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Most Valuable ARE Resource List

Updated: May 30, 2021

NCARB puts the list of primary resources for each exam at the end of each Handbook section. If you haven't checked it out, see the end of the ARE5.0 Handbook for the ARE 5.0 Reference Matrix.

Helpful Books

That said, there are so many other books and references that are worth a read when you're studying for these exams. We offer you here a few that we loved and found helpful:

I literally have a filing crate, and two tote bags full of various study materials I have accumulated. They sit next to my desk as a remnant of my studying and testing. And I am always brainstorming what to do with them now that I do not (necessarily) need them.

However, Books - Books I keep forever or until I pass them on to someone else I think can value from them:

  • The Business of Design by Keith Granet - is a great primer for Practice and Project Management. It's a quick read and the content is interesting but simple. I'd recommend reading it before diving into the world of the Handbook for Professional Practice. (Skip the chapters on product design)

  • Architect Entrepreneur by Eric Reinholdt is a great set of two books that cover starting a firm, branding, marketing, side hustling, and so much more. I absolutely love these books because they are written for real-life designers. These thin books are packed with useful insight. Zero fluff and a fun read.

  • Image of the City by Kevin Lynch - I love this little book - Learn the concept of Edge, Path, Node, District, and Landmark, but otherwise just read this book

  • Building Construction Illustrated - Look, This is on the ARE Handbook Matrix - but we can not recommend this resource enough. It is a VISUAL GUIDE to construction details you will need to BE FAMILIAR WITH. Especially, those young people out there taking their exams without much exposure to complete document sets or detail drawings.

  • Fluent Forever. By Gabriel Wyner - The "aha" moment for Ben while studying occurred reading a section of this book. To paraphrase Gabriel, when you read you are practicing reading. In order to improve your recall (what you'll need on these exams), you need to practice recalling! Close the book. Close your eyes. And practice recalling everything you've learned.

  • Ultra Learning by Scott Young - Anyone familiar with Scott Young's will know how incredibly powerful this technique is, and how many of the world's most impressive minds (and jeopardy champions) rely on active recall.

  • Ballast ARE 5.0 review manual - I studied everything, and THEN I STUDIED THE BALLAST MANUAL and it really cemented the points I was supposed to learn and refreshed me on anything I may have not understood.

The Usual Suspects

(references we used) - rated by me 0-5 stars in terms of importance to my studies:

  • Architecture Graphic Standards, The American Institute of Architects (3.5/5) - It is such an encyclopedia of details and graphics. Good to look at and useful to study deeper into details that you may not understand. Usually, firms have a copy of this for staff use.

  • Site Planning and Design, Thomas Russ - PA, PPD (4/5)

  • Architect's Handbook for Professional Practice (5/5) - Must read for PA - there is a breakdown of what to read in this for which exam out there that is exactly what should be studied.

  • Architect's Studio Companion - I HIGHLY recommend this - It is a well-illustrated book full of mechanical and structural insight - all of which you need to be aware of. (5/5)

  • Building Codes Illustrated, Francis Ching (3/5) - For those of you who do not have any exposure to building codes this can be very useful.

  • Problem Seeking, An Architectural Primer - Definitely going to be asked one question about this book - understand the reasons why certain things are done and user groups are consulted (5/5)

  • Sun, Wind, and Light: Architectural Design Strategies, Brown and DeKay - This is a book about sustainable design. NCARB wants you to know EVERYTHING about sustainable design. It is worth "studying" this if you have had any trouble with PA or PPD. (4/5)

Documents you NEED TO READ:

However, Books - Books I keep forever or until I pass them along to someone who will benefit from them.

  • Life and Death of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs - This is a great read about city planning. It is kind of like the bible of city planning actually. Definitely, every architect should read this book during their career.

  • Outliers: The story of success - This book is about how to become an expert at a subject. It is the basis of the 10,000 hours equals excellence. I often go back to this book for tips.

Other resources we do not necessarily recommend:

MEEB - I have owned this book since school and only opened it ONCE in 13 years and that was to read the ENTIRE CHAPTER ON ELEVATORS for PPD.

Creating Defensible Space - This book is the basis for CPTED - Crime Prevention through Environmental Design. This is a concept you need to know about for PA. I read a ton about this controversial topic - the gist is - how can you make places less scary for people to be in.

Brightwood PPD Study Guide - It is a useful secondary study guide for PPD for people who have trouble passing this exam.


This is where I'd like to ask you to COMMENT BELOW on your primary references, anywhere you found clarity on that "one thing" that took you the longest to understand, and any resources you used that are not listed on the NCARB primary resources information.

Was there something, somewhere, or someone who really helped you pass a particular exam?

Is there a book that we did not list here that really made a difference to you?

Our goal is and will always be to HELP PEOPLE PASS the AREs. If you have helpful information please pass it along!

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