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ARE Discussion Central:

rcz1001

To start this discussion thread:

While there are minor updates to the delivery of the ARE exam planned by NCARB which NCARB's Guidelines and Handbook would be updated, the exam content would remain the same and timing would be adjusted so I would have to follow NCARB's guidance on that and they should have new practice exams to test. 

Aside from above noted things to be mindful of:

What ARE exam study material for ARE 5.0 do people recommend ?


*This thread is for posting recommended study material and discussions related to the ARE exam. You can say this can be thought of as a ARE Discussion Central. 

** It is not the intent for this discussion thread to whine about NCARB or the ARE but it is a venue to ask questions and answers. It is not about me although I started this thread. Lets keep it clean not for my sake. (Just trying to get ahead of some of that kind of discussion that may rear its ugly head)

 
Sep 16, 20 5:29 pm
SneakyPete

The usual suspects. Ballast and working were my go-tos.

Sep 16, 20 5:34 pm  · 
3  · 
ivanmillya

Did you take 5.0? Ballast used to be really good for older versions of the exam, but IME, their translation to the 5.0 content areas has been really hit or mi ss, especially for the sucky exams like PPD (where many of the questions Ballast focused on were just far too broad and unhelpful for the actual content of the exam).

 · 

Ballast was the only study material that was 5.0 "specific" at the time I took PPD and PDD when 5.0 was first released. I use "quotes" around specific because it was just regurgitated 4.0 content that was terribly edited. I did ok with it, I mean I passed, but it wasn't ideal and it was quite frustrating to study with (I've commented on it before). Might be less frustrating now if they've reissued material with a lot of the errors corrected. But the general consensus is that it hasn't been all that great as a study guide.

 · 
SneakyPete

I was one of the lucky few who lost a test in the transition. I felt that Kaplan had no relationship to the information I was tested on and was mostly a generic primer to Architecture-ish information. While Ballast was light on substance, what it had was at least the same information found on the exams.

1  · 
t a z

Ballast ARE 5.0, 2nd Ed just came out. Very yellow cover w/ full price tag.

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ivanmillya

On this note, I'm struggling a lot trying to get through my last two exams (PPD & PDD). Mostly I feel like I'm getting stuck in the weeds on studying; I have a pretty good grasp on the process of selecting structural & building systems, but then I'll go take a practice exam question that asks something like "When bolts are used to connect a column baseplate to a slab foundation, would you also specify a: backplate, or fillet weld, or etc.etc.". Like, how in depth should I be studying and memorizing every possible building system for these exams?

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caramelhighrise

Ballast and on the job experience worked for me too. I didn't start testing straight out of college, so I just read Ballast for maybe 30 hours total combined for my first 3 tests. Well rounded experience gets you far.

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tduds

I made it through at the tail end of 4.0 so I can't speak to the new exams specifically, but overall I found Ballast and Black Spectacles to be the best study resources.

Ballast practice questions seemed more in line with the actual exam material than Kaplan, and I remember their answer keys explaining the answer instead of just giving the correct choice (I think Kaplan and/or others gave zero explanation, which is imo useless even if you get the answer right). 

I enjoyed Black Spectacles Q&A sessions, mostly because I'm better at learning through examples and audio than through theory and books.

Good luck on the exams.

Sep 16, 20 5:41 pm  · 
3  · 
tduds

Also! Just remembered the Schiff Hardin lectures, covering AIA Contracts. Fantastic breakdown of the legalese from a layer rather than an architect. I don't think I'd have passed the CDS section without those lectures.

2  · 
rcz1001

A link(s) to them might be great. Maybe, we need to archive them somehow but if the Schiff Hardin folks wish to do so for a more official authorized approach but yeah, I'm digging up the lectures. Some of them I seen are part of a Professional Practice course.

As I am reviewing them, they seem to be part of the same collection. I remembered these resources some years ago. Thanks for reminding me of them.

 · 
thatsthat

I also recommend Black Spectacles for the video lectures. I appreciated having an intro to the major concepts before diving into the readings.

 · 
thatsthat

For others following this thread that may also be looking for video resources, the AIA has a youtube channel that has videos about their contracts, including contract structure, the contents of A201, etc. I'd still recommended reading the documents (at least doing the side by side document of A201-2007; 2017 isn't out yet) but I found the videos to be a fairly comprehensive start. (I just finished the CDT so I've viewed these pretty recently.) NCARB also used to have a youtube channel, but I'm not sure if they've kept it up-to-date since switching to 5.0.

1  · 
SneakyPete

Schiff Hardin is fantastic, just be careful, I often found it easier to remember his criticisms of the contracts than the contract language itself. Very engaging lecturer for such a dry topic.

3  · 

I sort of discovered the same as SneakyPete as I was seeing others comment about Hanahan's criticisms of the contracts more than what they should have been learning to pass the ARE. It helps to understand that he was giving the lectures for a professional practice course, not as ARE prep ... so you need to understand that the intent behind the lecture can be different than what most people are using them for now. 

I found the lectures interesting, and I know others get enormous benefit from them (I still recommend them to people) but I stopped listening after two or three. It wasn't an efficient use of my time as I was already pretty familiar with the contracts from studying for the CDT, and practice.

3  · 
joseffischer

I was surprised on how many questions on all tests went back to the contracts. For someone who had enough years under his belt to know how the contracts bore out, and who understood their meaning, but also as someone who can just memorize contracts... those were so many freebie questions. For those who struggle with memorization, do whatever you need to know your contracts in and out.

1  · 
rcz1001

Just for those beginning the ARE and don't got the alphabet soup memorized: CDS (Construction Documents & Services) is an exam division of the ARE 5.0 by NCARB. CDT (Construction Documents Technology) is a certification/certification exam by CSI. 

Although they are covering overlapping subject matter, they are different exams. Despite that they sound similar and just by one letter difference, they are not the same 'exam' even though they are dealing with the subject matter. Taking CDT does not get you out of taking CDS in the ARE 5.0 by NCARB and passing CDS doesn't mean you get CDT certified by CSI. 

Not a criticism of anyone just clarity for someone reading this might get confused by the alphabet soup if they aren't yet up on it.

 · 

Correction: CDS (Construction Documents & Services) was an ARE exam division under 4.0 (and 3.1) ... not 5.0. 

Addition: CSI stands for the Construction Specifications Institute. More info on the CDT exam here.

Aside from that, good clarification on the alphabet soup.

2  · 
rcz1001

Thank You. I stand corrected. 


 · 
Aluminate

This is reportedly what's been working for the people I know taking it now/recently:

Ballast for non-structural topics;

ArchiFlash cards - it doesn't really matter how old the set is - it can be from the 90s.

MEEB

Ching's Visual Dictionary of Architecture

"Why Buildings Stand Up", and "Why Buildings Fall Down"

AIA contracts - the most typically used few, plus knowing what all the series letters are for, and the most commonly used forms

MasterFormat - understanding the basics of what is in each Division 00 thru 49

"Buildings at Risk: Seismic Design Basics" by Christopher Arnold.

Kaplan or its predecessor, for structural.  This also doesn't matter how old it is - it can be from the 80s or 90s.

A couple were enthusiastic about Black Spectacles, but both of them failed the last sections they took, so I'm not sure how enthusiastic they still might be.


Sep 16, 20 5:57 pm  · 
1  · 
thatsthat

I also used an older set of ArchiFlash I bought off a then-coworker for $20 and they were so great.

 · 
thatsthat

I used the AREcoach forum and it was a big help. I remember a lot of the free resources being linked on there. Also it is heavily moderated to keep people from sharing answers. Quite a few share their experiences and what specifically helped for each individual exam. 


Something that was a major help to me was actually looking at the back of the NCARB guide and, at a minimum, leafing through the resources listed. I mostly looked at the diagrams. Yes there are a lot of books listed, but most are books from school or my office’s library had. 

Sep 16, 20 10:19 pm  · 
 · 
rcz1001

Link: http://arecoach.com/coachforum/ (as of 9/16/2020)

Posted for other ARE exam takers.

1  · 
rcz1001

Michael Hanahan's (Schiff Hardin) Lecture Series archived by Internet Archive:

https://archive.org/details/ha...


Sep 16, 20 10:46 pm  · 
3  · 

The outdated Project Resource Manual: CSI Manual of Practice (PRM) is noted as a resource in the NCARB ARE 5.0 Handbook. You can find copies of it out there, but you'd be better off IMO referring to the Project Delivery Practice Guide (PDPG) which is the up-to-date replacement for the PRM. I did the CDT prior to the ARE and I found that it was a great prep for the ARE content on project delivery, project life cycle, roles and responsibilities of the various parties involved in a project, reinforced the information you'll need to know about the AIA contract docs, and good documentation and coordination of drawings and specs. It gets overlooked by a lot of ARE candidates and it's a shame. I was using the first edition of PDPG. I've heard that not that much has changed content-wise in the second and now third editions, just how the content is organized. I'd assume any edition of PDPG would be sufficient.

So while I didn't use it that much in studying for the ARE, the knowledge I gained from using it to study for the CDT was extremely helpful in passing the ARE. 

Additionally, the Architect's Handbook of Professional Practice (AHPP) is good, but not something I recommend people go out and purchase for themselves. Chances are your office has a copy that you can reference. If not that, you might have purchased and used the student version for your pro practice course in school, it works too. There was a list I found from the old ARE forum that had identified certain chapters to read for the various tests (4.0 version). Not sure if it is still floating around out there, or if someone has updated it for 5.0 divisions. Worth looking for in my opinion, or at least identifying key chapters of AHPP to study for certain topics of the ARE content areas.

Finally,* for better or worse, Archinect hasn't really been the place to get help for the ARE in the past. ARE Coach's Forum, the NCARB ARE 5.0 Community, and Michael Riscica's ARE Facebook Group are much more focused on this type of thing and have momentum and history going for them. There's nothing wrong with trying to get some support here, I'm just pointing out that a lot of the support is already happening in these other locations. Seeing what others are struggling with, helping each other out, finding errors in study materials, etc. were all helpful for me in my studying. There's only so much you can take in and remember by reading source material alone, discussing the topics and debating with others is useful in solidifying that information in your mind. Those other forums are already doing this with a critical mass. Again, nothing wrong with trying to build some support here, but it's already been done elsewhere. 


*I'm posting this mainly for others, as I think Balkins has been banned from most of the forums I noted above.

Sep 17, 20 12:14 pm  · 
1  · 
Jay1122

That last comment is a critical strike.

 · 

It doesn't look like many people use Coach's forum anymore. Looking at the index, there are only a handful of topic areas where the latest post is from this year, and only 3 where it was within the last month (as of Sept 17, 2020): 

  • General Discussion (last post Sept 2, 2020), 
  • PcM - Practice Management (last post Jun 27, 2020), 
  • PPD - Project Planning & Design (last post Sept 14, 2020), 
  • PDD - Project Development & Documentation (last post Sept 14, 2020), 
  • California Supplemental Exam (last post Jul 13, 2020). 

Perhaps there is a lot of discussion happening in those few areas, but I think once the vignettes were killed, Coach's forum was doomed.

 · 

I've also heard good things about The Amber Book, but don't have any personal experience with it for 5.0.

Sep 17, 20 12:31 pm  · 
 · 

Protip for anyone studying the AIA contracts directly (which should be all candidates): Use the commentary for the 2007 versions. 

For whatever reason they haven't done commentary for the 2017 versions, but you can still find the commentary for the 2007 versions. You're probably ok to use the 2007 versions to study for the ARE, though the 2017 versions are the officially listed resources in the ARE 5.0 Handbook ... so you might also want to understand the changes from 2007 to 2017 (see links below for comparisons). Reading the commentary is a big help in understanding the intent of some of the language. Here are some links to the versions as hosted on the AIA website, not sure how long they will be available.

Sep 17, 20 12:59 pm  · 
 · 
t a z

Are we talking about the changes starting Nov 16, 2020?

https://t.e2ma.net/click/h7vzf...

In addition to new online proctoring, there is a ripple effect on everything else:

Items per division will be reduced. Each ARE 5.0 division will feature 15-20 fewer items compared to the current exam. This change continues NCARB’s efforts to make the licensure process more efficient while ensuring the rigor of the exam is maintained.

Test duration per division adjusted slightly. Changes in the number of items per division will not have a significant impact on exam timing as candidates are being given more time per item on each division and more break time per division.

Optional break time expanded. Candidates’ optional break time will be expanded to 30 or 45 minutes, depending on the division. In addition, candidates will be able to use this time as they see fit, taking multiple short breaks or one long break during their appointment.

Previously viewed items locked when a break is taken. Candidates will be able to review any previously viewed items before they take a break. Candidates should complete all previously viewed items prior to going on a break. Upon returning from a break, candidates will be unable to review items seen prior to a break. Those items will be locked for the duration of the test appointment.

NCARB will set new cut scores. Because the number of scored items is changing, NCARB will have to set a new cut score for each ARE division. This is expected to take approximately four weeks, and candidate score reports will not be released until after the cut score is set. This process allows NCARB to ensure that the new cut score is appropriately equal in nature to the current passing standard.

Digital whiteboard will replace physical scratch paper. Candidates will still be able to take notes, outline potential solutions, and more using an online whiteboard option.

Oct 7, 20 5:53 pm  · 
 · 
rcz1001

Sure, the NCARB updates are pertinent info.

 · 
t a z

Of course the real question is will implentation be a shitshow and should I make an effort to front load another exam before the new (new) 5.0 goes into effect next month? 

Oct 7, 20 5:58 pm  · 
 · 
t a z

Roll-out was pushed back to Dec 14, 2020. Got an e-mail today saying a new full length demo exam with the new digital whiteboard will be available "within the next few weeks."

 · 
t a z

Oh, and if you need you buy the required external webcam to take the online proctored exam you can get a $50 gift card.

 · 
t a z

Full length demo exam with the new "digital whiteboard" is live as of today, Nov 12, 2020. It has 75 questions with 2 case studies (compared with ~95 questions previously).

The whiteboard has a text box, but it seems janky (worse than Acrobat).

 · 
archi_dude

I only studied Ballast 5.0,purchased practice exams by Cheng and then if there was info on those practice exams that I couldn't find in Ballast I tried to hunt it down in the supplemental. This seemed to get me enough info with out totally overdoing it. Also, the mind dump immediately after taking the test, very important.

Oct 8, 20 9:42 pm  · 
1  · 
SneakyPete

This.

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thatsthat

I'll second the mind dump. Helps with stress too.

 · 

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