I have a young daughter who questions every decision I make in life. I recently read an article that encourages me, as her parent, NOT to answer her question.
Instead, ask HER what SHE thinks the answer is. That stimulates critical (aka, next level) thinking.
The way to gain knowledge is not to simply read the answer and associate A with B, or Concave with What is the best exterior brick joint type for moisture resistance. The way to gain knowledge is to work through the problem and solve it for yourself. This critical thinking is what creates the links and pathways in your mind, that take you to places where you will remember the answer.
I speak from experience here. I first started testing in the tail end of ARE 4.0, at the point where I was racing to only have 5 exams instead of 6 (5.0) or 7 (4.0). I scheduled ARE 4.0 Construction Documents & Services exam, which is now dispersed through ARE 5.0 in PjM, PcM, PDD, and CE. I studied the study guides and knew them word for word. If you asked me the answer to the question on page 62 paragraph 3, I would have been able to recite the answer to you. The problem was, I did not UNDERSTAND what I was reciting to you. It turns out, the tests expect you to UNDERSTAND what they are asking you.
(For the record, I took CDs twice. Attempt #1 - I passed the Vignette, and failed the question section. Attempt #2 – I PASSED the question piece, and panicked when I got to the vignette, drew the floor 1 foot too short, and failed my race against the clock to correct the building section.) At which time I let ARE 4.0 fade away and moved on to ARE 5.0. (With all the testing books and study guides I purchased for 4.0 . …)
Knowing is defined by Merriam Webster as “having or reflecting knowledge.” Knowledge is defined by knowing something through experience or association. (i.e. the last time the answer to the above example about brick joints was concave, so this time the answer is still concave).
Understanding is defined as “the power of comprehending,” and “the power to make experience intelligible by applying concepts and categories.” Understanding means to be able to follow through with a process to come to the correct conclusion. It is comprehension. The ARE Handbook explicitly tells you that you will need to UNDERSTAND to answer a large portion of the questions.
If you have taken any ARE, you know that the questions are designed in a manner to make you doubt your answers. When you understand the question being asked, and know WHY the answer is what it is, you will not be thrown off by that second option that seems right but is not the best choice. That will be because you KNOW the answer, not just because you THINK you recall the answer.
The more you do this, the more knowledge you accumulate. The more knowledge you accumulate the better you know the subject. The path to becoming an expert has to start somewhere.