Studying for the ARE
Studying for the ARE can be a bit daunting to consider. With the practice of architecture being so broad, where do you begin? In this blog, I offer some advice that has helped me over the years. While I took the ARE back in 1982, many of the things I did back then, and continue to do today for annual license renewals (in multiple States) and continuing education have been effective.
My first bit of advice is to look over the entire ARE in a general way. Learn about the individual sections and what each is comprised of. From this, establish an outline "schedule" for yourself. Identify a month to target to set each section of the exam and create a study plan for each section. Give yourself enough time to assemble the appropriate study materials, time to study, and enough time to test yourself with some quizzes. Treat this like any living project schedule and update it as things happen but post it somewhere where you see it to remind you of your goals.
Next, do a deep dive into each ARE section to explore more thoroughly what material is covered. Then, begin to search for study materials. I have found that using a variety of resources for study materials can help you get a more comprehensive understanding of the content. Specifically, I started with my textbooks from college, especially for the topics of structural engineering and environmental control systems (MEP). Next, I suggest looking online at resources available with concentrated study materials for purchase. I recommend using the materials that are specific to each ARE section as a baseline study guide but augment it with a look back at the college textbooks as appropriate. For example, the study guides might cover the basics of calculating bending moments in beams, but a look back at your textbooks from college might have a bit more detail to help refresh your memory of basic problem-solving techniques. Another example might be how to perform simple calculations for rainwater runoff from a roof to help size a gutter or drain, but your college textbooks will likely have more detail, which can help you build the depth you will need to succeed to pass the exam.
My last bit of advice is to take advantage of the quizzes and "mock exams" that are often part of the ARE study materials available for purchase. When I was studying, I would not move on to another subject until I was consistently hitting 90% or higher on the quizzes. I also used the quizzes to help me develop my own version of "Cliff Notes" for each exam section. After successfully completing all quizzes for a given ARE section, I went back over the quizzes and extracted a condensed summary that I could review in the days before sitting for the exam. This process worked well for me, and I have repeated it many times for other professional certifications.
In summary, my advice above is to get organized, pace yourself, and dive-in hard. I tried to tell myself that it was like exercise and that it would make me a better architect no matter how I performed on the exam. With that attitude, I discovered that I enjoyed the study process, which made it a lot easier to invest my time.