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.

Study With Us: Live Study Session

A live ARE 5.0 virtual study session on Instagram, in collaboration with @arch_exam_study

Collaboration time! If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you may have seen my recent #studywithme video (see below), which I got inspiration for from following @arch_exam_study.

With over a hundred views on the first day, we thought it would be a good idea to collaborate on a study session together. So we will be hosting an Instagram Live Study Session on September 1st, 2020. If you want to participate in our session, you can join by following me on Instagram at @rmsmstudio. I’ve also created a Facebook event for this live session, if you want to keep it in your Facebook calendar.

Study With Us! Instagram Live ARE 5.0 Study Session

Date: Tuesday, September 1st, 2020

Time: 8:30pm EST – 9:30pm EST

Location: RMSM Studio Instagram

Prerequisites: None! Just bring yourself and your current study materials and join in the session! Make sure to check out my study guides for PcM and PjM for material recommendations.

The format will be a quick intro, then silent study for an hour using the Pomodoro technique (25 minutes study, 5 minutes break). You can even follow along with your own Pomodoro timer if you want. I can answer any comments or questions during the 5-minute break. I will be studying for the CE exam, but you can feel free to join in and study for your current exam.

For an example of one of the previous #studywithme sessions, you can check out my 2-hour Late Night Pomodoro Study Session here.

If you have additional questions, feel free to message me on the Facebook event page, on my Instagram at @rmsmstudio, or send me an email at rmsmstudio@gmail.com.

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.


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


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.


  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.

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!

Practice Question: Quality Management

As I continue to study for ARE 5.0 Project Management, one of the areas I struggle with the most is Quality Management, but not for the reason you might think. For me, a lot of the concepts seem so obvious that it’s difficult for me to retain. So I’ll be reading it, agreeing with everything it says, but not retaining any specifics. So I’ve been trying to work on that in ways that will stay in my memory. Videos like the one below, and other tools are great visual aids to help me retain those details.

Practice Problem: Quality Management

Which of these items are not elements of a Quality Management (QM) in Construction Procurement?

  • Effective In-House Procurement Protocol
  • Beneficial Support Resources
  • Constant Monitoring and Documentation
  • Document Access and Control

Correct Answer

Document Access and Control is an Element of Quality Management in Construction Administration.

Wrong Answers

All of these items are Elements of Quality Management in Construction Procurement:

  • Effective In-House Procurement Protocol
  • Beneficial Support Resources
  • Constant Monitoring and Documentation

For reference for this question, check out AHPP Chapter 12.4.

Let me know how you did on this question, and make sure to follow RMSM Studios on Facebook and Instagram!

Practice Question: Utilization Rates

ARE 5.0 Project Management (PjM) Practice Question on firm utilization rates.

Utilization Rates are an important part of how firms track the hours spent on direct versus indirect labor, and are considered one of the 7 Key Financial Performance Indicators for architecture firms. I created this practice problem using the concept and real ways that it might change over time. Hyperfine is a great resource for practice questions and examples on both practice and project management concepts, as part of their Financial Formulas Workbook and their ARE 5.0 Courses.

Here’s a video of them going through a set of utilization rate questions.

Practice Question: Utilization Rates

The image below shows the salaries and utilization rates for the previous year for SKY Architects.

The salaries and utilization rates for this year are expected to be exactly the same, with the following changes:

  • Baboucar will be on paid paternity leave for 3 months
  • Yandeh will only be working part-time to pursue her graduate degree in historic presentation. Her utilization rate will be cut in half.

With these changes in mind, calculate the following:

  1. Estimated annual direct labor budget
  2. Yandeh R.’s estimated annual direct labor hours

Correct Answers

Question 01

In order to calculate the estimated annual budget we first need to calculate the direct labor budget for each member of staff:

  • Samuel: $170,000 * 0.5 = $85,000
  • Jeoffrey: $60,000 * 0 = $0
  • Yandeh: $90,500 salary, utilization rate = 0.8 * 0.5 = 0.4, so Yandeh’s direct salary this year will be $90,500 * 0.4 = $36,200
  • Fatou:$90,500 * 0.9 = $81,450
  • Baboucar: $70,000 salary, but he will only be working for 9 months out of 12, so we calculate 9/12 of his salary or 75%. So $70,000 * 0.75 = $52,500. With a consistent utilization rate of 0.9, his direct salary is $52,500 * 0.9 = $47,250

If we add up all of these direct salaries, we get $249,900.

Question 02

In order to calculate Yandeh’s estimated direct labor hours, we first need to determine hours per year. The number of hours in a year is 2080. Her current utilization rate is 80% but with her new graduate program, her utilization rate is reduced to 40% for this year.

So we would calculate 2080 hours * 0.4 = 832 direct labor hours this year.

Let me know how you did on this question, and make sure to follow RMSM Studios on Facebook and Instagram! Feel free to look through my blog for additional PjM Practice Questions and Mini Quizzes. You can search by tags, or by categories. If you have any questions, or you want to tell me how you did, leave a comment on the blog or on my Facebook page.

Practice Question: ADA

ARE 5.0 Practice question from RMSM Studio on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA, which is celebrating its 30 year anniversary!

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.

Try your hand at this practice problem I created today based on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which had its 30th anniversary this week! Though this is something we study as a mandatory code to be enforced in architecture and the ARE specifically, it’s still important to remember the impact this legislation has on the lives of people everyday. You can also check out these great videos from Archicorner as a study reference for ADA design. Here’s a great video from them on the differences between ADA and Building Code Accessibility.

Here’s an additional great article from ArchDaily, which provides a simple guide to using ADA standards.

Practice Problem: ADA

The ADA prevents discrimination based on which of the following:

  • Discrimination based on gender, for employers with 15+ employees
  • Discrimination based on disability, regardless of employer size
  • Discrimination based on age, for employers with 20+ employees
  • Discrimination based on disbility, for employers with 15+ employees

ARE 5.0 Practice question from RMSM Studio on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA, which is celebrating its 30 year anniversary!

Correct Answer

Discrimination based on disability, for employers with 15+ employees.

Wrong Answers

The Civil Right Act, Title VII prevents discrimination based on gender, race color, religion, national origin and sexual orientation for employers with 15+ employees.

ADA prevents discrimination based on disability specifically for employers with 15+ employees.

ADEA (Age Discrimination in Employment Act) prevents discrimination based on age.

Let me know how you did on this question, and make sure to follow RMSM Studios on Facebook and Instagram! For more practice questions you can check out my mini quizzes, or some of the awesome practice exams created by Designer Hacks (which I just used today, got a 77% lol) and the Walking the ARE Practice Exams. As always, happy studying!

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


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!

One Minute Review: Walking the ARE 5.0 PcM Practice Exam

Can the Walking the ARE 5.0 Practice Exam help you pass the ARE 5.0 Practice Management (PcM) exam? Find out in 60 seconds!

This blog post is part of my One Minute Reviews, where each study material review can be read in a minute or less.

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.

Walking the ARE 5.0 PcM Practice Exam Review

Can the Walking the ARE 5.0 Practice Exam help you pass the ARE 5.0 Practice Management (PcM) exam? Let’s break it down.

Question Content

Content for this practice exam comes from the AHPP, the AIA contracts, and professional codes of conduct. It has a large variety of question types, which are similar to the format you would find on the actual exam. Though it doesn’t highlight the specific exam sections, it covers all the topics required for PcM.

Difficulty of Questions

I took this exam a day before my exam, after studying for months, and I can tell you I was floored. These questions are hard! However, no other practice exam made me feel as prepared for the question style and complexity of the real ARE exam.

Ease of Use

This exam comes in a PDF format that is easily printable or visible on any device. The exam creator, Erik Walker, recommends printing out the answer sheets so you can refer to them as you take the test. This is meant to be a timed test, so be ready with your timer, too.

Price Point

For One Exam: $39. Includes questions and answer sheets with very detailed explanations.

Compared To similar Materials

Hyperfine Architecture PCM/PJM Study Questions: The Walking the ARE question difficulty is higher, however the answer section for the Hyperfine products is very comprehensive, and includes external references to articles, videos and documents that can explain the material in greater detail. Both of these packages are available as PDFs, with no timing or grading integrated into the format.


I highly recommend this exam, as I truly don’t believe I would have passed my PcM exam without it. If you use this resource not just as a practice exam, but as a tool to double down on your gaps in knowledge, you will be in great shape come exam day.

Disagree with my assessment, or have a product you want me to review, or have additional questions? Leave a comment below!