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.

ARE 5.0 PcM Pass – Study Materials, Methods and Tips

Learn what study materials and methods I used to pass ARE 5.0 PcM on my first try.

This post was originally shared on my old blog, and if reading this detailed blog post is too long, you can download my one page ARE 5.0 PcM Study Guide for only $10 here.

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.

Books

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.

Contracts 

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:

  1. Reading through the all actual contracts above at least once
  2. Tatyana Aksamentova’s Contracts Study Guide
  3. Rewriting the contracts in shorthand as described in Christopher Richardson’s NCARB forum post
  4. Go through, and ideally redraw the AIA Contract Relationships Diagrams

Price:

  1. Contracts: free on AIA website
  2. Study Guide: free
  3. Contract shorthand: free
  4. Diagrams document: free

Digital Resources

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:

  1. Financial Equations with Targets Deck – most critical and helpful! I walked into the exam really knowing this information!
  2. 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.
  3. 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:

  1. Tatyana Aksamentova’s Practice Management Study Guide
  2. 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

Practice Exams

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.

Price: Free


Resources I Did Not Use

Ballast Review Manual – I bought this textbook first actually, based off of many recommendations all over the web. However, with a measly 3 chapters dedicated to practice management, I basically did not look at this book once since I started studying seriously. I am anticipating it being much more helpful for other exams that it covers more in depth.

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!

ARE 5.0 PcM Study Guide

Free Download Until April 30, 2020

I’ve created a one-page PDF guide to the 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.

The ARE 5.0 PcM Study Guide will be released for free on April 7th, 2020, and it will continue to be available for free download until April 30th, 2020, after which it will be $10.

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