Study Materials

Study Materials

Postby mermann » Sat May 11, 2019 3:05 am

Content-First
I’ve helped more than 5,000 people pass the ARE, and I’m ready to share some insights. The key to passing these tests? No surprise here: learning the material. Of course, there are test-taking tricks, both general to test-taking and specific to the ARE that can help at the margins—and I’ll cover those in future posts on this thread—but the quickest, surest path to licensure is in owning the content. For most of you, that will mean a good deal of studying, though for the subset of you who have long-treated curiosity as an itch that needs to be scratched, this will come more easily. I’ve found that people who have spent a (professional) lifetime looking up unknown subject matter when they come across it require less studying and probably enjoy the process of studying a bit more. But for both the curious and uncurious, if you are endeavoring to pass these exams, I encourage you to approach them with a measure of gusto, because owning the content—really really really knowing it—is more fun than trying to memorize a test item that was on your last failed attempt (and unlikely to show up again). And truly understanding the subject matter will both make you more likely to pass and will make you a better architect.—Michael Ermann, The Amber Book
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Re: Study Materials

Postby mermann » Sat May 11, 2019 3:07 am

Column Buckling
Study structures, as it relates to the ARE, here. (Free content from the Amber Book I posted on YouTube).
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AvvaCi_ ... QA&index=1
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Re: Study Materials

Postby mermann » Tue May 14, 2019 7:41 am

Failing is a Feature, Not a Bug
At the time I write this, pass rates for ARE divisions range from 46% (PPD) to 70% (CE). (You can see up-to-date pass rates for each division at https://www.ncarb.org/pass-the-are/pass-rates.) Let’s say you’ve studied enough to achieve an 80% likelihood of passing EACH of your six exam divisions, which is exemplary and far exceeds the average test-taker. Even in that high-achiever example, with an 80% likelihood of passing EACH division, you still have less than a one-in-three chance of passing ALL the divisions on the first try. Failing some divisions is part of the process, not a detour from it. For this reason, think of failing a division not as failure, but as an expensive, but very accurate, practice test—part of the process of moving toward licensure, and nothing to be dejected about for more than a day. Unless your score suggests you failed spectacularly, sign up right away for the next available spot at the testing center to re-test that same division. If you are a football fan, think of it as a holding call: not optimal, but a part of the game. If you are not a sports fan, think of failing a division as a long queue at airport security. It makes you feel bad, it delays you, but you usually make your plane in the end.—Michael Ermann, The Amber Book https://amber-book.com/
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Re: Study Materials

Postby mermann » Fri May 17, 2019 8:37 am

Fire Code and Revolving Doors
Study fire codes and egress, as it relates to the ARE, here. (Free content from the Amber Book I posted on YouTube).
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=miqOq62 ... QA&index=2
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Re: Study Materials

Postby mermann » Sun May 19, 2019 3:51 pm

How Many Hours Does Someone Need to Study to Pass This ARE Division?
There are so many problems with this reasonable-sounding question. It reveals a failure to think probabilistically (more on that in a later post), and it fails to account for individual prior knowledge of the material, which varies across test-takers. But mostly, it promotes over-studying. Let’s say that you have 200 hours available to study in a three-month period. Is it better to study one division and get to a state where there is a 90% likelihood of passing that one division. . . or is it better to spend 100 hours on each of two divisions and get to an 80% likelihood of passing each of those two divisions. It’s the second scenario that’s better for you. In a given window of time, better to study for two divisions and achieve 80% likelihood of passing each of those, than to study one division and get to 90% likelihood of passing only one division. This is because if you chose to study for one test, you likely could have passed two instead, and even if you failed one of the two, you still broke even in that case because you passed one test, like in the first scenario where you only studied for one test. But with the two-division option, you already have 100 hours of studying under your belt for the retake of the failed division. For too many people their goal is to pass the next division, and it is important to have microgoals for the long process of licensure so you can celebrate the interim victories. But the overarching goal should be to pass all the divisions in the least amount of time.—Michael Ermann, The Amber Book
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Re: Study Materials

Postby mermann » Wed May 22, 2019 4:32 am

How Many Study Hours Does Someone Need to Pass This ARE Division?
There are so many problems with this reasonable-sounding question. It reveals a failure to think probabilistically (more on that in a later post), and it fails to account for individual prior knowledge of the material, which varies across test-takers. But mostly, it promotes over-studying. Let’s say that you have 200 hours available to study in a three-month period. Is it better to study one division and get to a state where there is a 90% likelihood of passing that one division. . . or is it better to spend 100 hours on each of two divisions and get to an 80% likelihood of passing each of those two divisions? It’s the second scenario that’s better for you. In a given window of time, better to study for two divisions and achieve 80% likelihood of passing each of those, than to study one division and get to 90% likelihood of passing only one division. This is because if you chose to study for one test, you likely could have passed two instead, and even if you failed one of the two, you still broke even in that case because you passed one test, like in the first scenario where you only studied for one test. But with the two-division option, you already have 100 hours of studying under your belt for the retake of the failed division. For too many people their goal is to pass the next division, and it is important to have microgoals for the long process of licensure so you can celebrate the interim victories. But the overarching goal should be to pass all the divisions in the least amount of time.—Michael Ermann, The Amber Book
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Re: Study Materials

Postby mermann » Wed May 29, 2019 2:57 am

What is the Difference between Prestressing and Pretensioning?
Study reinforced concrete, as it relates to the ARE, here. (Free content from the Amber Book I posted on YouTube).
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iIEEYw4 ... QA&index=3
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Re: Study Materials

Postby mermann » Mon Jun 03, 2019 2:47 am

Is there such a thing as studying too much?
The first hours of studying for an exam have a high yield. By that, I mean each hour significantly increases the likelihood of a pass. Eventually, you will reach a point of diminishing returns, where each extra hour of squeezing produces scant extra juice. How do you find that inflection point in you process? That’s difficult to pinpoint with precision, and it generally ranges between 25 hours and 175 hours, but if more than 25% of the content you are currently learning is content you’ve already seen in the course of your prior studying, it’s time to schedule that exam. Those of us who live this stuff have an idea when the low-hanging fruit has all been picked, so ideally, the study prep material you’re using already has this inflection point figured out for you, and it recognizes the value of your time. Frankly most study prep material does a poor job of considering your “yield,” which is the number of extra questions you’ll get right for each additional hour of studying a given topic. For giggles, we made a moch-ARE you-passed-but-over-studied pass report. Click on this link (and see if you can find the spoofed material). https://drive.google.com/file/d/1X0jm5s ... leNX-/view. --Michael Ermann, The Amber Book
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Re: Study Materials

Postby mermann » Wed Jun 19, 2019 10:17 am

Galvanic Action
Study which metals can’t touch one another, as it relates to the ARE, here. (Free content from the Amber Book I posted on YouTube).
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tee3W2Q ... QA&index=4
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Re: Study Materials

Postby mermann » Sun Jun 23, 2019 5:25 am

Keep Quiet!
So why do people over-study? Why do they study for one test until they get to a 90% likelihood of passing instead of studying for two tests in the same time window and getting each of those to an 80% likelihood of passing? It is because they are not visualizing the difference as a slight decrease in passing likelihood from 90% to 80%. Instead, they are visualizing a doubling of the failing rate from 10% to 20%, and they’re doing so because of pride. Oversharing begets over-studying. When you announce to your boss, your friends, your social media followers, your coworkers, your old college roommates, and the person with whom you share a bed that you are going to be sitting for an ARE exam division next week, you are inviting them to ask you how did it go? did you pass? You may be recasting a fail report, which is a normal part of the process (see an earlier post), into a personal and often profound embarrassment. If you take nothing away from these posts, take this: stop telling people you are taking the divisions. Tell no one. Share instead with your friends once you’ve passed a division. You’ll earn their respect and get through the examination process in less time.—Michael Ermann, The Amber Book
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Re: Study Materials

Postby mermann » Tue Jul 02, 2019 6:25 am

How Does Electricity Work
Study circuits, voltage, current, and power delivery, as it relates to the ARE, here. (Free content from the Amber Book I posted on YouTube). .—Michael Ermann, The Amber Book
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZInLPe_ ... QA&index=5
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Re: Study Materials

Postby mermann » Mon Aug 05, 2019 3:06 pm

When Over-studying is Okay
You want to follow a path that gets you to the highest likelihood of passing in the least amount of time studying, and your study materials should support that goal. If you’ve read my previous posts, you know I maintain a steadfast position against over-studying. You think you might be ready to take an exam division? . . . Schedule it! Better yet, take all your remaining divisions now and study only for the ones you don’t pass.
There are times, however, where extra study is warranted. If you honestly think that you know much less about a topic in our field than others do it’s okay to study far beyond what I recommended in my prior posts. I’m not talking about “imposter syndrome,” an unfounded doubt in one’s own accomplishments and a fear of being exposed as a fraud, but extra studying is sanctioned if you’ve fallen behind and have no idea what your engineers are talking about when they say “air handling unit,” or you can’t intuit what “sound transmission” means (it means what you think). If you have one more exam division to pass and your running clock allows you only one last re-take of that division, then, by all means, study hard. If you fear being fired if you don’t pass (I had one person tell me this), then study hard! And importantly, if you are the one-in-six emerging professionals who I meet that enjoy studying—if you geek-out on learning this stuff like I do—then study vigorously and unapologetically. You’ll be better at your job if you do.—Michael Ermann, The Amber Book
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Re: Study Materials

Postby mermann » Thu Aug 08, 2019 9:07 am

Roofs!
Study roof slopes and roof failure, as it relates to the ARE, here. (Free content from the Amber Book I posted on YouTube).
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LB3yeOl ... QA&index=6
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Re: Study Materials

Postby mermann » Sat Aug 17, 2019 2:52 am

[b]What Study Materials Do You Recommend?[/b]
Mechanical and Electrical Equipment for Buildings (MEEB), Fundamentals of Building Construction, and The Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice are three books that are most widely cited as study material, but those three books are 4,000 pages long, and only one of them is a good read (the other two are better as reference books). For most people, I believe that the Amber Book online video course alone provides the highest likelihood of passing in the least amount of time studying. I know this because people keep writing us, unsolicited, and telling us so. If you’ve finished the Amber Book course and still want to study more, study the images—the diagrams, photographs, graphs, and drawings—in MEEB. Those images don’t require memorization: you needn’t study them for recall, rather just review them for recognition.
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Re: Study Materials

Postby mermann » Wed Aug 28, 2019 9:51 am

This Should Be Fun
If you study right, this process should be fun. . .Not as much fun as you would be having if you weren’t preparing for an important test, but more fun than you thought it will be before you started. Architects aren’t paid especially well, we don’t enjoy high levels of job security, and we often work long hours, but for many of us, the work itself gratifies, and the studying process is very much about the work.—Michael Ermann, The Amber Book
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Re: Study Materials

Postby mermann » Wed Sep 25, 2019 6:00 am

Steel Connections
Study welds, bolts, and the difference between moment and shear connections in steel structure, as it relates to the ARE, here. (Free content from the Amber Book I posted on YouTube).
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0VW39e ... QA&index=7
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Re: Study Materials

Postby mermann » Mon Sep 30, 2019 8:39 am

How Do I Read My Fail Report?
I just got off the phone with NCARB’s Vice President for Examination. I asked him what he wanted to communicate with the testing community. His response: Looking at the testing record of individuals, he finds a pattern whereby folks sit for a few tests, they pass those tests, and then fail a division, give up, and stop testing altogether. If you’ve read my previous posts, you know that failing a division is a feature, not a bug in this process, and that, unless you failed spectacularly, you should schedule a retake for the earliest possible allowed date. But what to study while you are waiting to retake? And how to use the fail report to guide that decision?

When looking to the fail report, you’ll want to read not only the level of achievement you earned on a section, but, more importantly, what percentage of questions come from that section.

So at first glance it might seem like you should study Content Area 5, because that is where their performance was demonstrably weakest. But look at the highlighted “Section %.” Content Area 5 only accounts for 2% to 8% of the exam (maybe three to nine questions), and because your pass depends on only your total score for the whole exam regardless of the content area, and because every question is worth one point, and construction cost estimation is a large field that would take forever to study and it is one that he clearly knows little about, Content Area 5: Construction Cost Estimates is probably the last content area he should study. Likewise, looking at Content Area 1 and Content Area 2, you might assume that because he achieved a “Level 2,” meaning he did well on those sections, that those would be areas he doesn’t need to study. Yet, he actually should study Content Area 1 and Content Area 2, because they together account for between two-thirds and three-quarters of the questions on the division (maybe 80 or 90 questions). The irony is that he likely has far more wrong questions, and therefore more room for improvement, on the content areas where the report says he did better!

Okay, so now you know what to study. No! You don’t. How do you study for a content area as large as “Content Area 1: Integration of Building Materials & Systems,” or “Content Area 2: Construction Documentation?” These areas are way too broad and not specific enough to guide you to retake preparation. If NCARB’s original sin in distributing these misleading reports is to inadvertently fool you into believing that you need to pass a certain number of content areas (rather than a certain number of questions, regardless of the content area), its new sin, adopted with ARE 5.0, is to inadvertently group the questions and title the content areas with language so vague an unspecific, as to render them almost useless. So study with a test prep program that knows the test and can weight subject matter the way the exam does, and worry about learning about architectural acoustics and swales rather than spending your valuable time studying the way the test makers populate vague content areas.—Michael Ermann, The Amber Book
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Re: Study Materials

Postby mermann » Sun Oct 06, 2019 4:55 am

Why Isn’t Real Wood as Strong as Theoretical Wood?
Study wood defects, as they relate to the ARE, here. (Free content from the Amber Book I posted on YouTube).
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9zT3qaZ ... QA&index=8
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Re: Study Materials

Postby mermann » Wed Oct 09, 2019 2:28 am

Study for All the Divisions at Once; Take All the Divisions at Once
This advice, to study for all six divisions at once, and then take all six divisions at once, upsets many people, but I’ll defend it as good advice. There has always been overlap in content between divisions of the ARE, but in ARE 5.0, overlap of content is the defining characteristic. In the switch from ARE 4.0, NCARB resolved to rearrange what had been testing divisions based on school subjects (structures, building systems, materials and methods of construction, etc.) to a regime where divisions are based on job phases (schematic design, design development, construction documents, etc.). They explained the shift as aligning better with the way a project flows in an office. Fair enough, but I’ve never heard a satisfactory explanation as to why it is better to test minimum professional and technical competency in a manner that aligns with project phases than in a manner that aligns with subject matter. Oh well, this is the established system that we find ourselves in, so how to best navigate it? Study for all six exams and then sit for all six exams at once. If you’ve already passed some of the divisions, study for the remaining ones all at once. This advice isn’t founded on pedagogical or epistemological grounds, but rather based on empirical observation. It is impossible to study the schematic design part of structures and the schematic design part of building systems and then take the division focused on early design. . . then study the design development part of structures and the design development part of building systems and then take the division focused on design development. The problem with a one-at-a-time approach is three-fold: (1) I don’t know precisely where the early design part of structures ends and the design development begins, and neither does anyone else, (2) I’ll take ownership of the design development content of structures only if I’m studying it in reference to the foundational early-design part of structures so I’ll learn structures better if I study all of it, and (3) it’s more expedient to study all of structures, then all of building systems because that’s the clearest way to teach and write about it. I’ve lived this advice myself. I took all six tests in six consecutive available time slots at the testing center, including a stint of four divisions tested in three consecutive days. I have an email mailbox full of notes from people who have thanked me for encouraging them to take all these divisions at once, and lots more from those who didn’t take this path and wish they had. But no one has ever written me to proclaim they were happy with their decision to spread these tests out. Because the Amber Book charges tuition monthly, this advice to quickly sit for all six exams has surely been a costly business decision, but it is advice I stand by. If you are overwhelmed by the idea of studying for all six, you can take the Practice Management and Project Management divisions together first, then study for the other four divisions and take those four in a block after you’ve passed the first two. If this 4+2 still scares you, fake courage and do it anyway.—Michael Ermann, The Amber Book
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