I'm posting here for any other moms out there, struggling to balance home/ work/ studying for the ARE. It's not easy- probably one of the hardest things I've done. But possible. Here are a few of the things that worked for me.
1. I did take time off of work for this- I've been freelancing on my own for almost 2 years, which is how long it took me to finish up PDD and PPD. I failed each one twice, and passed both on the third try.
2. Minimum books to read: Multiple readings of Constructed Illustrated and Code and Architect's Studio Companion. A lot of skimming of Graphic Standards and MEEB. CSI Divisions as well.
3. Black Spectacles. One of the reasons I highly recommend him is because his lectures follow NCARB's sections and objectives of the exam. This was missing in my previous studying- I didn't have a full understanding of exactly what was covered- and so my studying was too broad and all over the place. There is so much content on these last two exams- and this helped me to focus my studying in a really productive way. They are also easy to listen to whenever and wherever you can. You can jump around as you need to, and stop and start easily.
2. Practice Tests were CRUCIAL. The week before both exams, I took a practice exam every day. Black Spectacles has practice exams. Elif Bayram's practice tests and advice are on point, and most important, they are affordable, and flexible. I used We Are practice exam as well, which were also really helpful for furthering your learning, especially where you get problems incorrect.
3. Lastly, I wouldn't recommend Amber book to people like me. His content is wonderful, but personally, I found that his set up does not allow flexibility of learning- you can't study while folding laundry, washing dishes, preparing food- all things I was able to do with Black Spectacles. Also, his price is so high per month- it's prohibitive for those of us that need flexibility with time because of our life situations. If you have a life situation that lets you turn everything and everyone off so you can buckle down and study intensely for a month or two- Amber Book is actually great. I can see how this works for people with less responsibilities, but it is pretty limiting when you are balancing many more responsibilities outside of yourself and may need quite a few months and/or years to make this happen.
I'm not going to say you can have it all. But if you work really really hard, and are really focused, you can pass these exams.
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