How I passed the ARE Exam 2, Practice Management in 5 weeks


This is a post by Patrick Edwards in the ARE 5.0 Community.

He studied for about 5 weeks and about 100 hours, after already studying for practice management.

His general study tips are to study materials from multiple companies, set goals, and use audio to study when you can’t study written stuff.

He advises people strongly to study unit conversions, read the Handbook, use Ballast and Brightwood, and watch Black Spectacles’s practice exam.

He also heavily advises people to use the search function for case studies.

If you want more advice, check out my guide on how to study for the ARE Exam 2, Project Management, or read on for the original post.

Original Post

Howdy all. Finally pitching in after reading through these for a couple of months. So thank you for the communal support, and to the veterans for contributing their thoughts even when they’re done.

I started studying in Sept. I was studying initially for Practice Management, but switched over in Dec because AEP is 2 ding-dang months behind on getting PjM out. So consider my ‘actual’ PjM study-time 5 weeks (approx 2 hrs/day weekday, 4/day weekends). However, I learned a lot by those 4 months of total study time.

Best general study tips up front:

– Cross-train (multiple study materials/mediums/companies)

– Set goals by how much/what you want to achieve (ex: 3 lessons/week, not 2hr/day – too undefined)

– AUDIO study in the time in between things (see below)

QUICK THOUGHTS ON THE EXAM: About right. I’m really impressed with NCARB’s careful consideration as to how to test professional aptitude, down to their testing methodology. I thought today was a very well written test of my capability as a professional. If you’re used to studying as a student, cast that aside. Start studying like a professional (ie, don’t just go for memorization and the A, really think through how you would apply the material on the job). The flashcard facts will only get you a few questions – the rest is critical thinking and problem solving.

Make sure you go in knowing how many square feet in an acre, and how to convert sq. ft to sq yard, or cubic feet to cubic yard. I’ve seen some griping on this forum about how there’s not conversion tables provided, but if you don’t know basic measurement arithmetic, you don’t really have any business being an architect (refer to my comment about it testing your professional capacities).


I’m going to contradict – somewhat – every one else’s ardour for the AHPP. I diligently read 2 hours a day, following the Pluralsight guidelines … and it took me 2 months to get through 900 pages before I realized there had to be a much, much more efficient way of studying. It’s The Source, everything you need to know is there, true, but I think there’s more effective places to put your energy.

Eventually, I found the right system for me, and this is how I’ll be studying from here on out:

(caveat: I benefited from work having these in the library):

Sources (I recommend doing them in this order):

Mike Riscica’s “How to Pass the ARE registration Exam.” It’s a book, but reads more like a blog, and as such sounds a bit more like rambling than a true well-structured book. However, it’s a good place to start, get your head around what you’re going to do, and get a few good tips that might work for you.

ARE Handbook: NCARB writes the test. Read the section on what they say they’re going to test you on. Simple. Don’t over look it.

Brightwood: pretty dry, but good, solid information. If you carefully read each section in the book, you’ll learn a lot. Break up the dry reading with some audio. The quizzes are far too easy, so if you’re not getting 95% consistently right, you probably shouldn’t take the ARE yet.

Architect Exam Prep (primarily for the audio and the practice exams). AEP is fine, a little light and a little amateurish, but their practice exam simulators are reasonable benchmarks. The real value they offer is the audio (again, more on audio and why it’s so useful below). I found their case studies to be the closest approximation to what I saw today. My last practice exam was 85%, which I was comfortable with, so up to you if you follow their “must get 99%” advice.

Ballast 5.0 (best practice problems/exams). Ballast does a good, concise, but way too brief overview of the exam content. The reviews will be good if you already are familiar with the content. Study this last, and test yourself against their practice problems/exams – they’re the hardest.

The weekend before the test, I also watched Black Spectacles PjM Practice Exam. That alone got me at least 3 questions today I would have missed. It’s good.


I had been listening to the Schiff Hardin lectures (a university course by a lawyer who specializes in AIA/construction law, published for free here: while I was reading the AHPP. I listened biking to work, folding laundry, doing pullups, cooking, taking a break from reading studying, etc etc. By the time I actually sat down to legit study the AIA contracts, I already knew it all cold. The lectures are outstanding, real life, tangible and memorable. Plus the majority of questions on PjM are AIA contract based – this is the source that will teach you nuance, not just what the contract language says. Pure gold.

The same principle generally applies to AEP audio, but it’s not good enough on its own. Use the audio to familiarize yourself, or for a refresher after real studying, but don’t rely only on AEP audio.


I went straight to the case studies while my brain was fresh, enjoyed knocking those out, then worked backwards from 75 to 1 for the remainder of the time. That turned out to be a great strategy, because a lot of the material I’d spent time familiarizing myself with in the case studies (gantt charts, etc) were scattered throughout the test. So I saved some brain effort there.

The Search box at the bottom of the Case Study docs is critical. I wouldn’t have passed Case Studies without it. Pick out a really unique/indicative key word in the problem, and then just Search for it. That will get you to the right reference to start solving the problem.

Good luck on your test. Also, remember you’re not going for perfect. You’re going for pass. If you’re putting off signing up, just sign up. It truly is one of the best starts down that road.

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