The challenge behind PPD and PDD


The NCARB published the 2019 pass rates for all divisions of the ARE last month. If you’ve struggled with any division of the ARE, these statistics might give you some solace that you are not alone. Did you ever get your results and run through a rolodex of expletives? Turns out, plenty of other people probably have too. In 2019, 42% of testers taking Product, Planning & Design (PPD) passed, and only 50% taking Project Development & Documentation (PDD) did so. We want to understand why these divisions provide a large margin of candidates with immense difficulty, and how can these behemoth divisions be mastered, so we went to the source - a licensed architect who feels your pain.

Heather Rivera, licensed architect, founder and Principal Architect at Alden Architects - AIA, LEED AP BD+C, NCARB accredited, has three reasons why these divisions provide so many hang ups with candidates:

  1. PPD and PDD cover SO MUCH content. It’s hard enough to get through all of the study material, let alone remember it.

  2. Each of these divisions has the most questions of any exam at 120 and is four hours and fifteen minutes in duration. That’s a lot of material. For perspective, the average male in the U.S. runs a marathon in four hours and thirty minutes, so essentially you’re running an architect marathon. Twice.

  3. Because you are constantly using your brain, and because the case studies require so much referencing, it’s very easy to run out of time on these exams.

  4. Four hours and fifteen minutes might seem like a lot of time, but with 120 questions, that only amounts to two minutes and a few seconds for each one. When you get into the case studies that occupy more attention and energy, that allotted time per question diminishes even further.

  5. The ARE’s exist in a Utopian universe. The “right” answer on the exam may not be the “right” way you do it at work. You always need to remember who is asking the question.

  6. Has anyone told you to get out of your own head? That’s applicable to this test. Remove yourself from the operations you conduct at work, and get back to the technical, fundamental disciplines.

But at Black Spectacles we always find the silver lining - the good news is NCARB no longer expects you to be an engineer! ARE 4.0 was very heavy on calculations. It seems they’ve finally honed in on what really matters in the success of architecture.

For a more in-depth analysis of these divisions, revisit our ARE Live PPD and PDD mock exams, linked here:

What are some of the other useful tips you’ve deployed in your testing journey with PPD and PDD?