Complete review prior to 1st exam



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    Mollie Pelletier

    I don’t think this is necessary or even really wise. These tests are long. There’s way more information than my brain could hold all at once. Studying for them is a lot of hours. I think you’re adding to that timeline if you try to study everything at once and then go back review.

    I recommend taking overlapping ones closer together. Because yes there is overlap.and they build on each other. But also there’s a lot that’s specific to the test.

    I took mine in order. It made sense to me because they do build on one another, it worked to my advantage with the overlap, and ending with CE was easy breezy after taking the big boys of PPD and PDD.

    I also took them all in about a year. I didn’t want it dragging out and wanted to take them while the info from the last test was still fresh.

    Just my thoughts.

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    Steven Sack

    Thanks for your input, Mollie.  Congratulations on the completion of your exams.

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    Scott Barber

    Hey Steven, 

    You're probably going to get a lot of different advice - usually a good thing, you just need to figure out what you're most comfortable with. This forum is filled with some good posts, so it's a good resource to poke around and see what others have done.

    Personally, I studied for some of them together and took them close to one another. There's no right or wrong answer - some people like to focus on them one at a time, while others combine and tackle more than one. For me, by studying for them together and taking them close together I was able to avoid repetitive information as I studied for subsequent exams. At the very least, I don't think reviewing content for all 6 exams and then studying one at a time is necessary.

    Here's a brief overview of how I handled them (I also wrote a post after passing each exam, where I go more in depth if you're interested):

    PDD and PPD: Started with these (wouldn't recommend that for most people, but I had reasons for starting with the two big ones and it made the rest seem like a cakewalk). Studied about 2 months for both and passed them 2 weeks apart. A lot of the content overlaps so I felt it would be hard to separate content to study for one and not the other, and studying the content all together helped reinforce the concepts and give me a broader understanding.

    PA: Took this one next - it has some similarities with PPD but I saw it more as a stand-alone exam. I wouldn't suggest starting with this one because it's the exam most people struggle with running out of time, so it'd be tricky to start with it while learning the format and everything.

    PcM, PjM, and CE: I finished with these 3, and went a little overboard in my schedule. I studied for them all together for 5 weeks, and passed them within 10 days of each other (wouldn't recommend that to most people, either, especially if they're starting with them). These had a lot of similarities and covered similar if not identical content (they all cover some of the AIA contracts to a degree, which I found helpful to study collectively to give a comprehensive understanding of them), plus they were smaller than the others I had taken so it was easy to combine them. 

    Ultimately it depends on what you're comfortable doing as you prepare for these exams. It's overwhelming (understandably) for some people to focus on more than one at a time, and in doing so you may repeat studying some of the same content. That isn't a bad thing, especially since it's relevant for the rest of our careers. I found that studying for them together for a period of time and taking them close together was more efficient for me, and I felt comfortable giving that a try. 

    Hope that makes sense! Good luck!! You can do it!

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    Steven Sack

    Thank you for your input, Scott.  What I think would help me to finalize my strategy would be to get a better understand of where exactly the overlap occurs. 

    I will definitely read through your posts on passing each exam.

    Congratulations on the completion of your licensure.

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    Christopher Kiefer

    Hi Steven,

    To add to the heaps of other advice you'll receive, I'll say that that studying lightly for all exams, prior to taking my first exam, was a strategy that worked well for me in 2018. Specifically, I read the entire book, "ARE Review Manual" (2nd Edition), published by Ballast in 2011. While this book was written for ARE 4.0, nearly all the concepts remain relevant. I underlined key facts on each page and wrote liberally in the margins. Sure, that probably hurts the re-sale value, but it's a book I'll be keeping!

    Reading that book helped me survey what I would be getting myself into when I "actually" started studying. I guess it was a psychological defense tactic to think of this as a "pre-study" activity. I took this reading time as a casual exercise over a month or so with no pressure or expectations. I read during breakfast, in the evening during dinner, and during the weekend. I finally scheduled my first exam only after finishing this book. From there, I leveraged other study materials, but I could always go back to that one book to look up most facts I was unsure about. Then before taking PPD and PDD, I read that whole book again--mainly glancing at my previous notes. 

    Non-essential bonus text: a metaphor of two study strategies: Scanline and progressive rendering

    I could end the post here, but I'd like to put forward a metaphor that outlines the two broad study styles. Maybe you've experienced the early days of the Internet, when images loaded very slowly. Back then there were two types of loading styles: scanline rendering and progressive rendering. Scanline loaded a clear image line by line, like water filling a container. Progressive scan loaded a whole blurry box first, then would subsequently load 3-4 versions until the fully clear image version was finally visible. Each loading style had its strengths and weaknesses based on the situation.

    Approaching the AREs kind of works the same way as this image-loading metaphor. One can either focus on one exam at a time, "scanning" in great detail or do a bit of "progressive" studying, which is comprehensive but remains blurry on the details. For me, I chose the "progressive" approach, knowing that I personally like to start my work zoomed way out. This technique helped give me a head's up about what was coming, and helped me mentally prepare for some difficult parts, reducing the cramming effects.

    In summary, I do recommend thumbing through all the exams as a prerequisite to starting the AREs. I do think that an architect's project role as coordinator and connector lends itself better to the "progressive render" approach. But I'm sure another person could give compelling reasons for the opposite scanline approach. I'd like to hear from others about other strategies.

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    Steven Sack


    Thank you for your insights.  Your image-loading metaphor makes sense.  I agree that the "Progressive" scan is what I had in mind.  I imagine the entire study procedure is something like that. What I'm trying to evaluate right now, is where exactly the overlaps exist.

    Congratulations on passing.

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