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!

Live Webinar: Using Digital Tools To Study For The ARE

Learn how to set up and use multiple digital tools in order to study more efficiently for the ARE 5.0 Exam, and track the hours and materials you used for each exam, with a live demonstration and Q&A.

Studying for the ARE exams is a critical, but often daunting task on many architecture professionals’ journey towards registration. NCARB lists over 30 different sources in their reference matrix for this exam, and keeping track of all the resources and time spent studying can be a heavy task, to say nothing of 14 contract documents, test prep services, practice exams, and multi-media tools. It can also be a challenge to track study progress, organize materials, and create study goals.

Join me on Saturday, June 20, 2020 at 1 PM EST for the Using Digital Tools for ARE 5.0 Study Tracking Live Webinar. In this free hour-long webinar, it’s time to get organized and learn how you can use digital tools such as Clockify and Quizlet to study for your ARE exams, and study more effectively.

Join us for this live tutorial where I’ll go through:

  • Creating study material lists for each exam
  • Tracking the hours spent studying
  • Best practices for managing your time
  • Getting the most use out of website
  • Automatic graphics showing your progress
  • And more!

To register for this live webinar, you need to sign up here. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting. The meeting will be hosted via Zoom, accessible through your internet browser or the Zoom app.

If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments, and I look forward to seeing you on the 20th of June!

#ARE100Challenge Day 1: Starting My Challenge

Thank you to everyone who expressed interest and support in this challenge within the ARE test taking community, especially within the ARE Facebook Group. After introducing the challenge, I thought it would be a good idea to share my own journey with using it.

My initial plan was to start the #ARE100Challenge the same day that I released it, but I decided to push it back for a few reasons:

  1. My tests, like many others, were rescheduled. As soon as the notice from NCARB regarding the cancellations, I decided, with COVID-19, that I didn’t want the additional stress of an uncertain test date on top of everything else. So my next test is scheduled for July.
  2. I have difficulty retaining information from too far back in the past. Even if I started studying now, I’m sure that I would end up forgetting a lot of the concepts I learned back in April.
  3. I wanted to take a break to reassess my priorities and get in the right mindset for studying. Rescheduling my exams took a lot of motivation out of me, and my head wasn’t in the right space.

So I am starting my countdown timer from the first day: You can find the link to my #ARE100Challenge Countdown from Day 60 here.

#ARE100Challenge Graphic. Created by RMSM Studio.

ARE 100 Challenge Countdown: 60 Days Left

HOUR COUNT: 0 OF 100 HOURS

Studying for: construction & Evaluation (CE)

challenge step: step 1. Read All required Textbooks first!

My goal for today and the next few weeks is to read as many of the main textbooks for my exam. This includes the AHPP, Ballast, and some of the Kaplan books which I’ve been able to purchase to give me a general understanding of the Construction Administration topics.

I’ve already completed the Wiley/Namour Wright Guide for the Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice. However, tied into the concept of me losing things if I haven’t studied them recently, I would prefer to read them as second time as the last resource within this Challenge Step.

I feel like one thing this challenge allows me to do is be focused on one material at a time, instead of trying to jump from reference to reference. Cross training with different mediums is important, from audio lectures, to videos and practice exams. However, I believe cross training will come more into play once I have learned the essential concepts for this exam.

I will mainly be using the Clockify website to track my hours for this challenge, as it is a really easy interface for me to use. I’ve described how I used it to pass PcM here, along with other digital tools. I also plan on sharing a live webinar this month, on using Clockify to study more effectively for the ARE exam, so keep an eye out for that announcement.

Want to Participate in the #ARE100Challenge?

Download the Challenge Rules, and share your progress on social media using the #ARE100Challenge hashtag. Share your study materials, tips, diagrams, breakthroughs, frustrations, and successes on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

Record your progress and study hours daily or weekly it’s up to you!

4 Questions to Help Save Up For the ARE 5.0 Exams

I think we all got sticker shock when we first found out how expensive it would be to take these exams. For those of us with student loans, it can sometimes feel like adding insult to injury. A couple of my initial questions were:

$235 per exam? Every time? Even if you Fail? With a 50% pass rate? For Each of the 6 Exams? In this economy? With student loans? Not including study materials?

Me, in my head

But at a certain point in time, you realize that if you’ve committed to this process, you’re just going to have to get over it. If you want to be an architect, this is unfortunately the current price of entry.

So how can you save for your exams in a way that meshes with your study speed, and inclusive of possible fails? Here are the 4 important questions to ask yourself:

1. How Frequently Do You Want To Test?

How long do you think it will take you to study for each test? This will vary per person, some people willing to do it once every two weeks, and some giving themselves 1-2 months to study for each exam. My original plan was to study for 6 weeks for each exam.

There is a recommendation to study for a longer period if it is your very first exam. This can mean that you study for 2 months (8 weeks) instead, which can be great in that it allows you more time to save. You can find more information in helpful forums such as the NCARB ARE 5.0 Community or the ARE Facebook Group, that can give you more insight into how long you should study for your specific exam.

If you know that you aren’t planning to test right away, it can also be a good idea to save up a nest egg of testing funds. That way, when you finally decide to start testing, the financial aspect of it will be less of a stressor for you, and allow you to schedule retakes faster.

2. How Often Do You Get Paid?

This will vary from person to person. I personally get paid every 2 weeks. If I take an exam every 6 weeks, that gives me 3 paychecks to save up for each exam. This breaks each $235 exam into much more manageable payments of $79 per paycheck (I always round up to avoid missing some cents).

I would also recommend that you continue to keep saving even after you’ve saved enough for 6 exams. I found this very helpful video from Pluralsight when I first started testing, that explained that due to the high fail rates for the ARE, you should mentally take the cost of 3 exams and throw it away. That comes to around $705 based off the current exam fees.

This seems like a lot, because it is,. However, I think it makes a lot more sense to plan for, and save for, losing that money instead of becoming paralysed with guilt and worry when you eventually fail. Michael Riscica of Young Architect has written several great articles on dealing with failing your exams (here’s one), but just remember that the financial burden of it is something you can plan for now.

3. Will The Money Be Safe In Your Checking Account?

I don’t mean safe in that your bank may lose your money, I mean safe in that you might spend it all by accident. If you know that you struggle with financial management and personal finance in general, one of the best things you can do for your exam funds is to put it a completely separate account, ideally at a different bank.

This may seem like overkill, but I think that using this method has been one of the main reasons that I have been so successful in my exam savings.

Currently I use a separate online banking savings account, with no monthly fees, that has a 3 day waiting period before the money can be transferred back into my account. I can’t think of a better way to nip impulse buys in the bud. It is also a great feeling, when you finally take that money out, and you know you’re putting it towards something important.

4. Does Your Office Reimburse You For Passing An Exam?

Different offices have different levels of incentive for their exams. At my firm, they do not pay for the exams up front, they only reimburse you after you have successfully passed an exam that you paid for. This makes things much easier for me, in that I can take any money that I get back for a passed exam, and immediately reinvest it in a new seat credit.

There can sometimes be a temptation to go out and spend this money as a celebration for having passed, but trust me, putting it back into your NCARB account immediately is a much safer bet, and can help insure you against any hiccups in your budget down the line.

Find out what your office is willing to finance and what their policies are, in terms of sponsoring exams, books and other digital study materials. Collaborating with other people taking the exams within your office to get all the supplies you need is a great strategy to maximize your dollars spent on materials.


I hope these questions were helpful to you. For budget conscious candidates, I’m still offering my ARE 5.0 PcM Study Guide for free until the end of April, so make sure to download your copy before May 1st 2020.

If you have any further questions, hit me up in the comments.

Introducing the #ARE100Challenge

Need a fun way to stay motivated as you study for your exams? Join the #ARE100Challenge with other test takers to boost your study time and challenge yourself.

Some of the major challenges I’ve faced while studying for the ARE 5.0:

  1. Soooo much reading, from so many different types of resources, it’s hard to keep track of it all.
  2. No study group, and since everyone is taking a different test on a different day, it’s hard to create one with the people around you.
  3. It’s hard to stay motivated, and the materials seem like they’ll never end.
  4. It’s easy to get distracted by the minutia of the materials, and lose sight of the big picture.

To help myself and others experiencing these problems, I’ve created the #ARE100Challenge to bring together the ARE 5.0 test taking community, whether studying solo or with a group.

How to Participate

The main objective of the challenge is to complete 100 hours of studying in 60 days, regardless of which exam you’re taking.

For some this may seem like an easy target and will just provide an additional boost. However, for some test takers, this may be a serious challenge in terms of finding time to fit in studying. Wherever you are in your study plan, let’s challenge and push each other to make the most of the time we have!

The Ground Rules

1. Read all your required textbooks first! Minimum 30 Hours.

Check the NCARB Reference Matrix, NCARB ARE 5.0 Community, or the ARE Facebook Group for recommended study amterials for each test.

2. Take Practice Tests (Timed or Untimed). Minimum 5 Hours.

There are so many resources and content creators for practice tests and questions, again the forums are a great resource for recommendaitons on what will work best for the test you’re taking..

3. Take a Timed Mock Exam at least 3 times.

This can be one testing resource that you think works really well, or many different tests. The idea is that you take the completed, timed tests, review your answers, and identify the content you need to focus on.

4. Get familiar with the ARE Demo Exam provided by NCARB.

Even if you’ve taken the exam already, it is always a good idea to reaffirm the interface before you head back into your next exam. If you’ve never taken the exam, you should have an understanding of how answering all the question types work, as well as the tools available within the testing software. Did you know you can search documents?

5. Use the Study Objectives & Problems in the ARE 5.0 Handbook.

Make sure that you are covering topics within your study plan that align with the provided exam objectives within the NCARB ARE 5.0 Handbook for that specific test. Some practice tests can let you know which areas you’re weak on, so you should take the opportunity to review them.

6. Read 5 Exam Pass posts in the NCARB ARE 5.0 Community.

It’s always good to keep a positive mindset in these exams, which can have a large mental toll. A great way to do this is by reading the stories of other people who have passed the same exam recently. This has multiple benefits:

  1. You can see what study materials and methods other successful test takers used.
  2. It lets you know that other people are passing these tests, and that they’re not impossible.
  3. You can ask those people questions about specific problems you are having within that same exam, while it’s fresh in their minds.

7. Study financial and mathematical formulas. Minimum 5 Hours

The math and financial portions can be very challenging for people who may not have a lot of familiarity with it within their offices. Make sure to dedicate time to memorizing the concepts relevant to your exam, so when you step into the exam, you know exactly what the question is asking for.

8. Study terminology using flashcards or Quizlet.com.

The terminology needed to pass each exam section can vary widely, which is why some prefer to study using a separate flash card deck for each exam. Flash cards are also available as physical copies. I personally like to use Quizlet.com, as it allows me to check my familiarity with each card, turn the card decks into quizzes and games, and update definitions to make them clearer. A lot of people have used Quizlet in the past to study for these exams, so you can easily find premade decks that you can use for each exam section.

Track Your Progress!

I love using Clockify.com to keep track of my studying hours, mostly because of how simple their tracking and timekeeping system is.

Another great app for tracking your time while you study on the go is the Productivity Challenge Timer App, for another layer of gamification and fun. The free version is a bit limited, which is why I normally prefer to use Clockify to track everything.

Post Your Progress!

Share your progress using the #ARE100Challenge hashtag on Facebook or Instagram, and let us know when you pass a milestone! We’re all in this together, so let’s celebrate the wins, both big and small!

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me here on the blog, or on Facebook or Instagram. Happy studying and good luck on your #ARE100Challenge!