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.
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…
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.
$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.
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
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:
Reading through the all actual contracts above at least once
Rewriting the contracts in shorthand as described in Christopher Richardson’s NCARB forum post
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.
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
Contracts: free on AIA website
Schiff Hardin Lectures: Free
Contract shorthand: free
Young Architects Contracts Course individually ($85), one-time purchase
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.
CSI Divisions Deck – It is important to be familiar with the common CSI divisions for this exam.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 challenges with the Construction & Evaluation Exam.
I got the official score report from NCARB last night, so excited to share that I passed CE this Tuesday! I was really nervous about this exam, since it had been my only fail so far, and I did NOT want to pay that $235 again. My major challenges for this test were:
A definite lack of clarity from NCARB’s side on the inclusion of the construction & detail sections of this exam, for examples, details, sections, etc, that they showed in the Handbook practice questions, but not in their reference lists.
Struggling to read these contracts all over again. When I feel like I know something already, my brain starts to shut it out, because it feels like I already know this information. But rereading and rewriting the contracts was definitely helpful for me.
A lack of practice questions that dealt with those construction sections that I mentioned above, but I’ll be sharing some resources I found in my normal detailed blog post that I do after every passed exam.
Figuring out what was or was not important in terms of contracts. Do I need to memorize all the contract times and time limits, or is that going too deep? I know there’s no such thing as over-studying for this exam, but I felt like sometimes I was focusing on the wrong things. At some point my study group found a video on deciphering welding symbols, and we were like, you never know, this might come up!
Worrying about any distractions and the effect it will have on my exam result. I decided to pursue my LEED Green Associate credential (which I got) as an additional certification that I can use for work. I’m already a Green Star accredited professional in Namibia and South Africa, but I felt like I needed the certification in the U.S. as well. But I was really worried that the two weeks I took off to study for the LEED Green Associate exams would make or break me for CE.
Do I need more experience in residential construction? A lot of the projects that I’ve worked on have been institutional, educational, healthcare, and I’ve never worked on a building that used wood structure before. I was worried that the lack of experience in this specific area would hurt me in the exam, but my study group made sure to look at examples of actual construction sets, so i was at least familiar with how things would actually look, and of course, there are the textbooks that cover those things as well.
What will my timeline be like if I fail? I’m currently trying to take and pass all of my exams before NCARB transitions into the new testing provider PSI. If I failed CE, would I have to further delay taking my PPD and PDD? Luckily it didn’t come to that, but it was a genuine worry that I had.
Do you know this famous quote from Muhammad Ali?
This is me right now. I hate studying so much! I feel like I watched summer pass me by through the window by my desk. This test takes so much out of you in terms of time and mental load, and it bothers me that I feel like I can’t be fully present for my family and friends. But I think that the end result is definitely worth it.
Overall, I would say that I’m super happy and relieved that I have this exam under my belt, and ecstatic that I am halfway through this process. I am trying to make sure that this time I intentionally celebrate my win, and properly rest before I dive into PA. Stay tuned for my detailed blog post, and I wish you guys all the best in your ARE journey’s as well. If you have any specific questions about CE, make sure to ask me in the comments, and I may be able to address them in my upcoming blog post.
Explaining the differences between the statute of repose and statute of limitations, with a free wallpaper download!
*This post has been corrected based off of helpful information from the ARE Facebook group.*
So in my ARE study group we were discussing the differences between these two concepts, and how confusing the many different references can be when trying to explain them. You can read several resources and watch many videos explaining the concept of statute of repose and statute of limitations, and that’s all fine and dandy, but what the actual limits when it comes to construction?
Here are some of the videos I checked out for reference:
Another helpful video by an actual architect, Werner Sabo:
These videos were helpful, but they didn’t give me the answer I was looking for. I thought it would be best to check the Architects Handbook, as it is definitely one of the main resources that NCARB is using to create these exams. *However, it does appear that the AHPP is wrong on this one.
What I found was, at its most basic level:
Statute of Repose is a claim based on negligence for design professionals or others, 3 to 10 years after substantial completion.
Statute of Limitations sets time limits under which claims can be made, commencing when the alleged digression is discovered, normally 10 years.
That’s it, that’s the difference. Each state has its own time limits, I had fun checking out mine, which seem pretty average (this list taught me to never sign a contract in Maine, lol.) There are also reasons why on average, statutes of repose are longer than statutes of limitations. To quote this article from Kevin Hara, referencing the Texas Supreme Court,
The whole point of layering a statute of repose over the statute of limitations is to fix an outer limit beyond which no action can be maintained. One practical upside of curbing open-ended exposure is to prevent defendants from answering claims where evidence may prove elusive due to unavailable witnesses (perhaps deceased), faded memories, lost or destroyed records, and institutions that no longer exist.
Methodist Healthcare Sys. of San Antonio v. Rankin, 307 S.W.3d 283, 286-87 (Tex. 2010 ) (internal citations and marks omitted)
To help me remember the difference between the two, I created a helpful wallpaper providing the differences in a simple way. You can get it for free at my Downloads page.
RMSM Studio and @arch_exam_study will be hosting a Live ARE 5.0 Study Session on Wednesday, September 8th.
Thank you to everyone who joined our live ARE 5.0 Study Session on the 1st of September 2020 with RMSM Studio and @arch_exam_study! We really appreciate everyone who tuned in to this brand new experience, and we wanted to host another #studywithme session as soon as possible, to help bring a community and social atmosphere to those studying for the ARE exams while social distancing. Our past session was hosted on Instagram Live, but we felt limited by the one hour time limit, so the next virtual study session will be held via Zoom!
Together with @arch_exam_study, we will be hosting a Live ARE 5.0 Study Session on Wednesday, September 9th, 2020 at 6:00 pm EST. The session will take place over 2 hours, and will be hosted via Zoom, so make sure to register in advance to get a notification when the event starts.
A quick intro, then silent study for two hours using the Pomodoro technique (25 minutes study, 5 minutes break). I can answer any comments or questions about study techniques or materials during the 5-minute breaks. I will be studying for the CE exam, but you can feel free to join in and study for any exam you choose.
What is a #Studywithme Session?
A #studywithme session is a video, either live or prerecorded of someone studying for an exam. The videos show people engaged in focused styuding activities, which can encourage you to stay focused as well, and helps replicate a coffee shop or library environment, where you can be both social and productive.
A live ARE 5.0 virtual study session on Instagram, in collaboration with @arch_exam_study
Collaboration time! If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you may have seen my recent #studywithme video (see below), which I got inspiration for from following @arch_exam_study.
With over a hundred views on the first day, we thought it would be a good idea to collaborate on a study session together. So we will be hosting an Instagram Live Study Session on September 1st, 2020. If you want to participate in our session, you can join by following me on Instagram at @rmsmstudio. I’ve also created a Facebook event for this live session, if you want to keep it in your Facebook calendar.
Study With Us! Instagram Live ARE 5.0 Study Session
Prerequisites: None! Just bring yourself and your current study materials and join in the session! Make sure to check out my study guides for PcM and PjM for material recommendations.
The format will be a quick intro, then silent study for an hour using the Pomodoro technique (25 minutes study, 5 minutes break). You can even follow along with your own Pomodoro timer if you want. I can answer any comments or questions during the 5-minute break. I will be studying for the CE exam, but you can feel free to join in and study for your current exam.
For an example of one of the previous #studywithme sessions, you can check out my 2-hour Late Night Pomodoro Study Session here.
For Construction Administration, I really recommend looking at as many real world documents as possible. Studying construction details? Check out your offices standard detail library. Studying certificates for payment? Find some examples online or see if you can look at any from a past project. There are also excellent videos on Youtube that go into how to fill out or create each of these documents or drawings, like this one below on the G702.
Scorpion Commercial Group, along with their architect, Samsu Sola, has published an Advertisement for Bids in the Santa Fe Daily newspaper (see image below). They are advertising for open bidding a new commercial project located in Santa Fe, for a mixed use office building. Find at least 3 important pieces of information that are missing from the advertisement below:
The important information that is missing from this advertisement is:
Project Name and Location
Architect name and address
Project description including: type, size, construction materials and systems
Where bidding documents may be obtained or viewed
Amount of required bid deposit
Type and amount of bid bonds
Reference: Ballast: 49-3,4 Advertising for Bids
If you got all 6, well done! Let me know how many you got right in the comments. For more practice questions like this, feel free to check out the Practice Questions tab in the main menu. Also, don’t forget to sign up for my free PjM one page study guide, dropping on the 30th of August 2020. As always, happy studying!