Exactly what you need to read for the Architecture Registration Exams (ARE)

The ARE exams are incredibly poorly organized with regards to recommended resources.

The ARE Handbook lists 41 books and 14 documents as recommended references. Some of these books are up to 900 pages long, and the documents usually run about 50 pages. The books can be $200 or more, while the documents, thankfully are free.

So, the NCARB (makers of the ARE) want you to buy $8000 worth of books and not only read, but memorize, 37000 pages of material in order to prepare for the ARE. That’s crazy!

Fortunately, it’s also entirely unnecessary. You actually have a couple options for the ARE besides spending $8000 on 37000 pages of material.

First, you can buy a study guide, like my Guide for the Overwhelmed series, which costs $125 and runs about 200 pages. It lists exactly what you need to memorize, understand, and practice for the ARE, based on reports from actual ARE test-takers.

(Word to the wise: if you sign up for my free email course on how to study for the ARE, you not only receive a list of exactly what topics to focus on for the ARE, you also get a 10% off coupon on the entire series).

Second, you could instead follow the guide below and purchase only the absolutely necessary books for the ARE and read only the absolutely necessary chapters. This will still cost a significant amount of money, but it won’t cost $8000.

If you’re interested in the second option, read on!

Recommended reading for ARE Exam 1, Practice Management

Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice (AHPP)Chapters 1, 5, 8, 9, 16, 17 $193
Schiff Hardin Lectures (SHL)A201, B101, C401$0
ARE HandbookPractice Management (duh)$0

So, this is a total cost of $193. This will likely take you around 10 hours to fully absorb if you take notes and create flashcards with 21st Night, the studying app.

Recommended reading for ARE Exam 2, Project Management

AHPP4, 5, 10, 13, 16, 17$0 (assuming you already bought it)
SHLLectures 2 and 3$0
ARE HandbookProject Management$0

This is a total cost of $0, assuming you already bought the Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice. It should take around 15 hours.

Recommended reading for ARE Exam 3, Programming and Analysis

Site Planning and DesignSoils and Brownfields$57
2015 IBC3-7 and 9-11$0
InternetDropbox link to chart$0
2010 ADA StandardsJust skim through it and focus on fundamentals$0
Sun, Wind, and Light“Climate as a Concept”; “Combining Climate, Program and Form”; “Building Groups”$50
ARE HandbookProgramming and Analysis$0

This exam is more complicated, but cheaper. It’s about $100 for all the materials, and should take around 30 hours to absorb all of it.

Recommended reading for ARE Exam 4, Project Planning and Design

Architect’s Studio CompanionWhole book$66
Building Construction IllustratedMain topics$15
IBC 2012Chapters 3, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10$0
ADA GuidelinesRules for stairs, ramps, handrails, curb cuts, landings, clearances, bathrooms$0
Site Planning and DesignChapter 10$0
ARE Handbook Project Planning and Design$0

Assuming you’ve already purchased Site Planning and Design, this exam will cost about $80 to prepare for and likely take around 50 hours.

Recommended reading for ARE Exam 5, Project Development and Documentation

Architectural Graphic StandardsAny information on walls or details$15/month
IBCChapters 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 29$0
ADABasics of circulation clearances, reaching clearances, ramp requirements, etc.$0
Sample Construction DocumentsNot really a resource, but you need to practice using them$0
ARE HandbookProject Development and Documentation$0

You should take this exam after you’ve studied for exam 4. Assuming you have, this exam costs $15/month to study for, assuming you subscribe to Wiley’s strange monthly subscription for AGS. The rest is free. It’ll take around 35 hours to study for.

If you haven’t taken exam 4, you might as well study for them both together, as they’re not well differentiated. So, it’ll take $105 to study for, and take around 80 hours.

Recommended reading for ARE Exam 6, Construction and Evaluation

AHPP9 and 10$0
SHLB201 and A201$0
Hammer and HandWall sections, Envelopes, Moisture Proofing$0

Assuming you’ve already bought the Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice, all the resources together should be free! Huzzah!

It’ll take about 10 hours to study for.


All together, if you go the “recommended resources route”, it’ll cost about $400 and take about 150 hours of studying.

Alternatively, you could spend a bit less time studying and save yourself about $300 if you buy my Guide to the Overwhelmed series.

What should your next steps be?

First, sign up for my free email course! I’ll tell you exactly which topics and facts the ARE Exams love to test, tips and guidance on each exam, and a 10% off coupon on my Guide.

Second, get to studying! No time to start like the present.