How I used flashcards to pass the ARE Exam 3, Programming and Analysis


This is a report from Samantha Lee from the ARE 5.0 Community.

She passed the ARE Exam 3 after studying for 117 hours.

She recommends studying the IBC, Building Codes Illustrated, and participating in the ARE 5.0 Community. She also has a list of links below.

She highly recommends using flashcards, practice tests, and testing yourself on real life architecture around you.

Also, she advises to always use the questions to give you hints on the answer. So, for instance, if the question is about the environment, only pick answers about the environment.

For more information, check out my guide on how to study for the ARE Exam 3, Programming and Analysis.

Original post

My references:

ARE Handbook

Ballast Ch 7,8,9,10,11,12,13,15,21

Brightwood 5.0 Programming

IBC and BCI 2016 Ch 3,5,6,10,11

Black Spectacles

NCARB Community

Google; some useful links:

Tips on reference materials:

  • I first started going through this thread and took notes on the most popular topics people see on the test, then I make a list and make sure I hit all the items
  • I read the IBC and BCI side by side, and it worked super well. I first read the code word to word to get familiar with the language and locations of different tables. I think it’s important to understand the code and memorize certain numbers so you don’t keep referring to the references during the test. It worked well for me to memorize which tables I should refer to based on the information I need, and where they are located.
  • Ballast and Brightwood were really broad and I would say they only introduced concepts for the test, but not great in prepping you to ace the test
  • I first took intensive notes as I read the Ballast and Brightwood. Thinking back, I wouldn’t have done that again. I suggest reading through study books and only make notes of concepts that you are not familiar with, then google these topics to have a further investigation. I shared some of them articles I found helpful in the resources section above. I mainly looked up specifics about site work and landscape.
  • The NCARB community was a great resource. I simply looked up topics I have questions on, and 8/10 I found the answers in this forum.

Tips on alternative learning:

  • Finding a way of studying that works best with you is key. It took me a long time to realize my study methods in high school or college do not work well with the ARE. I realized much later that practice tests and flash cards work best for me. If you’re about to take your first test, it’s worth spending some time to try different study methods and stick to one that is most efficient before you dive right in.
  • Personal observation is super helpful. Some questions become common sense if you pay attention to your built environment. For example, how a school is usually laid out, and where and how parking is usually located and arranged on a site.
  • I test my knowledge on a daily basis when I’m not actively studying my books. For example, when I go to a public restroom, I think about how tall the counters should be, the sizes of the stalls, ADA clearance, door sizes, etc. At home, I think about how it is oriented on the site, its relationship with neighbors, what strategies are/are not employed to provide passive heating and cooling. I tested my knowledge on occupancy types by practicing wherever I go. When I go to a restaurant, I tell myself it’s Type B. When I go to a music hall, I know it’s Type A1. The more familiar I am with the code, the easier it was to understand them and not worry about scrolling through pages during the test.
  • English is my second language. I struggled in my practice tests because I struggle with many jargons and new vocabularies. Flashcards became a lifesaver!
  • I wish I did more practice tests instead of trying to read all chapters in the books.
  • Take advantage of your alma mater library collection. I was able to access my university’s online library FOR FREE as an alumni . The online library offers some of the reference books relevant to PA. I did not have time to go through them at the end, but it’s great to know I have that support for future references.
  • In addition to knowing what each topic involves, consider under what conditions each strategy can be applied. For each item, know how it works, where it works, and where it doesn’t
  • My tip for the MCs are to look for keywords that match the answers. For example, if the question asks “environmental” impacts, only choose answers that directly relate to the environment, EVEN IF the other answers respond or relate to the essence of the question, the correct answers are only the ones that relate to the environment

Good luck to all of you who are studying for this test!

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