The ARE Candidate’s Holiday Wish List


The past few days, I have been working on this year’s Young Architect’s Holiday Gift Guide. I was thinking about how with the ARE Transition on the horizon, there are more people now than ever getting ready to take the Architecture Registration Exam.  So I’ve decided to craft up The ARE Candidates Holiday Wish List!

An Overview of the Year for Studying

Why don’t you just give yourself the rest of the year off?!??

Let’s be real: Not much studying really takes place during December. But once the first week of January hits, it’s full speed ahead! In my experience, this is what the year looks like for those studying for the ARE:

January to June is ARE studying season. Lots of studying, testing, and discussing the ARE. Get as many exams done as you can during this time.

From June to August, studying usually slows down. Everyone is busy enjoying their summer or on vacation.

From September to Thanksgiving, there is time to squeeze in one quick exam.

From Thanksgiving to the end of year, there are some people studying, but most people leave it alone until January.

If you are strategically taking December off from the ARE, here are a few things to consider during the holidays:

Support network
Build your support network way early.

Cost: Love
Having a good support network, both at home and work, is often what makes all the difference with an ARE Candidate’s chances of success at completing the ARE.

Taking the architect exam is a huge time commitment. Most ARE Candidates didn’t have their own families when they were in architecture school, or it’s been several years since they studied.

When you start studying for the ARE, your spouse and kids will be affected by your decision to get licensed.  Luckily, it’s only temporary, but the sooner you can have the conversations about your new time commitment, the better off everyone will be. In advance, get someone to commit to…

…helping you out, so you can study.
…cooking you dinner, so you can study.
…watching the kids, so you can study.
…being really supportive and positive, when you are tired and stressed.

After your exam is over, make sure your support network understands loud and clear how grateful you are to have their support, and how instrumental they are to your success.

Fees Word Money Background Penalty Added Cost Price
Licensing and Testing Fees:
Ask your boss to pay for your exams.

Cost: About $3,000 +/-
After all the NCARB fees, testing fees, state fees, study materials, and massive amounts of coffee you’ll need, it’s going to end up costing you a few thousand dollars. That’s if you pass everything the first time.

The AIA and NCARB have been promoting their IDP Friendly Firms program for the past few years—by acknowledging firms that have supported their employees during architectural licensing and facilitated their efforts.

If you could get your employer to cover licensure fees, that could be a win/win situation for both of you. If you could finish your exams quickly, that could be more valuable then receiving a holiday bonus.

The ARE Review Manual

Cost: About $150
The ARE Review Manual (aka the Ballast book) is a must-have for anyone considering the ARE. You will use it sooo much that it’s definitely worth buying. I still use my Ballast book all the time to look things up, and it’s been a long time since I finished the ARE. I recently looked up some information about soil types to help me refresh my memory during a real project.

Unfortunately, the Ballast book isn’t cheap, but it makes a great holiday present.

3d ARE Book Amazon
How To Pass The ARE

Cost: $45 hardcover or $25 eBook

Most people graduate from architecture school and have no idea how to study for an exam like the ARE.  Unfortunately, most ARE Candidates usually really struggle during—or fail—the first several exams before they figure it out.

This isn’t a technical book of information to memorize, like the Ballast book. How to Pass the ARE teaches you how to stack the cards in your favor, so you can effectively study, pass the ARE, and move on to the next phase of your career.

The ARE Boot Camp
The ARE Bootcamp

Cost: $425
This is Young Architect’s 10-week virtual ARE study and accountability group, which helps five ARE Candidates prepare for their first architect exam: the Construction Documents and Services (CDS).

The group meets weekly via video chat to discuss:

  • How last week went
  • What next week looks like
  • Questions they had about the content

I also give several presentations to help facilitate and guide your studying for the CDS exam. Many of the study skills in How to Pass the ARE are implemented and discussed in The ARE Boot Camp.

Due to the amount of personal attention in this program, the group is purposely limited to five people to make sure everyone has time to chat. I am currently accepting applications to run two ARE Boot Camps, both starting in late January.

Architect Exam Prep
Architect Exam Prep

Costs $100
For $100, Architect Exam Prep provides almost everything you need to study for each division of the ARE. This is a really easy gift.

I wrote a very thorough review of the Architect Exam Prep CDS product to help readers understand what is included and how it compares to other ARE study materials.

architect registration exam study guide
ARE Study Books

Ask someone to purchase you the books you need for your upcoming exams. If you're just getting started, 2016 is going to be the year to get the CDS, PPP and SPD Exams take care of because of the ARE Transition

The Ultimate List of ARE Study Material Part 2 blog post lists every book for all exams.

2016 Will Be Your Year!

Whether you’ve decided to hit the ground running in 2016 by beginning your ARE studies in earnest or you’re supporting someone who has, this post can be a reference guide for what you need to acquire during December. That way, you’ll be ready to go on January 1.

Make sure you check out some of the other Architect Gift Guides from the past:


Michael Riscica

Michael Riscica is a Licensed Architect, Founder and Head Coach of the ARE Boot Camp Coaching Program & Online Study Group.

Hi I’m Michael Riscica.

My goal is to help as many people as I can PASS their exams and succeed in their architecture careers.

This is accomplished with the following offerings:

Free FB group that is 12k+ members strong
Low-cost, high-value upcoming webinar
Affordable and Quality ARE Study materials
Professional Development and Powerful Networking
Premium 10-week ARE study program