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    Scott Barber

    William,

    This is another post that's all over the place. I understand your need to get your frustrations out but it's hard to have a focused, productive conversation when you ask several questions, peppering in your professional background and citing various projects you've worked on, all while expressing your concerns about the limits of licensure and standardized tests. I get it. It's a lot of work and can be frustrating - but I haven't talked to anyone who thinks that getting licensed means you're a perfect architect, and very few people like standardized tests. 

    To answer your primary question - the ARE Handbook is the closest you're going to get for a standardized set of materials. That's what it was created for. It's not perfect, but between that and the posts on this forum, it's all I've used to pass PDD, PPD, and PA on the first try. 

    Not everyone is going to pass on the first try. There are hundreds of variables that lead to that - but if you focus on what you need to know and understand it will help your preparation. Don't get caught up in trying to revamp the entire licensure process and remove all standardized tests from the world. It's just where we are. 

    I'd suggest creating different posts for each concern you have. It will help us (and any NCARB moderators that chime in) stay focused on what you're really wanting to talk about. And if you just need to vent, you're welcome to do so, but it distracts from what you're really trying to ask when you include it in these posts that could have really productive conversations about study material. 

    Hope that helps a little. Good luck! 

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    David Kaplan

    Hey William,

    I agree - for the 5.0 version of the test, the ARE 5.0 Handbook resources really seem to be the best guide out there for study sources.  Depending on which test you're currently studying for, there have been some really great posts on this forum that help at least narrow down those sources a bit (i.e. which chapters, whole book or not, that sort of thing).  The posts on here for PA, PPD, and PDD (which are the only 5.0 tests that I took) definitely were key to me passing these the first time.

    Hang in there.  It IS a lot to study, and unfortunately with the tests being so new, we don't really have anything else to go by.  In say 5 years, you might find that posts on this site are able to limit the amount of resources.  AND, the third party companies out there will definitely have better, more focused study guides. 

    I did two 4.0 tests and was able to study just one source for those.  When I switched to 5.0 I was hoping to do the same, and was planning on doing so before I joined this forum and got a reality check.  Was glad that I ignored my intuition and decided to take others' advice on here.  Yeah, I had to sit in coffee shops for hours over a course of a few months reading, and reading, and reading.  But, it was worth it, and looking back on it, I wouldn't change my approach one bit.

    You got this sir - take your first test, see how it goes.  Maybe you'll find that the long work experience that you have really pulls you through these tests and for the next one, maybe you won't need to study so much.

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    Nancy Redenius (Edited )

    William, 

    I have only taken 3 tests (PjM, PcM & CE), but I agree with the comments before mine in that studying from the source materials referenced by NCARB (or resources that specifically break down those primary sources, like the Hanahan lectures) works well, or it did for me at least. 

    Perhaps it is easier for me to feel the way I do having very little time and experience in practice, but I have found that looking at this as an opportunity to learn a lot of things it may have otherwise taken me a decade in  practice to "run into" helps me maintain a positive outlook towards the process and the time I'm dedicating to it. Many people may disagree, but I don't believe memorization is the most important aspect to pass these tests, but rather understanding intent. When studying AIA contracts, you don't need to memorize the contracts and you certainly don't need to use them in your practice. You mainly need to understand the intent behind the different clauses (usually the intent is to protect the architect from unnecessary liability). You then can evaluate how effective you think each clause is at achieving that intent, and then perhaps do an even better job in your own contracts with this understanding. (Disclaimer, there were a handful of memorization-oriented questions relating to the contracts, but in my variation of the test they were not the majority)

    Best of luck with your tests! 

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    Anson Nickel

    To jump into the fray, yes William, you are correct that architects use consultants for a great many things. However, this is not the same thing as complete delegation of responsibility. We might not to know the finer points of a flow test or sewer connect application, but we need to be familiar with sprinkler coverage and the impacts on design of an invert. Lighting and mechanical also fit this model of conceptual understanding. 

    The purpose of these exams is to test ordinary use cases and, unfortunately for many, such cases exist in a wide array of architectural practices. Some never need to worry about sprinklers, others never touch site prep, etc. Some do strip malls, others do affordable housing, and yet others do master campus planning. Despite the specialization, a licensed architect should be able to cover the bases, so to speak.

    If your experience is such that you feel you have covered all bases, take the tests without using prep materials. If like many other test takers, you know that you work more in one facet of the industry than another, use the ARE Handbook to figure out the materials that will boost your knowledge. 

    Bottom line: if you want to be licensed, then deal with the process. If not, then I'm not sure what you are doing here. 

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    Justin Beckner

    William,

    I have read a couple of your post, and you are clearly frustrated about a lot of this process. I will repeat what others have said and give the advice to just put the frustration behind you and start moving forward. I don't post much on here, but feel as though I can relate to your background a little so I wanted to offer my opinion on the matter. I too have only an associates degree and have worked in the industry for about 15 years including some part time right out of high school. 97% of what I knew (before I started with ARE) about design, project management, construction admin, etc. was from strictly work experience. I have taken and passed PcM, PjM, and PA on the first try. I am currently studying for CE and will take that at the end of May. My first exam was PA (because it interests me the most). I used nothing but the Ballast review manual, studied for about 8 weeks,  2-3 hours a night, 3-4 days a week, and passed. Second exam was PcM, and I used Ballast, the relevant contracts, and skimmed some of the AHPP (though I feel Ballast covered the portions of AHPP sufficiently). Study time was about the same as PA. Third exam was PjM, and again I used Ballast, contracts, and very little skimming of AHPP. Study time was a little less than the others as I felt more prepared now that I am used to the process of studying and taking the exams. I am now studying for CE with only Ballast and contracts. My study time will end up being about 6 weeks, 2-3 hours, 3 nights a week. We will see how that one goes, but I feel confident. My approach is different than most in that (so far) I have used mostly Ballast and believe that it is very good. There are a lot of different opinions on that so you will have you use your best judgement and see what works for you

    My experience (and maturity) is the biggest reason that I have been successful so far in this process. Yes, it is a timed test and some questions may have multiple "right" answers, but I feel to be a successful architect, you must be able to choose the BEST answer from multiple acceptable scenarios, and sometimes do so on the spot. I think your experience in residential and small commercial has, possibly, limited some of your exposure to what may be required on large and complex commercial projects. A successful architect must have an understanding of structural systems (and even be able to design limited structural elements). You also have to be knowledgeable in MEP in order to provide preliminary designs for your clients and facilitate the coordination of all disciplines. It is not our job to engineer these systems, but if we don't understand it then we can only go so far in this profession. I believe that NCARB and most other candidates would agree with this. The ARE is very realistic, but it also covers the entire profession from small sole proprietors to a huge firm with 100+ employees. It's purpose is to make sure we have the background to be able to design and see a project through for anything from a small house to a large, complex, commercial project, while protecting ourselves from liability and also the health, safety, and welfare of the public. That said, I don't necessarily think having that license means we will be successful, but that is the case with any profession. Hopefully my long post helps you to see what most of us do, which is that the ARE 5.0 is a pretty good exam and best prepares us for the REAL world of architecture.

    I am done rambling now, but I hope this gives you a different perspective and helps you to move forward and successfully complete your licensure process. Just put all of the frustrations and negative aside and get it done.

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    William May

    I want to thank all of you for responding, it's important for me to hear what others think about this process.

    As I work on projects, some residential and some commercial, I produce a project nearly every 2 weeks. 

    Plans, Elevations, Sections, Details - all as needed or requested.

    I meet with clients, contractors, vendors, building inspectors and engineers. 

    At this point, I am a one man band.  I have had some help in the past because of the work load and deadlines.

    The biggest issue I have is the cost of these tests.  There is a lot of money being poured into an extremely deep hole.

    Ok, that being said, thanks again for your comments.

    Back to work I go, hi ho.

     

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    William May

    Scott -I am seeing that the ARE Handbook does break down the content, that should be studied - seems well defined.

    To All - I am getting bogged down with all the various study materials - I won't name them all.

    I guess I want to get the best bang for my buck.  If I'm going to study I want the best resources to address the content of the test.  What bothers me is that I read so many posts where the person studied and studied and failed divisions upwards of 3 times. 

    I'm not a good test taker.  But I can produce projects like crazy.  Give me 3 projects to use as a guide and I can produce a new project.  Give me access to resources - people and materials, software etc, and I can run with any project.

    But taking tests is not my forte.

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    Kurt Fanderclai

     

    So many thoughtful posts.  While I was taking the exams, I always appreciated the number of fellow candidates who would take time to help -- even when it sometimes became a matter of attempting to help the willfully unhelpable. 

    One thing anyone posting on this forum will immediately notice is that all candidate posts break down into essentially two camps.

    One camp is made up of candidates making genuine efforts in scheduling, studying for, and actually taking ARE exams. 

    The other camp is made up of candidates narrowly focused on the current nature and form of the exam, and what they think should be done to improve the ARE before they waste any of their valuable time on such an ill-conceived exam process that has nothing to do with actual practice. 

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    David Kaplan

    William,

    Not sure if you've done so already, but if you haven't, sign up for that first test.  As a lot of people have said on here, having work experience REALLY helps out big time with the success of passing.  I can tell you that when I sat for my three 5.0 tests, yes I had studied quite a bit, but without question work experience pulled me through.  Just having dealt with many, many of the issues presented to me on the exam was huge.  That alone was equally as important if not moreso than the actual reading and studying I did. 

    You've been doing this a long time - you may find after this first test that your fears and/or frustrations with this process will entirely go away.  You may walk out of that exam feeling that you were better prepared than you thought you'd be because of how many years you've been doing this.  I am inclined to believe that you WILL in fact feel this way to a certain extent. 

    Give it a crack - take one test.  Find out how it goes.  I look forward to the post that you have after.

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    David Kaplan

    ^^^ and real quickly - YES - I acknowledge that there are those on here that have been working for a long time and can't pass the tests.  I get it.  Try not to focus on those right now.  No clue what your experience will be, but you won't know until you try.

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    William May

    I guess it feels like I'm gambling.  I have a 60/40 chance of passing the first time at $210 a pull.  I have 2 casinos in a 45 minute drive that have been in existence for nearly 8 years and I haven't been to them at all.

    I don't like to gamble.  I don't play the lottery.  When I go to the boardwalk and there are all the carnival games I evaluate my odds and usually pass by, and that's for $1.

    Taking these tests seems worse.  When I do these projects I'm doing I have no fear that what I submit will get reviewed and will be accepted for building permit.  There is no gamble.

    This isn't a game of luck.  But it feel like the odds are stacked against me.  Not a good feeling which is why I'm asking what the BEST study materials are for the money I spend on them.  Arrgh!

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    Scott Barber (Edited )

    William,

    That's a totally valid concern, and one I think >95% of candidates deal with to one degree or another. I'd start with one exam that you feel most comfortable with, after reading through the ARE Handbook and posts on here. Once you decide on the exam, identify the most important study materials and start with those. 

    I started with PDD since most of my work is in CDs/detailing, but it also was one of the big exams so a lot of people don't start there. PcM, PjM, and CE cover a lot less content but were all mostly new to me. However, a lot of people start with those three because it's easier to get a handle on those and the content is less intimidating than the amount of info for PPD and PDD. PA seems to be a challenge for a lot of people based on the time constraint, so that's not one I would recommend to others for the first exam. 

    I'm currently studying for PcM, PjM, and CE and from what others have said, Ballast and the AHPP are the most valuable(in addition to the contracts provided for free from NCARB). The AHPP is a pricey book but a great resource and you shouldn't need to buy anything else. 

    Personally, I'm using Ballast as an intro for each exam before diving into the "primary sources" listed in the Handbook. However, I've seen some people say that Ballast was enough to pass the exams. In my experience, Ballast is not enough for PDD and PPD, but it seems pretty decent for the other 4. What I've suggested to others is reading Ballast for each exam, and then find additional books for what you think your weaker areas are. 

    It seems like a gamble, but I think your experience will be very beneficial through this process. A friend of mine passed PPD and PDD without studying very much (only a few practice exams and a weekend of reading), because he has ~15 years of construction experience and is very competent with details. I've heard a few others say the same - but personally I would rather spend the time studying to better prepare myself...

    It all boils down to what you feel most confident in doing. Everyone has a different study approach (and I've refined mine after each exam, too), but signing up and taking one will be a big help, I would think. It'll make you more comfortable with the process and hopefully remove some of the unknowns. 

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    Kurt Fanderclai

    "ohh THAT was helpful"

    William, not helpful to you, no -- but that was my point.  I wrote that for the benefit of others reading the thread.

    You are not responding to actual input.  I've tried, as have many others, as evidenced again by this very thread.  You've responded via non sequitur and accounts of your selective observations.

    So you've put yourself firmly in the second camp I described above, and seem intent to stay there.

    I'm merely holding out your example as a cautionary tale for others.

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    William May

    Kurt, take note of Scott's response.  THAT was helpful.  ~poke~

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    Kurt Fanderclai

    For others, Scott's post -- as well as the others -- will be very helpful.

    For you personally, given your current willful inertia, I sincerely doubt it will help at all.

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    William May

    you'll make a wonderful architect some day

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    William May

    do me a favor, stop responding until you have something constructive to say

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    RJ

    When I took my first ARE 5.0 exam I thought "Hey this is a nice improvement over 4.0" until I reached the case studies. Now I am embarking on my 4th attempt with PA and 3rd attempt with PDD and largely because I end up spending a lot of my time 'fighting' with the clunky pdf attachments that seem to be missing information and have poor resolution. The worst part is that I don't know how to do any better than I did the last time considering I keep getting the same case studies that have 'seemingly' missing information and poor resolution. I guess I can expect to pay TWO or THREE times the cost to pass the ARE.

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    William May

    LOL Thanks RJ, just what I wanted to here HAHAHAH...jk all good thanks hehehe.

    I figure to spend roughly $5,000 to get thru the ARE.  A small price to pay considering all the riches and glory that await me.

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    David Kaplan

    To circle back here, I went back to the very first post and this sentence:

    Can all who have been taking test divisions, and passed first time, say with certainty that there is a one stop shop from which to gather study materials to study to enable a passing score for all divisions?

    I think you're finding here that the answer to this question is unequivocally "NO."  If the answer was yes, it would've been posted on this forum a long time ago and most of us wouldn't be on here at all because we'd now have the answer to all our questions.   Anyone that tells you "yes" to this question is wrong.  But, no one has said yes.  I understand though why you ask this question and your frustrations about this whole process, the uncertainty of it, and the cost associated.  Totally.

    However, there are LOTS of good posts on here for study approaches that worked well for LOTS of people.   Use those. 

    You're right - it IS a gamble.  You might fail.  You might feel like you just wasted $210.  You might study for months, go into there with full confidence and walk out of there with the "preliminary fail" report and say to yourself "what the hell?????" 

    Best I can tell you is just to accept that.  This is a standardized test, and it has its annoyances and aspects to it that will have you complaining about its relevance to the world of today’s architectural practice.  But if you truly want to be licensed, you don’t have a choice. 

    Take the gamble - just once.  If you lose $210 and are totally dismayed by this entire process, then maybe you’ll take a step back and decide to just forget getting your license.  It doesn’t sound like you “need” it based on your past experience. 

    Sorry?

     

     

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    Kelly Duignan

     

    http://architectexamprep.com/2017/05/get-in-the-right-mindset-to-pass-the-are/ - Because these exams don't rely on memorization, this podcast was helpful to me to get into the right mindset for the exams and as an intro when I began studying.

    The entire licensure path is a process, and yes, there's a risk that you won't pass.  I have taken 3 exams (PcM twice and PjM once) and failed all of them.  It sucks.  It's frustrating and hard and discouraging to put a lot of effort (and money) into something that doesn't come out how you planned.  There's a LOT of information to absorb.  I am not a great test taker and have been having a really difficult time getting back into study mode after being out of school for a few years.

    For me, just getting through the first exam was an enormous undertaking.  I spent at least a month just collecting materials, reading the Handbook and other NCARB material, looking at NCARB's Demo Exam, trying to understand the different test categories, reading and rereading through this forum, and trying to get an idea of what the different questions were like before even studying for the exams I took.

    I've been reading all of the posts on the forum for a while, and honestly it does not seem like there is a "BEST" one stop shop for the exams.  Some people really like certain study guides, some people have not found luck with the same ones.  Some people can read easily through the AHPP and some need to take their time and take notes to help absorb certain information.  Some people use flash cards, some don't need to.  Try and find out what works best for yourself, there are endless great suggestions, charts and guides in this forum.

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    William May

    Thanks David, Kelly, et al.....

    I've been reading these various posts in the various divisions for the last 7 weeks and it's all very very frustrating. 

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    Ancil Hogsed (Edited )

    William,

    We're all telling you the same thing: 
    1.) There is no direct path to the exam. (ARE Handbook is the closest).
    2.) We all understand that the extremely difficult and lengthy process and test cost money, which we all have to pay. We all have our struggles: financial, bad test skills, etc, etc. Case Closed.
    3.) Complaining and gloating doesn't make us feel empathy for you after we give advice.
    4.) Use your vast experience to your advantage to take the exam. (Confidence, momentum). 
    5.) Take the 1st test.

    Something constructive:

    Think of it as a project. (You have a lot of experience to relate). You have a program, and scope but no definitive path to give you something other than a box. You need to make money to pay bills (cost),  but the project isn't going to be profitable or creative until you draw the 1st line. 

     

     

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    William May

    yep, very true dat

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    Kurt Fanderclai

     

    William:

    It would be "constructive" for you to allow the information you've continued to request to actually land.  You might try listening to the advice people give -- especially considering that you asked for that advice.  

    On this very thread, yet another group of individuals -- yet again -- has given you EXACTLY the information you need to move forward with the ARE.......essentially, the same exact information you've been requesting -- and receiving -- again and again, for many weeks in a row -- on how to move forward with the ARE.  

    But your latest response?   

      "I've been reading these various posts in the various divisions for the last 7 weeks and it's all very very frustrating." 

    Doesn't sound like a person ready to hear the actual answers.

     

     

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    William May

    Thanks to all who have responded.

     

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    Ancil Hogsed

    Interesting timing here - and some great news for everyone:

    https://www.ncarb.org/press/ncarb-approves-first-third-party-test-prep-materials-are-50

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    William May

    I feel vindicated lol

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    William May

    I almost fell out of my chair when I saw this today on NCARB website.

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    William May

    This is the kind of thing I'm thinking.  You study from a nationally recognized source that is a "standard".  Everyone, everywhere goes to one primary source.  That way, all emerging professionals are learning and practicing with one set of criteria.  One rule book, one "standard".

    AND, if NCARB builds the test with this in mind, then architects will be "produced" by a "standard".

    Or, maybe I'm just senile and early onset of Alzheimer's is kicking in.

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