PA Pass! Tips and Study Materials
A little intro first:
I started my ARE journey 3 years ago when I took PcM and failed it. I was torn… I sulked for 2 years and last November I finally decided to get back on the horse. This time around, I was able to pass each division on the first try, as of last month I’ve passed all my divisions and just today received my certificate form the state of Texas. I wanted to give back to a community that was integral to my success. I’m writing this in hopes of getting others across the finish line in what at times feels like an insurmountable task. I took the exams in the following order according to suggestions by colleagues and others on these pages: PcM > PjM > CE > PA > PPD > PDD. This order worked for me and I found plenty of overlap from division to division.
PA Study Materials:
- Site Planning & Design Handbook - Thomas H. Russ
- Ch.2-3, 7-9, Appendix A
- Brownfield Remediation is huge in this division of the ARE
- Environmental Site Assessment and related info (phase 1 vs. phase 2)
- Problem Seeking: An Architectural Programming Primer - William Peña
- Familiarize yourself with the 5 steps of programming
- page 115 has some very helpful programming calculations
- I didn't spend a whole lot of time studying this particular book, I would definitely thumb through it (it’s a very simple book with short sentences on each page and bulleted lists/diagrams. Focus your efforts into the second half of the book.
- Sun, Wind & Light – Mark DeKay
- Lots of great information but I’d be lying if I said I read it…
- You should familiarize yourself with the code, but don’t try to memorize anything other than basic clearances and slopes. More importantly, know where to find what. On test day, every second counts and you can easily spent way too much time poring through the code book as opposed to having a general idea of where things are. Also, the case study questions almost always provide one or both of these in parts, so be sure to use it to your advantage!
Third party resources:
- HyperFine Benjamin Norkin is an invaluable resource for hands on practice that comes in handy on test day.
- DesignerHacks practice tests/quizzes are awesome to quickly assess just how well you have become familiar with all the material. The questions can be pretty easy at times but they are great for identifying weaknesses and areas requiring further study.
- Quizlet App has user-created flashcards for each exam, be sure to double check info on sets but generally very good and accurate. It’s great on the go and helpful for identifying weaknesses and areas requiring further study.
- FB group: Pass the ARE Study Group is a great place to pose questions and create study groups with other candidates.
Other things to consider:
- Slope, slope, slope! Know how to calculate it in every way possible.
- Know the difference between Preservation, Rehabilitation, Restoration and Reconstruction. Look for the standards published by the Department of State. Know in which situation each is appropriate.
- Know basic slopes for planted areas, parking, “flat” areas, swales, etc.
- Know your climate zones! Know the sustainable strategies for each as well as where to place a building on a hill in any zone. Know what forms work best in each zone.
- Know about erosion control, strategies to reduce runoff and increase infiltration, know the difference between retention and detention ponds.
- Street design ( local vs. collector vs. arterial vs. expressway)
- Learn the construction types and what characteristics each has
- Understand the origins of zoning and its uses/types.
- Know your soils and foundation types appropriate for each type
- Understand the different types of development patterns.
In order to play the game you must know the rules… The cut scores on all ARE’s are between 57% -68%, so what I always did was calculate how many questions I had to get right to pass. For instance: PDD has 120 questions, if I apply the most stringent cut score of 68%, I find that I have to get 82 questions minimum right in order to pass. Focus on that number and try to get at least that many to pass (I kept a tally off to the side on my scratch paper). Also remember all questions are worth 1 point and any questions not answered are automatically wrong so take an educated guess on the one giving you a hard time, flag it, and move on! You can always come back to it later if you have time… Best of luck
Great test report and big congrats on the pass! Glad you liked the Hyperfine stuff.
Also, I used the same max passing score strategy you did! Also used it to help pace myself on the exam. Here’s a blog I wrote about it: https://hyperfinearchitecture.com/are-5-0-passing-scores/
Please sign in to leave a comment.