Welcome to The Ultimate List of ARE Study Materials Part 1. In this blog post, we’ll take a broad look at the study materials available for ALL the ARE 5.0 Exams.
In Part 2 of this series, we zoom in to individually examine each test and list all the resources available for each exam. I highly recommend reviewing Part 1, before you get into the details of Part 2. Below are links for each 5.0 Exam.
The Ultimate List of 5.0 ARE Study Materials Part 2:
- Practice Management (PcM)
- Project Management (PjM)
- Programming and Analysis (PA)
- Project Planning and Design (PPD)
- Project Development and Documentation (PDD)
- Construction Evaluation (CE)
The Big Picture – Resources for ALL SIX EXAMS
This blog post will focus on study materials about each exam. To make things easier, a table of contents is provided below to help you navigate this blog post.
- NCARB’s Transition Calculator
- Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice (AHPP)
- Old Code Info
- Old AIA Contracts
- Old MEEB Books
- Old Ballast Books
- Old Brightwood
The 2 Phases of ARE 5.0
Before we start talking about studying for the ARE, it’s important to explain the 2 different phases of the exam:
Technical Exams and Professional Practice Exams
These 2 terms are referred to throughout this entire blog post series. Here is a very short description:
Pro-Practice Exams (PcM, PjM & CE)
This series of exams really focuses on the soft skills of practicing architecture. Below is a one sentence definition of each exam:
Practice Management (PcM) – Setting up and running an architecture business.
Project Management (PjM) – Managing an Architecture Project.
Construction Evaluation (CE) – Administration of the contract during construction.
The Pro-Practice Exams are more about administering and managing the project.
Technical (PA, PPD & PDD)
These 3 exams focus on the hard skills of practicing architecture. Below is a one sentence explanation of each exam:
Programming and Analysis (PA) – Understanding the problem the design will solve.
Project Planning and Design (PPD) – Schematic Design Phase of the project.
Project Development and Documentation (PDD) – Developing the design and Construction Documentation Phase of the project.
The Technical Exams are more about designing the project and putting a building together.
ARE Exam Prep Providers
Below is a list of publishers who offer products for all exams.
The last thing I want to say before we jump in is that I disagree with a lot of the marketing from the ARE Prep Industry.
None of these products are a one stop shop. Not one single product (or ARE Prep Provider) is going to help you pass all your exams.
To effectively study for ARE 5.0, I always recommend getting many different perspectives, opinions and using many different resources when studying for ARE 5.0.
The ARE Boot Camp Coaching Program – Young Architect
Since 2015, the ARE Boot Camp has played an integral role in creating thousands of Licensed Architects. I created this program to teach ARE Candidates how to more easily navigate their way through passing their Exams.
One of the founding principles of the ARE Boot Camp is:
“The one size fits all approach to studying for the ARE does not work for everyone”
The way your Coworker passed all their exams won't necessarily work for you. That's why the ARE Boot Camp is a coaching program.
In the ARE Boot Camp, I work with each person and we figure out a way for them to study that works with their schedules, skills, preferences and backgrounds. The Boot Camp Program is customized and tailored to meet the needs of each person who takes it.
It also focuses on teaching people how to teach this information to themselves, which is why it's called a “Boot Camp”.
Each week (for 10 weeks), we have a group meeting to discuss the Boot Camp curriculum, how things are going and the work for the upcoming week.
In between the weekly meeting with me, the Boot Campers are studying with each other almost every day and discussing different topics they are studying.
The ARE Boot Camp is also a very social program. Everyone studies very closely with 20-30 people all over the US. Many people have said it reminds them of being in architecture school, except now we’re focused on exams.
The purpose of the ARE boot Camp is to create licensed Architects. It’s NOT just to help people for 1 exam or 10 weeks. This is why we keep supporting our members until they have completed ALL their exams.
The Young Architect Academy
The Academy began in 2017 because of my dissatisfaction with early ARE 5.0 study materials and outrageously priced monthly memberships from other ARE Prep Providers.
I knew there must be a better way.
The goal of the Young Architect Academy is to provide a high value, low cost product to guide people through ARE 5.0.
The courses were designed to act like a road map and guide you along the journey of effectively studying for the ARE.
The current Young Architect Academy courses are:
- Practice Management 101
- Project Management 101
- Construction Evaluation 101
- PPD/PDD ARE Drills
The Young Architect Academy courses are do-it-yourself, video based, self guided courses, unlike the ARE Boot Camp, which is primarily a face to face dialogue with lots of accountability.
Amber Book is a fantastic resource for ARE 5.0. It was created by Architect and Professor Michael Ermann, who thoroughly understands how ARE Candidates are visual learners.The Amber Book teaching method uses animations and graphics to help teach the content.
Since the test only cares about your ability to answer the question, Amber Book really focuses on making sure you know how to answer the questions.
Amber Book consists of:
- Over 50 hours of videos filled with interactive questions and exercises.
- A hardcopy workbook to fill in while going through the videos.
- Practice Exams
- And many more things.
Recently, I went through the entire Amber Book Product and wrote a very detailed blog post review about everything that is included.
Amber Book is sold on a monthly membership and since we are constantly enrolling members from the ARE Boot Camp and the ARE Facebook Group, Young Architect has the biggest discount available on the Amber Book.
PPI – The Ballast Book
When I studied for my exams, The Ballast Book (The ARE Review Manual or ARE 5.0 Exam Review Book by David Kent Ballast) was one of my main resources. Mainly because there were very few ARE Prep Resources available at that time, unlike today.
In my opinion, I think The Ballast Book has turned into a fantastic reference guide for all six exams. It's great for looking things up quickly and helping people see the big picture of each exam.
I don’t think it’s good as a teaching/learning tool. This product often lacks depth or thorough explanation.
Relying solely on The Ballast Book is similar to reading a dictionary and trying to learn a new language. Sure, the dictionary will help, but it's not going to teach you how to speak a new language.
Same with the Ballast Book. It will help and is a handy reference tool but it won't help you pass the exam on its own.
Young Architect has a 15% off ppi2pass promotional code, which is automatically applied when you click the link below. The discount does not work on anything that is already discounted.
Pluralsight ARE 5.0 study materials is very good. I frequently encourage people to compare them to Black Spectacles. I also like that they are very affordably priced.
A few times a year, Pluralsight ARE 5.0 resources has free Weekends where they let people try it out at no cost.
Architect Exam Prep
For around $120 +/- Architect Exam Prep offers a whole bundle of information for each exam which they call “Enchiladas”.
Each enchilada includes:
- A really well-done study guide
- Flashcards to print and cut up
- Audio MP3s of the study guide
- Practice questions in their practice exam software called:Online Multiple-Choice Simulator “OMCS”
Black Spectacles offers several products for each ARE 5.0 exam.
I stopped recommending Black Spectacles many years ago because in my opinion, I find it to be outrageously overpriced for the quality of content that is provided.
Many of the products that Black Spectacles offers are similar to products other prep providers offer at a cheaper price point and (in my opinion) at a much higher quality then Black Spectacles ARE 5.0 study materials.
Due to these reasons, Black Spectacles products will not be mentioned in the rest of these articles.
I don’t discredit Black Spectacles completely; some people have found value in it. More importantly, I want to encourage you to make up your own opinion on Black Spectacles and to compare them side by side to The Amber Book.
Many architecture firms subscribe to the Black Spectacles Firm License for their staff. Amber Book has recently started offering FREE Amber Book to architecture firms who are already signed up for a Black Spectacles firm license.
ARE 5.0 Practice Exams
Having lots of practice questions is fundamental to studying for the ARE. NCARB is testing your ability to answer questions and nothing else. It takes time and practice learning how to answer ARE questions.
Here are a couple of quick tips when it comes to using practice questions.
1.Use LOTS of ARE Practice Exams from many different resources and perspectives. None of them are perfect, so don’t settle for just one.
2.It’s a good thing when you get questions wrong; it means you can quickly fix the gaps in your knowledge. Make sure you are always asking yourself “Why did I get this question wrong?”
3.Percentages on ARE practice exams do not mean you are ready to pass the actual exam. Sometimes when people keep doing the same practice exams over and over, they start to memorize the answers and get a false sense of preparedness.
They are just a tool to help you learn the content. They will never be like the actual exam.
Lastly, all the publishers listed above offer practice exams and questions. The list below features resources that exclusively offer practice exams.
NCARB’s Practice Exams
NCARB released practice exams for each ARE 5.0 exam in 2022. I highly recommend spending a lot of time with each of these practice exams as a starting point.
One problem is that their answers are very short and lack a thorough explanation that other practice exam resources typically provide.
To access these practice questions:
1.Login to MyNCARB
2.Click on the Go button next to NCARB Record
3.Click on Exams Tab
4.Scroll to the bottom and click on Practice Exams Dashboard
You have to purchase each exam for $0.00 before you can have access to them.
Designer Hacks offers ARE practice-question software that basically simulates the exam. It is a web-based app, so you log into their website and start working on practice questions.
WeARE also has some really affordable practice questions that are very helpful and well written.
Gang Chen practice exams have always been very good and were pivotal to my own personal ARE studying.
While I disagree with much of his advice about preparing for the ARE, I think he creates a great practice exam..
Here the links for the latest Gang Chen Mock Exam books on Amazon:
- Practice Managment (PcM)
- Project Managment (PjM)
- Programming and Analysis (PA)
- Project Planning and Design (PPD)
- Project Development and Documentation (PDD)
- Construction and Evaluation (CE)
Intersect Arts XQ
Excellent practice questions from Kevin Griendling who created all the ARE video content ON Pluralsight. The practice questions live inside an app.
PPI Learning Hub
PPI (the Ballast Book) is moving towards putting all their practice exams online in what is called the PPI Learning Hub. They offer practice exams for every exam.
Elif Bayram is a good friend of Young Architect and also took the ARE Boot Camp. She’s created fantastic practice questions for each ARE division.
Other ARE Resources for ALL Exams
Below is a list of resources that are available for all exams which do not neatly fall into the categories above.
NCARB 5.0 Guidelines
The NCARB Guidelines contain basically everything you need to know (from NCARB) about taking the exam.
It contains a lot of housekeeping information and a lot of NCARB’s policies, but the most important part of the NCARB ARE 5.0 Guidelines is that it contains…
- Detailed outline of what each exam is testing (broken down by each exam into objectives)
- List of references that were used to create the questions of each exam.
This information is what the ARE prep industry cross references to help them create study materials for ARE 5.0.
I strongly suggest spending lots of time understanding each objective you are studying for as you prepare for each exam.
The fast and easy way I use to access NCARB’s Guidelines is by typing in YoungArchitect.com/Guidelines to be redirected to the latest version of Guidelines.
ARE FB Group
In 2015, I took over the ARE Facebook Group and started managing it. At that time it only had 200 members and the group was frequently spammed..
Fast forward many years and at the time of writing this, the ARE Facebook Group has grown to over 12k members and has become an extremely active and engaged ARE community online.
The best part is this extremely helpful resource is completely free.
To be accepted into The ARE Facebook Group you need to answer several membership questions and agree to the group’s strict rules about never disclosing any of the content or questions you’ve seen on the actual exam.
The CDT Certification
When it comes to the ARE, my most unpopular (but very good) advice has always been:
“…you should become CDT Certified before you get started on the AREs.”
The reason why no one likes this advice is because everyone wants to become a Licensed Architect, yesterday. They don’t want to hear about another certification that isn’t moving them closer to that goal.
But let me tell you about the CDT, anyways.
The Construction Specifications institute offers a Certification called the Construction Documents Technologist (CDT) Certification.
In a broad sense the CDT focuses on understanding all the different phases of a project. Which are:
Conception, Design, Documentation, Procurement, Preconstruction, Construction and Life Cycle.
During each of those phases it breaks down:
- What is happening?
- Who is involved?
- What is important to each party?
- How do these groups effectively work together?
The CDT is one of the best educations for learning the execution of a project or “Project Delivery” as CSI refers to it.
I highly recommend becoming CDT Certified as part of the process of becoming a Licensed Architect.
1.The knowledge you will learn from the CDT will be applied on EVERY single project you ever work on. It isn’t specialized knowledge that you may someday use on a specific project.
2.The content of the CDT and the ARE very nicely compliment each other, namely the Pro-Practice Exams, however CDT information can be applied to ALL 5.0 exams.
3.CDT is more straightforward (and dare I say it, Easier!) than the ARE. If it's not in the one book, then it's not on the test.
4.The CDT acknowledges EVERYONE who contributes to the design and construction process, unlike the ARE which is primarily focused on The Architect, Owner and Contractor and how they work together.
5.The ARE can be a long process that takes on average 2.5 years to complete. The CDT is a quick and manageable certification that can be acquired in just a few months, start to finish.
6.Writing CDT after your name is recognized across the industry as demonstrating your knowledge of project delivery.
When I took the CDT a few years ago, I truly enjoyed studying for it. I was already a Licensed Architect with many years experience working on many different types of projects and I still learned a lot to help me better understand the project delivery process.
I think it’s a shame more people in the architecture industry are not taking advantage of this wonderful certification. Honestly, I don’t think anyone should work on projects in the AEC industry without having this fundamental knowledge of how a project works.
Click here for the latest CDT information from CSI
YouTube has become an incredible resource for ARE 5.0. Basically, you can go to YouTube and pull up a video about any subject you are studying.
I highly recommend using the YouTube Search engine to help with your studying.
Quizlet is a flashcard software that lots of people are using for studying for ARE 5.0. It allows you to create your own flashcards or practice questions, but you can also search a public database of content.
The nice thing about Quizlet is that it has a fantastic app for your phone, however their desktop interface isn't really the best.
I recommend setting it up on a computer and then using Quizlet on your phone. If you have any Customer Support questions, contact Quizlet (not Young Architect).
Using Older Study Materials for ARE 5.0
Just because a book is old or study materials are from a previous version doesn't mean they aren’t useful. However, there are a few things you should be careful of.
NCARB’s Transition Calculator
This beautiful graphic (provided by NCARB) shows how ARE 4.0 transitioned over to ARE 5.0.
Ballast, Kaplan, Architect Exam Prep, and many other ARE prep companies put out products for these exams. Generally speaking, by using the graphic above you can still use those resources to help study for ARE 5.0. Just make sure you cross-reference everything with NCARB’s Guidelines, which takes precedence over this chart.
The one part of this chart above I do not really agree with is PcM. Most of the content tested on PcM was never tested on the ARE in previous versions.
To effectively study for the PcM, you’ll need the Architect's Handbook of Professional Practice Version 15.
Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice (AHPP)
The AHPP is a must-have resource for passing PcM, PjM and CE.
You must use AHPP Version 15.
Older editions and the Student Edition of AHPP DO NOT contain the information you will be tested on in ARE 5.0.
I will discuss AHPP in the part 2 versions of this blog post for each exam.
Old Code Info
I think the best resource to learn Building Codes across all ARE 5.0 exams is Building Codes Illustrated by Professor Francis DK Ching. It contains lots of pictures and he’s done a great job of making building code a much friendlier topic.
There will be times when you will need more code detail and will need to do additional research, but generally speaking IBC Illustrated is about the right level of detail for the Architect Exam.
I do not recommend studying building code info for the ARE that is more than 10 years old.
Yes, I know they update the code every few years, but typically the changes to the building codes year to year are usually outside the scope of the ARE.
Old AIA Contracts
AIA Contracts is an area you need to be careful with on the Architect Exam.
Every 10 years the AIA updates its B101 and A201 Contracts. When the AIA updated the 2007 contracts to 2017, almost EVERY single article was updated.
But after I closely reviewed all of the changes, many of them were not significant. Oftentimes, the words of each article were changed, but the article still means the same thing it meant before it was changed.
However, there was a big portion of new information and terminology that was added into the 2017 contracts that you should be well aware of.
If you have already studied 2007 contracts and have a good idea of how they work. Check out this free AIA Contracts Course on the Young Architect Academy to update your existing knowledge of 2007 AIA Contracts.
If you are just getting started learning AIA Contracts then check out AIA Contracts 101 on The Young Architect Academy to help you understand the 2017 AIA Contracts.
Mechanical Electrical Equipment for Buildings is a very helpful resource for the technical exams. It contains tons of pictures, diagrams and detail.
In the context of the ARE, having the most up to date MEEB book is not really a necessity, but I wouldn’t recommend using a MEEB book older than 15-20 years old.
Each time MEEB updates their book, they like to reorganize the locations of the chapters of the book while only really making minimal updates to each chapter.
To help the ARE Boot Campers, who were studying MEEB together and everyone had a different version book, we updated an old MEEB Chart which helps people find the right chapter for the book they are using.
OLD Ballast Books
In my opinion, I think older versions of the Ballast book work just fine.
Ballast has published 3 different versions of the same book for ARE 5.0 and, after reviewing them pretty closely, I think the updates are minimal.
As I mentioned above, I think Ballast book is an excellent reference guide but shouldn’t be the main or only source for the ARE.
Old Brightwood ARE 5.0 Study Materials.
Around 2014 shortly before ARE 5.0 came out, Kaplan sold their entire Architect Exam Prep division to a company called Brightwood College, which was one of the first to release ARE 5.0 study materials.
I do not recommend using the Brightwood PcM, PjM or CE study materials.
It's basically just the old 4.0 Kaplan CDS study guide with 3 different covers on it and no substantial updates on them.
When these products came out, many people felt scammed and getting a refund was very difficult. Eventually, Brightwood College went out of business for much bigger problems and they are no longer a part of the ARE prep Industry.
The Bottom Line
I hope this broad overview of ARE 5.0 study material prep companies was helpful.
In part 2 of this series, I’m going to really dive deep into each exam, what it's about, share some strategies about how to study for that exam and break down all the resources.
The links for those blog posts are at the top of this page.
Good Luck with your ARE Studying!