Tips to Studying for the ARE’s



The road to becoming a licensed architect is no easy feat. Juggling your job, studying, and life in general can be a challenge; however, preparation and planning can help the process. The intense 7-headed monster known as the Architectural Registration Exam (ARE) can be a lengthy battle, which currently requires the test taker to demonstrate competency in 7 specific realms. The ARE examination is comprised of the following areas: Construction Documents & Services, Programming, Planning, & Practice, Site Planning & Design, Building Design & Construction Systems, Structural Systems, Building Systems, and Schematic Design. Yikes..I know, right?! But don’t worry, there is light at the beautifully designed architectural tunnel, and hopefully these tips for approaching the exams will benefit you!

  1. Set a date

I realize it’s not an easy thing to do but I believe in you, you can do it! Plan ahead and look hard at your schedule to make sure it works for you but be sure to allow yourself at least 4 weeks to study for the test. Once you have successfully scheduled your test with a local registered testing site then you’re ready to put your plan into action. Don’t put it off; stick to the study plan you’ve created as this will help in avoiding a last minute cram session.

Quick Tip: Schedule your test in the morning so you can get up and get after it, this will avoid any overthinking and added anxiety to build up the day of the test.

  1. Make a plan

It seems like a lot…and well honestly it is, but you need to “plan your work and work your plan”, “just do the proverbial ‘it’”, “be all that one can be”, or whatever motivational mantra you deem appropriate for your newfound testing endeavor, but the fact of the matter is you must make a plan and stick to it. Dedicate 8 hours to studying during the week at a regularly scheduled time in increments of 2 hours at a time. Allow yourself a few extra hours during the weekend to study. Remember that consistency in your routine is important. Keep a balance of life, work, and studying and try to not let it take over your life entirely. Study in a way that works for you, which could be flash cards, note taking, reading, etc., but you know yourself better than me.

Fun fact: 6pm – 8pm has shown to be the optimal period of brain functioning, but find a time that best suits you.

  1. Take a break and celebrate

Give yourself at least one or two weeks in between studying for each exam to refresh before moving on to the next one. Be sure to celebrate the accomplishment of passing each individual exam! You worked hard and take a moment to bask in your joyous achievements, in other words “treat yourself!”

  1. Study Resources

Following your study plan is essential, and there is a plethora of study materials available to help you effectively prepare. Some key resources are as follows:

  • NCARB Exam Guides:
    • Set aside time to familiarize yourself with the NCARB’s website for the Exam Guide for each test. The exam guides discuss the content areas of each exam and provide give you sample problems for the multiple choice and vignette portions of the exam. Here are the links to each exam guide:


Programming, Planning, & Practice Exam Guide

Site Planning & Design Exam Guide

Building Design & Construction Systems Exam Guide

Schematic Design Exam Guide

Structural Systems Exam Guide

Building Systems Exam Guide

Construction Documents & Services Exam Guide

  • ARE 4.0 Google Plus Community
    • This forum is supported by NCARB – which is a huge bonus. Here, you can post questions and receive comment on your questions, vignette trials, etc. Not only do you receive the benefit of comments from others who are studying and may have similar questions, but NCARB moderators can respond as well, which is very helpful, especially for clarifications and interpretations on the exams. Plus, there are links to other study resources.
  • Local AIA Chapter
    • Many local AIA chapters offer a variety of resources, such as libraries from which you can borrow study materials and review sessions. Take advantage of these opportunities!
  1. Sleep

You need this–trust me–and get 8 hours of it. You’re not doing anyone any favors by going into zombie mode and avoiding sleep. In fact, prolonged memory recall and the ability to maintain concentration are much improved when an individual is rested, so put this in your plan to schedule. Lastly, get yourself a good nights rest the night before the exam so you are alert and prepared for the exam.


Best of luck to you during your ARE testing journey, it’s not an easy one but you can do it!