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  • Michael Travis

Architecture Registration Exams (ARE) Tips and Advice

Many of my fellow architecture colleagues, students and friends ask me for advice on studying or taking ARE exams. Having taken exams and from feedback by others here are some tips and advice. Keep in mind that everyone is different, and their approach may vary; take this advice with a grain of salt. For ARE you will need:


· Experience

· NCARB Guides and Manuals

· Speed and Logic

· 2Right Answers 2Wrong Answers

· Books > Study Guides

· Review Everything First

· Masterspec Divisions

· College notes from Professional Practice

· Hanahan Lecture Notes and Audio

· Thaddeus ARE Structures

· Support Forums

· ARE Q&A Blogspot

· SBY’s ARE Help

· Diet and Supplements

· Time of day to schedule

· Day Before and Day of Exam

· During Exam

· If You Fail



1. Experience is key. Do not neglect the needed internship hours; NCARB actually made ARE 5.0 more tailored to the practice. You need at least 2-3 years minimum of working on construction documents, CA etc. (not design and presentation stuff). You need variety; meaning commercial and residential single, multi family etc. If your firm is working on just condos then study construction documents & details from other project types.


2. The new ARE Manuals from NCARB are very good and you should re-read them initially and right before exam. Keep focus on the big picture of what the test is about.

3. Use Speed and Logic, meaning you have to understand that questions are designed to be answered within 90seconds; meaning there should be no complicated formulas or calculations. Use first instinct to make an answer, and then quickly re-read, verify and then if unsure then mark/comeback to it later if you have time.


4. There are generally 2Right and 2Wrong answers on questions, your goal is to figure out which one of the answers is the practice acceptable answer, simple as that.

5. Do not mainly rely on study guides like Kaplan or Ballast, the study guides for 5.0 are just recycled 4.0 information and not as applicable for new exams…don’t waste of time on those, just read through Ballast fast skipping all complicated formulas etc. Instead read books that NCARB references in the manual: https://www.ncarb.org/sites/default/files/ARE5-Handbook.pdf

Most important books are obviously IBC, IRC, ADA Handbook all of those are free online. Architectural Graphic Standards and Ching’s Building Codes / Building Construction Illustrated are some of the once you may need to buy or borrow. List of books is big but all information for the exam questions are in those books.


6. Because of so much overlap I would recommend that you review all the material first and then focus on specific exam. At least study for overlapping exams as noted in the manual.

7. Study Masterspec divisions and what they mean. You can find descriptions by searching online ‘Masterspec descriptions’ to find what each section includes.


8. Look back at your professional practice course notes and structures class notes from college if you think they would help.


9. The Professional Practice lectures by Hanahhan are must listen and re-listen for the exams. https://www.schiffhardin.com/professionals/attorneys/d-i/hanahan-michael-j/hanahan-lecture-notes-2018


10. Thaddeus is a good investment specially if you are like me and need a big refresher for structures. https://arestructures.com/


11. ARE Coach is an excellent place for support and Q&A. http://arecoach.com/coachforum/


12. Great BlogSpot for practicing questions https://are-review.blogspot.com/


13. SBY’s ARE Help. https://arehelp.webs.com/


14. Try not to make it a habit of drinking tons of sugary things or alcohol when studying or before exams. You’ll be running to the bathroom and become more agitated. Diet if you can eat high fiber vegetables, eggs, real butter, coconut butter and fish...good fats, omega 3’s and fiber are good for your cognitive function. Chipotle and 5 Guys over Burger King if you must get takeout. Supplements you can look into natural mental performance supplements; For me Acetyl-L-Carnitine was helpful.


15. Time of day to schedule the exams really depends best time you function. I do not function well early in the morning and I noticed I failed those exams rather than once in the evenings I passed…figure out when you function best.


16. Day before exam; don’t stay up late studying. Day of; before the exam quickly review tabs you have in the books and notes for about an hour before exam.


17. During exam delay taking the break as much as you can until you really need it. Answer questions as fast as you can, if you don’t know just answer first thing that comes to mind and mark to comeback. For vignettes don’t bother reading all the text of supporting documents, just use search function and scheme through. IBC you should be familiar enough to know which area/section to go to for answers. Look through all the questions on vignettes, some may have clues to other questions.


18. If you do fail an exam (and this highly likely) don’t waste time, schedule to retake 2-4weeks max, study areas you were weak in and subjects for questions you did not know. Get back in the exam room as soon as you can.


Goodluck and if this helps you be sure to pass along to others taking the exams.

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