A little bit about myself - I am a 5th year B.Arch student, and will be graduating in May 2019. I have passed all six exams as an IPAL student over the past six months (read about IPAL here!). As I was preparing for the AREs, this discussion forum was extremely helpful in suggesting study strategies. However, preparing for these exams was quite challenging, as many authors of these posts already had well established careers. As a student with just a few internships under my belt, and no full-time work experience, I could not always relate. I am writing this post to provide my study strategy and perspective on PcM and the other exams as an IPAL student. While I hope to reach other IPAL students and recent graduates, I hope everyone can find a helpful takeaway from this post.
Practice Management was my first exam, taken in August 2018. I decided to take PcM first for two reasons: 1) it is the shortest exam, and 2) I found business operations and financial terms quite confusing and wanted to get those out of the way. Although I have no applicable experience with practice management topics, I found this test quite manageable. Within the allotted 2 hours and 45 minutes, I was able to answer all the questions, check the marked questions, and check some of the unmarked questions.
This was my study strategy:
Architecture Student's Handbook of Professional Practice (14th edition)
In the semester before this exam, I took a professional practice course at my school. It was during this class that I read chapters 4-12 of ASHPP (note: chapter #s are different for the newer 15th edition!). When it came time to compile notes, I simply reorganized the content from ASHPP chapters to the PcM section objectives. ASHPP is a must read. 90% of my PcM, PjM, and CE notes came from this source. I was also lucky that my school's library had access to an online version of ASHPP, so I didn't need to purchase the book. I did look at AHPP momentarily. However, I recommend ASHPP because it is shorter and easier to understand, but still comprehensive.
I purchased a Ballast 4.0 textbook from Amazon. Why a 4.0 textbook? At the time, the ARE 5.0 prep materials were limited and had mixed reviews on Amazon. While this textbook was organized based on the ARE 4.0 divisions, I used this conversion chart to figure out which 4.0 chapters would be applicable to each 5.0 exam. Reading the Ballast chapters for PcM, PjM, and CE took about four weeks, four hours a week. I then used this information to fill in the gaps of my existing ASHPP notes. Overall, this is a good secondary source. The following chapters apply to both PcM and PjM:
- Chapter 2 - Environmental Analysis and Project Planning
- Chapter 48 - Construction Drawings and Details
- Chapter 49 - The Project Manual and Specifications
- Chapter 50 - The Primary Contractual Documents
- Chapter 51 - Bidding Procedures and Documents
- Chapter 52 - Construction Administration Services
- Chapter 53 - Project and Practice Management
I study most effectively when I'm presented with questions that challenge me to test my knowledge. Thus, I purchased the Designer Hacks tests to help me practice concepts (this was before I found out about Black Spectacles). Although I did find DH helpful, the questions are not nearly as difficult or time consuming as the real exam. If you like actively testing your knowledge as a study method, I'd recommend Black Spectacles, which is a subscription based ARE prep company. Their practice exams are a bit more realistic in terms of question difficulty and format.
I did not receive IPAL clearance to register for exams until mid August. I was eager to take some exams before school became too demanding, so I scheduled PcM with only four days to prepare. I spent the first day consolidating my notes from ASHPP and Ballast 4.0, and making flashcards for things I found difficult to memorize. I spent the remaining three days reading through my notes, going through flashcards, and taking Designer Hacks exams. I spent about 8 hours on each of these days, and thankfully, that was adequate to pass.
As far as exam content goes, I thought the ARE 5.0 Handbook did a good job of explaining what might be tested. Have a good understanding of legal structure, employee benefits, business ethics, finances, risk management, insurance, project delivery methods, project cost estimating, project financing, the B101 and A201, and legal site influences.
As a last note, I highly recommend studying for PcM, PjM, and CE at the same time, as there is a lot of overlapping content (posts for PjM and CE coming soon!). Feel free to leave a comment below - more than happy to clarify and share.
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