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.

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!

#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!