Updated: Oct 22, 2020
Studying for your next ARE exam but don't know where to start? This list will help you get organized and tackle those study books. Enjoy!
Bullet the Handbook!
You should never have to guess what's on these exams. NCARB is exhaustive about disclosing exactly what you will be tested on. Before each exam, reference that section in the ARE handbook (found here). Read through each objective and make a bullet pointed list of each item described. This is your test! As you study, check off each item when you feel you've understood it.
Skim a Study Guide.
Which is better? A study guide or a primary resource? The ongoing debate! But the answer is neither and both. A good study guide is essential to successful studying. Study guides offer a quick look at a lot of content. Take PCM as an example. My preferred study guide for PCM is only about 50 pages. I can read this in an evening and get a broad understanding of the content. Now as I read through 1200 pages of the Architect's Handbook of Professional Practice...I know what to look for! A study guide keeps you on track. My preferred study guides are The PPI ARE Review Manual and Brightwood.
Read Primary Resources.
I will stress, read the primary resources! This is fundamental for ARE studying. These books are expensive, heavy, and sometimes soul draining, but they are everything you need to know. Do you need every resource? Probably not. When studying for PPD and PDD I had a choice between Building Construction Illustrated and Architectural Graphic Standards. I chose the former...I preferred those illustrations. Either book would do. My suggestion is to visit the NCARB ARE Forums and see what other people suggest. There are many great posts listing "yes" or "no" to recommended resources.
Take Practice Exams.
The most crucial piece of advice I can give...take practice exams. You might wonder...aren't you biased? You've created a practice exam site! And sure I might prefer you use mine, but I can also recommend a few others. DesignerHacks is well-known and I'll admit to using it on occasion. I've found their quizzes to be top-notch. If you are an AIA member, check out ArchiPrep. The interface is fantastic and the questions are spot on. Feedback is so important. Don't wait until the night before your test to take a practice exam. You should be getting reliable feedback from the moment you start studying to the day before your exam. It will change everything.