The Architect Registration Exam (ARE), version 5.0, is a necessary step on the path to become a licensed professional architect in the United States.
I passed the six divisions of the ARE within a six-month window. My strategy was to schedule the exams in pairs, spaced 2-3 months apart. That was enough time to study in a focused way, without forgetting early material or getting distracted. I never took two exams on one day, and I wouldn’t recommend it. They are mentally exhausting. Instead, take them on consecutive days, or give yourself a day or two to rest in between.
Make a study strategy
In the new structure of the ARE, four of the exams follow the phases of a project from conception to completion:
Programming & Analysis (PA) –> Project Planning & Design (PPD) –> Project Development & Documentation (PDD) –> Construction Evaluation (CE)
The remaining two exams relate to more general aspects: Practice Management (PcM) and Project Management (PjM).
A consequence of this organization is that a single “topic” (i.e., fire safety) is not confined to a single exam. The Programming & Analysis exam may ask about fire safety in the context of the site (fire lanes, setbacks) while the Construction Evaluation exam may ask about a specific fire sprinkler riser detail.
My strategy, based on the experiences of others, was to group the exams into pairs based on their content areas. This way, I could spend the most time on topics likely to be on the upcoming exams.
Group 1: Practice Management (PcM) and Project Management (PjM)
This is an obvious grouping, as these two exams do not relate to project phases but rather to more general topics like law, contracts, finances, business operations, licensing, staffing, risk, ethics, and conflict resolution. I took these two exams in between the other two pairs.
Group 2: Project Planning & Design (PPD) and Project Development & Documentation (PDD)
These exams have a high degree of overlap in terms of content areas. They are probably the most dense, covering a wide range of information, and differ from one another mainly in level of detail. They cover topics like site analysis, sustainable design, codes and regulations, building systems, cost evaluation, and construction documentation. Take these together, and if possible, devote the longest study period to these two exams. I took these two exams last.
Group 3: Programming & Analysis (PA) and Construction Evaluation (CE)
The remaining two exams are the outliers. They don’t necessarily have a high degree of overlap in terms of content. I took these exams first, to “get them out of the way”. You could just as well take them last, and study lightly, counting on the studying you did for the other four to carry you through.
The exams cover a wide body of knowledge. There is no single “primary resource” from which to study. I drew heavily from The Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice, from the AIA Contract Documents, and from a number of study guides including “Jenny’s Notes” and “Carolyn’s Notes”. I then compiled my own study guides. (For more on study resources, visit that section of this site).
I found that it was possible to group information into “modules”, creating approximately 10-15 modules per exam. However, many modules would be shared between two, three, or more exams. That’s where it becomes important to be smart about the order in which you take the exams. I found that two similar exams might share half of their modules or more. For example, here are some modules for the PcM-PjM exams:
- Structuring an architectural practice: business structures, regulations, staffing, liability.
- Law and finance: financial data, business strategies, risk, legal exposure, insurance
- Scope, contracts, & delivery methods: contracts and agreements, negotiation of services, fee proposals…
- Architect-owner relationship: standard of care, AIA B101 contract
- Project contracts: A101, A201, A701, architect-owner-contractor relationships
- Communication & consultants: C401, project work planning, sequencing and coordinating consultants’ work
- Project budget & schedule: construction budget, scope changes, reviews and submittals, quality control.
Of these seven modules (not a comprehensive list), numbers 1 and 2 clearly belong with the Practice Management (PcM) exam, while 5 and 7 clearly belong with the Project Management (PjM) exam. But 3, 4, and 6 include material that appears on both exams. If you schedule these two exams close together, you can take advantage of this overlap and get the most out of your study time.
Let’s get started!
If you decide to follow a strategy like the one I’ve laid out above, then you can choose a pair of exams to take first. Forget about the other four divisions for now. Next, you’ll want to estimate how much time you need to study so that you can schedule the exams.
You will likely need to draw from multiple sources as you study. I have created guides for each of the six divisions of the ARE, organizing the information into modules in a way that I found useful to me. If you use them, you will likely find that some of this information is second nature to you. You will likely also find gaps where you need to lean on other resources to give you a full understanding of the subject matter.
I will be making my first guide, Programming & Analysis, available as a free download. For more information, check back on this page or contact me using the contact section of this site.