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This post is part of a series on NCARB’s Architecture Registration Exam. Having recently completed this long process, the series examines my journey and the various things I learned along the way. Click here to see all the posts of my Architecture Registration Exam Series.
Note: At the bottom of this blog post I give links to ARE practice exams for each ARE division. Click here to jump down to bottom of post
I didn’t understand the value of practice exams until I was halfway done with my Architecture Registration Exam. Had I understood them from the beginning, I could have saved a significant amount of frustration.
Eventually I got my hands on every single ARE practice test I could. I threw a lot of money at ARE practice exam books. I think they are absolutely fundamental in studying and learning how to pass these difficult tests.
Practice exams kept me from going insane by breaking up the pace of the immense amount of required reading. I used to go to Starbucks at lunch and work on practice exams for an hour or so and then go back to office. This allowed me to get some very effective studying done in a short period of time.
Practice exams represent an interactive method of studying which was particularly helpful to me. Rather than sitting and reading ARE content for hours on end (trying not to fall asleep), practice questions engaged me and forced me to engage memory recall. This was huge for me. Practice exams kept my studying engaged, awake and moving.
How I Used ARE Practice Tests
Most people like to sit down and create a mock ARE testing scenario, working through 100-150 questions and looking up all the answers at the end. This is great. I do this too, but only at the end of my studying.
I used the practice tests more as a studying tool. They helped me create a much more powerful, efficient method of studying. When using the practice exams I would only work on 3 questions at a time and then go to look up the answer.
By keeping the practice exams to a 3 question max, it kept the process of recalling information fresh in my brain. I could then have a better understanding of why I chose the answer that I did.
If I gave the wrong answer, I would spend a few minutes understanding why I chose the answer wrong and why my thought process led me to choosing the wrong answer.
If I confidently gave the right answer, I would move onto the next question.
If I unconfidently gave the right answer, I would process the question and answer and try to bring more confidence to my thought process.
No practice exam is ever a substitute for the test.
Practice exam questions are always derived from the study material that they were born from.
Say you spend a lot of time only studying the Ballast Book and no other ARE material, then take a Ballast Practice exam. You’ll do great.
Say, you study all the other ARE and do not use the Ballast Book, then take a Ballast Practice Exam. You may not do so well.
I’m picking on Ballast, but this applies to all ARE study materials. Whoever is writing the study materials you are reading has their own opinions on what they think practice questions should be. They will always derive their questions from the content that they wrote.
This is why I always recommend everyone use multiple sources of ARE study material.
Without disclosing any content from the exam, I’ll guarantee you that you will see questions that have nothing to do with the test you are taking or studied for.
You will also encounter very strangely worded and confusing questions.
No authors of ARE study material could ever really recreate the real exam, but they definitely do a great job trying and getting you in shape to take the exam.
Getting into the rhythm of answering questions.
Reading ARE study books for hours and hours is only mental information input.
The test is about recalling information in a moment’s notice.
Answering questions to recall information takes a lot of practice. It forces your brain to work in an opposite direction.
NCARB is constantly trying to trick you into choosing the wrong answer on an easy question. It takes practice to learn how to slow down and say “What are they really asking for?”, rather than just choose an answer.
I had a really hard time slowing down, reading each question carefully, thinking about what is being asked and then choosing the right answer. I would frequently choose the wrong answer, because I just didn’t read the question carefully enough.
Is English your second language? Practice exams could really help you.
I have a friend who moved to America in his early 20’s for architecture school and English isn’t his native language. He is an extremely intelligent guy with an incredible work ethic. He put in his time studying and has all the knowledge to pass the test, but he kept doing poorly because he was getting tripped up in the linguistics of the questions.
English is my first (and only) language and I very frequently was confused with trying to understand what NCARB was really asking because of the way question was worded. If English is your second language, you may want to consider this and spend extra time answering questions about the exam.
The old stuff works.
During ARE versions 3.1 and prior, there was a company named Architectural Licensing Seminars (ALS). They were purchased by Kaplan and then their content morphed into the Kaplan guides we have today.
I found a few of their old practice exams on a dusty old shelf in my local AIA Office a long time ago. Even though its old content, I thought it was really useful and helpful.
Start practice exams after the first pass.
I wouldn’t start using the practice exams until I made my first complete pass through one study material guide. This meant reading all the chapters of Ballast or Kaplan (for me) before I started working on practice questions. I was not going to spend time working on questions that I hadn’t yet encountered in the material.
Easy to carry around.
Here’s a practice question for you:
Question: What does a brick and the Ballast Book have in common?
Answer: They both weigh about 5 lbs.
Practice exams are significantly less paper and much easier to carry around as you move around town. I brought them with me to work every day.
Sell them after you pass.
After 2 years of taking ARE’s I stopped being cheap with the ARE and just started throwing money at it, by purchasing whatever books I needed. Part of what made this attitude change is because I realized I could really easily resell all my books on Amazon. I bought most of my stuff with my Amazon Prime Account and then used my Amazon Seller Account to sell all my used books. Used ARE study material always almost immediately sold. I always kept my books in great shape so I could list them as Like new and get more for them.
ARE Practice Exam Guides
Below is a list ARE Practice Exams for each test. I reviewed many of these books in both of The Ultimate Guide to Study Materials Parts 1 and Part 2. I would recommend checking out those posts if you are interested in getting more info about each Practice Test.
Quick note on the links below: Since Amazon is essentially a crowd sourced used book market, I noticed there are several listings for the same book and the prices are all over the place. I provided links to all of the listings, so you can find the best price.
Click one of these links to jump down to the following exams
- All ARE Divsions in One Book
- Construction Documents and Services exam (CDS)
- Practice Planning and Programming exam (PPP)
- Site Planning and Design exam (SPD)
- Structural Systems exam (SS)
- Building Design and Construction System exam (BDCS)
- Building Systems exam (BS)
Practice Exams For All ARE Divisions
Architecture Exam Review, Solved Problems: Multiple-Choice Divisions By David Kent Ballast – These are old Ballast questions from 2007. Book contains practice exams for all tests. – Click Here for Link
NCARB – ARE 3.1 Sample Multiple Choice Questions – Click Here for Link
ARE Practice Exam: Multiple-Choice Divisions By Larry Paul – Click Here for Link
Construction Documents and Services exam (CDS)
NCARB – CDS Study Guide – Sample Multiple Choice Questions – Click Here for Link
Practice Planning and Programming exam (PPP)
NCARB – CDS Study Guide – Sample Multiple Choice Questions – Click Here for Link
Gang Chen – Programming, Planning & Practice ARE Mock Exam: (PPP of Architect Registration Exam): ARE Overview, Exam Prep Tips, Multiple-Choice Questions and Graphic Vignettes, Solutions and Explanations – Click here for link or you can also Click here for the Gang Chen Review.
Site Planning and Design exam (SPD)
NCARB ARE 4.0 Study Guide – SPD Exam – Click here for Link
Gang Chen – Site Planning & Design ARE Mock Exam (SPD of Architect Registration Exam): ARE Overview, Exam Prep Tips, Multiple-Choice Questions and Graphic Vignettes, Solutions and Explanations – Click Here for Link or you can also Click here for the Gang Chen Review.
Structural Systems exam (SS)
NCARB – SS Study Guide – Sample Multiple Choice Questions – Click Here for Link
Structural Systems ARE Mock Exam (SS of Architect Registration Exam): ARE Overview, Exam Prep Tips, Multiple-Choice Questions and Graphic Vignettes, Solutions and Explanations by Gang Chen – Click Here for Link or you can also Click here for the Gang Chen Review.
Building Design and Construction System exam (BDCS)
NCARB – BDCS Study Guide – Sample Multiple Choice Questions – Click Here for Link
Building Design and Construction Systems (BDCS) ARE Mock Exam: ARE Overview, Exam Prep Tips, Multiple-Choice Questions and Graphic Vignettes, Solutions and Explanations (Architect Registration Exam) By Gang Chen – Click here for Link or you can also Click here for the Gang Chen Review.
Building Systems exam (BS)
NCARB – BS Study Guide – Sample Multiple Choice Questions – Click Here for Link
A.R.E. Building Systems Study Guide and Practice Exam (The Amber Book) by Michael Ermann – Click here for Link
Gang Chen – Building Systems (BS) ARE Mock Exam (Architect Registration Exam): ARE Overview, Exam Prep Tips, Multiple-Choice Questions and Graphic Vignettes, Solutions and Explanations By Gang Chen – Click here for Link or you can also Click here for the Gang Chen Review.
MEEB Practice Quizes – Click here for Link
Read the full series This post is part of a series on NCARB’s Architect Registration Exam. Having recently completed this long process, the series examines my journey and the various things I learned along the way. Click here to see all the posts of my Architect Registration Exam Series.
If you enjoyed this post, you should also check out:
- Test Day Advice for the Architecture Registration Exam
- 5 Lessons I Learned Studying For the Architect Registration Exam
- Throwing Money at The Architect Registration Exam
- Building Momentum with studying for the Architect Exam
- Failing the Architect Registration Exam
- How to Read ARE Test Scores
- ARE Study Schedule – Step by Step Guide
- Finish the ARE The Only New Years Resolution You Should Have.
- Study For One Architect Exam at a Time
- Using Flashcards for the Architect Registration Exam.