After almost 9 months of studying in total, I finally passed the PDD exam on my third try!!! PDD exam is the only exam that I had to take up three times!
I am sure you know by now that none of the ARE 5.0 exams are easy. But I think I made a major mistake before I started studying for this exam. I have terrified myself with all the horror stories I heard on forums about PPD & PDD exams. People love to lump these two exams together and treat them as one. If you read my blog post about the PPD exam, you know I disagree. I am not saying the PDD exam is easy, don’t get me wrong, but I think if you do what you have to do, there is no need to terrorize yourself:)) Stay calm and keep reading the rest of this post, please, because I think I have a fairly working method to pass this exam.
My second mistake was assuming that I could get away with some test-taking tricks to pass the PDD exam. Certainly, being good at test-taking helps all ARE exams, but if I had to pick an exam that my methods work the least, I would say it is the PDD exam because the questions and options in this exam are much shorter and more direct. They rather measure direct knowledge (of minor things and details). Unlike the PA or PPD exams, where questions & options are much longer and allow you to use some methods I listed here and here in this Youtube video. Questions on PDD exams are more to the point. This can make passing harder if you haven’t studied the content thoroughly. But if you studied the content (and I am sure you will), your chances of passing the PDD exam are much higher. So, I think this makes the PDD exam much easier than the PPD exam because, more or less, the exam meets your expectations of content. However, on the PPD exam, many people complain that they didn’t get any questions from what they have studied…PDD is less prone to this issue. Hence easier.
But why is this exam still considered “hard” by many..?
I think the answer is simple: because still, you need to study and know many things to pass this exam. There are a lot of minutiae that need to be memorized to be able to pass this exam. Recently I made a list of things that I felt should be memorized to pass the PDD exam. (This list may not cover everything that has to be memorized to pass the PDD exam. There may be more to this list, so please contact me if you have any contributions.)
books, books, and more books
I read almost everything in the ARE 5.0 Handbook Reference Matrix and even more to pass PPD and PDD. Here is what I read (on top of all the books I read for the PPD Exam) specifically for PDD:
- Architectural Graphic Standards: This book is a MUST for PDD. But rather than reading every word in it, you have to review all the details and tables carefully. Make sure you can answer each element in the details comfortably. Try to review all the details and all the tables that are given in the book. The tables have a lot of comparisons between different systems/assemblies regarding different functions/ uses or expectations. Understanding the relative relationship of different objects/assemblies is crucial to passing the PDD exam. For example, understand the relative relationship between different insulation materials regarding their R-value. DO NOT memorize the exact R-value of XPS or EPS; rather, try to learn their relative relationship. Which one is superior to which one? Do the same thing for the acoustical properties of different materials or assemblies, and so on and so forth.
- The Mehta Book: I certainly believe this book is why I passed PDD. I heard about it on my 3rd try for PDD, and thank god! I did. I read the whole book, cover to cover. All chapters are equally important and amazing. This is the only book I read that was not in the ARE 5.0 Handbook Reference Matrix, and since then, I have kept recommending this book to people. I hear great feedback. Besides, the book has +1000 questions
- Architectural Acoustics: I read this book initially for PPD, but if you haven’t and now studying for PDD, I can’t stress the importance of this book enough. It compares different assembly types /details regarding their acoustical performances. Again, understanding this relative relationship between different assemblies and materials is crucial to passing the PDD exam.
- NCARB Monographs: I gave a detailed list of the monographs I used here. I will recommend the same for PDD. If you already did it for PPD, you can skip this step.
- I would take the PPD exam before taking the PDD exam. But still, give yourself enough time. In my opinion, if you can study 20-25 hours a week, you need a minimum of 6 to 8 weeks for the PDD. But do not rush! Take 8 to 10 weeks if it is necessary.
- Follow all the methods that I outlined here in this post.
- Study regularly, every day, and a minimum of 20 hours per week. Every day, review your notes from the same day or same week and take a 20 question practice quiz. Write down your hours and share your study goals with some study partners or someone that is around you and loves you enough to listen to it 🙂 Keep yourself accountable.
- The last two weeks before your exam, only take practice questions. But I want to be specific about how you do this: Start taking 200 questions at one sit and build your way up to taking 500 to 600 questions a day, without taking no bathroom breaks, cellphone checks, posting on Facebook, eating, drinking, or snacking. Absolutely similar to the test but with way more questions. You cannot take 5 questions here. 10 questions there. Turn off the phone, put the kids in bed, tell your spouse not to bother you for the next 4 hours. Try to get faster and faster. Even it means taking the same practice exams/questions over and over again, do this! It is like training your body to run with extra weights tied up to your ankle. You are building endurance. If last 2 weeks before your exam, you take 500 questions a day (every day), you will fly on the exam. Especially, non-native speakers should follow this method to close the language gap. Also, this is a great solution for people with the time issue. Once you see your score consistently 80-85% and over at the practice questions you keep taking over and over, you can feel very confident about the exam.
Here is a list of practice questions that I benefited from the most:
- My own questions, both PPD and PDD Bundles.
- ARE 4.0 Handbook questions for BDCS, SS, BS, PPP, and SPD
- ARE 3.1 Handbook questions for GENERAL STRUCTURES, LATERAL FORCES, MECHANICAL & ELECTRICAL SYSTEMS, and BUILDING DESIGN / MATERIALS & METHODS
- Designer Hacks
- Ballast 4.0 BDCS, SS, BS, PPP, and SPD questions
- Kaplan 4.0 BDCS, SS, BS, PPP, and SPD questions
- Ballast 5.0 PPD and PDD questions
- Hyperfine assignments
- Mechanical & Electrical Equipment for Buildings Online Free Quizzes
- Monograph quizzes
- I did not take them myself, but I heard good things about tryWEARE so that you can try them too.