Structural Calculations



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    Michelle NCARB

    All -

    Structural content is still included in ARE 5.0, but one big difference from ARE 4.0 is that the content will vary depending on the division.  So in PPD, you might focus on how to select appropriate structural systems, but in PDD you might be sizing structural members or analyzing moment diagrams.  Consider what types of structural decisions are made at different phases of an architectural project.  And like Kevin suggested, use the content areas detailed in the ARE 5.0 Handbook to guide your studying.

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    Kevin Griendling

    Hi Matthew,

    Take this with a grain of salt as I am not an NCARB representative, but merely a private study materials producer. The advice I am giving to most candidates is to brush up on simple (conceptually relevant) mathematical principles. Those would be the types of mathematical applications that inform the idea of what is happening the structure, rather than the minutia of all of its detailed calculations (like moment of inertia).

    • Simple span moment
    • Simple span shear
    • Simple cantilevers
    • Uniform loads vs. point loads on each of the above

    You most likely can review and be prepared for those in 20-30 minutes of review. If you have time and energy to check out a bit more, consider a few alternative calculations such as:

    • Fixed connections
    • Roller connections
    • Pin connections

    I suggest this brief review before PPD and PDD just in case. Minimal effort for moderate coverage. You will more than likely have a few curve balls that make your eyes bulge, but this should cover more than you would expect.

    Good luck!


    Kevin Griendling, AIA

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    Li Xing

    Does this mean ncarb wont test those heavy structure issues anymore? If so, this is great news for most of us.

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    Annette Gleason

    If you are familiar with the old structures test under 4.0 you will be extremely happy with the new format.  I took PDD a couple weeks ago and NCARB no longer expects us to be engineers!!  Like others stated early,  brush up on basics, look at the wind, earthquake samples pertaining to generic reactions.


    Good Luck!

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    Kevin Griendling

    I didn't say that. You can count on anything even remotely mentioned in the handbook being on the exam. I am just trying to offer some advice to Matthew who has little time. If you are available for a full schedule of studying, I suggest you focus on the handbook and figure out what else to learn.
    I'll leave both of your questions outside of that for NCARB.

    Best of luck,

    Kevin Griendling, AIA

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    charles vanwormer

    The funny thing is Michelle, that all the structural decisions made at that point of the project are executed by the structural engineer who is trained and licensed. To ask architects to study beyond fundamentals is ridiculous. Even funnier, I've take all exams except PDD and topics that's architect's actually need to know like, lets say door functions and overall code knowledge are lightly or not even tested.

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    Michelle NCARB

    Hi Charles,

    Content development on the ARE was most recently guided by the 2012 Practice Analysis.  Skip ahead to page 184 to learn more about its application on the exam.  And you can read more about the development process here (this was written for ARE 4.0, but the same process applies to ARE 5.0).

    As for the material you might have encountered on your divisions, the ARE 4.0 Exam Guides and the ARE 5.0 Handbook list the content and its percentage representation in each division.  For instance, on PDD, you can expect that between 9-17% of the exam will cover Codes & Regulations.

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    Ryan NCARB


    See the ARE 5.0 Handbook, starting at page 166.  All of the resources available to you while testing.

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    Jordan Koop (Edited )

    Can you please provide more detail regarding questions relating to 'sizing beams'? I am familiar with AISC charts that include span limitations given the size of beam and weight applied but these are not included as a resource. 

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    Michelle NCARB


    For PDD, beam sizing is part of Objective 1.3 - refer to the Handbook, page 105.  Sample item 1 is also a good example of how you might encounter structural calculations on the exam.

    I wouldn't spend time memorizing AISC charts, but do familiarize yourself with how to use the information given a particular situation.  You can see a quick guide to the AISC references available during the test starting on page 166 of the Handbook. We can't reprint the pages in the Handbook due to copyright, but they are available in the Demo Exam exactly as you'll see them at the test center.

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    Nathaniel Pall

    Will we be provided with the necessary structural formulas as a reference? 

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