I just received official word that I passed the PDD, my final exam. What a wonderful feeling! The ARE community posts have been such a great resource, so here are my top 10 tips for taking the ARE:
- Start with NCARB Download the handbook and guidelines, watch the videos, and run through the demonstration exam. Make sure you review the formula tabs in the demo exam and understand how and when you might use them.
- Target Your Study Don’t try to memorize the IBC or other tomes. If the NCARB Handbook states - resolve and detail roof, curtain wall, cladding, window, floor - you’ll need to know how they are DRAWN (Architectural Graphic Standards, construction docs from your office, etc.) and understand their FUNCTIONAL and TECHNICAL specifications (Architect’s Studio Companion, Ballast, MEEB, etc.) Start with a conceptual/practical understanding before you dig into the weeds!
- Make a Study Plan Before each exam, I made a list of topics/resources and a corresponding schedule. That activity helped me develop a realistic understanding of how much time I needed to study for each exam.
- Use Free Materials NCARB reference lists are huge! I was able to find many resources, such as the Steel Manual, from my local University Library. There are also several free resources on the web: FEMA 454 Designing for Earthquakes, AREndurance, Graphic Symbol Reference, Building Science, Designer Hacks free quizzes, Fire Rated Assemblies, Industry Notes (Brick) to name a few.
- Ask/Observe An Expert One of the best ways to deepen your knowledge is to ask or observe an expert. I found that most professionals are very generous with their knowledge and it is much more fun. Ask the engineer in the office or your neighbor the welder about the details.
- Mind the Thin Spots It’s really important to focus on areas where you need the most work or have the least experience. Take action! I finally took an AIA sponsored Thaddeus structures workshop (wow, was I rusty!) I had fun and met some really great colleagues.
- Study on the Go During the exams, I had a full-time job and was caring for a very ill family member. Time was tight, stress was high, so I made flashcards and audiotaped materials to listen to while driving.
- Finish the Exam It is very important to finish the exam. Don’t dwell on questions that you are not sure about. Answer to the best of your knowledge, flag it, and move on. Every question is worth a point and there some experimental and ungraded questions. It’s better to get through the whole exam and garner as many points as you can.
- Don’t Compare Yourself There are all sorts of reasons why people do or don’t pass exams (test anxiety, bad day, older eyes, etc.) It’s just not productive to compare yourself. Think of the exam as a holistic introduction to critical aspects of the practice. Just keep momentum.
- Pass it On I’m passing on some of my study guides and notes to my colleagues. My colleagues shared so many helpful study resources and tips, and encouraged me to keep moving forward. So pass it on.
Good luck everyone - It tough, but you can do it!!! Really.
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