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.

Ways To Reset Your Study Process After the Holidays

Trying to get your motivation back after the holiday season? Use these tips to get back on the wagon.

Happy New Years Everyone! I don’t know about you, but I may have been a bit ambitious in my productivity expectations for the month of December. I didn’t have family visiting, and I hadn’t made extensive social plans, but I still ended up studying way less than I had originally planned. It’s really easy to get bogged down with feelings of guilt and ineffectiveness at times like this, but I decided to reset my thinking instead and shift my focus. You can take advantage of these tips as well, and let me know in the comments if any of these tips work for you.

Book an Exam

I have found that I work best under a deadline. As I’ve shared in my past videos, my entire study process changed when I bought my first exam seat in 2020. My energy, focus and priorities changed. Even though I am taking PPD in a few weeks, I decided to go ahead and buy a seat for PDD a month afterwards. This will allow me to keep up the momentum, whether I pass PPD or not, and stop me from losing focus if I do fail.

Connect With Your Study Buddies

I have both an accountability and study group for my upcoming exams, both of which I meet with once a week. In my first session with my accountability partner, she reminded me that everyone tends to fall off during the holiday season, and that it’s normal to fall behind during these times. It was great to hear that, since I tend to hold myself to very high expectations.

Connecting with other people going through the same thing as you will give a fresh perspective and understanding that we’re all going through the same struggles. It will also help you figure out how to move forward in spite of your setbacks, with a second set of eyes that can sometimes see a solution that you can’t.

Reorganize Your Calendar

One of my favorite concepts/thought exercises is this:

  1. Write down your top 3 priorities in life
  2. Open Up Your Calendar
  3. Check Where Your Priorities Show Up in Your Calendar

I love doing this exercise, because it really forces me to put my money where my mouth is in terms of organizing my time around the things I say are important to me. Long story short, if you say passing your exams is a priority for you this year, then your study time, exam dates, and study group meetups need to all be blocked off (marked as “Busy”) on your calendar.

For me, this helps avoid double booking myself, promising someone I will attend an event or a meeting when I’m supposed to be studying. This also helps me keep a regular routine, and build a consistent study habit. I did not have my study times marked out this December, which I hold partially responsible for my loss of focus.


Did you experience the same problems that I did this holiday season? If you did, let me know in the comments, and how you plan to overcome them. If you’re interested in receiving more updates and content from me, make sure to sign up for my mailing list.

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.

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.

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.

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!

I Passed Construction and Evaluation!

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.

PjM Pass ARE 5.0 – Study Materials and Methods

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

If want a condensed form of this very detailed post, you can pre-order my one page ARE 5.0 PjM Study Guide for free here. The study guide will be released on Sunday, August 30th, 2020.


I’m very excited to share that I passed my PjM exam a few weeks ago. I am releasing it late due to a hectic project, however, I still know exactly what I studied and for how long due to my continued use of Clockify, (which I go more in depth with below).

I worked full time (and then some), met up with my study group to study for this exam once a week, and listened to audio/video lectures while working, and got most of my studying done at night. Separate from my study group, I also had an accountability partner at work through our Iron Buddy program. I aimed to study at least three hours a day except for days when I had site visits, when I studied for one hour or less.

My major motivator in looking for study materials was to continue being very cost effective. I wanted to continue taking advantage of the resources I had used for PcM, while making sure that I didn’t have any knowledge gaps. I’m really trying to make sure I invest the money necessary up front, because no textbook I buy will be as expensive as retaking these exams lol.

I would like to send a big shout out to my study group, who were instrumental in supporting me and keeping me focused. I highly recommend you join one specific to your exam, so you can all learn and grow together.

Books

The Architects Handbook of Professional Practice (AHPP) a critical resource which was very helpful for my PcM pass. The would say that this document is an essential reference for the 3 ARE 5 Practice exams. There are AHPP reading guides provided by Wiley publishing and Pluralsight were very helpful. It goes over the roles and responsibilities very well for project management. This is a very thick book, and to be honest it is required reading, you really shouldn’t skip it. It’s like eating your vegetables. I was able to get a copy of the AHPP for free from my office, so check if your office has a copy.

Price: AHPP – Free for me.

ARE 5 Review Manual (Ballast) Ballast’s Project management section is very detailed and illustrative. I don’t have a specific reading guide to recommend, but you should definitely check out the specific Project management Chapters. Some people use this as a standalone reference for the PjM exam, but I would definitely recommend that you cross train with other materials.

Price: Ballast Review Manual – $190

Contracts 

NCARB covers a lot of contracts for the PjM exam as you can see below.

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. One of the biggest advantages of the Young Architects course over similar audio such as Schiff Hardin is that it goes through all of the contracts that are listed in the NCARB matrix, not just the B101 and A201. Since so much of this exam is based on the contracts, they don’t actually let you purchase the Young Architects Project Management course without the Contracts course.

Price:

  1. Contracts: free on AIA website
  2. Contract shorthand: free
  3. Study Guide: free
  4. Young Architects Contracts Course individually ($85)

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. One functionality that I recently started enjoying, since I joined a study group, is the ability to host live games using Quizlet to compete with other group members.

  1. AIA Contracts Deck – Also very critical for ensuring you KNOW the contract numbers, and you’re not just guessing.
  2. AIA Contracts Diagram Deck – This deck comes with pictures that allow you to define the contract parties relationships.

Price for all decks: Free

NCARB Forum Whenever I have a new exam scheduled, the NCARB Forum is the first place I go to learn how other people have passed the exam. Here are some of the helpful posts that I found for the PjM exam.

PjM Pass by Clarissa Hoskinson

PjM Pass by Klara Tully

PjM Pass – 3rd Try by Kelly Duignan

Price for ARE Forum: Free

Young Architect Project Management Course – this was a crucial resource for me. The great thing about this course is that it breaks everything down by the specific exam objectives. The Young Architect courses are a great value in that they are a one-time payment, after which you always have access to the course instead of a one-time. Out of all the guided programs for this exam, this one had some of the highest reviews and was the most cost-effective.

Price: It must be purchased along with the Contracts course. For both courses together it is $169.

Schiff Hardin Lectures – These are a great resource, especially for people who can’t afford to get the Pluralsight or Young Architect Contract courses to explain the A201 and B101 contracts, which are key contracts for this exam. These audio lectures are great to listen to during work or during long commutes, and they come with PDF slides so you can follow along.

Price for Audio Lectures: Free

Practice Exams

Designer Hacks PjM Exam – My office allows us to purchase one textbook for our professional exams. So I asked them 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.

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

Ballast Practice Exam – These practice problems were at a level of difficulty on par with the actual exams. This practice exam book includes all 6 ARE divisions, so you’ll only have to buy the book once for all of your exams. They are split up into the different exam sections, and allow you to answer them as one long practice exam, or break it down into the separate exam sections.

Time Tracking Software

Clockify Website – I now use this website for all of my exams, to keep track of the materials I’ve studied and time spent for each resource. I can even check my progress on a daily basis, and see how many hours I study per day. This can be even better if you have specific study goals for each resource. You can use my study material tracker to list your hourly study goals for each.

Price: Free


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.

Brightwood – The reviews for these materials weren’t very positive, and I felt like I have enough textbooks between AHPP and Ballast.

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 CE exam.

Young Architect Bootcamp – If I am thinking of possibly investing in this for the final 3 technical exams, if I pass Construction Administration.

In Conclusion, I’m super glad I passed this exam on the first try, and I hope you get some good out of my methods or recommended materials. If you have any questions, feel free to message me in the chat. Wanna study along with me? I’ve created a #studywithme video so you can join me for a 2 hour Pomodoro session, and not have to study alone.

Study with me in a 2 hour long Pomodoro study session – 25 minutes studying, 5 minutes rest.

ARE 5.0 PjM Study Guide

Free Pre-order released on August 30, 2020

I’ve created a one-page PDF guide to the Project Management Exam, capturing the main ideas of this very detailed blog post in one place. This one-page document efficient and easy for you to strategize how to approach this exam using my study method. You can pre-order your copy here.

4 Ways To Gain AXP Hours Outside Of A Firm

As you go through your licensure process, you’ll discover that time is everything. Hours spent studying for the AREs, experience hours for AXP, how long it takes you to earn your degree, all of these contribute to the time it takes for you to get your professional registration.

I also know that for many people, there is always at least one experience area for AXP that you really had to struggle to get. For many people in medium to large scale firms, that can be the practice management area, since they aren’t at a level where they could make decisions, or charge billable hours on that work. It’s the traditional catch-22 of, “I need to work to get the experience, I need the experience to get the work”. I am currently going through a similar struggle to get my hours in for Construction & Evaluation.

This has inspired me to create a list of some of the alternative ways you can gain experience, based off of both my personal experience and the NCARB AXP Guidelines.

AEC Daily

Free.

Free. Free. Free.

This is one of the best things about AEC Daily which is amazing because their library of courses is so huge. They offer online courses in a variety of formats for those in the design and construction industry. The reason that they can offer their courses for free is because most of the courses are created by product manufacturers or suppliers.

However, this is not a negative, because in order for them to apply for AIA CE (Continuing Education) credits (which they do) they have to be genuinely educational. Another great benefit of the courses being made by the actual product suppliers is that you get to see how each of these items and systems would be used in the field, their installation processes, and best practices for using them in your own projects. Since they are an approved AIA course provider, they report all of the courses you’ve completed directly to the AIA for you, all you have to do is check your transcript.

AIAU

The online learning platform hosted by the AIA, they have several online, self-paced courses that can help you gain experience, up to 20 hours per experience area for HSW credit (Health Safty and Welfare) courses. The website interface allows you to filter the courses to search for HSW credits specifically. The subjects for these courses can vary widely, allowing you to find something for each experience area, and many of these courses are free for AIA members.

Architecture Design Competitions

This one is a biggie, as it allows you to earn up to 320 hours in experience, which is huge. My favorite thing about this experience opportunity is that you don’t even have to win the competition, you just have to complete your entry. You can also participate in a competition as part of your firm, but it’s pretty great that you can enter as an individual as well. In order for your hours to count, see below:

The design competition must be completed under the supervision of a mentor and meet the following criteria:
• Align to at least one of the AXP tasks
• Be for a “building” or “planning” project
• Be a formally structured competition with specified
submission requirements
• Sponsored by a recognized business entity, governmental agency,
or professional association
• You must be appropriately credited on the competition entry

NCARB AXP Guidelines, May 2020

Some great websites to find architecture design competitions are ArchDaily, Bustler, and Competitions.Archi.

Site Visit with a Mentor

As I mentioned in the beginning, I am currently struggling to get Construction and Evaluation experience with my company. And with the current recession and COVID combined, companies don’t want additional people on site who aren’t there to work on the specific project.

I’ve decided to overcome this obstacle by scheduling virtual site visits with my mentor. No, this didn’t involve checking the site out via Google maps or live-stream. What he did was take me through one of his completed projects from start to finish, including all the client and community review processes that he had to conduct along the way. We went through:

  • site photos at different stages
  • site considerations and challenges the project faced
  • procurement process for bidding the project
  • value engineering
  • engineers and consultants required
  • reasons for specific design decisions
  • zoning and approvals

And throughout this presentation, I was asking questions based on what I’ve learned from studying for the ARE’s and architectural practice. It felt really great to apply my knowledge and feel like I had a real understanding of the concepts and processes he was describing.


These were just a few of the many methods available to you to obtain your AXP experience hours. If you have tried any of these, or have tried other methods, please share in the comments. For those still studying for the AREs, I’ll soon be sharing my PjM study guide, which is being released for free on August 31st 2020. You can pre-order it for free today!

I Passed PJM!

So excited to announce that I passed my project management exam just last week. This is another great step forward in my ARE journey, and thank you for following me this far. I’m still getting over my post-exam jitters. I will be sharing my detailed study list and study methods in a few days, but in the meantime, please sign up for my one page ARE 5.0 PjM Study Guide, which I will be releasing for free on August 30th, 2020.

You can pre-order it now, and it will be delivered to your inbox on the release date. Keep your eyes peeled for my detailed study materials blog post, try out some of my PjM practice questions, and happy studying!

Mini Quiz: A201

A 4 question quiz on the General Conditions of the Contract for Construction. The answers are provided after the questions. The A201 contract is available as a free download from the AIA website, and I’m currently studying it in preparation for my upcoming Project Management (PjM) and Construction & Evaluation (CE) Exam. It is listed within the ARE 5.0 Reference Matrix as a study material for PjM. Good luck studying, and if you have any questions, let me know in the comments!

Question 01

When does the Owner not have to share information about their financial arrangements for the Work?

  • Prior to the commencement of the work
  • When the Owner fails to make payments as per the contract documents
  • When a change in the work materially changes the contract sum
  • When the Architect issues a Certificate for Payment

Question 02

A Modification is all of the following, except for a: (Choose 1)

  • Construction Change Directive
  • Written Order for a minor change in work issued by the Owner
  • Change Order
  • Written Amendment to the Contract signed by both parties

Question 03

The Contractor shall immediately suspend any operations if they encounter the following conditions, except for:

(Choose 1)

  • Wetlands
  • Archaeological Sites
  • Burial Markers
  • Contract Documents in violation of applicable laws

Question 04

Select all items provided and paid for by the Contractor:

  • Sales Tax
  • Approvals for Occupancy
  • Temporary facilities not incorporated in the work
  • Utilities
  • Equipment and Machinery
  • Transportation

Question 01

When does the Owner not have to share information about their financial arrangements for the Work?

Correct Answers

  • When the Architect issues a Certificate for Payment

Incorrect Answers

Prior to the commencement of the work – Article 2.2.1 Prior to commencement of work and upon written request of the contractor, the owner shall furnish to the contractor evidence that the owner has made financial arrangements

When the Owner fails to make payments as per the contract documents & When a change in the work materially changes the contract sum – See Article 2.2.2

Question 02

A Modification is all of the following, except for a: (Choose 1)

Correct Answer

  • Written Order for a minor change in work issued by the Owner – Owners do not issue minor changes in work, those are issue by the Architect

Incorrect Answers

Construction Change Directive, Change Order, and a Written Amendment to the Contract signed by both parties: are all listed under Article 1.1.1 as Modifications.

Question 03

The Contractor shall immediately suspend any operations if they encounter the following conditions, except for:

Correct Answer

  • contract documents in violation of applicable laws – Article 3.2.3 The Contractor is not required to suspend work upon discovery of a nonconformity of the Contract Documents, only required to promptly report to the Architect

Incorrect Answers

According to Article 3.7.5 if the COntractor discovers any of these conditions, they shall immediately suspend operations:

  • Wetlands
  • Archaeological sites
  • Burial markers

Question 04

Select all items provided and paid for by the Contractor:

Correct Answer

  • Sales Tax – Article 3.6 Taxes
  • Temporary facilities not incorporated in the work – Article 3.4.1
  • Utilities – Article 3.4.1
  • Equipment and Machinery – Article 3.4.1
  • Transportation – Article 3.4.1

Incorrect Answers

All other items are to be provided by the Contractor.

  • Approvals for Occupancy – Provided by the owner as per Article 2.3.1

Thanks for taking part in my quiz, let me know how you did in the comments! You can also check out my mini quiz for C401 or check out my reviews for other practice exam providers.

Mini Quiz: C401

A 4 question quiz on the Agreement between the Architect and Consultant. The answers are provided after the questions. The C401 contract is available as a free download from the AIA website, and I’m currently studying it in preparation for my upcoming Project Management (PjM) Exam. It is listed within the ARE 5.0 Reference Matrix as a study material for PjM. Good luck studying, and if you have any questions, let me know in the comments!

Question 01

Select all four parties identified in the C401:

  • Architect
  • Owner
  • Contractor
  • Sub-consultants
  • Architect’s Other Consultants
  • Surety
  • Consultant
  • Subcontractors

Question 02

Which statements are true of consultant’s services?

  • COnsultant has the ability to reject work under their scope
  • Architect ascertains requirements for the Consultant’s portion of the work
  • Consultants shall render written decisions on claims and disputes relating to the execution of their portion of the scope
  • Consultant shall notify the architect of the need for additional services

Question 03

The Architect must provide the following information except for:

(Choose 1)

  • detailed layouts showing locations of connections
  • tabulations giving equipment sizes
  • the architect’s compensation within the prime agreement
  • investigations of other consultants not within the scope of the consultants services

Question 04

Select all methods of binding dispute resolution between an Architect and their Consultant:

(Choose 2)

  • Arbitration
  • Mediation
  • Professional Ethics Council
  • Litigation

Question 01

Select all four parties identified in the C401:

Correct Answers

  • Architect – Identified on the first page of the Agreement
  • Owner – Identified on the first page of the Agreement
  • Sub-consultants- Identified in Article 1.9
  • Consultant – Identified on the first page of the Agreement

Incorrect Answers

None of the other parties are specifically identified and named within this agreement.

Question 02

Which statements are true of consultant’s services?

Correct Answer

  • Consultant shall notify the architect of the need for additional services (Article 4.1)

Incorrect Answers

Article 3.1.5 Consultant does not have the ability to reject any work on the project, they can assist the architect in determining if work should be rejected

Article 3.1.1 Consultant shall ascertain the requirements for this portion of the work and shall confirm such requirements with the architect.

Article 3.1.4 Consultants don’t have the power to render decisions on disputes, they can however issue written recommendations on claims, disputes, and other matters in question relating to the execution or progress of their portions of the work.

Question 03

The Architect must provide the following information except for:

Correct Answer

  • the architect’s compensation within the prime agreement – Article 1.1, a copy of the prime agreement(from which compensation amounts maybe deleted) is attached as Exhibit A and is made a part of this Agreement

Incorrect Answers

Article 5.3 The Architect shall furnish to the Consultant detailed layouts showing locations of connections, tabulations giving equipment sizes, loads and other information on equipment designed.

Article 5.7 If the Consultant reasonably requests information from investigations, survey,s, tests, analyses or reports, or the services of other consultants not within the scope of the consultant’s services, the Architect shall request that the Owner furnish the information or services.

Question 04

Select all methods of binding dispute resolution between an Architect and their Consultant:

Correct Answers

  • Arbitration – Article 8.2
  • Litigation – Article 8.2

Incorrect Answers

  • Mediation – Not a method of binding dispute resolution
  • Ethics Council – Only related to ethics disputes against architects

Thanks for taking part in my quiz, let me know how you did in the comments!