Hi everyone - there are multiple posts such as this but here is my advice for PcM. This was my personal method of studying, so by no means is this a rule book! This was my first ARE exam and I passed on the first go (phew!).
I didn't even know where to begin with 5.0 so I started with reading through the NCARB 5.0 Handbook for an overview of the entire exam (all 6 divisions) and areas of study. I recommend starting here if you feel unsure of how to start. I also watched the NCARB videos and demonstration exam to familiarize with the test itself.
I purchased the Ballast Review manual and read through both the PcM and PjM divisions while taking diligent notes on PcM and using PjM as a review of additional potential exam topics. This also provided an overview of all topics the exam is expected to cover.
I then moved on to reading through the contracts. I would recommend going beyond the few contracts listed in the NCARB Handbook matrix and read through the A-201 Commentary thoroughly. Actively reading this material helped me understand the structure of all of the contracts - legalities, verbiage and liability by which parties. How do the sections in the contract get applied to real situations? I kept this in the back of my mind when reading through the material. I also browsed through the list of all AIA contracts to categorize the series without memorizing them, but knowing which are used based on specific situations and also the forms offered as resources for 'customizing'.
I listened to the Shiff Hardin lectures when I could. They take some time, so I used them as background to another task. If you are struggling with the contracts, these may be helpful to you to walk through them in more depth with the 'real life' examples.
Lastly, I read through the entire AHPP per the recommended focus chapters in the chart floating around. This broke down the entire book into manageable sections. I skimmed over topics I felt comfortable with and read more diligently/took notes on others. You'll know what you need to do for your own level of knowledge/work experience! I also used the glossary of terms in the back of the book throughout studying as a checklist that I understand or could apply the terminology. I made sure I understood the legal terms as they apply to an architect's liability/responsibility.
After having a grip on the material, I took a Ballast practice exam to see where my weaknesses were and understanding personal testing strategies in tackling each question. The practice exam showed where I needed more review, so I went back to the AHPP and went through those chapters in detail - particularly the accounting vs financial equations/statements to understand their purpose, how they are calculated and how each technique fits into the larger picture of the profitability and business management of running a firm. I also went back and made sure I knew the delivery methods well, not only their structure but understanding which method is best for which client/contractor/architect situation.
Other resources I used to make sure I had a range: Kaplan 4.0 CDS practice exam, black spectacles free videos, and the Quizlet study guides on the AHPP. Because I was going through the AHPP in detail, I essentially made my own notes personalized to how I learn/where I needed more practice and therefore did not use these as much. I used some notes I had from a friend of Brightwood - found this to be more of a review of the same material. It began to feel like a rewording of the same material... so I moved through those quickly. I did not use Pluralsight for this exam mostly because I didn't want to keep paying for study materials when I felt I could tackle the content with the resources I had. Perhaps for the PDD/PPD!
Other resources I would recommend reading: AIA Code of Ethics and NCARB Rules of Conduct
Overall, the NCARB Handbook does not lie! If you read through each of the sections and it's intended goals for understanding and application, then apply the more 'cut and dry' clear knowledge from the books to potential situations in practice.
The only material I paid for was the Ballast Review Manual. I borrowed the AHPP from a friend, and used the free online resources from the AIA/NCARB for the contracts, etc listed above for anyone whose wallet is a bit tight.
You would be surprised what you can find just by googling around - and following the NCARB Community Forum and blogs. I find Young Architect to be helpful - check out the recommended PcM resources here: https://youngarchitect.com/2017/08/30/ultimate-list-of-are-study-materials-part-2-practice-management-pcm/
Aaaand to wrap this up. I started studying 8 weeks before my exam date. BUT I spent the first 2 weeks or so just reading through the NCARB Handbook and understanding ALL The divisions. Moving on, I then went through the above resources when I had time without stressing about studying daily, but I created a schedule for how much time I would go through each of the focus areas. I took a practice exam 2-3 weeks before my test date. Personally this was good timing, I felt like I had gone through all the material recommended, but left myself a couple weeks after to thoroughly go through the material I was less confident. The week of my exam I went through all my notes and honed in on any last topics - particularly legal key terms/financial equations - but didn't attempt to learn any new material or start opening new resources. This was the pace I moved, so although the ARE Community is sharing their tricks, you can find which method works best for you!
Best of luck!! One down, five more to go!
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