DONE WITH ARE- Some thoughts for candidates

DONE WITH ARE- Some thoughts for candidates

Postby JORDANARE » Sat May 19, 2018 2:08 pm

I found out on Tuesday that I passed PDD, and am done with the ARE. I promised myself I would come back and write a blurb on how this was achieved, and what I thought the standard test taker could do to help ensure their success. Personally, I found that many of the posts you read on NCARB's site or elsewhere may offer suggestions for what material to go over, but for me at least, they never got to the bottom of how to pass these exams, and hopefully this post will help some people.

1.) Look at others posts for material, I don't think it's necessary to write another post about "What" to study, but to briefly touch on this (with regards to PDD and PPD), the following resources were helpful for me.

Olins Construction Principles
4.0 Ballast Exams
Online Videos
Building Codes Illustrated

2.) Forget about trying to find all of the perfect resources. I spent way too much time doing this.
The listed sources above are all you need access to pass both of these exams.

FOR THE OK-GOOD TEST TAKER: A lot of people who focus online about preparing for these exams will be in this category. For them, studying will be much different than someone who really struggles with the material. They would be best suited to simply come up with an organized study plan and stick to it for 4-6 weeks prior to this exam using the above resources as a guide.

FOR THE PERSON WHO STRUGGLES OR LACKS WORK EXPERIENCE: You still only need these resources, but now I will expand on what is necessary to get through these two exams, with a primary focus on PDD. Before going into this, Please know this is super EXTRA, but if you've felt like this is an impossible hurdle, the very real reality is that you may need three months of misery to finish up.

A.) You need to understand how it all goes together. Simply studying from ballast or other resources and thinking that's enough will result in a fail. You need to get to the point where you know the various items so well that if the computer went out during your case study you would likely pass without getting one of those questions correct.

How does one achieve this? Begin by looking up the concept of "Spaced Repetition Learning"
You will be attempting to educate yourself at a high level through reading and videos.

The route to achieving this in 12 weeks for both exams.

WEEK 1-2: Take a first pass at quickly going through at least three of the above books...You're literally just skimming them going through 100 pages/Hr, and then do the 5 NCARB exams touched upon heavily in these tests (CDS,SPD,BDCS, BS, SS). Take 0 Notes at this point, you just want brain overload.

Weeks 2-4: Look at each question you got wrong on the Ballast Exams, and retake only those in the test. Go through your selected books and skim again. This time, you're only looking at photos and graphs. I would do like every other pages of these and not get bogged down.

Weeks 4-6: Go through the books again (a third time). Read one paragraph from each page that catches your eye, maybe it's something from work, maybe it's from Ballast Practice. This will take a while since you're going through 2500-3000 pages doing this. but just don't get bogged down. You get the drift here, things are being repeated and connections are being made.

Weeks 6-8: Define certain areas that you are still week on in conjunction with the ARE 5.0 handbook, and only read about them. Forget everything else.

Weeks 8-10: Retake Ballast exams from scratch and review all answers once again. Go back to your three sources. Read one paragraph again that catches you on each page, or every other if it's slowing you down.

Weeks 10-12: The last two weeks of your prep should be the opposite of what you have done thus far. Weeks 1-10 are simply about cramming your brain with as much exposure as possible, the last 1-2 weeks are about answering all the very simple questions. I recommend just retaking Designer Hacks exams as many times as possible until you are close to 100%, and really focusing on the demo test to get the exam format down. You may also want to do one more pass through of the material in the books.


-Study Structures excessively. Know how to size a beam in and out. S = M/F. Know different Loading situations, Know how seismic and wind effect a building. That's all.

-Do not think that all the resources are necessary for the Case studies. The most you will ever have to cross-reference is two sources (drawings/code, zoning/code). As an overthinker it's very easy to get overwhelmed with these. Simply become acquainted by briefly looking through questions and resources, and then identify where that info will likely be found or if it's something you can answer with just your base knowledge.

Ask questions constantly at work, to consultants, to peers, especially in weeks 1-10 during the cram period.

Remember that your ability to answer a question correctly has at least as much to do with identifying the wrong answers. This will be made much easier by your exposure to all of the material.

Consider purchasing a voice recorder and try to give yourself lessons on content.

If you have taken the exam, recognize that alot of the content you are being tested on is the same as the first but they will mix up the question to make sure you understand.

I know this is one of the longest posts ever, but I'm happy to be done and promised I'd write something for the people who have no clue where to begin and still look at this like it's impossible. It is possible for you, but you have to be willing to put in the time. Do also realize that as insane as 20-30 hours/week sounds for 12 weeks, It's really still less than the remaining four 4.0 exams to pass these two.

Although I could never tell you you'll pass. I believe that for the struggling test taker - the Pass line is when you can get around 95% on Designer Hacks quizzes,and an 80-85% average on all the Ballast Exams, if you were looking for a reasonable bench mark.
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