Recommended Amounts of Study Time for Divisions

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    Kevin Griendling (Edited )

    Hi Stephanie,

    Good questions. The unfortunate answer is that there is no good answer. My best suggestion to you is to know yourself, and what your skills are. Maybe sit down and do a 1-10 ranking on how confident you feel about each objective listed in the exam specifications. Total them up and ponder how you'd like to study.

    When considering study schedules:

    • Consider carefully how much focused studying you can handle  (mental stamina), and afford (time/availability) in a given week.
    • Stick to it! Write a schedule up and put in on your refrigerator. This is your second/part-time job now.
    • Make sure you logistically can place yourself in an environment that is conducive to study. Preferably one that is similar to the testing center (dead silent!).
    • If you have a family (especially kids) it gets exponentially more difficult to coordinate study time.
    • Tell your boss what you are doing. You'll need the support and understanding when you a mentally taxed.

    On the subject of ease/order of exams/which one to start with:

    Starting with an easy exam could mean a couple things. Would you define easy as an area you already have a lot of knowledge in, or one that is theoretically simple and linear of thought?

    Most folks I know suggest starting with either of the two. My blanket general suggestion is to follow the exam order in NCARB published materials, since they start at the highest level of Practice Management, and get into more and more detail as you progress, just like our project work flows do. This is the method I am preparing study materials for, and the one I would suggest to most people.

    Regarding time:

    Do some self reflecting on your abilities and responsibilities and just come up with a ball-park number. When you hit that number of study hours, ask yourself how you feel. I studied roughly 20-30 hours over a two week span for the majority of my exams. Of my friends and colleagues the hourly range is anywhere from 20-120 hours over a range of two/three weeks-ish to three or four months. Any less than that, and you are superhuman (congrats! ... and teach me.) Any more, and you run the risk of complacency and not reaching your goal.

    Half the battle is a purely psychological marathon of focus and restraint. Know yourself and be disciplined and any amount of time you decide to study will be fine.

    Best of luck,

    Kevin Griendling

    www.pluralsight.com

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    Stephanie Waples

    Thanks for the tips, Kevin!

    Since it's my first test, I already know that I'm probably going to over study. I just know I'm going to feel more comfortable if I feel over-prepared, especially since it's my first test AND there's the added twist of the new 5.0 testing. 

    Your tips kind of confirmed how I was already leaning -- possibly start with Practice Management. I've got more experience on the front end of projects (Programming and Analysis) versus the back end (Construction and Evaluation), so hitting them in order may be the right way to go. I just need to really sit down and think about how much time I can/want to devote to studying. 

    Thanks again,

    Stephanie

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    Michelle NCARB

    Hi Stephanie,

    Kevin made some really good suggestions in his post.  I'll add on with a few suggestions from my own experience taking the ARE:

    • Don't be afraid to schedule your exam while you're still studying.  I know a lot of people who said "I'll schedule it when I feel ready"...and then they never scheduled it.  Give yourself a deadline to work towards.  (I know, you can't schedule anything right now...just keep in mind for after launch!)
    • Figure out a study schedule/routine that works for you.  I would spend my weekends focused on reading, but during the week, when I had less time, I just reviewed flashcards while I commuted to/from work.  I knew if I spent every evening after work doing intense studying, I'd burn out before I even got to the test center.
    • NCARB doesn't recommend a particular order for the divisions.  We list them in the same order, following the progression of a typical project, but you can take them in any order you choose.  When I tested, I started with a division in which the material was relatively streamlined and focused.  If you have more experience with programming, then you might want to start with Programming & Analysis, then go back to Practice Management later on.

    Hope this helps!

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    DENISE LARSON

    Thank you for the comments.   Most people say to start with structural because it is the hardest for most people, but the structural exam has been eliminated.  

     

    I've been studying for the structural ARE 4.0... shoudl I just wait for the ARE 5.0?

     

    Thank you!

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    Michelle NCARB

    Denise,

    Have you taken any divisions in ARE 4.0?  If not, I recommend just waiting for ARE 5.0.  You won't need to learn the vignette software, and you can start fresh with a new exam format.  All your structure studying won't go to waste either - structures content will still exist on ARE 5.0, primarily in the PPD and PDD divisions.

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    DENISE LARSON

    Yes I have taken 2 for the ARE 4.0 however I think you may be right, I should wait for the new launch.

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    Michelle NCARB

    Hi Denise,

    I'll amend my previous comment to you: if you've passed any ARE 4.0 divisions, then it's always best to check your rolling clock and the transition calculator (inside your NCARB record) before making a decision about ARE 5.0.  But if you haven't passed any 4.0 divisions yet, then your decision might be much simpler!  With all the resources we've recently released, now is a great time to gather your study materials and start preparing for 5.0.

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    William May

    Stephanie,

    It's been nearly 2 years since you posted.  What have you been able to accomplish?

    Any suggestions?

    I am now where you once were.

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    Stephanie Waples

    William,

    I have now taken three tests (PcM, PjM, and PA, in that order) all with passes on the first try. I've held off doing PPD, PDD, and CE due to a lack of real-world experience in those areas. Luckily, I'm finally to a point where some long, drawn-out projects are finally into construction, so I'm getting more CE time. 

    Some background on me: I graduated with my Bachelor's from an accredited university in 2015, then immediately started full time at my current job (I interned with this same firm for 3 summer and winter breaks prior to graduating). My specialty is historic preservation, which, while it is what I love, is not super helpful for these tests. Since so much of my time is spent in that super-specific niche, I make up for the lack of experience with extra studying. I know for a fact that I a) study for far longer a calendar period for each test than most people, and b) spend more hours studying and re-studying material. I look at it with the lens that this is not wasted time. It makes me less anxious going into the test center knowing everything backwards and forwards, plus it's helpful for my career long-term. 

    The general outline has been to study for 3 months or so, take and pass a test, then take some time off. I don't have much trouble disciplining myself into studying and/or building momentum, so breaks tend to be better recovery for me rather than a mad dash to take all of them at once. It just feels more manageable that way. Currently I'm in an "off" time while I work to start planning a wedding. Once I get some of the long-lead wedding items out of the way, I plan to take CE in the fall. Then, get married, and tackle PPD and PDD after that. 

    As I'm sure you've heard, take my experience with a grain of salt. The process seems to be wildly different for everyone. I feel like my biggest weakness is a lack of real-world experience, specifically in constructability. Some people have far more work experience, and if that's the case, you definitely don't need to study the material to death like I do. 

    I guess my advice boils down to this: 

    1) Determine which test you feel most comfortable with right now, before studying. Read the objectives in the ARE handbook and maybe even rank where you feel you are on each. 

    2) Get your hands on whatever study materials are most recommended for that test. Use the handbook and this forum for recommendations. However, keep in mind that only you will know what your weaknesses are and you should dial in your studying to address those. 

    3) Just take the test. That first test is a huge hurdle, and I found that after I took one, taking more seemed way less intimidating. 

    Good luck!

    Stephanie

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    William May

    Stephanie,

    Your response is greatly appreciated!

    I am on the other end of the spectrum as I have taught architectural design and production for 10 years and I have worked in a number of offices with a number of architects on a number of different project types.  But, what I'm reading in the posts suggests that what we see in real project situations and offices does not compare to the test.

    Congratulations thus far!  I'm hopeful you will share your completion of the are and thoughts on how you succeeded.

    Will

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