Alright, so, let me first say, you can do this. YOU CAN DO THIS. This exam is not unbeatable; do not let it ruin your mind and life.
Background: I have been on my ARE journey for almost 5 years now. I did the 3+2 plan transitioning from 4.0-5.0 and started testing right out of grad school and have been working at a healthcare design firm for 5 years. I have been to the Prometric center 16 times total to pass all of these exams and you know its bad when the staff start to recognize you and wish you good luck.
What you really need to know. I'm a horrible test taker, I suck at game theory and I really struggled with figuring out how to study for this exam - but I think I have an almost fool proof system now.
Disclaimer: I studied about 1-2 hours each night after work, and about 4-5 hours each day on weekends. I took a few days off here and there and also listened to lectures on my runs everyday and on my walks to and from work. (roughly an hour total a day)
Week 1: Read all Kaplan books related to this division. This is a really good first pass of information. I read the building system, materials, construction documents, and structural systems book.
Week 2: Read the entire Ballast book for PDD. Try to focus on highlighting or underlining a lot - its helpful if you practice active learning which I only did on this last exam. I also had trace and sketched over/ redrew ANY and EVERY detail or wall section I came across.
Week 3: Read the Architect Exam Prep study guide. I mean it. Don't just skim it, read this one too front to back. I also listened to the audio guide version of this book on my morning runs (yes, that is what it took for me.)
Week 4: You are all going to hate this. Read "Fundamentals of Building Construction: Materials and Methods" front to back. Yes, it is 1024 pages. Yes, it was not the most fun thing to do on a Saturday night. But this book is EXTREMELY underrated on this forum and I was actually able to answer all the very hard and tricky material questions because of this book. I would recommend this over a lot of the other study materials people list. And again, redraw all details you come across.
Week 5: Watch all amber videos and do the study questions. I found watching these videos after reading all the materials beforehand really helped me to know and understand the videos better and solidify the information in my brain. My poor husband endured listening to this videos at repeat every night while we were falling asleep and recommended David Attenborough have a go next time at recording ARE study videos.
Week 6: Watch youtube videos on IBC and wall construction. I found youngarchitect.com had a lot of really good blog posts that helped me curate playlists and find other videos to listen to at work and watch on my walks to and from work.
Week 7: Practice, practice, practice. Take as many practice tests as you can get your hands on. I did the black spectacles, PPI, kaplan, ballast, and hyperfine. Just expose yourself to as many weird ways a question can be asked that you can. I also did the questions in groups of 5 and then checked my answers as opposed to doing the full test and then just seeing if I got it right or not at the end.
Day before the exam: Take a bath, stop studying, have a nice dinner and just breath. The morning of the exam I got up, ran 3 miles, took a hot shower with calming lavender oil, and meditated for 20 minutes to clear my mind. Cramming last minute doesn't help you pass, trust me, I've tried that too.
Notes: Black spectacles is a good starting point, but not as more detailed than reading kaplan, ballast, and Architect Exam Prep. I was a little disappointing in the pluralsignt videos, but they are also very affordable and a good first pass. I also did skim ASG, BCI, and BSI but did not take heavy notes on them. I rented Olins Construction and MEEB from amazon but didn't get into them and didn't find they were as helpful as Fundamentals of Building Construction: Materials and Methods.
Good luck you guys! And you can do this :)
May your hats fly as high as your dreams. **Mic drop.**
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