by Chelsea Weibust
So... you want to pass the ARE's?
Of course you do! And guess what, you probably don't have to spend $100's to do it.
There are so many paid resources out there, but there are so many more free resources you can take advantage of. So before you go spend hundreds on online ARE courses, books, or other paid content, here are my wallet friendly tips for passing the AREs.
1. Use NCARB Online Resources
Something I didn't fully realize when I took my first exam was the wealth of information the National Council of Architectural Registration Board (NCARB) provides on their website, Google+ and YouTube.
For each exam NCARB has exam specific resources available including sample test questions, pass rates, areas of study, and suggested resources, along with so much more.
I highly suggest reading through all of the content provided on NCARB's website for the specific exam you're taking before doing anything else.
2. Embrace the NCARB ARE Google+ Communities
The NCARB Google+ Community was vital to my understanding of not only how to solve the 4.0 vignettes but it also lead me to realizing why I failed my first exam. Reading other people's comments was extremely helpful for me to see where I needed to fill in the gaps with my study material.
Not only that, the community is a great place to feel accepted and understood at a time when you need it most. They can help hold you accountable for studying and continuing on with your exams, assuming you participate in the community, and are open to answering questions and having conversations about how you're feeling because they're all going through the same thing as you, often at the same time! That's some pretty powerful stuff.
You have access to the minds of many around the country experiencing the same thing as you - that's the coolest.
3. Find YouTube Videos
There are tons of helpful YouTube videos available from NCARB's overview of the testing software, testing questions, and vignettes, to Black Spectacles where they talk through and explain how and why answers are what they are. These two resources alone are imperative to understanding the testing software you'll be using on test day, what types of questions you'll be asked, and how you should be interpreting those questions. Once you can wrap your head around these three concepts, you'll be in great shape!
Are you taking the ARE 4.0 exams? If you're nervous about the vignettes, consider taking my class on
How to Master the Construction Documents + Services Vignette
so you can be sure to nail the vignette!
4. Take Advantage of Local Resources
I know I said not to spend any money, but you might have to spend a little money. But before you do that, make sure you check to see if anyone near you has testing materials available for you to borrow. The best places to check from the start are your architecture firm or a nearby firm, your university library or a local university, your local AIA chapter, and friends or coworkers. Chances are, you'll find that someone will have at least a portion of the resources you'll need which will save you a lot of money. If your firm or library doesn't have them, you could always suggest that they purchase them as these resources will benefit many others in the future too. AIA chapters are especially eager to get more designers licensed so they'd be most likely to provide them.
5. Listen to Podcasts
Listening to podcasts is just the greatest. I practically listen to them all day on my commute, when doing mindless tasks at work (like rendering), while cooking, just basically 100% of my time is spent listening to podcasts. Of the handful of available architecture podcasts for the ARE's, my favorite by far is the Black Spectacles podcast. They essentially take the audio from their YouTube videos and make them into a podcast. It can be difficult at times to visualize what's going on in the video but it helps you to be more mindful of what you're listening to because you really have to listen to every word to understand what's going on. For the podcast, they give a mock exam to paid subscribers then talk through the answers and help you think about the questions the way NCARB wants you to.
6. Use Summary Notes
Wonderful humans have made their exhaustive notes available for anyone who needs them and you can download on your phone for review wherever you are. This was especially helpful for me when I felt like I wasn't always able to get my 2-3 study hours a day in during the work week. The best notes I've found are Caroline Joseph's Notes and Jenny's Notes which are both extremely thorough and handy to use on the go. These are just a couple of resources, but a quick google search can lead you to plenty of others. Especially with the new 5.0 testing system, there will soon be variety of new resources available, geared toward 5.0.
7. SIGN UP!
If you're reading this and you haven't signed up, just sign up already! You're never going to be less busy than you are right now, and chances are, if you're reading this, that's a pretty good indication that you're ready to start! Signing up for the exam is the best motivation to start studying. The worst that can happen is you fail, and that's totally okay. I failed my first exam and while I was bummed that I was out a couple hundred dollars, I understood that I just needed more time and needed to approach my study habits in another way. I realized that there were a ton of available free resources that I wasn't taking advantage of and became a much better designer because of it.
So basically, the worst that can happen is you become much more knowledgable than you were before you started.
Comment below with your experiences and questions. What are your favorite study materials?
Good luck, and enjoy!