What is the best way to learn ppc? I'm reading the materials Google has for preparing for the test but am finding it a bit heavy-going.

Let me first start by saying that this is kind of a complex question. In theory its alot like learning to drive. You take the course (I'm assuming you are doing your Google Partners program) and then you get fed to the wolves and after a few fender benders hopefully you become a good driver.

The best thing you can do for the course itself is to keep studying their prepared tutorials. The reason I say this is because its extremely easy to get off on a tangent on Google's blog, SEL, etc. Yes these resources are valuable and up to date however they wrote the test for a period of time and have developed the materials that they provide to match that test. Since writing those materials they have probably done 1000+ minor tweaks so going with the shortcuts taught at the many many internet sites out there might not be 100% what google wants to hear on their partners test if that makes sense?

Now just like driving, when you leave the classroom sometimes theory and reality don't see eye to eye with each other mainly because PPC like many other forms of marketing are becoming increasingly more complex. For example some agencies have individuals set aside just for researching keywords for ad campaigns and some people do nothing but measure campaign progress. Very specialized but for larger campaigns sometimes they are completely necessary to have these individuals. Really the only tried, tested and true method you can do in the end is learn through trial and error; run a few campaigns for yourself and see how it goes. Apply what you learned through the partners training. Just like SEO, Writing Copy, etc. there will be a million resources out there and they are going to drag you in multiple directions but end of the day they will help craft you to be your own type of PPC marketer. I would tell you from experience that after you have passed the Google Partners program, keep an ear to sites like Search Engine Land, Search Engine Journal, etc. Those sites will atleast help you take the shortcuts and show you different approaches after you have the foundation of PPC (as taught by google).

I know that isn't a cut and dry response to your question but hopefully it helps a bit.

Each section of PPC managment such as planning , Building campaign, Running campaign, Stats and Analysis , require specific skills of internet marketing. You can not learn PPC managment without testing and practising. You will surely make mistake as newbie but you have to analyze the situation and make a plan for future perspective.

Learn the basic terms and concepts associated with Pay Per Click marketing.
Research the main types of PPC Advertising that you can use.
Open a Google AdWords or Microsoft adCenter account and do a trial run.