When you first decide to take the ARE, you will normally go into full research mode. You treat it like a site you are doing analysis on, combing the net for study materials, handy guides, YouTube tutorials and practice questions, exam focused blog posts (guilty!), everything you can get your hands on. You assemble a treasure trove of PDF documents and a wish list full of textbooks and online courses, and you start reading. Fast forward a few hours, and you are completely overwhelmed.
The ARE is full of SO MUCH CONTENT and the sheer amount of information that you need to not just absorb, but be able to use for problem solving, can be extremely intimidating. What can be even scarier, if you’ve been working for a while in the field, is the practice of unlearning what you thought you knew, and memorizing the way that NCARB wants you practice. This can make you second guess your own memory and possibly your own professional judgement.
I got to this same point after ordering my Ballast book. I love to read, like LOVE to read, but this seemed like taking a good thing too far. There’s a difference between sitting down with a nice thick book and reading for pleasure, and sitting down with a thick book and being expected to memorize and analyze its contents.
The study guides, contracts, online resources, and the other miscellaneous PDFs I had collected and bought as part of my search for information, were also confusing. With this much data, how is it possible to prioritize and process all that I read?
This lead me to my number one rule for ARE Study Materials:
AHPP (Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice) First! No New Study Materials Until It’s Finished!
I created this rule for myself for a few important reasons:
- I have a habit of collecting a lot of data for the sake of saying that I have the information, then not reading it. This will save me a lot of wasted time in gathering studying materials that I will actually not use.
- The AHPP is frequently considered required reading by those who take the exam. I’ve seen many people mention just this textbook, along with the contracts and rules of conduct, as their only required materials for passing the PcM (Practice Management Exam).
- You have help in determining what is essential! Namour Wright collaborated with Wiley publishing to create very helpful guides regarding which elements of the AHPP were critical reading for each specific ARE exam.
- If I can’t commit to finishing this book, there is no reason for me to be flushing additional money or time down the drain looking at less comprehensive content. The AHPP is a big book, but the information it contains is crucial information for all 6 ARE exams. It is the only reference listed in the ARE 5.0 Handbook which has content used in the development of all 6 of the exams. Check out this references page from NCARB which illustrates my point.
So even though it is important to cross train with other materials, use multiple references, and understand and read through other documents, I still put the completion of this document as my number one priority, and until you finish it, I wouldn’t put another cent into buying anything else. You can buy the AHPP on Amazon, or directly from Wiley Publishing.
There are also pre-owned copies online, and often you can already find a copy at your architecture firm, as people who have studied in your firm like to keep it around as a reference in their practice.
What text would you consider an essential item for this exam? Let me know in the comments! Happy studying!
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