ppp exam review

Note: I don’t know why I sit on writing/publishing these exam reviews for so long…it probably has something to do with burn out, or perhaps I just don’t give a damn after I sit at Prometric for an afternoon. Either way, here’s my two ppp cents…

I’m beginning to realize that taking these exams is like going to the dentist. It doesn’t matter if you prepare or lie that you did…because during that appointment you’re at the mercy of the professionals. They’ll do the easy stuff, then maybe a nudge here and a poke there, and then hit you with the serious jabs that you never see coming. When it’s all over they nod and smile and let you go. You’re numb (and maybe drooling). But they know you’ll be back in 6 months, you do too…you just hope it’s not for the same problems.

I elected to take the exam in the afternoon again, and it was full of a handful of examinees who all appeared well into their tests by the time I got there. I’m well acquainted with the Prometric center and check-in procedure now, so I was able to get going about 15 minutes ahead of my scheduled exam time. I sat on the opposite side of the testing room, a nice change from the usual corner spot by the vent that I seem to get. It still feels like sitting in a drab telemarketer call center, though. Here’s an ARE Schematic Design Vignette prompt idea: design a testing center that isn’t depressing as hell. Fortunately the ladies that run the place on the weekend are awesome, otherwise I think I’d check out other centers.

The multiple choice was much better than CDS. But then again, I studied like hell for this exam, and I think it paid off. During my first run through the questions I marked any that I hesitated over (about 45%) and spent the rest of the time going through those and thinking of them as if they were problems I might run across at work. By the end of the time (I used the whole two hours), there were about 4 WTF questions that I took a wild guess on. Everything else I felt comfortable with, or chose to trust my gut on. We’ll see how that pays off.

The mandatory break period was fine. I really have no idea what to do with those few minutes besides read the motivational posters and study tips for the Sylvan Learning Center kids that are plastered everywhere. If anyone has any suggestions, I’m all ears, otherwise my options are dwindling down to old copies of Highlights and Where’s Waldo?. I sat at my exam station for a few minutes before the vignette portion started and made a table to fill in setbacks and requirements.

The vignette is everything one would expect if they’ve been practicing the software. Pro-tip: read through the program three times, twice at the beginning and once after you do a run through. It’s not difficult, but NCARB definitely throws a couple curveballs in there to make sure you’re paying attention. Well played NCARB, you almost got me. The process took me about 30 minutes, reviewed for another 15 and then decided there was nothing else I could do. I closed it feeling very confident.

the best part of exam day

After the exam I went downtown with Nate, did some people watching at Pioneer Courthouse Square (Portlanders will hacky sack any day/time of the year, I’m convinced of it), and then hit Paddy’s for the Post Prometric Pint. We talked about the exam for a bit, and Nate reminded me that pass or fail, he still knew that I did my best. Even though deep down inside I agreed, it was so comforting to hear it from a loved one. I don’t feel like I failed, but then again, I’m not sure if I passed…I hate to be optimistic, but I don’t have reason not to be. We wandered around Portland late into the evening, grabbed dinner at Montage, perused Powells and had dessert at Papa Haydn (thank God we walked everywhere…otherwise the next stop would have been the gym). It was a wonderful way to wrap up what I hope will be the last day I have to deal with PPP.

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17 thoughts on “ppp exam review

  1. Rosemarie Maxwell says:

    I can totally relate to the feeling of knowing you did your best but not being sure if you passed. I’m going to be taking PPP for the second time in two weeks. It was my first exam. I’ve taken CDs since then and I’m waiting for my results I’m hoping they will come by next week. I Hope you pass all your other exams and thanks for the tips and comments. They were very helpful.

  2. Chris says:

    Thanks for your study material! Received pass letter yesterday! Taking SPD in 2 days

  3. Dale says:

    I’ve been following your blog for a while and let me say it’s always a pleasure! I’m taking my PPP Exam on Saturday (this is my second exam, but first w/ MC) & I’m a little nervous. I’m good on the vignette (have about a 35-40 minute practice time) but the MC are throwing me a bit. I studied mostly Kaplan & felt relatively confident, but I took a Ballast test last night & it was brutal. Any thoughts of one vs. the other as I partake in the epic poem that is your study guide??? Thanks.

    • jennypdx says:

      Hi Dale, it’s awesome to hear you enjoy the blog…and it’s no Iliad, but I hope you find the study guide helpful. I can’t speak to Ballast, and I only skimmed Kaplan for PPP, but I can say that the best thing I did the week leading up to the exam was listen to the four Schiff Hardin lectures on AIA contracts (there’s a link to them at the bottom of my blog). It really helped on exam day. Otherwise, look at the questions you got wrong on your practice exam and figure out why the right answers are indeed correct. It can take a while, but I always find that review worth it. Good luck on Saturday, I’ll send good vibes your way from my Prometic station as I take BDCS. Cheers!

      • Dale says:

        Yeah, I was planning to go through the answers very thoroughly today. My brain was just too numb last night to do so. Good luck on BDCS on Saturday!

  4. darrenerik says:

    jenny – how long did you study for ppp? thx
    – darren

    • jennypdx says:

      Hi Darren: I studied for about 6 weeks, which felt adequate. I spent a few hours most nights and about 8 hours on the weekends. The two weeks before exam I spent about 4 hours a night and as much time as possible on the weekends. Hope that helps!

      • darrenerik says:

        Hi jenny: thank you for making the time to answer. it does help. i am trying to get my arms around a schedule. i have the next three months off and wanted to stack the exams and finally get this completed taking a series of them not to far apart. i am currently studying ppp and started the note process for schematic, site and cd. found your page in the process. any suggestions you might offer?

  5. Hi Jenny, I love your blog. It has been of much help. I just passed CDs and want to start studying for ppp. Your study notes are amazing. Thank you!!! Was wondering if you formulated any mock-up questions for any of the exams? Did you just quizzed from Ballast?

    • jennypdx says:

      Hey! Congrats on passing CDS, hope you celebrated at bit before diving into PPP. It’s a good one to follow up on, hope the notes are useful to you! I didn’t put together any mock questions myself, but rather, relied on the Kaplan Q&A books and their online supplement. I hear Ballast is pretty good, but didn’t use it myself. I also used ARE Study Review 4.0 for a few more questions, check it out if you haven’t already. Good luck on the rest of your exams!

  6. Akila Rao says:

    Did you read up Ballast? Is that a good resource?

    • jennypdx says:

      Hi Akila, I didn’t use Ballast, went with Kaplan instead. I’ve heard it’s a useful resource for an overall explanation of exam content, and perhaps a bit more technically written than the Kaplan text. Sorry I can’t offer much more insight!

      • Akila Rao says:


        Thank you for the information. I am reading through Kaplan, will check if someone has the Ballast version.


  7. Akila Rao says:

    How long did you study for PPP? I spend about 2-3 hours in the weekdays and about 6 hours on weekends…is 4 weeks sufficient? I know we have different retaining capacities, but what has been your experience?

    • jennypdx says:

      I gave myself about 6 weeks to prepare, dedicating a similar amount of hours on weekends and about 12 hours on the weekends. Personally I found it to be a detailed exam that required a lot of time to retain the various content areas (including all of the history that one wants to prepare for on this one). I had taken CDS but not SPD before, so found myself having to spend a bit of time on site related components of PPP. So as you said, it depends on retaining capacities, but also on exposure to other exams.

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