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 –┬áThese 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!

What I Learned From My First ARE Exam Fail

After my recent ARE exam fail, I had a solid pity party for a few hours, then decided it would be more productive to write down what I have learned from my first failure.

Never Assume You Have Time Just Because You’re Moving Quickly

In the first half of the exam I was moving fast and doing good, I completed all of my multiple choice exams, and hit pause before going off to my break. I thought I had plenty of time. Fast forward to the end of the exam, with seconds left and still a few unanswered case study questions which I eventually just had to guess at. Time management is KEY to this exam. Don’t make my mistakes, make sure that getting through the test as a whole is your main priority and never think that you have it under control just because you made it through the multiple choice questions quickly.

Don’t Cram What You Don’t Know

Again, in studying for the exams, it is the same as taking the exams, time management is KEY. In the days before your exams, you’re going to be dealing with a lot of emotions and anxiety, don’t make this worse by trying to cram in a bunch of material you have never even looked at before. It will make you feel worse because:

  1. You’ll feel like you don’t know anything, even if you’re really strong on other topics
  2. You will get frustrated at your inability to retain this brand new information
  3. You’re dealing with exam nerves, and if you do badly on practice tests on the new material, your confidence will be shot

Make sure, well before you’re scheduled to take your exams, you’re making sure that all the topics that are going to be included in the test are a part of your study plan. Be intentional about what you’re reading, not just trying to read as much as possible. This guide on test-taking skills has a lot of helpful tips on getting prepared in advance.

Reinforce Your Weaknesses

While I wouldn’t recommend cramming new material right before an exam, I would recommend checking the information that you know that you are not performing well on. There’s a difference between trying to learn all the details of ADA clearances in one day, and having a look at your previous notes on contract documents. One involves completely learning new concepts, the other is just brushing up on what you already know.

I would say working on your weaknesses is especially important AFTER you’ve failed the exam as well. The study materials that got you a poor result may not give you success the next time around, so make sure that you are making changes to your methods or resources based off of what your previous exam was aksing you. This is part of the reason why the ARE’s are called “the most expensive practice exam you’ll ever take”. Failing is part of the process, and learning from the fails is part of the process too.

One thing I’ve done is to look at multiple posts of people who have passed each specific exam, and tried to change my method based on the different content that they used. You can find passing stories on the ARE Facebook group or in the NCARB ARE 5.0 Community.

Don’t be afraid to write your own questions

In my recent exam failure, I was very frustrated with some of the practice question providers, since I felt like they failed to cover some of the very technical and graphic aspects of that exam. I was also mad at NCARB for failing to properly specify the resources that were needed to pass that exam. However, being mad at external forces won’t bring me any closer to passing the ARE.

So my recommendation is, if you feel like the questions you’re seeing on the exam are not matching the materials you are studying, feel free to write your own questions. There is literally nothing stopping you, as long as you are not copying the questions that you’ve seen in your previous ARE exams. These questions can be at whatever level of difficulty you feel comfortable with, but I have the following tips:

  1. Use the source material. If you’re writing a question on contracts, use the actual contract to write the question based on what you’ve literally read in the contract, not what Ballast, Pluralsight or Hyperfine wrote about it. This is because a lot of study resources summarize instead of writing the actual articles, which may cause you to remember the phrasing or intent clearly later on.
  2. Write why the answers are correct and why they’re wrong. This will force you to explain exactly why you’ve chosen that answer, and helps cement the concept, not just the specific answer.
  3. Share your questions! Not only does this help other people who are studying, but this also allows them to let you know if your answers are wrong and why. If people have further questions. You can share in your personal study group, which you can join through the NCARB ARE Community, in the ARE Facebook group, or with your architecture mentor, and see if they can work through the correct answer based on their professional experience.

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!

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.

My Number One Rule for Buying ARE Study Materials

When you first decide to take the ARE, you will normally go into full research mode. You treat it like a site you are doing analysis on, combing the net for study materials, handy guides, YouTube tutorials and practice questions, exam focused blog posts (guilty!), everything you can get your hands on. You assemble a treasure trove of PDF documents and a wish list full of textbooks and online courses, and you start reading. Fast forward a few hours, and you are completely overwhelmed.

The ARE is full of SO MUCH CONTENT and the sheer amount of information that you need to not just absorb, but be able to use for problem solving, can be extremely intimidating. What can be even scarier, if you’ve been working for a while in the field, is the practice of unlearning what you thought you knew, and memorizing the way that NCARB wants you practice. This can make you second guess your own memory and possibly your own professional judgement.

I got to this same point after ordering my Ballast book. I love to read, like LOVE to read, but this seemed like taking a good thing too far. There’s a difference between sitting down with a nice thick book and reading for pleasure, and sitting down with a thick book and being expected to memorize and analyze its contents.

The study guides, contracts, online resources, and the other miscellaneous PDFs I had collected and bought as part of my search for information, were also confusing. With this much data, how is it possible to prioritize and process all that I read?

This lead me to my number one rule for ARE Study Materials:

AHPP (Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice) First! No New Study Materials Until It’s Finished!

I created this rule for myself for a few important reasons:

  1. I have a habit of collecting a lot of data for the sake of saying that I have the information, then not reading it. This will save me a lot of wasted time in gathering studying materials that I will actually not use. 
  2. The AHPP is frequently considered required reading by those who take the exam. I’ve seen many people mention just this textbook, along with the contracts and rules of conduct, as their only required materials for passing the PcM (Practice Management Exam).
  3. You have help in determining what is essential! Namour Wright collaborated with Wiley publishing to create very helpful guides regarding which elements of the AHPP were critical reading for each specific ARE exam. 
  4. If I can’t commit to finishing this book, there is no reason for me to be flushing additional money or time down the drain looking at less comprehensive content. The AHPP is a big book, but the information it contains is crucial information for all 6 ARE exams. It is the only reference listed in the ARE 5.0 Handbook which has content used in the development of all 6 of the exams. Check out this references page from NCARB which illustrates my point. 
NCARB Reference Guide for AHPP

So even though it is important to cross train with other materials, use multiple references, and understand and read through other documents, I still put the completion of this document as my number one priority, and until you finish it, I wouldn’t put another cent into buying anything else. You can buy the AHPP on Amazon, or directly from Wiley Publishing. 

There are also pre-owned copies online, and often you can already find a copy at your architecture firm, as people who have studied in your firm like to keep it around as a reference in their practice.

What text would you consider an essential item for this exam? Let me know in the comments! Happy studying!

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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