I finally passed my 6th exam in April. It’s been almost 7 years since my first attempt. 7 years of on-and-off studying. I do not wish this process of becoming an architect on my worst enemy. I failed a total of 9 times and thankfully passed 6. I hope to help someone else out there get through testing with less time and agony than me.
If I could talk to “past me” when I started studying for the first time, I would tell myself to take AMBERBOOK. I know there are a lot of people who recommend it, but I don’t think the reasons why it’s recommended are fully explained. If they were, I may have purchased it sooner. This is my attempt to explain why it is a strong choice for studying.
The information that NCARB gives on the content of each exam is very vague in my opinion. For each test, I spent HOURS reading through forum posts to know which of the MANY recommended NARB books were most helpful and which pages of the books to read for each test. I also spent hours trying to hunt down the least expensive study material: books, practice tests, 3rd party materials. Can I reuse this book from college 15 years ago? Do I really need 2 different editions of Arch. Graphic Standards? Should I purchase a practice test for one test and see if it works or commit to bundling practice tests for all 6 exams? You get the point. Amberbook is a single source resource and they’ve already compiled the content you need to pass. Use the time and money you would use researching and purchasing textbooks, practice tests, etc. to buy Amberbook.
We all know that Amberbook is expensive, which is another reason I didn’t consider it the first few years. After taking the course I understand why it’s pricey; it’s a quality product and Mike and his team earn every penny. At the same time, you may be like me and graduate with 100k+ student loan debt. Then it costs another $1,410 to take the tests (if you don’t fail any) so it’s VERY hard to spend hundreds of more dollars on any study material that may or may not help you. All I can say is that based on my experience, it will save you time which computes to money. Now that I am licensed, I’m eligible for jobs that pay min. $7k/yr higher salary. The sooner you can move up, the sooner you can repay yourself for the time and money you invested in studying. Also, I recently learned that VA AIA offers a HUGE discount on Amberbook. I contacted my state’s AIA and asked them to do the same. I would ask/beg your AIA and your employer to help with the cost in any way possible.
I do have a disclaimer on Amberbook... I only used it for my final exam, PDD. The biggest challenge for me with it was that it was A LOT of information to understand in a short amount of time. It helped that I was focused on one test and had already studied multiple times for it and had a basic understanding of the material. If you are someone who needs more time to process info and wants a less expensive option, I found a good approach for me for all the tests, except PPD and PDD. I read all the recommended reading, (mostly AHPP), listened to and took notes on Schiff Hardin lectures, and used designer hacks practice tests and pluralsight videos. I took one test every other month and passed 3 out of 4 on my first try. Unfortunately, those methods didn’t work for PPD and PDD.
Last, but not least, I know failing a test is THE WORST. The thing that helped me the most was remembering that we “learn in layers.” Each time you study, you are building on past knowledge and comprehending another layer of information that you didn’t previously know. The failed test was not a waste. You have to believe that or you will lose your mind.
I wish you all the best! Happy studying! There is a light at the end of the very long, dark tunnel.
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