PPD Pass ARE 5.0 – Study Materials and Methods

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own.


I took and passed PPD (Project Planning & Development) on the first try this January, after 10 weeks of studying and with a bunch of support from my study group, friends and family. This exam was definitely one I was nervous about since according to NCARB it has the lowest pass rate of any of the 6 exams. I’m still kind of surprised every time I remember I have passed this exam, it seemed like something that was so unattainable when I first started studying.

The technical (PPD and PDD) exams are beasts and can be very intimidating. I’m glad that I persevered through this process and I can tell how much I’ve learned from where I started to where I am now.

When I started my exams in 2019, I attended a local AIA event where they were hosting an ARE trivia night. I hadn’t even passed PcM yet, and the people who were answering the questions related to PPD and PDD seemed to know so much, I almost felt like I would never catch up. And here I am now, in 2021, with one exam left, and more knowledge about toilets than I ever wanted in life.

All of this to say, we all start this process worried about what we don’t know. The important thing to remember is that the learning is part of the journey.

To see what I learned for this exam, read on below.

Books

Heating, Cooling, and Lighting– I almost exclusively looked at one chapter of this book, Chapter 15, which deals with the Thermal envelope, which is a critical topic for the PPD exam. I think I studied this book for less than 3 hours total. However, if you are struggling with topics related to solar and sustainable strategies, this would be a great resource for you.

Price:

$82.59 to rent hardcover per three month semester, subscription with extension option

$118.00 to buy hardcover new, one-time purchase

$112.00 Kindle digital version, one time purchase

Architect’s Studio Companion – This textbook is a great one for visual learners, since it is full of diagrams and graphs. Almost too many graphs! There are many helpful tables dealing with HVAC, building types and comparisons of system advantages and disadvantages. I mostly used this textbook to study structures and occupancy. This textbook is also heavily referenced in Hyperfine for studying HVAC systems, so I studied that while I did my Hyperfine exercises.

Price:

$29.30 to rent hardcover per three month semester, subscription with extension option

$89.03 to buy hardcover new, one-time purchase

$82.00 Kindle digital version, one time purchase

Building Codes Illustrated – I didn’t spend as much time with this book as I did on the PA exam. I was also reading a lot of the actual code while I was doing practice questions.

This book is a great reference for visual learners, since it explains many aspects of the code in diagrams. I had actually purchased the 2015 version just before the switch to 2018 IBC, since I thought it wouldn’t have that much effect on this exam. I still made sure to read the 2018 version of the code separately.

One great thing about this book is that the chapters are organized by the corresponding code sections, chapter 3 in this book is the Use and Occupancy section, just like in the IBC. I feel like that made it easier to keep track of where I would find the relevant information in the actual code.

Price:

Fifth Edition Kindle – $39.99

Sixth Edition Paperback – $38, one time purchase

Sixth Edition Paperback Rental per 3 month Semester – $19, with option to extend

Sixth Edition Kindle- $54, one-time purchase

Hyperfine PPD/PDD Course – According to my records, I actually studied with Hyperfine the most out of any one material for this exam. I also used it as my guide for scheduling my exam, since the assignments were supposed to be taken over 10 weeks. I studied this material over 25 hours, but I probably could have spent even more time with it.

I used Hyperfine a bit differently for PPD, since there were 10 weeks of assignments, I didn’t feel like printing them all out. So I completed the assignments digitally and worked from my computer. This was helpful in that I could directly click on the resource links in the PDF. I got the version without the additional case study.

Price: $45, one-time purchase, without 20 question case study

Books Not Heavily Used

Ballast Review Manual – I read some relevant sections of this book, but I didn’t use it extensively. I mostly used the Ballast Practice Problems and Practice Exam.

Fundamentals of Building Construction – For PPD specifically, I think I read this book for slightly more than an hour. I think this is more of a critical resource for PDD instead. I had the 5th edition, but they now go up to the 7th edition on Amazon.

Codes & Standards

ICC Website – IBC 2018

International Building Code 2018

I studied the building code in two main ways; the Building Codes Illustrated textbook, and by using the actual building codes online, through Upcodes, which includes the individual state adoptions of the IBC, or through the ICC website. I mostly read the code for this exam in relation to the practice exams or assignments instead of straight reading, especially Hyperfine assignments.

I would highly recommend that you use this resource through a digital website instead of buying the hard copy. It’s much faster to search through digitally, and it prepares you better to use the code in a digital format like you might encounter in the exam. If you want to use a hard copy, you can get it here. Make sure you’ve memorize the most common IBC sections so that you can recall them easily in the exam.

You can also pay on the digital websites to be able to search the code, but I wouldn’t recommend it. I think having to search for the relevant code section is a similar exercise to what you would have to do on the exam, and is good practice.

Price:

Code Access: Free for the websites, but it is also possible to buy a hard copy of the code, but I certainly would not recommend it.

Building Codes Illustrated: A Guide to Understanding the 2018 International Building Code, see above for prices

2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design

I have studied this code pretty extensively in previous exams such as PA and CE, so I didn’t really need to study this resource directly. You can read it from UpCodes for the actual language and the full list of conditions or scenarios. Again, I mostly studied this through practice questions.

One of my favorite resources for studying the ADA was with the videos from Archicorner and from the U.S. Access Board, which you can find in my ARE 5.0 PA YouTube Playlist.

Price: Free

Digital Resources

Quizlet – I collected almost too many quizlet flash card decks for this exam. To narrow it down to the ones I used the most:

  1. ADA Bathrooms by yuzumezu – This was helpful in terms of memorizing the required clearances and ADA standards.
  2. Door Hardware by Nciotta – This was a helpful deck if you’re not very familiar with door hardware.
  3. Occupancy Class and Construction Type by Yu-Chen Zhang- Great deck that can give you specific building types and how they relate to construction types, since these can be confusing or seem very similar.
  4. Architects studio companion ss by jeremyefass- Deals with concepts straight out of the Studio companion structural system comparisons.

Price for all decks: Free

ARE 5.0 Community Page

NCARB Forum/ARE 5 Community I highly recommend you check out recent pass information for the technical exams, especially in light of recent changes to the exam format. It can really change the way different people approach these highly technical exams.

Passed PPD &PDD and DONE!! with AREs!!! by Elif Bayram (yes, that Elif!)

PDD Pass – Here is my study strategy by Huy Nguyen

PPD & PDD passed in the same week! ARE finally done! by Shi Guo

Price for NCARB Forum: Free

ARE 5.0 PPD YouTube Videos – This was another essential resource for me to understand so many aspects of this exam. This includes (but is not limited to):

  • solar shading
  • thermal envelope
  • electrical drawings
  • structural formulas
  • insulation and U-value
  • HVAC concepts
  • elevators
  • lighting

I created an entire playlist just for the PPD exam that you can access from this my YouTube channel. Make sure to subscribe to my channel for more of my latest video content.

Price: Free

Practice Exams

Designer Hacks PPD Exam – WHen I first started taking the AREs, I asked my office to purchase the full Designer Hacks practice questions for all 6 exams, since they were the same price as one physical textbook. Designer Hacks is super portable, with its mobile version, along with multiple levels from pop quizzes to full length timed exams. You can find my one-minute review for this resource here.

I like that I can break it into smaller portions. These questions are pretty easy so if you can’t take these questions then more complicated questions will not be possible, so these are always a good starting point.

Price: This item was free for me as described above, but for this exam section alone it is $39.

WEARE Website – I’ve found that this exam is slightly more difficult than the Designer Hacks, and allows me to cross-train with different questions. They are available in digital form, making them highly portable.

One thing I’d highly recommend is to try and go through all their exam questions at least once. I noticed after I had finished one of my other exams that when I went back, they had some really relevant content that I had missed since I didn’t complete it.

One of my favorite parts of this resource is that they can be done as smaller portions, including short quizzes, and tests that can be separated into specific exam divisions. They also provide free versions of these questions, so you can see whether you are interested before you purchase. You can also check back on your previous takes of this exam, and see your progress over time.

Price: $34 per division, one-time purchase

ARE Questions – This practice exam by Elif Bayram came highly recommended in multiple platforms, including the ARE Facebook and the ARE 5.0 Community. These practice exams were probably the closest to the level of difficulty that you would find on the exam and are a great match in terms of topics. The level of flexibility with this exam is also great, since it has smaller pop quiz style exams, and then 2 full mock exams worth of questions.

The level of explanations for this exam are also highly comprehensive including the textbook that it is referenced from. I think everyone in my study group purchased this exam.

Price: $40, one-time purchase

Ballast Practice Exam – I went through this full practice exam for PPD at least once.

Ballast Practice Problem – I reviewed these questions with my study group pretty extensively. I spent a great deal of time with these practice problems.

Time Tracking Software

Clockify Website – This website is how I know that I reached my hourly study goal for this exam, 98.72 hours out of 100 for this exam. I use it to track my hours spent studying every day, and then can show you your total progress for your exam, and your progress for the week. You can use my study material tracker to list your hourly study goals for each resource as well.

I really like that I can start the timer as soon as I sit down to study, and it takes care of the rest in terms of organizing my time spent and putting it in easy to read charts that help me stay accountable. It is also completely free!

Price: Free


Other Resources

  • I did a very quick overview of this exam with Pluralsight Prepare for the ARE Vol. 4 Project Planning & Design, kind of like a speed round to get acquainted with the material. This method was recommended by Marina Curac, in a blog post I used extensively to help come up with my resource organization and time management for this exam. (Pluralsight is running a Free April event, but I don’t know if the ARE courses are included).
  • I also reviewed MEEB graphics for about an hour.
  • I was studying for this exam intially about once a week with my study group, and as we got closer to the exam, we moved it up to twice a week. We eventually ended up meeting three times a week. Each study group session we have is about 2 hours.

Resources I Did Not Use

Black Spectacles – Their Youtube videos were helpful, but I have not purchased their paid offerings. It was very expensive for me, and getting to use their Demo Exam wasn’t worth it for me. Their videos on plumbing deisgn were very helpful for this exam.

AEP – Expensive, and not enough positive reviews to purchase

Amberbooks – I didn’t get Amberbooks for this exam, as I created my own Youtube playlist, and used other Practice Exams. There are some useful Amber Book videos on Youtube though. I might invest in this for my final exam.

Young Architect Bootcamp – If I am thinking of possibly investing in this for my last exam. I’ll keep you posted.

In Conclusion

I was very intimidated by this exam, and I still can’t believe that I passed it. I definitely worked very hard to get this pass, and I’m sorry that sharing this blog post has taken so long.

If you’re looking for additional tips on the ARE 5.0 for studying and staying motivated, make sure to follow me at the ARE Studio | Study For and Pass the ARE Facebook Group . Happy studying everyone!


How to Use the PcM Study Guide: Live Event on Mar. 30

If you’re interested in learning some of the methods I used to pass the ARE 5.0 Practice Management (PcM) exam, you don’t want to miss tomorrow’s live Facebook session. In the Q& A Tuesday: Free Training on How To Use the PcM Study Guide, I’ll be taking you through my free One-Page ARE 5.0 PcM Study Guide, with resources, and study tips, as well as giving a Live Q&A on the PcM exam, and questions on starting your exam journey.

This live event will be taking place today, March 30th at 8:00pm EST, and is free to attend. There will also be a Live Q&A with me at the end, for any questions you may have related to the ARE 5.0. 

Bonus!

I’ve also decided to provide a giveaway opportunity for those participating in today’s session. In order to be eligible, all you have to do is watch the session till the end, and post your hourly study goal for the PcM exam.

I will select one person to receive a gift of the Walking the ARE PcM exam, which you can check out here, so make sure to comment and engage to be eligible.

The live stream will take place within the ARE Studio | Study For & Pass the ARE Facebook Group, my new ARE exam community.

ARE Studio Facebook Group Cover

ARE Studio Facebook Group Banner

This group is for support, providing information, doing live webinars, live Q&A, exclusive free live training (like this one), and study resources. This group is a community both for those just starting out on their exams, or those who have a few passes under their belts.

ARE Studio Facebook Group Goals

Look forward to seeing you all today, and happy studying!

*P.S.*

If you miss this session, you can still watch the recording inside the ARE Studio Facebook Group! Just go to the Guide/Unit for Practice Management after the session is over, and you will find the recording.

Mini Quiz: HVAC System Selection

The seconds are ticking down for my first attempt at PDD. I’m currently going through HVAC systems with my ARE Study Group (hi guys!) and I said I would come up with some questions on HVAC selection for different building types. I used the Architect’s Studio Companion to put these questions together.

Question 01

Brad Pitt is currently searching for a small two bedroom bungalow in a climate where the main heat loss is through the building skin in the winter. He is a big advocate for going green and wants a system that is sustainable. What system should he select to heat the building?

Question 02

The Tavares Continental Hotel Suites wants a new HVAC unit to service their kitchen and laundry spaces in an existing hotel that they are renovating. This system should provide heating and cooling, and plenty of fresh air. They want an enclosed system that can utilize the overheated areas to heat the underheated areas of the hotel. Cost is not a primary concern. Which system should the hotelier go for?

Question 03

Torrential Inc. is looking to expand their research campus with a new laboratory. They are looking for an HVAC system which provides heating and cooling, with good humidity control and efficiency. They would prefer a quiet system that won’t interfere with their research work, with a reduced risk of mold which could contaminate their samples, and can provide them with lower ceiling to floor heights. To save on energy costs this system will be tied into a geothermal exchange. What system should they choose?

Question 04

You have been engaged by a developer, the Yu Chen & Associates Construction Group, to provide a design for a hotel. The system needs to have low intial costs, with no central equipment, piping or ductwork. Due to the nature of the building operations, they would prefer to have lower operating costs as well. Which HVAC system should the architect select?

Question 05

The American University Washington would like to create a new 6 story Economics Building dedicated to one of their alumni, Ms. Manisha Singh, the current Assistant Secretary, Economic & Business Affairs in the U.S. Department of State. American University has stressed the need for a quite system, so as not to interfere with the lectures. The university has requested that system provide a low first cost with low maintenance requirements to provide room in their budget for higher quality finishes. What HVAC system would you recommend?

Correct Answers

For all answers, reference the Architect’s Studio Companion sections on HVAC selection. This is one of my favorite books on this topic, as it deals with system selection in a very straightforward way.

  1. Passive Solar Heating, refer to page 228
  2. Closed Loop Heat Pump System, refer to page 181
  3. Active Chilled Beam System, refer to page 178
  4. Packaged Terminal Unit Systems, refer to page 184
  5. Variable Air Ventilation System, page 174

Let me know how you did on this question, or share your alternative answers in the ARE Studio Facebook Group, and make sure to follow RMSM Studios on Facebook and Instagram!

PA Pass ARE 5.0 – Study Materials and Methods

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own.


I took and passed PA in November last year on the first try. I think some of the major factors for my success were the YouTube playlist I created, my study group, and maintaining the consistency with my study process. The scope of the PA exam is so large, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.

With this exam, despite meeting my study goal, I still felt very unsure of whether or not I was going to pass when I walked into Prometric. There were definitely some references that I felt like I could have spent more time with, such as Problem Seeking and the Standards for Historic Properties. But ultimately it’s the result that counts. Read on below to see what materials I used for this test.

Books

Site Planning & Design Handbook – This book was heavily recommended in the ARE 5.0 Community, I definitely recommend it for this exam. I think my strategy for this book was to focus on the chapters with relevant content to this exam. Focus on the following topics with this book:

  • Controlling Wind, Water and Sun onsite
  • Use of Shading
  • Environmental Conditions
  • Floodplains
  • Brownfields and Remediation, Radon, Lead and Asbestos
  • Unstable soil

Price:

$60.09 to rent hardcover per three month semester, subscription with extension option

$72.49 to buy hardcover new, one-time purchase

$67.82 Kindle digital version, one time purchase

Sun, Wind, and Light: Architectural Design Strategies – I actually love this book, however, I think the format is terrible for this exam. The book is designed to assist you in figuring out sustainable strategies for a project you are planning. Some of the content in this book was kind of obvious for me, since I am both a LEED Green Associate and a Green Star Accredited Professional, but if you are not very familiar with sustainable strategies, this book will be great for you.

It is really more of a workbook than a textbook, even though it is full of very useful information. I focused on reading Chapters I, II and VI. You may want to skip over the chapters explaining how this manual works, but I highly recommend that you read those chapters in their entirety to even begin to understand how to use this book.

Price:

$16 to rent spiral-bound per three month semester, subscription with extension option

$84.38 to buy spiral-bound, one time purchase

Building Codes Illustrated Textbook – This book is a great reference for visual learners, since it explains many aspects of the code in diagrams. I actually purchased the 2015 version just before the switch to 2018 IBC, since I figured it wouldn’t have that much effect on this exam. I still made sure to read the actual 2018 version of the code separately.

One great thing about this book is that the chapters are organized by the corresponding code sections, chapter 3 in this book is the Use and Occupancy section, just like in the IBC. I feel like that made it easier to keep track of where I would find the relevant information in the actual code.

Price:

Fifth Edition Kindle – $39.99

Sixth Edition Paperback – $38, one time purchase

Sixth Edition Paperback Rental per 3 month Semester – $19, with option to extend

Sixth Edition Kindle- $54, one-time purchase

Hyperfine PA Course – My main technique for using this course for PA was to print it out and do the assignment by hand because it’s easier for me to go back and forth. This resource comes as digital files, but trying to do it as a digital assignment wasn’t working well for me. I consider these to be a kind of textbook because how much resource reading I have to do for each assignment.

The assignments themselves are very detailed and come with multiple resources per topic, between 2 or 3. For PA, the way I used Hyperfine was to first read the resources for each assignment, then try to complete the assignment itself. I find this to be the best way to use it for subjects you’re not very familiar with.

Price: $40, one-time purchase

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) – I would mainly focus on the Preface and Chapter 1 for this book, as this is not a large focus of this exam’s objectives. It is important to understand the principles of CPTED and how they would be applied.

Price: Free

Problem Seeking: An Architectural Programming Primer – A very interesting book that breaks down all of the different concepts within programming. I would recommend that you read it once and try to understand the concept definitions. You will also need to understand the process of creating the architectural problem, which may be familiar for those of you who went through creating your architecture thesis.

Price: Paperback: $65.16, Kindle: $54.00

Ballast Review Manual – I read the PA sections of this textbook.

Codes & Standards

Since this exam doesn’t deal with any contracts, I’ll use this section to talk about codes and standards instead. Most of these codes come directly from NCARB’s Reference Matrix.

ADA referenced in the NCARB Reference Matrix

International Building Code 2018

I studied the building code in two main ways; the Building Codes Illustrated textbook, and by using the actual building codes online, through Upcodes, which includes the individual state adoptions of the IBC, or through the ICC website. I tried to read the critical chapters/code sections of both, which were chapters 3,4,5,6, and 10.

I would definitely recommend that you use this resource through a digital website instead of buying the hard copy. It’s much faster to search through in digital format, and I would say that it prepares you better to use the code in a digital format like you might encounter in the exam. If you realllly want to use a hard copy, you can get it here. Make sure you’ve memorized the most common IBC sections so that you can recall them easily in the exam.

Building Codes Illustrated, as mentioned above, takes a lot of the codes concepts and simplifies and diagrams them, however, I would still recommend that you read through the entire relevant code sections, before you use the summarized version. Also keep in mind that for this exam, NCARB has moved on to the 2018 version of the IBC, so make sure your study materials reflect that.

Price:

Code Access: Free for the websites, but it is also possible to buy a hard copy of the code, but I certainly would not recommend it.

Building Codes Illustrated: A Guide to Understanding the 2018 International Building Code, see above for prices

2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design

I would say this is one of these resources that you should use as a primary resource. Many different ARE prep materials reference the diagrams and definitions from this standard, but the definitions can be simplified to the point where it’s difficult to determine the difference between similar conditions.

So I would highly recommend that you read through this code from UpCodes in its entirety before you move on to reading about it from somewhere else. It will really help you understand where each standard is actually used.

One of my favorite resources for studying the ADA was with the videos from Archicorner and from the U.S. Access Board, which you can find in my ARE 5.0 PA YouTube Playlist.

Price: Free

Protruding Objects video from the U.S. Access Board as part of my ARE 5.0 PA Playlist.

Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties

This document is very straightforward document, that I wouldn’t say that you need to do a deep and detailed reading on. Just make sure you understand the definitions for each of the treatment methods (I have a Quizlet deck for this below).

When I was reading this book, I went through the:

  • Introduction, page 2
  • Historical Overview, page 4
  • Introduction Sections for Each of the Standards (Preservation, Rehabilitation, Restoration, and Reconstruction)

You can read the sections on building materials, features and systems, etc. but I did not focus on those for this exam.

Price: Free

Digital Resources

Quizlet – I am very big on using my time efficiently for this exam, which is why I don’t spend a lot of time making physical flashcards. Many topics within PA are pretty self-explanatory when it comes to their definitions, so my focus was on the more standards, codes, and soil information, that cna’t be easily guessed at, or which can be easily confused for a similar word or definition.

  1. ADA Deck by glhightower- This was helpful in terms of memorizing the required clearances and ADA standards.
  2. Building Efficiency Deck by Yu-Chen Zhang- It is important to study how different spaces are calculated in terms of net assignable areas and gross area.
  3. Historic Preservation Standards Deck by Chase Jackson- Many of the terms within the Secretary of the Interiors Standards can sound very similar, so it is important to know the definitions in detail.
  4. Soils Deck by MADSHOTDOT- Concepts related to soil, including sizes, performance and types

Price for all decks: Free

NCARB Forum/ARE 5 Community I use this resource a lot to figure out what resources I will actually use. I will always compare the NCARB Reference Matrix to what the Community says has actually worked for them in the past. Unfortunately, NCARB recently purged their older posts, meaning years of exam passes and knowledge is now lost to us, however, of the posts that remain, here is what I would recommend you look at:

PA Pass! Tips and Study Materials by Pedro Espinet

PA Pass Tips! by Ashley Biren

“Likely pass” PA by Audrey Bertrand

Price for NCARB Forum: Free

ARE 5.0 PA YouTube Videos – This was another essential resource for me to understand so many aspects of this exam. This includes (but is not limited to):

  • water management, water tables and flooding
  • climates and sun orientation
  • floor area ratios
  • egress, ADA, and IBC
  • soils and site surveys
  • bioremediation and historic preservation
  • R-value, U-Value and Reflectance
  • Zoning and property considerations

I created an entire playlist just for the PA exam that you can access from this article or my YouTube channel. Make sure to subscribe to my channel for more of my latest video content.

Price: Free

Practice Exams

Designer Hacks PA Exam – I asked my office to purchase the full Designer Hacks practice questions for all 6 exams, since they were the same price as one physical textbook. Designer Hacks is super portable, with its mobile version, along with multiple levels from pop quizzes to full length timed exams. You can find my one-minute review for this resource here.

I like that I can break it into smaller portions. These questions are pretty easy so if you can’t take these questions then more complicated questions will not be possible, so these are always a good starting point.

I really like using these questions when I have an extra bit of time like if I’m waiting in line or if I just have time to kill and I can whip it out on my phone and start doing practice questions. They are also a good way to make sure I practice answering questions quickly.

Price: This item was free for me as described above, but for this course alone it is $39.

WEARE Website – I’ve found that this exam is slightly more difficult than the Designer Hacks, and allows me to cross-train with different questions. They are available in digital form, making them highly portable.

One of my favorite parts of this resource is that they can be done as smaller portions, including short quizzes, and tests that can be separated into specific exam divisions. They also provide free versions of these questions, so you can see whether you are interested before you purchase. You can also check back on your previous takes of this exam, and see your progress over time.

Price: $34 per division, one-time purchase

Walking the ARE 5.0 PA Practice Exam – This exam totally kicked my butt, but it was completely worth it. I took it in the middle of my studying, not at the end because otherwise I would have cancelled my exam. My study group and I all bought this practice exam, and took it independently to see what concepts we struggled with individually and as a group.

It really helped me with understanding where the gaps were in my studying, which is another reason that I recommend that you take it in the middle, so you have the opportunity to go back and read each of the concepts you didn’t understand. It really tackles concepts like zoning, site selection, and climate that I feel is on par with the level of question difficulty you would see on a real exam.

Price: $42, one-time purchase

Ballast Practice Exam – I went through this practice exam for PA at least once.

Time Tracking Software

Clockify Website – This website is how I know that I reached my hourly study goal for this exam, 99.62 hours out of 100. I use it to track my hours spent studying every day, and then can show you your total progress for your exam, and your progress for the week. You can use my study material tracker to list your hourly study goals for each resource as well.

I really like that I can start the timer as soon as I sit down to study, and it takes care of the rest in terms of organizing my time spent and putting it in easy to read charts that help me stay accountable. It is also completely free!

Price: Free


Other Resources

  • I did a very quick overview of this exam with Pluralsight Prepare for the ARE Vol. 3 Programming & Analysis, kind of like a speed round to get acquainted with the material. This method was recommended by Marina Curac, in a blog post I used extensively to help come up with my resource organization for this exam.
  • I was studying for this exam intially about once a week with my study group, and as we got closer to the exam, we moved it up to twice a week. Each study group session we have is about 2 hours.
  • I also spent some time looking at soil boring reports, and trying to find examples of the soil classification USPLSS to study from.

Resources I Did Not Use

Black Spectacles – Their Youtube videos were helpful, but I have not purcahsed their paid offerings. It was very expensive for me, and getting to use their Demo Exam wasn’t worth it for me.

AEP – expensive, and not enough positive reviews to purchase

Amberbooks – I didn’t get Amberbooks for this exam, as I created my own Youtube playlist, and used other Practice Exams. There are some useful Amber Book videos on Youtube though.

Young Architect Bootcamp – If I am thinking of possibly investing in this if I struggle to pass my final exam. I’m still trying to remain mostly self-guided for as long as I can.

In Conclusion

The exam was very nerve wracking for me. I was sure I was going to fail when I walked in, and I believed I was going to fail up until it said that I had passed.

I think this was one of those instances where hard work pays off, with being really hyper-focused on this exam, reducing my distractions and social functions and other obligations really making a difference in keeping me on task.

I’m hoping to share my PPD exam pass with you all soon. Let me know if you have any additional questions and happy studying!


CE Studio – A New Online Course for the ARE 5.0 Construction & Evaluation Exam

CE was an exam that I had initially failed, and as I mentioned in my original CE pass announcement, there were many aspects of the exam that I felt were not clearly communicated in the exam objectives and study materials. This led me to reevaluate my study strategy and focus, to make sure that the material I was studying actually going to help me pass.

To help you with this, I’m happy to introduce CE Studio. It is an on-demand online course, that will give you the essential concepts for studying for the ARE 5.0 CE Exam, giving you a structured study plan and helping you reach your study goals. This course will be starting on the 28th of February, 2021. This is a online course with videos and practice questions, not another PDF that will just sit in your Documents folder. CE Studio is designed for your to interact with it in multiple ways, and allow you to get started with it immediately.

This course is designed to help get you through these CE concepts:

  • Drawings in Detail
  • Project Management Made Easy
  • Estimation Essentials
  • Conquering Contracts
  • Tried and True Study Method
  • Schedules Simplified
  • Building Element Breakdown
  • Closeout Comprehension
  • and Take That Test!

CE Studio members will also receive assigned readings and material recommendations for each module, which will prepare you in advance of each lesson, so you can be familiar with the material and be able to ask deeper questions. Since the course is offered as on-demand, videos are accessible at anytime.

We will also be working out some of the practice questions using the NCARB Digital Whiteboard, to make test takers familiar with the software before they go into Prometric.

This course also comes with a 100% moneyback guarantee, no questions asked, and no matter how you’ve been taking the course, if you think it wasn’t valuable for you.

The best part is that all of this is available for an early-bird rate of only $94.50. This includes all video lessons, practice questions, bonus materials and reading assignments for 10% off. When you join the course, you have access to the course materials and videos for an unlimited amount of time, no need to email back and renew.

Early-bird pricing for this course is only available until February 28th, when the course content all goes live, so don’t delay signing up. After the early-bird pricing is over, the course cost goes back up to $105. I look forward to seeing you on the first day of the course, February 28th, 2021!

New ARE 5.0 PPD Playlist

I found out last week that I passed my PPD exam on the first try. One of the most helpful study resources for me was my YouTube playlist, which I accumulated over 10 weeks. I guess in many ways this playlist replaced needing an Amber Book subscription, as it provided me with a way to visually understand the content of this exam.

This playlist of over 200 videos is now available at the RMSM Studio YouTube Page, along with my other playlists for CE and PA. You can find the link here.

I still need to decide if I’m going to have a separate playlist for PDD, or if I am going to keep the videos for both in the same place.

For more updates on resources like this, sign up for the RMSM Studio Newsletter, or join the ARE Studio| Study For & Pass the ARE Facebook Group.

CE Pass ARE 5.0 – Study Materials and Methods

Learn what study materials and methods I used to pass ARE 5.0 CE exam from NCARB on my second try.

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own.


CE was the first and only exam that I failed, so I thought this would be a great opportunity to share with you the differences between the first and second time that I took it. I believe that failing an exam doesn’t mean that you don’t know the material, but maybe you need to refocus your attention to fill you gaps.

As I shared in my CE Pass announcement there were many aspects of the exam that I was frustrated with, especially the lack of emphasis in the NCARB Handbook on the importance of studying construction details. I hope that you all can learn from my experience and that it helps move you forward in your exams.

There is also now a free one-page ARE 5.0 CE Study Guide, available here. I have also created a comprehensive online course to help those taking their CE exams, called CE Studio. If you’re interested in finding out more, check it out here.

Now let’s jump into the study materials…

Books

Kaplan ARE 4.0 Construction Documents and Services: For my first try, the major book that I used is actually the Kaplan CDS study guide. It explains a lot of basic concepts very well, some diagrams and is very good at explaining construction administration concepts. I purchased this textbook, along with the Questions and Answers, which I purchased from someone in the ARE Facebook Group.

Price: My version doesn’t appear to be for sale on Amazon, maybe check in the Facebook groups or Forums.

Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice – I read this book mainly during my first try, focusing on chapter 9 and 10. here’s the Wiley Guide for the AHPP for Construction & Evaluation. I barely looked at the AHPP during my second attempt at this exam. I didn’t read as much AHPP as I did in ARE 5.0 Practice Management or Project Management. During my second attempt I spent a lot of time trying to focus on the contracts and construction details instead. I was able to get this book for free through my office.

Price:

$147 to rent hardcover per semester, subscription with extension option

$210 to buy hardcover, one time purchase

$208 to buy Kindle/e-book, one time purchase

Building Construction Illustrated Textbook – I only glanced at this book for my first try, like maybe a couple of hours which is definitely not enough for this exam. I went through the book and I had the digital version for that so what I would do is I would highlight all the relevant parts of the book which is very handy because then I could if I wanted to review a specific section all the important parts are already highlighted for me and it being a digital a resource you don’t have to worry about you know reselling the book or anything if you highlight and no one cares so that was very helpful tool for me another thing I also did to help with the sort of masterformat portions of the exam is building construction Illustrated also mentions the masked magicians each each section of the book so and it shows you something at all so tell you what part of masterformat it belongs to us I would highlight those as well so I get really familiar with how those things are organized what they look like.

Price:

Fifth Edition – $60

Sixth Edition Paperback – $36, one time purchase

Sixth Edition E-book – $42, one-time purchase

Hyperfine CE Course – My main technique for using this course for CE was to print it out and do the assignment by hand because it’s easier for me to go back and forth. This resource comes as digital files, but trying to do it as a digital assignment wasn’t working well for me.

Price: $30, one-time purchase

Contracts

NCARB covers a lot of contracts for the CE exam as you can see below. This exam actually includes the most contracts for you to review. I read through all of them. Don’t be intimidated by the number, since several of them are one-page documents.

My method for the contracts was:

  1. Reading through the all actual contracts above at least once
  2. Rewriting the contracts in shorthand as described in Christopher Richardson’s NCARB forum post
  3. The Young Architect Contracts course was an essential reference for me for the Project Management exam. One of the biggest advantages of this course is that it goes through all of the contracts that are listed in the NCARB matrix, not just the B101 and A201. You can purchase this course separately from the CE exam, but I had purchased it for my previous exam.
  4. Listen to Schiff Hardin Lectures

The main contracts that I focused on were the A201 and the B101. The way that I studied them was both trying to write the contract out in my own words, and using the Schiff Hardin lectures. The lectures were the main way that I studied contracts at work. I don’t get much time doing my day to look at material, so I mostly focused on listening to the contracts.

I mainly focused on Schiff Hardin during my first attempt at this exam. I felt very comfortable with the contracts when I failed, so I didn’t use Schiff Hardin as much the second time. The other contracts I focused on for this exam were the G704, A305, the C401

Price:

  1. Contracts: free on AIA website
  2. Schiff Hardin Lectures: Free
  3. Contract shorthand: free
  4. Young Architects Contracts Course individually ($85), one-time purchase

Digital Resources

Quizlet – Full disclosure, I am not a big fan of physical flashcard decks. They’re a hassle to write and organize. I greatly prefer using digital flash cards for easy portability, I can save my spot in learning and test myself all within one app.

  1. CSI Divisions Deck – It is important to be familiar with the common CSI divisions for this exam.
  2. Building Construction Deck- This monster deck comes with pictures on over 400 cards, that allow you to study many different types of construction techniques and construction administration concepts.
  3. ADA Flashcard Deck – It is important to be able to study ADA violations and measurements for this exam.

Price for all decks: Free

NCARB Forum I also used the forum a lot for this exam. I always try to look at what other people have done, and what has or has not worked of the forums. However the element mentioned in the forum that I didn’t take it seriously was the construction portion of the exam. I thought it wasn’t as big of a part as it eventually ended up being. I thought I could just look at construction details for a couple of hours to get a general idea and I would be okay. That was not the case. So when someone says it something’s going to be on in the exam, that means it’s really important.

CE Pass First Try (PcM, PjM then CE) – Tips by Aimee Neikart

CE Pass – my last exam! by Toby

Passed CE on 2nd try by Yasmin Fathi

Price for NCARB Forum: Free

Young Architect Academy Construction & Evaluation 101 – this resource was helpful in terms of helping me understand Construction Administration and Project Management for this exam. This was studied in tandem with the Young Architect Academy AIA Contracts 101 course. The CE course is broken down to cover the specific objectives of this exam. The video format was very helpful and allowed me to study while I was working, or I can listen to it in the car. In addition to the audio from the videos, the course also has assigned readings and case studies.

Like all YAA courses, this course has a flat one-time fee and you can access it for as long as you like as opposed to paying for ongoing subscriptions if you fail. I only got this course for my second attempt at this exam.

Price: For CE 101 only, $99

Hammer & Hand Website – I didn’t spend as much time as I would have liked to on this resource on my first attempt at this exam. I really like the way that this website takes you through the creation of each detail, and shows you how the object is being built and layered. The overlapping of some items for example window details for sheathing, which are kind of difficult to understand in a regular section. So I really like the way that it’s done in 3D for better comprehension. This website was really great for understanding thermal protection and Foundation Construction. if you’re not familiar with these details I would say this is an essential reference.

XQ for ARE 5.0 App – This app was created by Kevin Griendling from Pluralsight. I really like using this for my second run of CE, because it allows you to answer questions in all four of exam formats, including hot spot and multiple choice. This is a subscription-based service so you have to decide how long you want to use the subscription for but I felt like this resource filled in a lot of the gaps in terms of tests addressing a construction detail questions so I thought it was very helpful for that reason. Many tests are good at talking about the construction Administration side not many practice exams focus on the construction detail side of course it makes it highly portable which is another great feature.

Price: $19.99, monthly subscription

YouTube Videos – This was another essential resource for me to understand details, construction administration, tests, common building practices, site safety, construction materials, and ADA information. I created an entire playlist just for the CE exam that you can access from this article or my YouTube page. Make sure to subscribe for more of my latest video content.

Price: Free

Practice Exams

Designer Hacks PjM Exam – I asked my office to purchase the full Designer Hacks practice questions for all 6 exams, since they were the same price as one physical textbook. Designer Hacks is super portable, with its mobile version, along with multiple levels from pop quizzes to full length timed exams. You can find my one-minute review for this resource here.

I like that I can break it into smaller portions. These questions are pretty easy so if you can’t take these questions then more complicated questions will not be possible, so these are always a good starting point. I really like using these questions when I have an extra bit of time like if I’m waiting in line or if I just have time to kill and I can whip it out on my phone and start doing practice questions.

Price: This item was free for me as described above, but for this course alone it is $39.

WEARE Website – I’ve found that this exam is slightly more difficult than the Designer Hacks, and allows me to cross-train with different questions. They are available in digital form, making them highly portable. One of my favorite parts of this resource is that they can be done as smaller portions, including short quizzes, and tests that can be separated into specific exam divisions. They also provide free versions of these questions, so you can see whether you are interested before you purchase.

Price: $34 per division, one-time purchase

Time Tracking Software

Clockify Website – I have really come to love this website, and it has been really helpful for me in seeing the difference between my two attempts at this exam. I use it to track my hours spent studying every day, and then can show you your total progress for your exam, and your progress for the week. You can use my study material tracker to list your hourly study goals for each resource

Price: Free


Flora App – This is a time tracking app that functions similar to a Pomodoro Timer, in that it tries to reduce distractions. While you have this app running, you can’t run other apps on your phone, which removes a major source of distraction for me. One of the great functions of Flora, is that for each section of time that you remain undistracted, you can grow a tree or flower, and create a garden, which I found to be really fun. This app also allows you to bet money against running your time undistracted, which goes towards tree planting if you fail.

Other Resources

  • I used the Ballast Practice Exam and Review Manual.
  • I read real specifications and project manuals to help me understand the Master Format Divisions
  • I downloaded full Construction Drawing set examples and went over them with my study group members. You need to look at every drawing individually in the set, and become familiar with them. This is especially critical for those who don’t have a lot of Construction Document experience.
  • Practice drawing actual build sections, like parapet walls, foundation details, column sections, window and door details.

Resources I Did Not Use

Black Spectacles – Not a lot of positive reviews and extremely expensive. I wish they broke their program into the individual parts as it would be useful to try their demo exam independent of their other offerings.

Pluralsight – since Pluralsight’s PjM course is mostly contracts, I didn’t want to purchase both this and the YA Contracts course.

AEP – expensive, and not enough positive reviews to purchase

Amberbooks – I didn’t get Amberbooks for this exam, but I may use it if I don’t pass my upcoming PPD and PDD exams.

Young Architect Bootcamp – If I am thinking of possibly investing in this for the final 3 technical exams, if I don’t pass my two technical exams. I’m still trying to remain mostly self-guided for as long as I can.

In Conclusion

I was so nervous when I went into my second attempt at this exam, but I felt very confident with the amount of work I had done to catch up on my construction detail sections. If you want to find out more of my impressions immediately after my exam, you can see my article on it here.

Free ARE 5.0 CE One-Page Study Guide

  • Streamline Your Study Process and Focus On What’s Important
  • Learn Ways to Study Construction Details and Contracts
  • Track Your Study Time
  • Build Confidence by Testing Your Knowledge
  • Gain Understanding of the Testing Software

Construction & Evaluation was the first exam that I failed, and I wanted to share a method for studying for it to help you avoid the same mistakes I made. I’ll be sharing this one-page study guide for Construction & Evaluation for free. This guide is an excellent start for those getting ready to take this exam.

ARE 5.0 CE & PA Video Playlists: An Essential Resource

Hey everyone, I wanted to share these playlists with everyone, since I have finally been able to upload all the videos into my official YouTube study playlists for the Construction & Evaluation and Programming & Analysis exams.

I was able to pass PA on the first try this week, and doing so finally gave me the free time to catch up on some items I’ve had on the backburner.

Both of these playlists are based on the actual videos I used to study for and pass both ARE 5.0 CE & PA recently. There are over 100 videos in each, from a variety of lecturers, companies, ARE test prep providers, and more, explaining essential concepts for these exams.

Construction & Evaluation Playlist

I took CE twice because I was unclear on what exactly the scope of the exam was. They always say that the ARE is the best practice exam. Once I had a better grasp on what the exam involved, I felt better able to conquer my gaps, and redirect my studying. Here are the videos that helped me pass this exam on my second try.

RMSM Studio ARE 5.0 CE Playlist

If you are currently struggling with CE, stay tuned for my upcoming live course, featuring 4 week training series, going through essential concepts for studying for the CE exam. It will feature at least 4 live one hour in-depth training sessions followed by Q&A, with recordings sent to you after every session. If this is something you are interested in make sure to sign up for my mailing list.

Programming & Analysis Playlist

I am so excited about passing PA this week! This test was so challenging just because of the shear quantity of topics that you have to cover and understand. Imagine having to know about soil types and egress calculations all on the same test! But one thing I would keep in mind is that at the end of the day with this exam, it is truly about understanding the larger concepts, so you can apply them in your every day practice.

That’s why these videos were so valuable for me. It wasn’t about memorizing the details of a particular topic, it was about having a good understanding of the information, so if you had to apply it to a project (or in this case, a case study), you would know what to do.

MSM Studio ARE 5.0 PA Playlist

I hope you find these playlists helpful, I hope to be releasing the detailed list of study materials and techniques for both of these tests soon, and in the mean-time, make sure to follow my Facebook page or sign-up my mailing list to be first to find out when they are available.

Facebook Live: 6 Ways To Study Construction Details

I’ll be doing Facebook Live sessions this entire week, going over common questions and frustrations for the ARE 5.0 exams. Today’s session, hosted on the RMSM Studio Facebook Page, focused on ways to fill in those construction detail gaps that exist in the references for the ARE 5.0 Construction & Evaluation exam.

Tune in tomorrow afternoon for the next Facebook Live Talk. If you’re not already follow me on Facebook and Instagram for all of my upcoming live sessions, sharing key study tips for the ARE exams.

A201 – Substantial Completion Process for Construction

Understanding the process for Substantial Completion based on the AIA A201

So I recently passed my CE exam, and as part of my studying for it, I actually created a list of what has to take place in Substantial Completion. This list was based off of reading the A201 – General Conditions of Contract, and really trying to understand the progression of each action.

A good document to help you understand this concept further is the G704 – Certificate of Substantial Completion itself. Here’s a video from the AIA on how to fill one out:

So after I created my list, I thought, “This would be really great to have in the form of an infographic.”, so I decided to share this with you all. I highly recommend that you read the A201 yourself, try out some practice questions for it, and listen to the lectures for it as well for a deeper understanding. Lectures on the A201 General Conditions of Contract are provided from Michael Hanahan, Young Architect Academy Contracts Course, and Pluralsight Project Management Course, so it’s really up to you which platform works best.

Substantial Completion Infographic

Thanks for reading and feel free to check out my One-Page Study Guides for both the Project Management and Practice Management ARE 5.0 Exams(both free) at my Store. I would really appreciate it if you leave me a review, and let me know what you think. If I get more than 10 reviews for both products, I’ll be creating a One-Page Study Guide for ARE 5.0 Construction & Evaluation as well.

Did you find the graphic helpful, or do you remember the difference between substantial completion and final completion in a different way? Let me know in the comments!

My Studytime Rules

Rules that I use to keep focused as I study for the ARE 5.0

I spend a lot of time studying for my exams, so you might be wondering how I stay focused and study effectively. Together with my accountability partner, I was able to come up with some concrete rules on ways to study effectively without wearing myself out. You don’t have to follow these rules yourself, but feel free to use them as a template if you think they’ll help your study process.

1. Phone in a Different Room

This was a major one, as my phone is a major distraction for me. It’s the easiest way for me to get derailed in my study sessions. So the method that I use is to leave it to charge in a completely different room on silent. It’s a simple method, but it really works.

Another method that I’ve started using recently for productivity tracking and distraction free testing is using the Flora app. This app has a variety of great uses including time tracking and locked in study time frames, that stop you from seeing your phone notifications and checking your feeds, as you will lose all your studying progress. It also allows you to set time goals for yourself, and track your total hours over time. Flora also has a very fun function that allows you collect plants, trees and flowers for each successful study session, so you can create a new garden every week.

2. Laptop: Only Music & Clockify

Even though I avoid using my phone, I still need to use my laptop for activities like Young Architect or Pluralsight videos, Hyperfine assignments, or looking up concepts I’m studying, so I still keep it with me when I’m studying.

However, when I’m not studying with it directly, how do I make sure I don’t get distracted? I make sure that I’m only using my laptop for my studytime playlist on Youtube, and for the Clockify app for my time tracking. I’ve talked about how I use Clockify for both my PcM and PjM passes.

3. One Architecture & Design Event Per Week

In one of my posts, I’ve described in detail why I’m trying to avoid architecture events. They are a big temptation for me because I love to learn, but they also take up time that I could be studying. So I’m only allowing myself to attend one architecture event per week, and that includes events hosted in-house at my company. It doesn’t matter whether it virtual (they’re all virtual at this point, lol) or in person.

Since I’m still wrapping up the last few hours of my AXP, I definitely value being able to use architecture events to earn AIA LUs (Learning Units) and CEUs. However, I feel like the AXP Hours will come eventually, but passing these exams may not happen without my deliberate effort.

4. One Personal Event Per Week

With a similar reasoning as for the architecture events, I’m trying to limit my interpersonal events and meetings. My state is currently in Phase III of reopening, so things are more relaxed and there are way more opportunities to interact than just a few months ago.

However, I realize that these social events take several hours out of my day, between the transport and the actual meeting. So until I pass these exams, I’m limiting myself to just one social/personal event or gathering a week.

5. Only 1 hour MAX of studying on site visit days or traveling days

We all know that work can get intense, which is why a lot of people recommend that you only start studying for the AREs if you have the time available. As I’m about to mention below, if you don’t have 3 hours a day free to study, you’re really going to struggle with this exam.

But sometimes we have those workdays that drain you and leave you completely able to function once you get home. That’s ok! Give yourself permission to take it easy, if you need a break. Your body and mind will thank you. Build this into your schedule, so if necessary, you can study for additional hours on the days you know you don’t have site visits or late nights. On days like that, I give myself permission to study for one hour or zero hours.

6. Study for 3 hours a day

So this is my goal for each studying day. I don’t always reach it, but it’s what I aim towards. One thing about my studying method is that I plan what I’m going to study weeks in advance, and sometimes it takes less than 3 hours. That’s still fine! I get that time back in my day if I’ve thoroughly studied everything on my plate for that day.

Normally I track my daily hourly totals through Clockify or through the Flora app on my phone. Clockify also allows you to see your overall study totals, and seeing that number go up is a big motivator for me. I have a goal to study 100 hours per exam, which I tried to capture in the #ARE100Challenge, which encourages people to study 100 hours for the ARE Exam. I also use the Study Material Tracker I created to help me figure out my overall hourly goal for each study resource.

7. One detail or document a day

This one is straightforward and is very helpful if you are taking any technical exams or CE, which I recently passed! It basically means that you are checking out or drawing or sketching a new detail or document every day.

You guys have gotten this far, so I’m pretty sure you know how to sketch. For the documents portion, it just involves going one step beyond your study materials. Cross train with real-world examples of your study content.

For example, if you were studying concrete and slump tests, watch a video of a slump test being conducted, or check out an actual test report. It really helps you with filling in the gaps of your experience, and help you better visualize the concepts.

8. No studying after midnight

This is as simple as it is effective. I know in architectural studio we prided ourselves on our long hours and thought that showed a level of dedication in our craft.

However, there are a lot of negative effects of studying late into the night, the most important of which for me is that I’m completely burned out by the next day, and I use my late night to justify studying less the next day.

Don’t fall for this cycle, it is a trap! Get the study hours you need in enough time to get to bed at a reasonable time (now I sound like someone’s mom), and your body and mind will thank you. I want my mind to be in top form for both my work and for studying again the next day.

9. All Notes need Title & Date

Do you take notes when you study? A lot of people do. I was against it at first, because it just felt like repetition to me, but I’ve been convinced of its usefulness over time.

But if you have a binder full of notes, on different subjects without labels, you’ll have no idea what you’ve studied, the relevant objectives, and whether or not you’ve covered this material before. So I try to make sure that every page is labeled with the title of the study material, the subject matter, and the date. This keeps my notes organized and let’s me see my level of understanding of the content over time, since I write my notes in my own words.

Another useful note taking tip for me is that I don’t write what I already know. Really basic information that I already know and will be able to remember for the exam, I don’t bother to write down. For example, what is the B101? I don’t need to write that down, I know that easily. As you start to absorb information, you’ll have to write less and less in your notes, making it easier to review materials.


If you made it to the end of this lengthy post, congrats! Thank you for taking the time to read it all, and I hope this explanation of my study time rules gave you some inspiration on things to add to your own routine. You can download the study time rules graphic as a PDF at my Downloads page or my Store for free.

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