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.
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, jump ahead here. There is also now a free one-page ARE 5.0 CE Study Guide, available here.
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.
- 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
- 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.
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.
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.
CE Studio – New Online Course for CE
As I mentioned in my initial CE pass announcement, I had a lot of frustrations with this exam. I think there were many aspects of it that were not clearly defined by the NCARB Reference Matrix. I’ve tried to cover as many of them as possible in this article, but it’s difficult to go into a lot of detail in this format. If you don’t have much experience working on construction sites or with construction details, these gaps can be very difficult to fill in.
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 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. Each of the training sessions is 1.5 hours, followed by a live Q&A. 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
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!