This post was originally shared on my old blog, and has recently been updated (September 2022).
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 almost can’t believe it, but the screen at Prometric confirmed it, so I’m not going to dispute it…
I passed my Practice Management (PcM) on the first try. I have been studying on and off for this exam since May last year, but I only started studying intensely for this exam since around November.
I worked full time, and organized for lunch time study sessions, where I would often be the only one to show up. I mostly studied after work, since I am not a morning person, and haven’t given up my night owl lifestyle since architecture studio. Just this week (wish I had found it earlier), I found this very informative NCARB forum post that helped give me a structure in terms of what content I should focus on, and making sure I truly understand the study materials.
My major motivator in looking for study materials was being very cost effective. I couldn’t afford to pay for a lot of fancy programs, so I just checked for the best free or cheap resources based on online and forum reviews.
To pay it forward to people like me who were desperately searching for study materials and methods for passing the exam, here is what I used.
The Architects Handbook of Professional Practice (AHPP) – a critical resource and I have a separate post on my major key in terms of this resource for those taking PcM as maybe their first exam, and are wondering what materials they should focus on. The main AHPP reading guide I used was the one provided by Kevin Griendling, AIA, from Pluralsight, which I found on the NCARB forums! (more on those below) It would be pretty accurate to say that AHPP was the main physical book resource that I got for this exam. Luckily my firm had a copy in their library, so I didn’t have to shell out the big bucks! I normally aimed to read about 4 sub-chapters per day, for example, sub-chapter 1.1 to 1.4 in one evening. This worked for me as I’m normally a fast reader, and I can finish a sub-chapter in around 30 minutes.
Price: AHPP: Free for me.
NCARB said that they only covered the B101 and C401 contracts in the PcM exam reference guide, but because people kept saying there was a lot of overlap with other exams, I studied the A201 and A101 as well, but less exhaustively.
My method for the contracts was:
- Reading through the all actual contracts above at least once
- Tatyana Aksamentova’s Contracts Study Guide
- Rewriting the contracts in shorthand as described in Christopher Richardson’s NCARB forum post
- Go through, and ideally redraw the AIA Contract Relationships Diagrams
- Contracts: free on AIA website
- Study Guide: free
- Contract shorthand: free
- Diagrams document: free
Quizlet – Michael Riscica at youngarchitect.com and many others highlight the importance of flash cards and I agree! But! I feel like I am losing time writing by hand when I could be studying! And I type much faster than I write! Solution? Quizlet! It is the fastest way for me to create simple and customizable flash cards decks, with many different functions. Also usable in a mobile format which is very handy. I will be writing a longer post on my flash card studying techniques, but here you can find the decks I used:
- Financial Equations with Targets Deck – most critical and helpful! I walked into the exam really knowing this information!
- AIA Contracts Deck – Also very critical for ensuring you KNOW the contract numbers, and you’re not just guessing. There are other, even more comprehensive decks for contracts, with more contracts types, but for PcM, I think this one covered the essentials.
- ARE 5.0 Practice Management Deck – A great resource covering terms across all aspects of PcM including some financial definitions as opposed to strictly equations.
Price for all decks: Free
NCARB Forum – Just this week (wish I had found it earlier), I found this very informative NCARB forum post that helped give me a structure in terms of what content I should focus on, and making sure I truly understand the study materials. The forums are a really great searchable resource, and I recommend that you use them when you have a specific question in terms of the best way to study specific types of content. Trust me, you’re not the first to ask. There’s no such thing as a dumb question! Some of the Forum Posts I found the most helpful were:
- Tatyana Aksamentova’s Practice Management Study Guide
- Tatyana Aksamentova’s Financial Ratios Study Guide
Price for Study Guides: Free
Schiff Hardin Lectures – A very important resource, that I forgot to mention in my initial release of this post was the Michael J. Hanahan, also known as Schiff Hardin lectures for AIA Contracts. These are a great resource for getting a refresher or deep understanding of the AIA Contracts, specifically the B101 and A201, for someone with lots of industry experience. These recordings can give great examples of how a particular article would play out on a real construction project. These audio recordings of his actual classes on these contracts and additional talks on risk, liability, tort, and the construction industry in general are a helpful resource. According to my productivity tracker, I studied this specific resource for at least 16 hours, normally listening during work or on long commutes or trips.
Price for Audio Lectures: Free
Designer Hacks PcM Exam – A very useful resource which came in highly recommended. These questions are much easier than the exam, but I mainly used them as a resource for testing my gaps in knowledge, and didn’t really focus on my actual scores. They give explanations for why the answer is right, but not why the others are wrong, which can be a significant limitation. I liked the variety of formats, from short Pop quizzes to long Practice Exams, which helped concentrate my studying based off the time I had available.
Price: My office policy only allows one study resource purchase per person, which is normally a physical book, but instead I requested that they purchase the DesignerHacks Practice Exam Package for all 6 exams. So another Free for me! *Tip* Look into your office policies on ARE practice material sponsoring and see if you can consolidate resources for multiple tests into one.
Walking the ARE 5.0 Practice Exam – Do yourself a favor and get this exam. I did not purchase it until the day before my exam, and I feel like I could have done even better if I had. This exam comes the closest to the ARE in both the complexity and depth of the questions, and the actual exam format with the Case Studies. This is a must buy. It will give you a really good understanding of your knowledge gaps in applying the financial ratios, and the concept of time management. This is a must buy!
Price: $39. This was the only study guide I actually bought with my own money, and it was completely worth it. I recommend it highly.
Time Tracking Software
Productivity Timer App – This was the first time tracker app I used. It became critical for me to understand how much time I was putting towards which resources, and which I needed to spend more time on. My major driver on this exam was reaching 100 hours in study time, and this app was a big help in keeping me on track. The interafce is fun, and gives you levels to acheive and acheivements, similar to DesignerHacks, but this one is a bit more tongue in cheek, with levels such as Unrepentant Slacker (where I unfortunately spent most of my time). Some of the limitations of this app were the limited number of projects you could use, and it tries to discourage you from clocking time shorter than their allocated sessions (adjustable, but stays the same after you set it). Very handy in that it’s on your mobile devices and can take it anywhere and see your progress daily and since you started.
Price: Free version that I used, there is also a premium version if you need greater functionality.
Clockify Website – This is what I ended up using after the Productivity Timer App, due to the added flexibility of time tracking. This website’s tracking function is what I normally use for staff time tracking, but if I figured that this could work easily for tracking study times. It allows you to input time that you’ve studied, or just setting a timer with your specific study resource selected. I will be making a detailed post with how I studied with this resource, but you can also check out my study status screenshot below.
Resources I Did Not Use
Black Spectacles – Lots of bad reviews for their program, and their videos are looong. They put a lot of time into their materials, but I need a more condensed version.
Pluralsight – mostly positive reviews, but not enough for me to pay for it.
Brightwood – bad reviews in forums and Young Architect website
AEP – expensive, and not enough positive reviews to purchase
Amberbooks – If I fail 1 test, I may invest in these, or maybe for the more technical exams, as structures was a long time ago for me.
Young Architect Bootcamp – If I fail more than 4 exams, I will invest in the bootcamp, too expensive for me right now
Young Architect Academy – I did not have the funds to get it in time for this exam. I will be investing in this for my PjM exam, along with the contracts course.
In Conclusion, I hope you gain some value from this long winded post. I just hope someone gets some value from my methods. If you have any questions, throw them in the comments. For now, I’m going to bed, and starting tomorrow, I’m gonna start studying for PjM.
If you got any value from this post, please let me know in the comments!
Free ARE 5.0 PcM Study Guide
I’ve created a one-page PDF guide to the ARE 5.0 Practice 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 download your copy here.