Passing The ARE – How To Get Started

Everyone is here for the same reason, right?

The ultimate goal of passing the ARE should always be on your mind, but it most likely isn’t the only thing you’re thinking  about right now.

Thinking about what it takes to pass the ARE 4.0 exam can be very overwhelming at first. I know this from first hand experience and I can safely say that I didn’t start taking the ARE right away because I was too scared to get started.

Maybe it was because I wasn’t sure how to get started with the ARE. Unfortunately, there isn’t a beginners guide to taking the ARE but I want to share with you some of my personal tips and resources that I used to pass the ARE.

When I started taking the ARE, I didn’t know where to start so I started to gathering random materials without a good plan of attack. There were times where I would start studying a random ARE division only to lose interest and move on to another division. It wasn’t until I took some time to plan things out did I finally feel comfortable with how I was preparing for the ARE.

The following tips come straight from my experience with the ARE. Keep in mind that not all methods will work for you so make sure you take everything with a grain of salt. Remember, passing the ARE will be a result of putting YOURSELF into the best position to succeed. YOU know how your mind works and what study methods work best for you. .

Hopefully these guidelines below can help put you in a good position for success.


Exam Order

Before you get too deep into studying, it’s important to have a solid idea of the ARE exam order that’s right for you. There are a lot of people with different opinions regarding which tests you should take first and which order is the best.

My recommendation is to gather as much information as you can about what each exam covers and start a diagram that shows which tests are similar. In addition, it might be a good idea to rank the exams in terms of which ones you think you’ll struggle with and which ones you think may be easier.

By ranking and outlining the 7 ARE exam divisions, you should get a better feel for what tests include similar content and can be taken close together as well as which tests may be difficult for you and may require more time to prepare.

To see a breakdown of the ARE exam order that I used when taking the tests, see here!


Preparing Study Materials

Whether you like it or not, your chances of passing the ARE are very dependent on the resources and materials that you choose to use when you’re studying. There are a few major companies that sell study guides that come in handy when preparing for the multiple choice section of the ARE.

Kaplan and PPI are 2 companies that offer complete study guides and practice exams for all 7 ARE divisions. Personally, I used the PPI study guides and practice exams and found them very useful in terms of the multiple choice part of the test.

Although both of these study guides briefly touch on how to complete the graphic vignette, I feel that there isn’t as much information available as there should be for the vignettes.

The graphic vignette section of the ARE is commonly overlooked by a lot of test takers and it actually results in a lot of failed exam scores. One major mistake on the vignette can cause you to fail an ARE test so it’s important that you know what you’re doing. In terms of resources for the vignette, there’s a book called “Solutions” by Norman Dorf that explains the different vignettes in detail.

Stay tuned to ARE Advisor for the vignette ebook series that will break down each vignette section in detail including practice examples and solutions.


Practicing The Vignettes

In addition to reading the rules and guidelines for each ARE vignette section, practicing with the actual vignette software can be very beneficial to you. Like I’ve mentioned before, the ARE uses their own software program to host each vignette section which is different than most CAD programs architects are used to.

Fortunately, NCARB offers a free practice program for each vignette section so you can get used to the software before actually taking the ARE exams. I definitely recommend downloading the program for each exam. There are some specific tools depending on which ARE division you are taking so it’s important that you practice the tools for each exam to see how they work.

For more information on the ARE graphic vignettes and how to prepare for them, see here.

Again, stay tuned to ARE Advisor for the vignette ebook series that will provide you with a step-by-step breakdown of each ARE vignette including the tools and resources that you’ll need to perform on each test.


Using The Forum

One of the most useful tools for passing the ARE that I found during my studying is the ARE Forum. This website is a giant forum where users can sign up for free and collaborate with other ARE test takers.

There are threads for each exam where ARE candidates can ask questions about anything imaginable, whether its questions on what they’re studying to their practice vignette solutions. I found the forum especially useful for posting my practice solutions for the vignette. There are established members on the forum that have experience in grading your posts and letting you know what you’ve missed.

Of course, the forum is not official or affiliated with NCARB so you have to take everything with a grain of salt. I certainly recommend joining the ARE Forum so you can join your fellow candidates and get your questions answered.


Rebound Quickly

I know most people don’t want to think about the possibility of failing an ARE exam, but it’s something that happens to a lot of test candidates. If you fail an ARE exam division, NCARB will make you wait 6 months before you can retake that exam. Many people that fail an exam will find it hard to get back on their feet and start studying for another exam right away, but I think it’s essential that you move on from a failed exam immediately.

By shifting your focus to a new test right away, you’re able to forget about that failed test and you won’t suffer any significant setbacks. So many candidates will stop for months or even years after a failed score because their confidence is ruined. Keep in mind that failing is very common and is something that should not get you down; instead, it should motivate you even further.

For more information about how to respond after failing an ARE exam, see here!