Thanks all for contributing to the discussions here and sharing your tips! I am overdue for sharing my own experience, so here is my take on the CE exam with some general tips for other exams. For context, I have about 6 years of experience, mainly medium-large scale public/commercial construction, most of which was doing CDs with a few months of in-office CA assistance for an architect. To me, the questions on this exam seemed somewhat easier than on other exams. It seemed like there were quite a few questions where if I didn't really know the content, I could have figured out the correct answer because the wrong answers were somewhat obviously wrong. I am a slow test-taker though, and so needed to be familiar with the content to get through the exam in time.
For study materials, I tried to do the average of what others have suggested in the past few months of similar posts, but with a few differences:
AIA documents - If you have already taken PPD or PDD, have a bit of CA experience, and have worked on CDs for at least a year or two, this and AHPP should be the bulk of your studying. Make sure you know A101, B101, A201, and A701 well. Take a look at the other documents recommended in the ARE Handbook, they are short and simple. By knowing well, I mean be familiar with who is responsible for what in different everyday situations. Don't worry too much about obscure or uncommon situations - just think of hypothetical issues that might come up during bidding and construction and make sure you have a good sense of what the owner, contractor, and architect should do and in what order. Know really well what happens when the work needs to be changed, what the process is, and who pays for the changes in different situations (hint - it's almost never the Architect aside from having to spend additional uncompensated time in certain situations). I wouldn't focus too much on knowing dates and time as much as other posters have suggested - if anything, I would say you should know time limits generally to within a few days - so don't worry about whether you can't remember if something can wait 7 days or 10 days.
AHPP - I read most of the recommended reading based on the Wiley guide. Some of it you could skim through, and a lot of it was repeats of content I read for other exams and so I was able to skip those sections and just review my notes.
Ballast Practice Exam - I did about 50 questions of this a week before my exam and got about 2/3 of them correct. I got a lot of the construction-related questions wrong, which I attribute to not having an on-site CA experience yet.
Schiff Hardin Lectures - I only recommend listening to the lectures for B101 and A201 (same for PcM, PjM). I listened to some of the others but they aren't really helpful for the exam. As for the B101/A201 lectures, if you are short on time, I recommend just reading through the lecture notes or the AIA documents themselves, taking notes, and note which points don't make sense. You can easily skip around the lectures to a particular contract paragraph because he always calls out the number before explaining what each point means. Note - I didn't re-listen to the lectures for this exam since I already listened to them for PcM and PjM.
Fundamentals of Building Construction - I didn't find this to be particularly helpful after taking PPD and PDD, which I took about a year ago, but it seemed like a good resource if you feel like you need it. I only read one chapter and took about 10 notes, none of which came in handy. For your reference, the chapters other posters recommended were 2, 6, 13, 16, 19, and 20.
Hammer and Hand Best Practices Manual (online) - I read about half of this and didn't find it to be particularly helpful for the exam, but I definitely recommend looking it over if you have time as it is a great resource and I learned a few things that will be helpful in the future.
Topics you might not encounter in enough detail while studying the above:
Scheduling - I recommend googling scheduling topics (gantt charts, critical path method, etc.) and feel practiced with knowing what would happen to a schedule if some construction activity was delayed or late for some reason. These topics aren't unique to construction so there are plenty of great videos on youtube to help explain these things. A practice problem or two might also be helpful.
Construction knowledge - even if you draw details all day, knowing how things get built in the field will be very helpful for this exam. I don't think I found a great resource for this knowledge, but if I hadn't passed, I would probably spend some time watching youtube videos of construction with different building types to get a better sense of why things are built in a certain sequence, sitework, how site conditions like weather affect the work, and common issues that come up and how they are solved.
RFIs, submittal review - if you have no CA experience, spend some time looking through some RFIs and submittals for a project in your office and note how the architect/project rep responds. If possible, badger that person with questions to help you understand their comments/responses.
- Review the ARE Handbook and rate your knowledge of these different areas periodically throughout your study to make sure your study focus is proportional. For example, I would copy the below into your notes along with the handbook descriptions and update the "#" with a 1-5 rating to keep yourself on track.
- [#] 20% preconstruction
- [#] 35% construction observation
- [#] 35% administrative procedures and protocols
- [#] 10% project closeout & evaluation
- Do a practice exam or at least some of one at least a week or two before your exam date to figure out where you need to focus your studying/review. If you don't have access to another exam already, I used Designer Hacks for PPD and found it very helpful. It's only $40.
- In the final week or so before your exam, focus on becoming familiar with what you have already studied and knowing it well, rather than digging endlessly through the pile of study content that you might not have gotten to but hoped to. Once you feel reasonably comfortable, then refer back to the Handbook or your practice test to determine which topics are actually worth diving into with only a short time left.
- I also want to put in a plug for the notetaking tool I used throughout studying for the AREs - Dynalist. It has elements in common with Todoist and Workflowy, but I like it better for a myriad of reasons. I like it because you can take notes in outline form but easily collapse the parts of the outline that you don't want to see. This helps you not get lost deep in your notes and easily find the right information later on. It was especially helpful for me as a flashcard-type tool, because I could write my notes as questions to myself, with the answer indented the next line below. I tagged some of my notes with things like #? if it was something I didn't fully understand, or #ce if it was something I wanted to make sure I tested myself on later. It has a mobile app as well which is great for reviewing notes if you are stuck on the bus somewhere, etc.
- Finally, if your testing center gives you a slow computer that takes 5-10 seconds to load each page of one of the PDF resources, please complain to the center and to NCARB. On this particular exam, my last case study was basically impossible to answer because it involved skimming many pages of large documents, of which each page took 10 seconds to load. It would be a shame for someone to not pass because they spent $235 to take a test on a 15 year old computer.
Good luck to you all and hang in there!
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