Today, I received the score report of my last ARE division, which officially concludes my 5-month battle with ARE 5.0. The whole excursion is definitely tough but rewarding at the same time. Now, I only need to work another 2.5 years before finishing the AXP and getting officially licensed as an architect.
I graduated from school in May 2018, and took my very first exam in the end of August after receiving my diploma and waiting approval from the jurisdiction. As you can see, I was taking the ARE fresh out of school and, my “real-world” experience of architecture is almost next to none. I did my exams in the order presented by NCARB and passed all of them with one attempt each. From my experience, lacking experience is definitely not an obstacle that prevents anyone from passing any of the divisions. NCARB is testing on the “minimum competency” after all. I think this is also the reason why more and more jurisdictions decouple the ARE and the AXP as two independent requirements for licensure.
I used the most common study materials that everyone is using. Ballast (review manual, practice problem and practice exam), Black Spectacles (lectures and practice exams since our firm has group subscription), AIA contracts, AHPP, IBC, ADA, Building Code Illustrated, Building Construction Illustrated, Architect Studio Companion, and NPS Preservation Standards.
I believe that my university education already well-prepared me with a huge chuck of exam content so the study is mainly for me to remember and utilize what I learned in school. These include:
- Programing (I did this every day and every semester in design studios)
- Building Science (I had building science courses, but also managed to get LEED AP accredited while I was in school. So a lot of study already done here)
- Building Systems ( I had class in Engineering Thermodynamics, so I already had good understanding of fundamentals of HVAC systems and psychometric chart/human comfort)
- Structural Engineering (besides M.Arch degree, I also graduated with a M.S. in structural engineering, lots of structural engineering courses that go way deeper than the exams)
- Geotechnical Engineering (I had geotechnical engineering courses, and I engineered tower foundations at work)
- Drawings (how to draw plans/sections/elevations, and how they refer to each other. Construction drawings are just one more step compared with what I usually put on the wall at final reviews. All the notations are just additional information)
In my mind, it is a good strategy to take exams fresh out of school as all these contents are still live in the brain. After working for a while, you may forget majority of them especially if you are not using them on your daily jobs. Then, passing exams become much harder. Things that I do spent time studying are the AIA contracts, code related topics (IBC and ADA) and professional practice.
There are many tiny bits of things to pay attention to during the exams, or so called exam taking strategies. Here are some I find extremely useful:
- Time Management: Time is plenty for PcM, PjM and CE. Time is alright for PA. Time may not enough for PPD and PDD. If you are using black spectacles’ practice exam, try to finish 1.5-2hrs early because actual exam questions take longer to read and solve.
- Case Study: Related to time management. Case studies for PA, PPD and PDD are lengthy. Plan about 1.5-2hour for them if you can. Case studies for PcM, PjM and CE are simple and more straightforward.
- Hot Spot Questions: Read carefully about where the question ask you to click. For example, if a question asks you to click on a component in the SECTION, do not click on the ELEVATON even though the same component may also shows up. If a question asks you to click on the BOX before the sentence, do not click on the SENTENCE next to the box. If the question ask you to click on a NUMBER in a table, do not click on the TITLE of that number in the table.
- North Arrow: Always look for north arrow on plans, and never assume north is up. Might screw you up on many questions that you do not even realize.
I think this is all I have to say for now. Good luck!
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