justify buying it again. For the PPD exams, I focused more on chapter 3, and for PDD I focused mainly on Chapter 7 and Chapter 10.

Price:

Fifth Edition Kindle – $39.99

Sixth Edition Paperback – $38, one time purchase

Sixth Edition Paperback Rental per 3 month Semester – $19, with option to extend

Sixth Edition Kindle- $54, one-time purchase

Ballast Review Manual – I ended up reading all the PDD sections for this textbook, and I was able to go through it quickly using this technique:

  1. List all the variables and units at the beginning of each chapter
  2. Highlight all the variables with the same or similar units, for example, highlight all the variables with “pound per sf” units.
  3. Read through the entire chapter, skipping all mathematical formulas
  4. Go through the exam topics again from the ARE 5.0 Handbook, and look through the index to see if there is content you can go through in the other exam sections.

I read this book for over 16 hours, and I went through chapters 33 to 48. That comes out to around 1 hour per chapter on average, which is pretty fast considering how dense the material is in Ballast. Skipping the complex mathematic equations really helped with this.

Online Courses

Hyperfine PPD/PDD Course – I had originally based my study timeline on the 10 weeks recommended by the Hyperfine guide. This worked for my PPD exam (passed first try, see here), but not for PDD, which I wish I had taken more time to study, as it really is its’ own separate exam.

One of the biggest challenges for me was avoid memorizing the answers since I’d done them before. I started again from the beginning instead of skipping around the subjects to make sure that the assignments weren’t the ones I had most recently seen. One technique I also tried to use with the Hyperfine was to find additional resources separate from t

Similar to the PPD exam, since there were 10 weeks of assignments, I didn’t feel like printing them all out (save the trees!). So I completed the assignments digitally and worked from my computer. This was helpful in that I could directly click on the resource links in the PDF. I got the version without the additional case study.

Price: $45, one-time purchase, without 20 question case study

Pluralsight Prepare for the ARE Vol. 5: Project Development & Documentation – For the last few exams, I have been using the Pluralsight courses to do a general overview of the exam content. I really like the ones for the technical exams, as it goes into enough of a level of detail to allow you approach the rest of your study materials and know what you need to focus on.

In terms of the actual time spent, I try to complete each Pluralsight course in the first week that I start studying for a specific exam. This can be overlapped with other materials like Hyperfine, but I prefer to focus on getting though the entire Pluralsight course before I move onto other materials.

Price:

Standard Subscription $29 a month

Codes & Standards

The individual codes were reviewed as needed for practice questions and to supplement for other readings, but I had already read through them a bunch for PA and PPD. I mostly used Building Codes Illustrated for the code sections.

Building Codes Illustrated: A Guide to Understanding the 2018 International Building Code, see above for prices

Digital Resources

Quizlet – I have collected so many flash card decks over the course of all 6 of these exams, that I decided I didn’t need to collect new ones for PDD. Well, not many. Only 5. Very reasonable. For me. You can also look at my recommendations for using and creating your own flash card decks here.

  1. ADA Clearances by jsmart3000
  2. IBC Chapter 7 – fire and smoke protection features by PegahGio
  3. IBC Chapter 10 – Means of Egress by PegahGio
  4. Fire Code by bkane1931
  5. ARE 5.0 Climate Zones by rmsmlekker

Price for all decks: Free

C144 Grant Adams Video Lectures – I used these video lectures similar to the Schiff Hardin lectures in the professional practice exams (PcM, PjM, CE). I would listen to them as audio lectures in the background when I was at work, and also watch them as regular videos when I had time available.

These videos heavily reference the FBC, which allowed me to review the material twice in a way. I really liked the lecture style, which similarly to the Schiff Hardin lectures, described the materials and methods based on the lecturers experiences.

Price: Free

Karin’s Notes – This is one of the most comprehensive study guides I’ve found for the PPD/PDD exams, that address the topics in a very visual and efficient way. Though the notes are mostly drawings, there are also helpful lists, diagrams, and comparison charts. I read through the entire 17 page set of notes multiple times, highlighting and redrawing the tables and diagrams where necessary.

Another thing to remember for ARE content providers, do remember to provide product ratings and reviews where you can to help both the content creators and other test-takers that get value out of the review.

Price: Free with the option to donate

ARE 3.0 and 4.0 Study Guides – Unfortunately, I’m struggling to find the link for them, but the study guides for the ARE 3.0 and 4.0 exams were very helpful study resources as well. See if you can find a set to review. It is basically the same thing as the ARE 5.0 Handbook, just for earlier editions of the exams. Speaking of which….

ARE 5.0 Handbook – I like to review the ARE 5.0 Handbook when I start prepping to take an exam, so I can organize my study topics, materials and timeline. I have a video on how I use the ARE Handbook to guide my studying in the video below. I also use all the practice questions at the end of my exam study process, as an additional practice exam.

Obviously the questions would be a similar level of complexity as you would find on the exam, since they come directly from NCARB. Make sure you are using the most recent version of the Handbook, as it was updated for the new exam formats.

Price: Free

ARE 5.0 Community Page

NCARB Forum/ARE 5 Community I highly recommend you check out recent pass information for the technical exams, especially in light of recent and upcoming changes to the exam format. Whenever I fail an exam, I mix my review of posts with those of people who passed on the first try, with people who have had to retake it. I feel like it’s important to get the point of view of people who have retaken the exams, because they can tell you which material was not actually helpful in the end. It’s all about being strategic.

Pass PDD by Audrey Bertrand

PDD Pass on my 3rd try! by Helen Vasquez

PDD 3rd Try – Pass & Done by Adrian Martinez

Price for NCARB Forum: Free

ARE 5.0 PDD Mega Playlist – I made an entire blog post on this huge playlist that was the combination of two attempts at the PDD exam. I don’t recommend that you watch every single video in this playlist, I instead recommend that you approach this list as an encyclopedia of content and topics from my studying process.

Researching and creating this playlist was actually a part of my study process, because it was mainly formed by the topics I found on practice questions, and describe in my practice question process below.

Price: Free

Practice Exams

I have a specific method I use for practice questions, especially the fiull mock exams. You can check out my detailed practice question process here.

WEARE Website – For my second attempt at PDD, I didn’t focus on this resource, and mostly used it for unstructured study time. I definitely like these questions for their level of complexity. You just have to make sure, as I mentioned for Hyperfine, that you don’t get into the habit of memorizing the answers to the practice questions, after which point they become useless. This is why it’s helpful to do practice questions with study group members, so you have to verbally defend your answers and actually justify your answers with your knowledge.

Price: $34 per division, one-time purchase

ARE Questions – For me, these questions are at the same level of difficulty for me that Walking the ARE Exam by Erik Walker was for the PcM exam. Very challenging and with a large number of practice questions to go through so you feel like you’re doing a real exam. Another reason why these questions are popular is because there are very detailed explanations for why the answers are correct. I like to use these questions as my full practice run, using the NCARB demo exam and calculator to replicate an exam environment.

Price: $40, one-time purchase

Ballast Practice Exam – I went through this full practice exam for PDD at least once.

Ballast Practice Problem – I reviewed these questions with my study group pretty extensively throughout PPD and PDD.

Time Tracking Software

Clockify Website – I think I’ve mentioned Clockify in every single exam pass blog post I have made, because it has been absolutely essential to my process. I can track the amount of time I’ve spent on specific materials, and whether or not I am on track with my study goals. I will be creating a video soon on how I use Clockify to study for my exams. I always have a study goal of 100 hours per exam, and I definitely exceeded that for my PDD retake.

Price: Free


Resources I Did Not Use

Black Spectacles – Their Youtube videos were helpful, but I have not purchased their paid offerings. It was very expensive for me, and getting to use their Demo Exam wasn’t worth it for me. I have a lot of their videos in my PPD and PDD Youtube playlists.

AEP – Not enough reviews to purchase

Amberbooks – I didn’t get Amberbooks for this exam, as I created my own Mega Youtube playlist, which you can find here. I did include several Amber Book videos in my playlist. They also used to have 40 minutes of competence videos, which are available here.

Young Architect Bootcamp – I was thinking that I would invest in Bootcamp if I failed PDD 3 times, but I passed before that happened (barely).

Archizam – Not used by me for this exam.

Heating, Cooling and Lighting Book – Not used for this exam.

In Conclusion

I can barely believe that I am done with my exams, thank you to everyone who has supported me through this process! If you have additional questions for me, feel free to ask in the comments.

If you’re looking for additional tips on the ARE 5.0 for studying and staying motivated, join me at the ARE Studio | Study For and Pass the ARE Facebook Group . I will also be sharing new videos on a weekly basis at my YouTube channel, sharing content on my LinkedIn page, and continue creating tips, courses, free downloads and recommendations on this website. You can also join my email newsletter to get regular updates on what I’m doing next. Happy studying everyone!


PPD Pass ARE 5.0 – Study Materials and Methods

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own.


I took and passed PPD (Project Planning & Development) on the first try this January, after 10 weeks of studying and with a bunch of support from my study group, friends and family. This exam was definitely one I was nervous about since according to NCARB it has the lowest pass rate of any of the 6 exams. I’m still kind of surprised every time I remember I have passed this exam, it seemed like something that was so unattainable when I first started studying.

The technical (PPD and PDD) exams are beasts and can be very intimidating. I’m glad that I persevered through this process and I can tell how much I’ve learned from where I started to where I am now.

When I started my exams in 2019, I attended a local AIA event where they were hosting an ARE trivia night. I hadn’t even passed PcM yet, and the people who were answering the questions related to PPD and PDD seemed to know so much, I almost felt like I would never catch up. And here I am now, in 2021, with one exam left, and more knowledge about toilets than I ever wanted in life.

All of this to say, we all start this process worried about what we don’t know. The important thing to remember is that the learning is part of the journey.

To see what I learned for this exam, read on below.

Books

Heating, Cooling, and Lighting– I almost exclusively looked at one chapter of this book, Chapter 15, which deals with the Thermal envelope, which is a critical topic for the PPD exam. I think I studied this book for less than 3 hours total. However, if you are struggling with topics related to solar and sustainable strategies, this would be a great resource for you.

Price:

$82.59 to rent hardcover per three month semester, subscription with extension option

$118.00 to buy hardcover new, one-time purchase

$112.00 Kindle digital version, one time purchase

Architect’s Studio Companion – This textbook is a great one for visual learners, since it is full of diagrams and graphs. Almost too many graphs! There are many helpful tables dealing with HVAC, building types and comparisons of system advantages and disadvantages. I mostly used this textbook to study structures and occupancy. This textbook is also heavily referenced in Hyperfine for studying HVAC systems, so I studied that while I did my Hyperfine exercises.

Price:

$29.30 to rent hardcover per three month semester, subscription with extension option

$89.03 to buy hardcover new, one-time purchase

$82.00 Kindle digital version, one time purchase

Building Codes Illustrated – I didn’t spend as much time with this book as I did on the PA exam. I was also reading a lot of the actual code while I was doing practice questions.

This book is a great reference for visual learners, since it explains many aspects of the code in diagrams. I had actually purchased the 2015 version just before the switch to 2018 IBC, since I thought it wouldn’t have that much effect on this exam. I still made sure to read the 2018 version of the code separately.

One great thing about this book is that the chapters are organized by the corresponding code sections, chapter 3 in this book is the Use and Occupancy section, just like in the IBC. I feel like that made it easier to keep track of where I would find the relevant information in the actual code.

Price:

Fifth Edition Kindle – $39.99

Sixth Edition Paperback – $38, one time purchase

Sixth Edition Paperback Rental per 3 month Semester – $19, with option to extend

Sixth Edition Kindle- $54, one-time purchase

Hyperfine PPD/PDD Course – According to my records, I actually studied with Hyperfine the most out of any one material for this exam. I also used it as my guide for scheduling my exam, since the assignments were supposed to be taken over 10 weeks. I studied this material over 25 hours, but I probably could have spent even more time with it.

I used Hyperfine a bit differently for PPD, since there were 10 weeks of assignments, I didn’t feel like printing them all out. So I completed the assignments digitally and worked from my computer. This was helpful in that I could directly click on the resource links in the PDF. I got the version without the additional case study.

Price: $45, one-time purchase, without 20 question case study

Books Not Heavily Used

Ballast Review Manual – I read some relevant sections of this book, but I didn’t use it extensively. I mostly used the Ballast Practice Problems and Practice Exam.

Fundamentals of Building Construction – For PPD specifically, I think I read this book for slightly more than an hour. I think this is more of a critical resource for PDD instead. I had the 5th edition, but they now go up to the 7th edition on Amazon.

Codes & Standards

ICC Website – IBC 2018

International Building Code 2018

I studied the building code in two main ways; the Building Codes Illustrated textbook, and by using the actual building codes online, through Upcodes, which includes the individual state adoptions of the IBC, or through the ICC website. I mostly read the code for this exam in relation to the practice exams or assignments instead of straight reading, especially Hyperfine assignments.

I would highly recommend that you use this resource through a digital website instead of buying the hard copy. It’s much faster to search through digitally, and it prepares you better to use the code in a digital format like you might encounter in the exam. If you want to use a hard copy, you can get it here. Make sure you’ve memorize the most common IBC sections so that you can recall them easily in the exam.

You can also pay on the digital websites to be able to search the code, but I wouldn’t recommend it. I think having to search for the relevant code section is a similar exercise to what you would have to do on the exam, and is good practice.

Price:

Code Access: Free for the websites, but it is also possible to buy a hard copy of the code, but I certainly would not recommend it.

Building Codes Illustrated: A Guide to Understanding the 2018 International Building Code, see above for prices

2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design

I have studied this code pretty extensively in previous exams such as PA and CE, so I didn’t really need to study this resource directly. You can read it from UpCodes for the actual language and the full list of conditions or scenarios. Again, I mostly studied this through practice questions.

One of my favorite resources for studying the ADA was with the videos from Archicorner and from the U.S. Access Board, which you can find in my ARE 5.0 PA YouTube Playlist.

Price: Free

Digital Resources

Quizlet – I collected almost too many quizlet flash card decks for this exam. To narrow it down to the ones I used the most:

  1. ADA Bathrooms by yuzumezu – This was helpful in terms of memorizing the required clearances and ADA standards.
  2. Door Hardware by Nciotta – This was a helpful deck if you’re not very familiar with door hardware.
  3. Occupancy Class and Construction Type by Yu-Chen Zhang- Great deck that can give you specific building types and how they relate to construction types, since these can be confusing or seem very similar.
  4. Architects studio companion ss by jeremyefass- Deals with concepts straight out of the Studio companion structural system comparisons.

Price for all decks: Free

ARE 5.0 Community Page

NCARB Forum/ARE 5 Community I highly recommend you check out recent pass information for the technical exams, especially in light of recent changes to the exam format. It can really change the way different people approach these highly technical exams.

Passed PPD &PDD and DONE!! with AREs!!! by Elif Bayram (yes, that Elif!)

PDD Pass – Here is my study strategy by Huy Nguyen

PPD & PDD passed in the same week! ARE finally done! by Shi Guo

Price for NCARB Forum: Free

ARE 5.0 PPD YouTube Videos – This was another essential resource for me to understand so many aspects of this exam. This includes (but is not limited to):

  • solar shading
  • thermal envelope
  • electrical drawings
  • structural formulas
  • insulation and U-value
  • HVAC concepts
  • elevators
  • lighting

I created an entire playlist just for the PPD exam that you can access from this my YouTube channel. Make sure to subscribe to my channel for more of my latest video content.

Price: Free

Practice Exams

Designer Hacks PPD Exam – WHen I first started taking the AREs, I asked my office to purchase the full Designer Hacks practice questions for all 6 exams, since they were the same price as one physical textbook. Designer Hacks is super portable, with its mobile version, along with multiple levels from pop quizzes to full length timed exams. You can find my one-minute review for this resource here.

I like that I can break it into smaller portions. These questions are pretty easy so if you can’t take these questions then more complicated questions will not be possible, so these are always a good starting point.

Price: This item was free for me as described above, but for this exam section alone it is $39.

WEARE Website – I’ve found that this exam is slightly more difficult than the Designer Hacks, and allows me to cross-train with different questions. They are available in digital form, making them highly portable.

One thing I’d highly recommend is to try and go through all their exam questions at least once. I noticed after I had finished one of my other exams that when I went back, they had some really relevant content that I had missed since I didn’t complete it.

One of my favorite parts of this resource is that they can be done as smaller portions, including short quizzes, and tests that can be separated into specific exam divisions. They also provide free versions of these questions, so you can see whether you are interested before you purchase. You can also check back on your previous takes of this exam, and see your progress over time.

Price: $34 per division, one-time purchase

ARE Questions – This practice exam by Elif Bayram came highly recommended in multiple platforms, including the ARE Facebook and the ARE 5.0 Community. These practice exams were probably the closest to the level of difficulty that you would find on the exam and are a great match in terms of topics. The level of flexibility with this exam is also great, since it has smaller pop quiz style exams, and then 2 full mock exams worth of questions.

The level of explanations for this exam are also highly comprehensive including the textbook that it is referenced from. I think everyone in my study group purchased this exam.

Price: $40, one-time purchase

Ballast Practice Exam – I went through this full practice exam for PPD at least once.

Ballast Practice Problem – I reviewed these questions with my study group pretty extensively. I spent a great deal of time with these practice problems.

Time Tracking Software

Clockify Website – This website is how I know that I reached my hourly study goal for this exam, 98.72 hours out of 100 for this exam. I use it to track my hours spent studying every day, and then can show you your total progress for your exam, and your progress for the week. You can use my study material tracker to list your hourly study goals for each resource as well.

I really like that I can start the timer as soon as I sit down to study, and it takes care of the rest in terms of organizing my time spent and putting it in easy to read charts that help me stay accountable. It is also completely free!

Price: Free


Other Resources

  • I did a very quick overview of this exam with Pluralsight Prepare for the ARE Vol. 4 Project Planning & Design, kind of like a speed round to get acquainted with the material. This method was recommended by Marina Curac, in a blog post I used extensively to help come up with my resource organization and time management for this exam. (Pluralsight is running a Free April event, but I don’t know if the ARE courses are included).
  • I also reviewed MEEB graphics for about an hour.
  • I was studying for this exam intially about once a week with my study group, and as we got closer to the exam, we moved it up to twice a week. We eventually ended up meeting three times a week. Each study group session we have is about 2 hours.

Resources I Did Not Use

Black Spectacles – Their Youtube videos were helpful, but I have not purchased their paid offerings. It was very expensive for me, and getting to use their Demo Exam wasn’t worth it for me. Their videos on plumbing deisgn were very helpful for this exam.

AEP – Expensive, and not enough positive reviews to purchase

Amberbooks – I didn’t get Amberbooks for this exam, as I created my own Youtube playlist, and used other Practice Exams. There are some useful Amber Book videos on Youtube though. I might invest in this for my final exam.

Young Architect Bootcamp – If I am thinking of possibly investing in this for my last exam. I’ll keep you posted.

In Conclusion

I was very intimidated by this exam, and I still can’t believe that I passed it. I definitely worked very hard to get this pass, and I’m sorry that sharing this blog post has taken so long.

If you’re looking for additional tips on the ARE 5.0 for studying and staying motivated, make sure to follow me at the ARE Studio | Study For and Pass the ARE Facebook Group . Happy studying everyone!


PA Pass ARE 5.0 – Study Materials and Methods

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own.


I took and passed PA in November last year on the first try. I think some of the major factors for my success were the YouTube playlist I created, my study group, and maintaining the consistency with my study process. The scope of the PA exam is so large, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.

With this exam, despite meeting my study goal, I still felt very unsure of whether or not I was going to pass when I walked into Prometric. There were definitely some references that I felt like I could have spent more time with, such as Problem Seeking and the Standards for Historic Properties. But ultimately it’s the result that counts. Read on below to see what materials I used for this test.

Books

Site Planning & Design Handbook – This book was heavily recommended in the ARE 5.0 Community, I definitely recommend it for this exam. I think my strategy for this book was to focus on the chapters with relevant content to this exam. Focus on the following topics with this book:

  • Controlling Wind, Water and Sun onsite
  • Use of Shading
  • Environmental Conditions
  • Floodplains
  • Brownfields and Remediation, Radon, Lead and Asbestos
  • Unstable soil

Price:

$60.09 to rent hardcover per three month semester, subscription with extension option

$72.49 to buy hardcover new, one-time purchase

$67.82 Kindle digital version, one time purchase

Sun, Wind, and Light: Architectural Design Strategies – I actually love this book, however, I think the format is terrible for this exam. The book is designed to assist you in figuring out sustainable strategies for a project you are planning. Some of the content in this book was kind of obvious for me, since I am both a LEED Green Associate and a Green Star Accredited Professional, but if you are not very familiar with sustainable strategies, this book will be great for you.

It is really more of a workbook than a textbook, even though it is full of very useful information. I focused on reading Chapters I, II and VI. You may want to skip over the chapters explaining how this manual works, but I highly recommend that you read those chapters in their entirety to even begin to understand how to use this book.

Price:

$16 to rent spiral-bound per three month semester, subscription with extension option

$84.38 to buy spiral-bound, one time purchase

Building Codes Illustrated Textbook – This book is a great reference for visual learners, since it explains many aspects of the code in diagrams. I actually purchased the 2015 version just before the switch to 2018 IBC, since I figured it wouldn’t have that much effect on this exam. I still made sure to read the actual 2018 version of the code separately.

One great thing about this book is that the chapters are organized by the corresponding code sections, chapter 3 in this book is the Use and Occupancy section, just like in the IBC. I feel like that made it easier to keep track of where I would find the relevant information in the actual code.

Price:

Fifth Edition Kindle – $39.99

Sixth Edition Paperback – $38, one time purchase

Sixth Edition Paperback Rental per 3 month Semester – $19, with option to extend

Sixth Edition Kindle- $54, one-time purchase

Hyperfine PA Course – My main technique for using this course for PA was to print it out and do the assignment by hand because it’s easier for me to go back and forth. This resource comes as digital files, but trying to do it as a digital assignment wasn’t working well for me. I consider these to be a kind of textbook because how much resource reading I have to do for each assignment.

The assignments themselves are very detailed and come with multiple resources per topic, between 2 or 3. For PA, the way I used Hyperfine was to first read the resources for each assignment, then try to complete the assignment itself. I find this to be the best way to use it for subjects you’re not very familiar with.

Price: $40, one-time purchase

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) – I would mainly focus on the Preface and Chapter 1 for this book, as this is not a large focus of this exam’s objectives. It is important to understand the principles of CPTED and how they would be applied.

Price: Free

Problem Seeking: An Architectural Programming Primer – A very interesting book that breaks down all of the different concepts within programming. I would recommend that you read it once and try to understand the concept definitions. You will also need to understand the process of creating the architectural problem, which may be familiar for those of you who went through creating your architecture thesis.

Price: Paperback: $65.16, Kindle: $54.00

Ballast Review Manual – I read the PA sections of this textbook.

Codes & Standards

Since this exam doesn’t deal with any contracts, I’ll use this section to talk about codes and standards instead. Most of these codes come directly from NCARB’s Reference Matrix.

ADA referenced in the NCARB Reference Matrix

International Building Code 2018

I studied the building code in two main ways; the Building Codes Illustrated textbook, and by using the actual building codes online, through Upcodes, which includes the individual state adoptions of the IBC, or through the ICC website. I tried to read the critical chapters/code sections of both, which were chapters 3,4,5,6, and 10.

I would definitely recommend that you use this resource through a digital website instead of buying the hard copy. It’s much faster to search through in digital format, and I would say that it prepares you better to use the code in a digital format like you might encounter in the exam. If you realllly want to use a hard copy, you can get it here. Make sure you’ve memorized the most common IBC sections so that you can recall them easily in the exam.

Building Codes Illustrated, as mentioned above, takes a lot of the codes concepts and simplifies and diagrams them, however, I would still recommend that you read through the entire relevant code sections, before you use the summarized version. Also keep in mind that for this exam, NCARB has moved on to the 2018 version of the IBC, so make sure your study materials reflect that.

Price:

Code Access: Free for the websites, but it is also possible to buy a hard copy of the code, but I certainly would not recommend it.

Building Codes Illustrated: A Guide to Understanding the 2018 International Building Code, see above for prices

2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design

I would say this is one of these resources that you should use as a primary resource. Many different ARE prep materials reference the diagrams and definitions from this standard, but the definitions can be simplified to the point where it’s difficult to determine the difference between similar conditions.

So I would highly recommend that you read through this code from UpCodes in its entirety before you move on to reading about it from somewhere else. It will really help you understand where each standard is actually used.

One of my favorite resources for studying the ADA was with the videos from Archicorner and from the U.S. Access Board, which you can find in my ARE 5.0 PA YouTube Playlist.

Price: Free

Protruding Objects video from the U.S. Access Board as part of my ARE 5.0 PA Playlist.

Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties

This document is very straightforward document, that I wouldn’t say that you need to do a deep and detailed reading on. Just make sure you understand the definitions for each of the treatment methods (I have a Quizlet deck for this below).

When I was reading this book, I went through the:

  • Introduction, page 2
  • Historical Overview, page 4
  • Introduction Sections for Each of the Standards (Preservation, Rehabilitation, Restoration, and Reconstruction)

You can read the sections on building materials, features and systems, etc. but I did not focus on those for this exam.

Price: Free

Digital Resources

Quizlet – I am very big on using my time efficiently for this exam, which is why I don’t spend a lot of time making physical flashcards. Many topics within PA are pretty self-explanatory when it comes to their definitions, so my focus was on the more standards, codes, and soil information, that cna’t be easily guessed at, or which can be easily confused for a similar word or definition.

  1. ADA Deck by glhightower- This was helpful in terms of memorizing the required clearances and ADA standards.
  2. Building Efficiency Deck by Yu-Chen Zhang- It is important to study how different spaces are calculated in terms of net assignable areas and gross area.
  3. Historic Preservation Standards Deck by Chase Jackson- Many of the terms within the Secretary of the Interiors Standards can sound very similar, so it is important to know the definitions in detail.
  4. Soils Deck by MADSHOTDOT- Concepts related to soil, including sizes, performance and types

Price for all decks: Free

NCARB Forum/ARE 5 Community I use this resource a lot to figure out what resources I will actually use. I will always compare the NCARB Reference Matrix to what the Community says has actually worked for them in the past. Unfortunately, NCARB recently purged their older posts, meaning years of exam passes and knowledge is now lost to us, however, of the posts that remain, here is what I would recommend you look at:

PA Pass! Tips and Study Materials by Pedro Espinet

PA Pass Tips! by Ashley Biren

“Likely pass” PA by Audrey Bertrand

Price for NCARB Forum: Free

ARE 5.0 PA YouTube Videos – This was another essential resource for me to understand so many aspects of this exam. This includes (but is not limited to):

  • water management, water tables and flooding
  • climates and sun orientation
  • floor area ratios
  • egress, ADA, and IBC
  • soils and site surveys
  • bioremediation and historic preservation
  • R-value, U-Value and Reflectance
  • Zoning and property considerations

I created an entire playlist just for the PA exam that you can access from this article or my YouTube channel. Make sure to subscribe to my channel for more of my latest video content.

Price: Free

Practice Exams

Designer Hacks PA Exam – I asked my office to purchase the full Designer Hacks practice questions for all 6 exams, since they were the same price as one physical textbook. Designer Hacks is super portable, with its mobile version, along with multiple levels from pop quizzes to full length timed exams. You can find my one-minute review for this resource here.

I like that I can break it into smaller portions. These questions are pretty easy so if you can’t take these questions then more complicated questions will not be possible, so these are always a good starting point.

I really like using these questions when I have an extra bit of time like if I’m waiting in line or if I just have time to kill and I can whip it out on my phone and start doing practice questions. They are also a good way to make sure I practice answering questions quickly.

Price: This item was free for me as described above, but for this course alone it is $39.

WEARE Website – I’ve found that this exam is slightly more difficult than the Designer Hacks, and allows me to cross-train with different questions. They are available in digital form, making them highly portable.

One of my favorite parts of this resource is that they can be done as smaller portions, including short quizzes, and tests that can be separated into specific exam divisions. They also provide free versions of these questions, so you can see whether you are interested before you purchase. You can also check back on your previous takes of this exam, and see your progress over time.

Price: $34 per division, one-time purchase

Walking the ARE 5.0 PA Practice Exam – This exam totally kicked my butt, but it was completely worth it. I took it in the middle of my studying, not at the end because otherwise I would have cancelled my exam. My study group and I all bought this practice exam, and took it independently to see what concepts we struggled with individually and as a group.

It really helped me with understanding where the gaps were in my studying, which is another reason that I recommend that you take it in the middle, so you have the opportunity to go back and read each of the concepts you didn’t understand. It really tackles concepts like zoning, site selection, and climate that I feel is on par with the level of question difficulty you would see on a real exam.

Price: $42, one-time purchase

Ballast Practice Exam – I went through this practice exam for PA at least once.

Time Tracking Software

Clockify Website – This website is how I know that I reached my hourly study goal for this exam, 99.62 hours out of 100. I use it to track my hours spent studying every day, and then can show you your total progress for your exam, and your progress for the week. You can use my study material tracker to list your hourly study goals for each resource as well.

I really like that I can start the timer as soon as I sit down to study, and it takes care of the rest in terms of organizing my time spent and putting it in easy to read charts that help me stay accountable. It is also completely free!

Price: Free


Other Resources

  • I did a very quick overview of this exam with Pluralsight Prepare for the ARE Vol. 3 Programming & Analysis, kind of like a speed round to get acquainted with the material. This method was recommended by Marina Curac, in a blog post I used extensively to help come up with my resource organization for this exam.
  • I was studying for this exam intially about once a week with my study group, and as we got closer to the exam, we moved it up to twice a week. Each study group session we have is about 2 hours.
  • I also spent some time looking at soil boring reports, and trying to find examples of the soil classification USPLSS to study from.

Resources I Did Not Use

Black Spectacles – Their Youtube videos were helpful, but I have not purcahsed their paid offerings. It was very expensive for me, and getting to use their Demo Exam wasn’t worth it for me.

AEP – expensive, and not enough positive reviews to purchase

Amberbooks – I didn’t get Amberbooks for this exam, as I created my own Youtube playlist, and used other Practice Exams. There are some useful Amber Book videos on Youtube though.

Young Architect Bootcamp – If I am thinking of possibly investing in this if I struggle to pass my final exam. I’m still trying to remain mostly self-guided for as long as I can.

In Conclusion

The exam was very nerve wracking for me. I was sure I was going to fail when I walked in, and I believed I was going to fail up until it said that I had passed.

I think this was one of those instances where hard work pays off, with being really hyper-focused on this exam, reducing my distractions and social functions and other obligations really making a difference in keeping me on task.

I’m hoping to share my PPD exam pass with you all soon. Let me know if you have any additional questions and happy studying!


CE Studio – A New Online Course for the ARE 5.0 Construction & Evaluation Exam

CE was an exam that I had initially failed, and as I mentioned in my original CE pass announcement, there were many aspects of the exam that I felt were not clearly communicated in the exam objectives and study materials. This led me to reevaluate my study strategy and focus, to make sure that the material I was studying actually going to help me pass.

To help you with this, I’m happy to introduce CE Studio. It is an on-demand online course, that will give you the essential concepts for studying for the ARE 5.0 CE Exam, giving you a structured study plan and helping you reach your study goals. This course will be starting on the 28th of February, 2021. This is a online course with videos and practice questions, not another PDF that will just sit in your Documents folder. CE Studio is designed for your to interact with it in multiple ways, and allow you to get started with it immediately.

This course is designed to help get you through these CE concepts:

  • Drawings in Detail
  • Project Management Made Easy
  • Estimation Essentials
  • Conquering Contracts
  • Tried and True Study Method
  • Schedules Simplified
  • Building Element Breakdown
  • Closeout Comprehension
  • and Take That Test!

CE Studio members will also receive assigned readings and material recommendations for each module, which will prepare you in advance of each lesson, so you can be familiar with the material and be able to ask deeper questions. Since the course is offered as on-demand, videos are accessible at anytime.

We will also be working out some of the practice questions using the NCARB Digital Whiteboard, to make test takers familiar with the software before they go into Prometric.

This course also comes with a 100% moneyback guarantee, no questions asked, and no matter how you’ve been taking the course, if you think it wasn’t valuable for you.

The best part is that all of this is available for an early-bird rate of only $94.50. This includes all video lessons, practice questions, bonus materials and reading assignments for 10% off. When you join the course, you have access to the course materials and videos for an unlimited amount of time, no need to email back and renew.

Early-bird pricing for this course is only available until February 28th, when the course content all goes live, so don’t delay signing up. After the early-bird pricing is over, the course cost goes back up to $105. I look forward to seeing you on the first day of the course, February 28th, 2021!