How to Study for the ARE Exam 5, Project Development and Documentation

Intro to the ARE Exam 5

If I had to describe the ARE Exam 5, I’d describe it as complex (although slightly less so than the ARE Exam 4), and still disorganized.

It’s complex because there’s a fair amount of info. There’s a lot of stuff to know on the surface level, some stuff to memorize in depth, and some random facts.

It’s disorganized because, first of all, they don’t warn you what stuff you need to know in depth and what stuff you need to know on the surface level. They present all the topics like you need to know them all in depth. Second of all, ARE Exam 5 is not well differentiated from Exam 3 or Exam 4. It’s easiest to go directly from Exam 4 to Exam 5, or even study for them simultaneously.

This means it’s easy to become overwhelmed and study none of the material, or become overwhelmed and try to memorize all of it.

You don’t have to do either one! 

On the one hand, if you don’t study any of it, you will not pass the ARE Exam 5. A lot of it is stuff you should already know, but a lot of it isn’t. 

On the other hand, if you try to memorize everything in every ARE book your brain will explode. You literally cannot. Trying to is a big reason why a lot of people fail this exam.

The trick with the ARE is always to only study what you have to study, and only memorize the parts that you have to memorize. No more, no less. Everything else is your job to understand and not memorize.

What materials you’ll need for the ARE Exam 5

You should only need my Guide to the Overwhelmed for ARE Exam 5. I don’t think you’ll need anything else.

Once you’ve mastered your flashcards, notes, and error log from this guide, test yourself by checking out the questions in the ARE handbook. There aren’t many of them, but they should be a useful indicator of what the test questions are actually like.

If you’re looking for alternative resources, you should check out my guide to all the recommended references from the Handbook.

How long it’ll take to study for the ARE Exam 5

The ARE Exam 5 is one of the harder exams in the ARE sequence, and it’s really disorganized.

It should take around 40 hours total to study for the ARE Exam 5.

If you’re looking to create a study plan for the ARE Exam 5, you should use 21st Night’s “My Study Plan” option to create a study plan that works around your schedule.

A complete list of topics on the ARE Exam 5

For a complete list of topics on the ARE Exam 5, you should sign up for my free email course on how to study for the ARE. You’ll not only receive a list of exactly what topics to focus on for each ARE exam, you also get advice on how to study for each exam and 10% off my Guide to the Overwhelmed.

How to learn all these topics on the ARE

Most students make the mistake of trying to learn all the topics the same way. I would not recommend that. Memorization is a separate process from understanding, and you need to treat it that way.


The best way to memorize is to create and review flashcards. These flashcards should test one unit of information at a time (not a bunch), and include context or a mnemonic as an explanation. So, for example:

Question: “What does LLC stand for, and what does it mean?”
Answer: “LLCs are limited liability companies, which means their liability in a lawsuit is limited. The owner’s assets are protected. ”

Explanation: “LLCs offer more protection than sole proprietorships, which is why people use them.”


The best way to understand is to create and review notes. These should not be copy-pasted from what I’ve written in my guide. Read what I wrote in my guide, then come up with your own note to summarize. Check back with my guide to make sure you’re happy with your summary.

To review notes, you can create flashcards from them, then review the flashcards. Or, you can just close your eyes, and make sure you can remember the content of the notes.

Using the practice problems

The best way to use the practice problems is to create an error log. 

What’s an error log?

Well, an error log is simply keeping track of all the questions that you have trouble with. Whenever you have trouble with a practice question, you put it in a card, along with an answer and a step-by-step explanation of the process to solve it.

When you go back to review the question, you make sure you can recall the step-by-step explanation, not just the answer.

This will help you master the processes you need for the ARE.

Studying app recommendation

Creating notes, flashcards, and an error log is easiest if you use 21st Night. 21st Night is a studying app that allows you to create flexible, powerful notes and flashcards and review them through your phone or laptop. 

It also allows you to link your flashcards and notes together, so you can easily create flashcards from your notes with a single click. Or, if you’re studying with a friend, 21st Night allows you to work together on a single collection of notes and flashcards.

Finally, 21st Night gives you analytics on what questions and topics you’re having trouble with, so you can make sure you’re studying the right way.

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