Programming & Analysis



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    Michael Lawson

    Jenny, you've come to the right place. This community has six sections, one for each exam, where members post their advice or questions regarding each individual exam. If you're starting with P&A, take a look at that board and you'll find a lot of helpful advice. Feel free to post asking questions too. If you use the sort feature, you can sort by most comments or most votes too, which are both very helpful in finding a quick suggestion. 

    Since it sounds like you're just starting out, I'd recommend looking at the most useful resource you'll get: the ARE 5.0 Handbook. I come back to this frequently to check resources and content, just to make sure I'm on the right track. Definitely take some time to look that over and see what you think. 

    As far as time goes, everyone studies differently, which is why looking at the success posts is so helpful here. You'll see that some people take the test with little studying and do well, some put in years of work and succeed, and many are somewhere in between. You'll also hear advice like "sign up for a test before you start studying" or "wait until you're ready to take it before you sign up." Ultimately, this is your path to take, but in any case, you're not alone! We're all going for the same goal and rooting for each other! 

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    Mollie Pelletier

    The ARE handbook published by NCARB lists the recommended resources for each exam section. You can find it on the ncarb website. I suggest you download it, you will refer to it often.

    I will say that you don’t have to read every page of every resource they list. Check out some posts here to see the most frequented study material.

    I also used two “third party” sources for study. Pluralsight, is an online study service and i went there first to kick start my study for each section. It’s not crazy expensive and i thought very well done. Others swear by other services like designer hacks, black spectacle and Amber. None of these are necessary, just a bonus and a different presentation of material rather than reading.

    I also used the ballast 5.0 review manual and practice exam books. The manual is better written for some sections than others, but for me it was a good overview. The practice exam book was really good. The questions are presented very much like the real exams and the thought process of the questions puts you in the exam frame of mind in my opinion.

    As for time, I passed all six sections in 14 months (passed the last section two weeks ago!) so I believe two months is enough for any of the exams. Assuming you are studying regularly throughout the months and read and absorb material fairly well, you should be fine. Some people spend a lot more time studying, some less. But two months is probably about average. Some sections like PDD are a lot broader than others so take that into Account as well.

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    Michelle NCARB


    You've gotten great advice so far.  Also be sure to try out the Demonstration Exam.  It's available for free inside your NCARB record.  It gives you an opportunity to see what you'll experience at the test center - what the exam looks like, how to navigate through items and resources, and how to use the calculator, break button, item types, etc.

    The Demo Exam, lots of YouTube videos, and other resources are all detailed here.

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