How Do I Study for the ARE 5.0 Architect Exam? 6 Tips for Success

  • 13 October, 2021

As an NCARB Licensing Advisor, one of the questions I am commonly asked comes from individuals who are working full time in architecture. In worried tones, they inquire, "How do I study for the exams while balancing a 40-60-hour work week?"

Unfortunately, there is no one easy answer to this question, because preparing for the ARE needs to be personalized to each candidate. But even though everyone preparing for this exam comes from a different educational and work experience background, studies and learns differently, and requires a different amount of time to prepare, there are still some general tips that can be applied in most cases to help focus study time and effort:


  1. Prepare a Personal Workplan.

    It's easy to keep putting off taking an exam because there is no specific date by which you need to take or complete it. You'll need to create self-motivation. Develop a realistic study and exam schedule-you may need to modify it along the way but do your best to stick to it. After the first or second exam, you should have a better sense of which study materials work well for you as well as how much time you should allow for studying. Some individuals may want to allow 2-4 months between each exam, while others may want to follow a quicker, more aggressive plan. There is no right way to schedule or complete these exams: it's all based on personal preference and planning.

  2. Block-out Times in Your Schedule to Study.

    Maintaining a regular study schedule is probably the best study tip I can give. It's difficult to study for extended periods of time like 6-8 hours, not only in terms of focusing but also because work and other life priorities can interrupt or distract you. I recommend finding at least 8-10 hours each week to dedicate to studying. To be most effective, it's better to break it up into smaller chunks of time. Take several 10-15-minute study breaks throughout the day, or try 1-2-hour study sessions several times a week. This strategy will allow you to make progress without getting too overwhelmed. By making studying a regular part of your routine, you are more likely to do it.

    If you are struggling with creating your own study schedule or sticking to the schedule you created, one recommendation is to check out EduMind's Ondemand ARE courses, which include access to a Personalized Study Plan. EduMind's PSP helps students create a study plan that reflects on their study needs. All students need to do is answer a few questions to get a custom, dynamic plan tailored to their schedules. That means that if students have an unexpected event, you won't fall behind on your plan, as you can change it dynamically to accommodate a new schedule.

  3. How Do I Study for the ARE 5.0 Architect Exam? 6 Tips for Success

  4. Practice like you play.

    When studying, try to maintain a setting that mirrors the exam-day experience. Turn off your phone and remove anything else that distracts you. If you plan on taking the exams in the morning, study during those hours. If you plan on taking the exams remotely, sit and study where you will be taking the actual exam. If you plan to eat a full breakfast and get good sleep on the test day, try your best to do that each day before studying. Maintaining a consistent pattern is key.

  5. Take Advantage of Free Resources Available to You.

    There are thousands of free exam prep resources available-maybe even so many that it can be difficult to figure out which ones will work best for you. Ultimately, it is best to find 1-2 resources that fulfill your expectations and focus on those, rather than trying to read and study every single resource available. I recommend you try multiple formats of study materials, including study guides, flashcards, practice questions, etc. After one or two exams, you will determine which resources work best for you. Many of these resources are expensive and can be cost prohibitive, so you may want to only purchase some (if you're able to at all). It's extremely important to be aware of what resources are available to you for free. Some exam prep companies offer study guides to licensure candidates. Many local American Institute of Architects (AIA) chapters offer study materials-often on loan. NCARB's website features free information and resources. Spend a little time figuring out what's available to you and take advantage of your freebies! It might even be enough to get you through the exams without spending any additional money on guides.

  6. Join an Online Group (or Two)

    There are lots of other young professionals studying for the same exams who form groups online to chat, work through challenges or struggles, and share success stories. Online groups can be found in places such as Facebook or the NCARB 5.0 Community. These groups are free and can be a great way to learn exam tips and tricks you'd otherwise learn the hard way, or not learn at all!

  7. JUST DO IT!

    Just study. The best way you can prepare for the exam is to study for it. Know the material you will be tested on and practice sample questions. The more you review the material, the more you will learn, and the more likely you will pass.

    Good luck! You got this.

About the Author: Carissa Oyedele

Carissa Shrock Oyedele, AIA, NCIDQ, LEED BD+C is an Associate Principal at Moore Ruble Yudell Architects & Planners. She received a Bachelor of Architecture degree with a minor in Construction Management from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. Her education provides a solid foundation for solving creative design solutions to various project types, such as those with complex programs, schedules, and delivery methods. Carissa's portfolio includes masterplans, civic, campus, and mixed-use projects locally, nationally, and internationally- with notable projects of the Santa Monica Public Library and US Embassies in Helsinki and The Hague. Carissa has been recognized as a leader in the architectural community as a recipient of AIA National Young Architect Award, Top 20 Under 40 by ENR (Engineering News-Record) California, and NextGen 10 in Real Estate & Finance by CSQ Magazine.

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