How I passed the ARE Exam 4, Project Planning and Design

Summary

This is a report from Pavan Iyer from the ARE 5.0 Community.

He recommends the Hyperfine guides, the Architect’s Studio Companion, Building Codes Illustrated, Building Construction Illustrated, and Architectural Graphic Standards. He recommends cross-referencing these guides a lot.

He also recommends not only knowing concepts, but also always knowing the answers to these 3 questions for each concept:

  1. “Where does the water go?”
  2. “What happens in case of a fire?”
  3. “How much does this cost?”

He also has a lot of specific recommendations on what to study, which I’ve put into my guide on how to study for Project Planning and Design. You can also read on for the original post.

Original post

Hi everyone, provisionally passed PPD yesterday and started the New Year (today) with the official pass! Next to my books, this forum has been my most helpful resource, so thought I would try to give back with my own wisdom on PPD (arguably the most broad and challenging of the tests), as well as bonus advice I have for NCARB to rethink how these tests are done.

There have already been tons of posts of study materials, so I’m just going to take a rambling approach to giving advice so I can basically knowledge dump while the exam is still fresh on my mind:

– If you have not checked out Hyperfine’s study guide to the PPD/PDD exam, I highly recommend it. In general, I do not recommend using 3rd party exams/materials much for PDD or PPD, but Hyperfine was very very helpful, especially the study questions and one-sheet study guides.
– Architect’s Studio Companion was by far the best resource, focusing primarily on the structures chapter and systems chapters (both passive and active are important).
– I jumped a lot between Building Codes Illustrated, Building Construction Illustrated, and Architectural Graphic Standards (also a very helpful resource, and I am pretty sure they pull a lot of questions from this book). What I found was key to studying for PPD was not just studying one resource at a time, but cross-referencing them, including between books and Google/Youtube. I would also advice to make sure you know concepts, but continually ask detail questions to take that next level of understanding.
– For systems, make sure you have a complete understanding of not just what system is appropriate in what situation, but how the systems are distributed throughout the building.
– Know different ways electricity is distributed, types of electrical wires (and cost implications), what distribution methods are cheapest and which are most flexible for electricity, know how to read the one-line diagrams for different phases of power distribution, very simple once you do it once or twice. Know when which phase needs to be used (one vs three), and what the voltages are for each situation of building type.
– Know how power gets from the street to the building, understand where the transformer goes, know the types of transformers, where to locate transformers in different situations, know where the power meter goes in different situations, and always do your best to understand how the location of these electrical elements impact design decisions in the event of a fire (architecture 101 in the real world).
– For plumbing, know how stormwater and sewer flow out of the building. Know the different types of piping materials (ABS vs PVC vs PEX vs copper) and why/when they are used. Know spatial implications of plumbing walls.
– Understand and do a problem related to plenum depths. Know what runs through the plenum and what general strategies are for reducing the depth. Know the implications of duct shapes and sizes (in regards to efficiency, space, and noise).
– For HVAC, know all-air vs all-water vs hybrid systems and when each one is appropriate. Especially know how air and water flow diagrammatically through a building, including chimney, boiler, chiller, and cooling tower locations. Know what goes in a fan room (fresh air intake is almost always needed, as well as exhaust). Know acoustical, air quality, and, of course, fire implications of the locations of these things.
– Make sure you know your passive systems and what climates they are most appropriate for, and which ones are the most efficient for each climate. Go the extra mile and learn how double skin facades work, how sunshades should be oriented, etc. Know where your major heat losses happen in a building.
– Like PDD, know where the vapor barrier goes. In general, what always has helped me with anything architecture is that water needs to go away from the building and that heat is always looking for that cold, condensing surface.
– Know how to orient your building and in which climate to do it. 99% of the time, the best way to orient a building is on the E-W axis. Consider also how things like glare/views are impacted by this orientation (i.e. heat gain/southern exposure isn’t the only factor driving an EW orientation in some cases).
– Know implications of green strategies on building structure and systems. Does a passive system get you off the hook for active (what climate are you in)? Does a green roof impact your structure? Also how does everything impact cost (another architecture 101 real world question)
– Know how wind pressure works and how wind loads affect a building.
– Know basic earthquake stuff, seismic failures in particular. Know the cost and spatial implications of one seismic strategy over another (what can a rigid frame do that a braced frame can’t, for example). Know the different types of seismic failures. Know how different materials react to seismic.
– Know implications of materials/structural systems on acoustics and MEP systems. What materials/systems are best acoustically for particular programs (especially ones where acoustics are important)? What do you have to consider when designing MEP systems for different types of structural systems?
– Knowing masonry was helpful (mortar types, how brick walls fail, face brick vs common, etc). Same advice for concrete (types of joints, failures, R-values, acoustical properties), steel (connections, shear vs bending failures, reaction to fire). Know general spans for the different types of structural systems for each material.
– Know your ADA stuff. Memorizing Chapter 3 and 4 go a long way (chapter 5 and 6 almost as important). However, biggest test taking tip I would have is to mark pertinent code questions in your general multiple choice for later review. There is always a chance that the case studies will reference IBC and ADA.
– For IBC, make sure you know your occupancy types and how to determine it. Make sure you know how to determine occupancy loads. Know how these get you the amount of egress paths/exits you need. Know how to analyze a building and do code analysis, both for egress and ADA stuff. Practice doing this for a couple drawing sets you may have access to. Go the extra mile and change sizes of rooms and see how that impacts your egress.
– Know acoustics for sure. How does sound travel, NRC vs IIC vs STC, wall types/sections (also know rated wall types), sound mitigation strategies (staggering studs vs locating sources away from each other vs materials etc), and understand how sound travels and reverberates.
– Know lighting. Know types of light bulbs, the way each renders color, their impact on heating/cooling loads, efficiency, where they are most commonly used. Know the color temperature scale and where the different lights exist on it.
– Know how topography works for streets (architecture 101 real world question: where does the water need to go),
– For everything, especially sitework stuff, know implications on cost (excavating an underground garage is obviously more expensive). Know general slopes that are required for sitework. Know soil types and know foundations (and know which foundation is best appropriate and cost effective in which soil type and situation). Also, when taking the test, know what the client wants when there is a client mentioned in the question! Something that I struggled with was picking the answer for what I wanted (classic architect, amiright?), like underground parking is always great! But especially for the ARE, the answer is what the client wants, not just what works the best.
– Random things to know also include: historic preservation types, types of locksets, how fire alarm systems work, components of a fire alarm system, types of smoke/fire detection systems, embodied energy (I would recommend reviewing generally which materials require more energy than others to produce, should be a table in Building Construction illustrated), how to calculate solar angles, pyschometric charts, shear and moment diagrams, calculating deflection, and calculating static head.
– An obvious strategy, but my best piece of test taking advice that I did way more for this exam than others is striking out information that didn’t matter in the question and then eliminating the wrong answers. This was by far the most efficient way to get through the test quickly, I had over an hour left to review my answers (which is a good and bad thing, don’t second guess yourself too much, I would say, and stick with eliminating the wrong answers).

PPD is the broadest exam in my opinion, and I know most folks have advised to just know concepts. I highly recommend that you know concepts as well, but I even moreso recommend going the extra mile for each concept and learning more details on some of the nuances. Whenever I studied a concept, I continually asked myself three questions: Where does the water go? How do I plan for a fire? How much does this cost? These not only gave me some detailed understanding of things that helped for the test, but I think made me a better architect.

The last part of this post is a recommendation to NCARB because now that I’m done, I have the infinite wisdom of an architect to give advice 😉 There are too many tests and PPD and PA in particular are too broad (it’s odd to me that a standardized test has no standardized information to study). My un-solicited advice for ARE 6.0 is to reduce the number of tests from six to three in the following subject categories:

– Liability and project management (PcM and PjM).

– Building and site analysis (PA and PPD).

– Documentation and construction (PDD and CE).

These tests need to so badly be streamlined in content and focus. Having the process be 6 tests long and so all over the place in content not only makes it difficult to standardize competency for our profession, but creates barriers to actually becoming an architect (time and money are at the highest value in our industry). I also would imagine keeping up with six tests can be a logistical nightmare for NCARB as well. Reducing the amount of content and making the questions more purposeful and focused so as to actually gauge and test our competency as architects I think would make everyone, NCARB included, more successful and, of course, happier.

Good luck to all! It definitely feels amazing once you are done; It made it that much better going to sleep a candidate New Years Eve and waking up an architect for the start of 2019 🙂

How to study for the ARE Exam 4, Project Planning and Design

Intro to the ARE Exam 4

If I had to describe the ARE Exam 4, I’d describe it as the most complex exam on the ARE so far, but also ridiculously 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 4 is not well differentiated from Exam 3 or Exam 5. It’s easiest to go directly from Exam 3 to Exam 4.

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 4. 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 4

You should only need my Guide to the Overwhelmed for the ARE Exam 4. 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 4

The ARE Exam 4 is the hardest exam in the ARE sequence, and it’s really disorganized.

It should take around 55 hours total to study for the ARE Exam 4.

If you’re looking to create a study plan for the ARE Exam 4, 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 4

For a complete list of topics on the ARE Exam 4, 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.

Memorization

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.”

Understanding

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.

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

Summary

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!

How I passed the ARE Exam 3, Programming and Analysis, on my first try

Summary

This is a report from Emily Rachel Geppert on the ARE 5.0 Community.

She studied for this exam for 8-12 hours a week for a month, but she does do this as part of her work.

She recommends using the ARE Handbook, the 2010 ADA guides, the 2015 IBC standards, Planning and Urban Design, Site Planning and Design, Site Engineering for Landscape Architects, and Sun, Wind, and Light.

She warns people to always consider context when answering questions and to be aware that the case studies take a long time to load.

For more information, check out my guide on how to study for Programming and Analysis or read the original post below.

Original Post

Hey all!

I passed PA on my first try last week!  This was my first ARE, so I was definitely nervous going into it. I started studying for this exam in earnest about a month before, though I’d had it scheduled for several months prior.  I spent between 8-12 hours a week reviewing material, but was really fortunate that the bulk of my work at my job during those months was on projects that were in this phase of design. 

I only purchased one book, Sun, Wind, and Light, and found the others at the local library or through my work.  Try to find your resources for free before dropping thousands on them!  There’s a surprising amount of free information out there if you look.  My work also provided access to PPI and Black Spectacles.

The resources I used were:

  • NCARB Handbook – read it again and again and again and then one more time!  They tell you exactly what you need to study and what sort of questions you’ll be asked.  Backchecking the other resources against this was extremely valuable because it kept me from getting lost in the weeds on irrelevant information.  I definitely think keeping this fresh on my mind helped me be more targeted and efficient with my studying.
  • Black Spectacles – I watched all the videos, but don’t think they were that helpful.  I mostly used this resource for the practice exams.  The practice exams are nearly identical in format to the real exam, so you can get a feel for how all the tools work and how the exam system functions.  I also liked that you can take a full length, timed practice which allowed me to simulate how test day would feel.  Getting comfortable with that pressure is a great way to stay calm and collected on game day.  You want your brain to be focused on the questions, not how to rotate a program box or where the search function is on the resource material.  The tests were also good indicators of the holes in my knowledge, so I used that as a gauge for where to focus my studying.  DO NOT get hung up on the memorization-based questions in these exams.  The NCARB Handbook is clear that you are being tested on Understanding/Applying and Analyzing/Evaluating.  My highest score on these exams was 59%, but reviewing what I missed indicated I was missing rote memorization skills (I usually don’t remember things I can easily Google) but was doing well in application of concepts.
  • PPI – I glanced through this resource and found it to be repetitive to what BS had to offer.  I prefer BS’s interface, so I went with that.  Again, the value is in the cursory review of concepts and practice exams.
  • 2010 ADA Standards – understand the concepts.  I read through the code once and made sure I understood the basics for accessible design.  Spend the time memorizing the basics that are applicable to a wide variety of projects such as ramp length, slope, clearances, etc.
  • 2015 IBC – I read through chapters 3-7 and 9-11 because I don’t have a copy of Building Codes Illustrated.  Understand the concepts of use, occupancy, and egress and how to determine what is what.
  • Problem Seeking – I read the initial portion about the Five Steps and Four Considerations.  I read this first and it was a useful way to frame the rest of my studying.  I don’t think it warrants more time than that.
  • Planning and Urban Design Standards – I flipped through this book and looked at graphics and titles.  Anything that seemed interesting or foreign, I stopped to read the associated content. 
  • Site Planning and Design Handbook – Same as above.  This book provided lots of useful information for soils and brownfields.  Understand how soils work and their differences!  
  • Site Engineering for Landscape Architects – same as above.
  • Sun, Wind, and Light – read the chapters “Climate as a concept”, “Combining Climate, Program, and Form”,  and “Building Groups”.  Understand how external constraints (sun, wind, topo, etc.)  influence microclimates and how a building should be placed on a site.
  • Other – I fortunately work in a full-service architecture and engineering firm where about 80% of the designers are licensed, so I get a lot of interaction with many different disciplines that have a huge depth of knowledge.  This is a huge plus for these exams.  The folks outside your lane know a lot and generally like to share what they know.  Pick the brains of the architects and engineers you work with.  I have a feeling this will be even more useful for PPD and PDD.
  • In retrospect, the most useful resources were the ones provided in the Reference Matrix.  The secondary resources, like BS and PPI, were not nearly as helpful.

My test day strategy:

  • I was originally scheduled to take the exam on a Friday, but had a last minute test center closure and was rescheduled for the following Tuesday.  I am really glad this happened for two reasons: 1. I already felt prepared for the test, so spent the weekend casually reviewing topics between the everyday chores, and 2. it allowed me to relax after the BUSY work week I’d had the week prior.  I was much less stressed going into the exam after the weekend and I will be taking all my exams early in the week from now on.
  • I got a good night’s sleep (8 hours) the night before and gave myself enough time in the morning to go through my normal routine, including coffee and a nutritious breakfast.  This is way more important than getting another few hours of studying.  Your brain needs the rest in order to function well.
  • Once I started the exam, I went to the case studies first and wrote down what resources were provided.  I had a few questions that I was able to backcheck against these documents to verify my answers, so it was nice to know they were there.
  • I then went back to the multiple choice questions.  I read through each question carefully and judiciously applied the highlight and strikeout tools.  I found that I was often given more information than needed, so both tools helped me to ignore irrelevant information and focus on what I needed to know.  I tried to spend less than a minute on each question, and checked the clock every 5-10 questions to keep me on track.  Anything I wasn’t sure about or didn’t know, I flagged, selected my best guess and moved on within the minute.  I finished this portion in an hour.  I think I had 72 multiple choice questions.
  • I had two questions that looked like duplicates at first glance.  There were only slight differences between them, and answering one automatically helped me answer the other.  Watch out for answers nested in other questions.  I won’t say this will happen often if at all, but it’s good to keep your eyes open for the easy wins when they’re available.
  • I did the case studies second.  Be aware that the supplementary documents take a long time to load, so read through the basic information then skip right to the question.  I found that I didn’t have to look at every resource for every question, so I didn’t bother reading the resource until it was relevant.  I had about 23 questions between the two case studies, which is different than the 10 I saw on every practice exam.  Just be aware that there’s no set number of questions for each portion of the exam. This portion took about an hour.
  • I took my break after I ran through the test once.  I had an hour left, so I used the opportunity to stretch my legs, use the bathroom, get a snack, and just relax.  Since I had seen every question already, my subconscious was still working things out in the background.
  • I used the last hour to review the flagged questions.  I still had some more time after that, so I started at the beginning of the test and reviewed until I ran out of time. 
  • When in doubt, stick to your gut.  There’s a lot that you pick up from just being in a working environment.  You might know more than you can consciously recall just because you are around architects and engineers regularly.  
  • Be aware that context is important, so some of the answers would be right in a different context but only one answer is right for that context.  Same thing with the drag-and-drop and select-all-that-apply questions.  Some things are the right answer for a different (but similar) question.

Things I wish I’d known more about:

  • Rehabilitation, restoration, renovation, etc.  I wish I’d studied those concepts a little more! In retrospect, I would have looked at the National Park Service’s Secretary’s Standards for Rehabilitation. 

Final thoughts:

  • I found the exam to be easier than I’d anticipated.  There first few questions helped me realize that they truly are just testing baseline competency and that the questions were often things I faced in my day-to-day.  Once I relaxed, I was able to breeze through most of the questions.  I think having a positive attitude was a huge reason for my success!
  • The case studies and the supplementary information can take a long time to load.  Don’t stress, it will come up eventually.  I got frustrated a few times and pressed a few too many buttons, so my screen froze and the system looked like it was going to crash.  That was not a fun feeling.

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

Summary

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.

POST EXAM THOUGHTS:

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!

How to study for the ARE Exam 3, Programming and Analysis

Intro to the ARE Exam 3

If I had to describe the ARE Exam 3, I’d describe it as not that hard, but disorganized.

It’s not that hard in that there aren’t that many things to actually know. There’s a lot of surface level knowledge, some random facts, and then some things that you should already know from your architecture experience. 

It’s disorganized because they don’t warn you in advance what’s surface level. Instead, they present books filled with rules, charts, and figures, and say “learn these!” It’s very tempting for a student to either get overwhelmed and not study any of it, or try to memorize any word.

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 3. A lot of it is stuff you should already know, but a lot of it isn’t. It’s really unlikely you already know enough of the material to pass, even if you are a programming specialist.

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 3

You should only need my Guide to the Overwhelmed for the ARE Exam 3. 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 3

The ARE Exam 3 is not a fundamentally difficult exam, but it is disorganized.

It should take around 35 hours total to study for the ARE Exam 1.

If you’re looking to create a study plan for the ARE Exam 1, 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 3

For a complete list of topics on the ARE Exam 3, 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.

Memorization

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.”

Understanding

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.

How I passed ARE Exam 2, Practice Management, on my first try

Summary

This is a report from Olivia Theriot on the ARE 5.0 Community.

She studied for about 4 months, although she thinks that was overkill.

For this exam, she used the Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice, the 2017 AIA contracts, and Tatyana‘s study guide.

She disliked Black Spectacles and Brightwood.

For more information, check out my guide to studying for the ARE Exam 2, Project Management, or read below for the original post.

Original post

Hello all!

This is my first post here on the ARE community. Since I’ve been reading many of the posts over the last few months to help with the exams, I figured it was time I participate. 🙂

I passed PcM in June, waited a little while to start studying again, and just passed PjM last week, both on my first try. Yay! I am a bit of an over-studier and gave myself ample time to go over the material. I’d like to shorten the timeframe between exams from here on out, so I plan on taking CE by the end of this year (this seems to be the next recommended exam after PcM and PjM, from what I’ve read).

When starting the exam process, I found it difficult to know what study material to use. Ultimately, I think it’s important to use the reference material that NCARB recommends. Anything else should just be used as reinforcement/review. However, I do like to study a variety of content (you never know what will make the most sense for you) but here is a list of what I found to be most helpful for this exam:

  • AHPP – if you’re not reading this, you should be for this exam and PcM. I was familiar with a lot of the content on the exam because of this book. Additionally, I used this study guide to break down the content into more manageable sections.
  • 2017 AIA contracts – be very familiar with the 2017 AIA contracts, the ones listed as references for this exam. I read these multiple times along with listening to the Schiff Hardin lectures.
  • Audio course by Kevin G on Pluralsight – I used these over my last few days of studying to reinforce the concepts that I had learned.
  • Practice quizzes by Designer Hacks – I like taking practice quizzes before any exam. I took these quizzes over my last few days of studying. I found these helpful once again for reinforcement of key concepts.
  • Tatyana Aksamentova’s study guide for review, found here.

Resources that I did not find helpful:

  • Black Spectacles – way too broad, in my opinion.
  • Third party material from Brightwood – not specific enough to the exam content, just a reorganization of 4.0 material.

A few last thoughts as you study for this exam:

  • I felt that this exam focused heavily on contracts, as the target percentage in the handbook indicates. It is important to know what party is responsible for what and the pros/cons of the various project delivery methods.
  • Understand what is included in the project costs, cost of the work, soft costs, etc.
  • Understand various types of project scheduling.
  • Have a comprehensive knowledge of what an architect would be responsible for during the different phases of the project.

Overall, I thought this exam was pretty in line with sections listed in the handbook for areas of concentration. There were maybe one or two questions with content that I was unfamiliar with based on my studies. Thanks for reading, and I hope this helps! On to the next one. 🙂

How I passed the ARE Exam 2, Practice Management by making a study guide

This is a report from Tatyana Aksamentova on the ARE 5.0 Community.

She passed the ARE Exam 2, Practice Management, in 1 month, studying 30 hours total.

Her main strategy was creating her own study guide.

Her other advice would be to read the Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice closely, and take Practice Management and Construction Evaluation first.

To learn more, check out my guide on how to study for the ARE Exam 2, Practice Management, or read the original post below.

Original post

First try, first pass. 1 Month Study Time, 1 Hour a Day.

STUDY GUIDE ( This guide was a conglomerate mix of many sources, primarily the AHPP, AIA Contracts, and the ARE 5.0 Review Manual by Ballast)

Some tips:

1. I would wager that you could pass this exam with the AHPP alone. If you haven’t invested yet, the Study Guide provides enough detail to know what to reference.

2. I thought the test was relatively straight forward. A lot of questions are common sense–consider what the best practices would be in a particular situation.

3. Answer what you know first and come back to the difficult questions later. Chances are you will be able to get a sense of the answer in some other materials. 

4. This tests highly overlaps with PcM and CE. I would recommend passing those and quickly moving onto this one.

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

Summary

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).

STUDYING:

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.

WHY AUDIO IS PURE GOLD:

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: https://www.schiffhardin.com/professionals/attorneys/d-i/hanahan-michael-j/hanahan-lecture-notes-2015) 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.

EXAM STRATEGIES:

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.

How to study for the ARE Exam 2, Project Management

Intro to the ARE Exam 2

If I had to describe the ARE Exam 2, I’d describe it as a somewhat difficult exam pretending to be a really difficult one.

The ARE Exam 2 is harder than the ARE Exam 1, in part because it contains a lot of the material from the ARE Exam 1. The problems and concepts are still not that difficult, though.

The ARE Exam 2 is, however, very poorly organized. The handbook throws a bunch of huge, complicated books at you and tells you to memorize them.

You don’t have to do that! 

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 get overwhelmed by the ARE.

The trick with the ARE is 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 2

You should only need my Guide to the Overwhelmed for the ARE Exam 2. 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 2

The ARE Exam 2 is not a fundamentally difficult exam. It’s actually pretty short.

It should take around 30 hours total to study for the ARE Exam 2 after you’ve studied for ARE Exam 1.

If you’re looking to create a study plan for the ARE Exam 1, you should use 21st Night’s “My Study Plan” option to create a study plan that works around your schedule.

What you’ll need to know for the ARE Exam 2

For a complete list of topics on the ARE Exam 4, 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.

Memorization

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.”

Understanding

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.