Fresh out of school, I finished ARE 5.0 in 5 month



  • Avatar
    Michael Lawson

    Congratulations and well done! That's an impressive feat for a fresh graduate. It sounds like your education took you a long way. I also graduated in May, but have experience prior to grad school, and I think staying in the studying/school mindset has helped a great deal in preparing for these exams. 

    You mentioned you took the Black Spectacle practice exams for PPD and PDD - would you mind sharing how you did on these, or how you felt they aligned with the actual tests? 

  • Avatar
    Yike Qin (Edited )

    Hi Michael,

    Generally speaking, the Black Spectacles is a great study source. However, I would definitely also study Ballast. My thoughts on the contents are:

    • Content Coverage: Questions covers the majority of contents tested, but not extensive. My thought is that you cannot get all you need to know by just doing practice exams. However, it does let you find out where you may need to review more and get some concepts more clearer. Ballast is somewhat extensive (~90% of the content I would say) and some very detailed information in Ballast will be asked on the actual exam. There were definitely instances during the actual exam that I could remember reading about the topics on Ballast but could not recall the specific information that the questions were asking for.
    • Difficulty Level: Black Spectacles' practice exams are little on the easier side. Generally, questions on the actual exam will have longer descriptions and take longer time to read (There were definitely "5-sec" type of questions on the actual exam as well, just less overall percentage). You should be able to finish the practice exams with at least 1-1.5 hour left so you can finish the actual exam. Ballast practice exam is on the more difficult side with some word play. It will probably give you a feeling about some trickier questions on the actual exam.
    • Case Study: Both Black Spectacles and Ballast have way simpler case studies than the actual ones that you will see. So not too much help from practice point of view, but good resources to further advance the concepts. Plan to take about 1.5hrs-2hrs on the actual exam to finish the Case Study. In both of the actual exams, I had about 1hr45min to do the case study. In PPD, I finished with 5 sec left. In PDD, I had three questions unfinished. In both exams, I do not have any time to go back and check any of my previously flagged questions.
    • Format: The percentage of "hot spot" and "drag and drop" types of questions are not as many as those appeared on the actual exam. Otherwise, the feeling of taking Black Spectacles' practice exams is the closest to taking the actual exam.

    Hope this helps.


  • Avatar
    Michael Lawson

    Thanks for your response. I was actually wondering if you would be willing to divulge your score from the Black Spectacle practice exams for those sections, but your response was helpful in any case. In the 4 exams I've passed, I used the BS practice exams as a guide for what to focus on, and for a general guide as to how I am doing. I've generally been scoring in the 70's before taking an actual exam, and so far that has worked out well. 

    I totally agree that the case studies and questions are easier on the practice exams. There are a few that align well with how NCARB asks questions, but for the most part they are, as you say, 5-second questions. Also, as you say, this leads to finishing much faster than on test day. I haven't tried the Ballast practice exam yet, but I might look into that. 

    Thanks again, and congrats again! 

Please sign in to leave a comment.

Powered by Zendesk