I passed PDD, my final ARE division, last week. Woohoo! I thought I would share my experience with those who have faced some failures.
My ARE journey began in January 2020. Studying and testing has been a stop-and-go experience since then due to COVID, testing center closures, and a 10-month pause to plan a wedding/get married :)
I took PCM, PJM, and CE in that order and passed with relative ease in 2020. I highly recommend the Hanahan lectures-- I would listen to them while on walks or commuting to work. I also printed out all the AIA contracts and highlighted/annotated them. READ the contracts. It will help you as an architect and business person.
Then I attempted PDD twice and failed. I thought I would have more experience in this division since most of my projects were in CD phase, but I was still lacking knowledge. (Side note: I am located in southern California and find it humorous how many ARE questions reference historic brick buildings in cold climates). I circled back to PA, attempted and failed. Then I decided to take the summer off from studying and do some soul-searching. When I started studying again in the fall these strategies made a huge difference:
- Amber Book - I invested in 1 month subscription, which helped me pass PA. Up until then, I was only using the free Ballast Guides from my office. Amber Book was soooo much more informative and fun for a me, a visual learner. My office later got a firm license, which helped me and several coworkers pass exams. Amber Book, Building Construction Illustrated, and Architectural Graphic Standards were my primary references for PA, PPD, and PDD.
- Practice Questions by Elif Bayram - Elif's practice questions are relatively affordable per division and I found they are the most similar to NCARB's level of difficulty. I used her questions for PA, PPD, and PDD. Overtime, I grew confidence in answering tricky questions and process of elimination.
- Testing at Home - I read a study somewhere that students are likely to perform better on an exam when taken in the room where they learned the content. Well, I study at home, so I remember the content better in that space. AND I didn't get distracted by testing room doors opening or someone's loud breathing. You don't need a completely empty room to take an online-proctored exam. I took the last 3 exams in my living room and passed on the first attempt for each. The wall in front of your desk must be clear, so I had to take down some wall art. I put a sheet over our TV and closed the blinds on all windows. Other than that, it is not a major renovation. Testing at home takes away the anxiety of getting to the testing center on time, and you can get a snack from your fridge during the break! I recommend doing multiple test runs for online testing. I did a test run 2-3 days before every exam, which gave me time to address any glitches. Make sure to read ALL of the online testing content in the ARE Guidelines and get an external webcam with autofocus!
Last bit of advice-- enjoy the journey of studying without succumbing to the pressure of the result. Taking the AREs greatly increased my understanding and curiosity of the built environment. I am much more confident as a designer and problem-solver now than I was 3 years ago but not because I have the "passed" status. It's because I understand the content.
Best wishes for your journey!! When you need some inspiration, listen to Will Ferrell's commencement speech. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mfjGmBVAL-o
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