Since finishing the AREs (Architect Registration Examinations) a year ago, I am commonly asked three questions about the process.
1) What order do you take them in?
The sequence I did was:
Schematic Design / Site Planning / Building Systems / Structures / Building Design / Construction Documents / Programming, Planning & Practice
This sequence puts the more graphically focused test up front and then groups the synergies between Building Systems, Structures, and Building Design. CDs and Programming, Planning & Practice also tie well together. I highly recommend taking the Programming, Planning & Practice test last. Its questions mostly test experiential knowledge and cumulative information from the other six divisions.
2) What do you use to study?
My major study book was the ARE Review Manual by David Kent Ballast, FAIA, and Steven E. O’Hara, PE. www.ppi2pass.com I liked this book because it was just one book to tote around and the information was very thorough. Kaplan study materials are also very popular, but I felt their information was watered-down. I also used the Archiflash flashcards by Nalsa publishing. www.nalsa.com After I read the appropriate chapters, these flashcards were very helpful to go through and see what information I retained from the reading and what I needed to study more. To prepare for the graphic vignettes of each test you better have Solutions, Understanding the Graphic Vignettes of the Architect Registration Exam by Prof. Norman Dorf, AIA, and Nalsa Publishing. Beg, borrow or steal this book! I know I wouldn’t have passed the vignettes without it.
It all comes down to the fact that I chose what study materials and system worked best for me. I know I retain information best when I take notes while reading and review with flashcards. One of the keys to your success is knowing what works best for you and staying disciplined to that system.
3) How long did it take you to get them done?
Ten months. I took four exams while employed and the final three after I was laid-off. For those who are unemployed, there’s no time like the present to get these tests done and out of the way! Find a way to finance the expenses for the tests and study materials and set a schedule to take the exams. See it as an investment into your career. The good news is you will most likely get through the process quicker than if you were employed. As for those who are employed, I bet you see the exams as something you should do but can’t find the time? Well here’s my advice: make the time and, for-the-love-of-Pete, schedule a test before you start studying. So many times I’ve seen peers continually put off taking the next exam because of one excuse after the next. They say they’ll schedule the test when they’re ready to take it, but then where is the pressure to study? Look at your project schedule; be systematic about what day you take it (I recommend Mondays) and how many weekends you’ll give yourself to study. To keep your sanity (and your now semi-neglected friends) make sure to take at least a week off before starting to study for the next exam.
It can be a bit daunting at first to sort through all the resources and forums available for studying for the AREs. Take a few weeks to gather the information and make a plan of action. Life will get in the way too so remember to take it in stride. Plan the Work, Work the Plan.
Of course the top resource I can provide is www.ncarb.org and if there’s any other questions you have please comment below, we will try to answer them to the best of our ability.