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May 05

ARE – Programming Exam

The ARE Programming Exam tests candidates on issues relating to the preliminary planning and design of a building. Before schematic design and design development can even begin, a lot of time is spent programming spaces and estimating preliminary budgets. The idea of building programming gets into issues of adjacency planning, building area and other functional requirements in a building.

In addition to programming a building, the programming exam gets into other concepts relating to environmental concerns and site planning. Although there is a whole separate ARE exam relating to site planning, the programming exam certainly overlaps with the SPD exam. Ideas such as site orientation, climatic factors, community influences and many more are covered in this exam as well.

The programming and planning exam does not get into too much detail in any one area, but the specific areas that the exam does cover is quite large. It can be very overwhelming at times when studying for this exam because it almost seems too “general” at times. I would certainly recommend studying for the SPD exam at the same time, even if you’re not planning on taking the site planning exam yet. Not only will it provide you with more information regarding site planning, but it will save you time in the future when you are studying for that specific exam. Although the term “programming” typically applies to a building, this exam definitely requires candidates to be familiar with larger scale issues in terms of a site.

It’s also a good idea to take a look at some of the material from the CDS exam too because there are questions related to architecture as a profession that sometimes show up on the programming exam. Reviewing the AIA contracts and some general project management concepts can certainly help prepare you more for the PPP exam.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the topics covered on the ARE Programming Exam:

  • Programming – Building

Yes, I know the entire test is supposed to be about programming, but candidates should prepare for the exam by knowing how programming applies to the building itself. When architects are talking to clients about the functional requirements of a building, they start to list spaces and square footages of each space. This helps to not only give the architect a general idea of what’s going to be included in a building, but it also offers the architect a chance to make a preliminary estimate of the total building cost.

Before any schematic design can even begin, architects and owners frequently meet to discuss not only the spatial requirements, but also some of the relationships that these spaces have with each other. For example, if you’re designing a library that requires the kids section to be separated from the rest of the quiet study areas, this is an adjacency requirement that should be talked about during the programming phase. Candidates should be familiar with some of the general processes that architects go through during this phase of a project.

In addition to knowing the spatial requirements in a building, the PPP exam often covers preliminary design concepts such as laying out circulation requirements. This still technically happens before schematic design, but including circulation patterns and conceptual planning often helps to group and separate the spaces that you helped program in the steps above.

  • Site Development

Understanding how urban planning and development works is another important aspect of the programming and practice exam. You should understand a brief history of urban planning as well as some of the basic urban planning layouts such as grid, satellite, and star layouts. There are benefits to each type of pattern so it’s important to know the difference between the types and how each one affects the development of a city or zone.

Thinking on a more macro scale, issues such as neighborhoods and zoning are important to prepare for on this exam. By analyzing a site in terms of its neighborhood and access to amenities is an important step that owners and architects take sometimes before the acquisition of land is even made.

In addition to these issues relating to development of land are other legal issues such as zoning a piece of property and the steps needed to develop land. This is certainly a process that architects should be familiar with because they often deal with developers when designing a building. Knowing how the process of financing a project and acquiring land works are definitely important topics on this exam.

  • Site Analysis

As mentioned before, this exam overlaps quite a bit with the site planning and development exam in terms of issues relating to site analysis. Issues such as topography, climate, and access are all important during initial planning because some of the decisions made here can influence a lot of factors in the design of the building.

At this time in the design process, issues of sustainable design also come up because there are plenty of opportunities for sustainability to be included. By analyzing the location of the building and minimizing the disturbance on the site, architects can help keep important landscape features on the site. In addition, locating the building to take advantage of local conditions such as daylight and winds can also be critical factors decided at this stage in the process.

Reviewing this material for the PPP exam will not only help you pass the programming exam, but it will also help you minimize your study time when it comes to taking the SPD exam.

  • Programming Vignette

Like the other ARE exams, the programming exam also includes a graphic vignette that you are required to complete only after the multiple-choice section is over. For the vignette, you will have one hour to complete a size zoning problem that will require you to draw a site zoning plan as well as a site section.

You will be given an existing site plan with various rules and requirements. You will be asked to draw building and site setback lines on the site plan before moving on to the site section. Using the given information, you will draw your site section that shows the maximum building area allowed including the setback information that you included on your site zoning plan.

For a more detailed description of the ARE programming vignette, including a breakdown of what to include as well as common strategies for completing the vignettes, see here!


Study Materials:

With all of the information on the ARE Programming Exam, it can be tough find a good place to start. Even though some of the study guides available don’t cover too much on the PPP exam, they are still great resources for getting started. PPI and Kaplan have both made study guides for this exam. In addition to the study guides, PPI offers a separate guide that contains 2 practice tests with explanations of each answer. This is a very helpful tool to help give you an idea of the type of questions that are typically asked on the ARE.

In addition to reading the PPP exam study guides, I would also recommend reading through the SPD and CDS exam materials at the same time. Fortunately, both the Kaplan and the PPI study guides for the site planning exam are not that long so you’re able to review the materials for both exams even if you’re only taking the programming exam.

There are also note cards available through both PPI and Nalsa that can help review the material for the exam as well. Since the programming and planning exam covers such a variety of general topics, these note cards might help you review areas that you didn’t even consider would be on this test.

As far as addition reading goes for this exam, there really aren’t too many recommended readings simply because some of these exam topics are so general and it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what will be on the exam. I’d certainly recommend sticking with the study guides and note cards for this exam.


10% Off PPI Study Materials:

Since I personally used the PPI study guides for all 7 ARE exams, I’m a big supporter of the study materials that they sell. These study guides and practice tests go into fairly detailed descriptions of the material and I certainly recommend these materials for anyone preparing for the ARE.

With that said, ARE Advisor is pleased to announce a partnership with PPI (Professional Publications, Inc) where we will offer you 10% off on all PPI materials if you enter the ARE Advisor Promo Code. Whether it’s study guides, practice test, or online courses, PPI should have everything you need to pass the ARE.

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Final Thoughts:

The programming exam certainly does not get into as much detail as some of the other ARE exam divisions do, but that’s what makes this exam challenging. The fact that this exam can cover such a variety of different subjects related to site planning, building programming or sustainable design makes this exam very difficult to prepare for. That’s why the best thing you can do for the PPP exam is to make sure you have all of your bases covered.

As mentioned above, reading through the site planning exam material can certainly help you in terms of any site materials that may overlap with programming. In addition, reading through the PPI study guides and note cards will give you a sense of what kinds of materials will be on the exam.

Good luck to all!