How I passed ARE Exam 3, Programming and Analysis, in 4 days


This is a post from Nicholas Civitano. He’s an architect with his own firm in Hawaii.

He studied for this exam for about 4 days, with 3 weeks of casual studying before this.

He recommends the IBC 2012, the Site Planning and Design Handbook, and the Ballast review manual. He also recommends studying more than 4 days.

He also has a lot of specific topics he recommends looking out for, which I’ve put in my study guide.

Read below for the original post.

Original post

Took PA today and to my major relief got a prelim pass. This one was a roller coaster for me, originally had the test scheduled for July 23rd but my cousins wedding on the mainland a few days later (Im in Hawaii) and my own wedding on August 2nd made me reschedule it for today. Getting everything ready for the trip and my own wedding left me with only anout 4 days of studying, besides some general reading on the exercise bike every morning for about 45 minutes for the past 3 weeks.

I did not really feel prepared, especially with only a few real solid days of studying and the nature of PA having unfocused and broad resources and topics compared to my previous 3 passes of Pcm Pjm and CE. Id say PA was the most difficult, for me, of the 4 so far.

Anyway, without going on and on about the back story here are my thoughts on study material:

I have my own firm but I almost only deal with single family residential architecture in Hawaii, so while I am familar with some code research for occupancies, egress and construction types it is not something I deal with consistently or in much detail besides the odd commercial project.

I studied the IBC 2012, mostly because I didn’t have access to or want to pay the crazy prices for Chings BCI 2012. I figured the actual IBC plus internet searches and YouTube videos clarifying anything I couldnt understand on my own to be pretty effective. I focused on Chapters 3, 5, 6 and 10 with additional reading of the 2010ADA guidelines to brush up on some specifics.

I read Site Planning and Design Handbook for just the section on Brownfields, Environmental site assessments and Soils.

I also have Ballast 5.0 review manual and the practice problem/ practice exam books. I felt Ballast was pretty good for the broad topics, especially the stuff on climatic design for different regions.

Thats pretty much it for resources.


I recommend people study more than 4 days for this test, lol. It is very broad, I had questions about site planning, codes, egress, ADA, construction types, programming diagrams, construction phasing, some random questions on very specific things regarding structural failures , renewable energy site design and a bunch of site planning questions.

If I was studying for this again I would focus on:

ADA standards; know how to analyze ramps, showers etc for compliance with accessibility.

Soils; which are best to build on, drainage, liquidefaction etc.

Topography: know how to read site sections through various topo conditons. Know the benefits and issues with building or placing buildings on hills, slopes, valleys etc.

Climates: placement of buildings on sites and topography based on the different climate zones and site conditions.

Underatand the sun; solar, shading etc.

Historic and older buildings: how they should be treated, reused, adapted etc, for both historic structures complying with the NPS standards and just older buildings being adapted to new uses.

Adjacencies: like others have said, know how these diagrams/floor plan layouts work. These are just puzzles, read the info they give you and put the pieces together. Dont forget to rotate the pieces if they are actual “rooms” you are placing on a blank floor plan, there are definite right and wrong directions, even if they are in the right place.

Site plan/ survey: know how to calc a sites square footage and understand how to calc areas that may be needed for things besides buildings.

FAR/Efficiency/ gross-net Sf: know how to calc and figure all types of questions on FAR, building efficiency, net to gross floor ratios.

Occupancy calcs, net vs gross

I think thats all I can recall without giving away specfics.

Stay calm, work fast, flag if you are not sure but atleast put an answer in. I had 90 minutes left when I got to the case studies using this method. Took me an hour to finish the case studies but I tooo my time knowing they were the last 20 questions and I was fairly confident in my multiple choice selections. I had 30minutes to review but I only had about 10 flagged questions so I was able to work through a few math based questions I wasnt positive of.

I think my time management was good because I read the forums and many many people said time was a factor so I went in prepared to answer as quick as I could but with still reading the questions and giving myself about a minute per.

Good luck, most of all stay calm!

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