What I Learned From My First ARE Exam Fail

After my recent ARE exam fail, I had a solid pity party for a few hours, then decided it would be more productive to write down what I have learned from my first failure.

Never Assume You Have Time Just Because You’re Moving Quickly

In the first half of the exam I was moving fast and doing good, I completed all of my multiple choice exams, and hit pause before going off to my break. I thought I had plenty of time. Fast forward to the end of the exam, with seconds left and still a few unanswered case study questions which I eventually just had to guess at. Time management is KEY to this exam. Don’t make my mistakes, make sure that getting through the test as a whole is your main priority and never think that you have it under control just because you made it through the multiple choice questions quickly.

Don’t Cram What You Don’t Know

Again, in studying for the exams, it is the same as taking the exams, time management is KEY. In the days before your exams, you’re going to be dealing with a lot of emotions and anxiety, don’t make this worse by trying to cram in a bunch of material you have never even looked at before. It will make you feel worse because:

  1. You’ll feel like you don’t know anything, even if you’re really strong on other topics
  2. You will get frustrated at your inability to retain this brand new information
  3. You’re dealing with exam nerves, and if you do badly on practice tests on the new material, your confidence will be shot

Make sure, well before you’re scheduled to take your exams, you’re making sure that all the topics that are going to be included in the test are a part of your study plan. Be intentional about what you’re reading, not just trying to read as much as possible. This guide on test-taking skills has a lot of helpful tips on getting prepared in advance.

Reinforce Your Weaknesses

While I wouldn’t recommend cramming new material right before an exam, I would recommend checking the information that you know that you are not performing well on. There’s a difference between trying to learn all the details of ADA clearances in one day, and having a look at your previous notes on contract documents. One involves completely learning new concepts, the other is just brushing up on what you already know.

I would say working on your weaknesses is especially important AFTER you’ve failed the exam as well. The study materials that got you a poor result may not give you success the next time around, so make sure that you are making changes to your methods or resources based off of what your previous exam was aksing you. This is part of the reason why the ARE’s are called “the most expensive practice exam you’ll ever take”. Failing is part of the process, and learning from the fails is part of the process too.

One thing I’ve done is to look at multiple posts of people who have passed each specific exam, and tried to change my method based on the different content that they used. You can find passing stories on the ARE Facebook group or in the NCARB ARE 5.0 Community.

Don’t be afraid to write your own questions

In my recent exam failure, I was very frustrated with some of the practice question providers, since I felt like they failed to cover some of the very technical and graphic aspects of that exam. I was also mad at NCARB for failing to properly specify the resources that were needed to pass that exam. However, being mad at external forces won’t bring me any closer to passing the ARE.

So my recommendation is, if you feel like the questions you’re seeing on the exam are not matching the materials you are studying, feel free to write your own questions. There is literally nothing stopping you, as long as you are not copying the questions that you’ve seen in your previous ARE exams. These questions can be at whatever level of difficulty you feel comfortable with, but I have the following tips:

  1. Use the source material. If you’re writing a question on contracts, use the actual contract to write the question based on what you’ve literally read in the contract, not what Ballast, Pluralsight or Hyperfine wrote about it. This is because a lot of study resources summarize instead of writing the actual articles, which may cause you to remember the phrasing or intent clearly later on.
  2. Write why the answers are correct and why they’re wrong. This will force you to explain exactly why you’ve chosen that answer, and helps cement the concept, not just the specific answer.
  3. Share your questions! Not only does this help other people who are studying, but this also allows them to let you know if your answers are wrong and why. If people have further questions. You can share in your personal study group, which you can join through the NCARB ARE Community, in the ARE Facebook group, or with your architecture mentor, and see if they can work through the correct answer based on their professional experience.

Mini Quiz: CM Project Delivery Methods

Mini Quiz from RMSM Studio on Construction Manager Project Delivery Methods

I haven’t had any experience in the past with working with Construction Managers, so I feel like I really had to go the extra mile to understand all the differences and roles & responsibilities in the different CM project delivery methods. I’ve created some very handy charts to help explain the differences between CMa and CMc, I may release it later when I’m less overwhelmed.

I’m also trying to get back into the habit of regular note taking instead of being so focused on watching the explanatory videos. I was really inspired by this video I watched today by Jorge Herrera on quick study tips. I’ll probably be buying an assortment of notebooks and binders for my path forward, and take advantage of some of these back to school sales.

Question 01

Joanne Bowman is the manager of a government branch looking to expand in the near future. She is looking for a high-quality design, with low risk. Which project delivery methods would you, as her architect, recommend to her? (Select two)

  • Design-Bid-Build
  • Construction Manager as Advisor
  • Construction Manager as Constructor
  • Integrated Project Delivery

Question 02

While on the construction site, the Project Architect Maryam Lanoir notices a defect in the work. Since this project is a Construction Manager as Advisor project delivery method, what should be her next steps?

  • Instruct the superintendent to correct the deficiency, as per the contract drawings
  • Notify the Owner
  • Notify the Contractor
  • Notify the Construction manager
  • All of the above

Question 03

Jessica Trevi is an architect providing construction administration services on a Construction Manager as Advisor project. What is not a joint service that she provides?

  • Certifying applications for payment
  • Preparing change orders
  • Reviewing RFIs
  • Rejecting work

Question 01

CORRECT ANSWERS

  • Construction Manager as Constructor
  • Integrated Project Delivery

Both CMc and IPD are preferred in projects with high building quality standards, and where owners want to reduce their risk.

inCORRECT ANSWERS

Construction Manager as Adviser is a preferred choice for reducing project risk, but it is not always used for high building quality. Design-bid-build, is known for being low cost, which also can create low quality, as well as being high risk.

For reference, read Ballast Chapter 3.

Question 02

While on the construction site, the Project Architect Maryam Lanoir notices a defect in the work. Since this project is a Construction Manager as Advisor project delivery method, what should be her next steps?

  • Notify the Owner
  • Notify the Contractor
  • Notify the Construction Manager

With CMa projects, it is the architect’s responsibility to notify the Owner and the Construction Manager of any observed defects and deficiencies. See A232 – Article 4.2.2

The architect is not able to issue instructions to the superintendent. According to A232 – Article 3.9.1, it is only communications, not instructions that can be given to the superintendent.

Question 03

Jessica Trevi is an architect providing construction administration services on a Construction Manager as Advisor project. What is not a joint service that she provides?

Preparing change orders

CORRECT ANSWER

Preparing change orders or construction change directives is not a joint service provided the architect in construction administration.

Certifying applications for payment, RFI review and rejecting work is something that is done by both the CM and architect in a CMa project delivery.


I hope you like this mini quiz. Let me know how you did in the comments, or on the RMSM Studio Facebook page.

All of my recent practice questions are now available in one place, on the Practice Questions page in the top menu.

If you want to find other great practice tests, you can also have a look at my One Minute Reviews, where I give my feedback on ARE study materials in under a minute.

Mini Quiz: Project Management

Mini Quiz from RMSM Studio on the Project Planning and Management

I’ve created these questions based on the Ballast Review Manual, which you can find for on Amazon, or search for a used version in the ARE Facebook Group. The Ballast Review Manual comes very highly recommended for multiple ARE exams, and you can check out the Young Architect website for a 15% off discount from PPI2Pass.

Question 01

Within the Critical Path Method (CPM), which items are denoted by a solid arrow?

  • Dummies
  • Tasks
  • The Critical Path
  • Dependencies

Question 02

Which elements form part of the project work plan? (Select all that apply)

  • Allocation of time and fees
  • Staff Required
  • Instruments of service
  • Milestones
  • Contingencies
  • Consultant work and fees

Question 03

Architects should consider the follow issues when assembling a project team, except for: (Select one)

  • Billing Rates
  • Project Size and Complexity
  • Personalities
  • Contractor Experience

Question 04

What is the typical fee percentage for Design Development?

  • 15%
  • 20%
  • 30%
  • 40%

Question 01

Within the Critical Path Method (CPM), which items are denoted by a solid arrow?

  • Tasks

Dummies are represented by dashed arrows, as opposed to the heavy dashed arrows which show the Critical Path. Dummies are another name for Dependencies.

Ballast, page 4-6

Question 02

Which elements form part of the project work plan? (Select all that apply)

  • Allocation of time and fees
  • Staff Required
  • Milestones
  • Consultant work and fees

Though the project can be broken down into phases and individual tasks, the instruments of service themselves are not an element of the project work plan.

Although time and fees allocated to the project can both include contingencies, contingencies themselves are not an element of the project work plan.

Ballast, page 4-8

Question 03

Architects should consider the follow issues when assembling a project team, except for: (Select one)

  • Contractor Experience

Architects do not make the selection for contractors, though contractors can be a part of the overall project team.

Ballast, page 4-4

Question 04

What is the typical fee percentage for Design Development?

  • 20%

On a typical design-bid-build project, the fee percentages are as follows:

Schematic Design: 15%

Design Development: 20%

Construction Documentation: 40%

Bidding: 5%

Contract Administration: 20%

Ballast, page 4-9


I hope you like this mini quiz. Let me know how you did in the comments, or on the RMSM Studio Facebook page. If you got none of them right, it’s time to hit the books!

If you’re studying for Project Management, feel free to check out my other Mini Quiz on the A201, and if you’re studying for Construction & Evaluation, check out my Mini Quiz on C401.

If you want to find other great practice tests, you can also have a look at my One Minute Reviews, where I give my feedback on ARE study materials in under a minute.