Four Most Important ARE Tips

Embarking on the journey of preparing for the Architect Registration Examination (ARE) is a long and challenging adventure, filled with its share of ups and downs. As I navigated through the process of studying for these exams, I often felt like I hadn’t done my homework properly in the beginning. It took some trial and error to figure out what works best and what doesn’t. Among the plethora of advice and strategies, I’ve distilled four key insights that I believe would have greatly benefited me had I known them earlier in my ARE journey. So, without further ado, let’s delve into these invaluable study techniques.

1. Collaborative Learning: Study with a Group

To successfully conquer the ARE exams, you’ll find yourself diving into numerous books. Over the course of tackling six exams, I personally read through more than 12 books cover to cover, and at times, even revisited them. Let’s face it; tackling a comprehensive book like MEEB all on your own can be far from enjoyable. But what if I told you there’s a more engaging way? 

Imagine connecting with a group of individuals who are also navigating the intricacies of “MEEB” or any other study material, and instead of struggling through it in isolation, you read it together. You can harness the power of collective learning to enhance your comprehension and retention.

You can use the NCARB Community, the ARE Facebook Group, or other social platforms to meet people and use online meeting platforms to meet regularly.

How to Study with Your Group?

First and foremost, I recommend interviewing potential study partners before committing to a study group. It’s crucial to ensure that you share similar schedules, expectations, and mindsets. Misaligned schedules can lead to challenges down the road. For example, if you typically finish work at 6 pm, but your study partner consistently works late (due to an inefficient boss), the timing won’t work. Similarly, if you have three kids and your only study time is between 5 am to 7 am, your study buddies should have a similar schedule. So, interview each other to ensure regular meetings and shared goals.

Secondly, it’s essential to study for the same exams. Seek out individuals who are willing to delve into the same books you plan to study but may be struggling to do it independently. If someone believes they can skip reading books entirely and follow a different path, it’s best to wish each other good luck and part ways.

Third, appoint a group leader who will facilitate the study sessions. Someone should keep track of time and ensure that the discussion stays on track. Sometimes, you may need to agree to disagree and move on to the next topic.

Fourth, establish a schedule for each book and stick to it rigorously. For example, if you plan to read the Architectural Graphic Standards (AGS) for multiple exams, create a schedule to cover 2-3 chapters over the next two days. Then, convene as a group to discuss these chapters at the end of those two days. Each group member can prepare flashcards or questions to quiz the rest of the group. Engaging in active discussions like this is invaluable. It transforms solitary reading into a collaborative effort, making the content more memorable. Knowing that your peers will quiz you about the material in a couple of days encourages you to engage actively with the text. The social pressure is a significant motivator, as no one wants to feel embarrassed in front of their study group. Consequently, you’ll find yourself studying more attentively. Furthermore, you’ll be prepared to ask challenging questions, which will deepen your understanding and enhance comprehension. No more nodding off while reading!

2. Effective Note-Taking

Taking notes may seem obvious, but it’s worth reiterating, especially for those who haven’t been in a learning environment for a while. Rewriting concepts in your own words is an excellent exercise for better comprehension. I personally had a favorite sketch/notebook that accompanied me throughout most of my study process. Consolidating all your notes in one comprehensive notebook is a smart approach. Additionally, I used erasable pens to jot down notes and sketch details.

3. Embrace Digital Books

I have a preference for digital books due to their efficiency in keyword searches and easy topic navigation. Many resources offer PDF versions, often more cost-effective than printed books. If you have access to your college’s online libraries, you may also find valuable resources there. To declutter your workspace and make the most of your desk real estate, consider using two monitors for your digital books. If you only have one monitor, investing in a lightweight, portable monitor can significantly enhance your efficiency. I’ve been using the one I linked here and can’t recommend it enough. It’s affordable, functional, and clears up desk space.

Lastly, if you have dyslexia or prefer listening to books while performing other tasks, consider using PDF read-aloud options. Adobe offers a read-aloud function, or you can explore alternatives like Speechify. I primarily used Adobe, but I must admit it can be a bit dry. However, it served its purpose for me at the time, as it was free, and I didn’t require read-aloud functionality for all my readings. If you plan to rely heavily on this feature, consider exploring Speechify, which offers a 3-day free trial for you to evaluate.

 (Please click here to see how to activate this function on Adobe Acrobat Reader.  If you don’t like Adobe’s read-aloud performance, check out Speechify.)

4. Practice Questions: Engage and Improve

Solving practice questions tends to be a more engaging and less tedious study method compared to reading books. Therefore, gather as many practice questions as possible and work through them repeatedly until you gain a thorough understanding. If questions include feedback, use it to delve deeper into the content. Your goal should be to learn the material, so treat each question as an opportunity to explore the topic further.

While practicing with questions, try to develop effective test-taking strategies. When tackling the new NCARB free exams, see if you can reverse-engineer the relationship between the correct answer and the question. This approach will not only prepare you for the content but also enhance your test-taking skills.

Please watch my Youtube video to see how I use this strategy. 

Furthermore, I recommend increasing your question volume, particularly during the last two or three weeks leading up to your exams. Start with 50 to 75 questions per day and gradually work your way up to 300-400 questions per day. During this process, allocate a minimum of 3 hours, mimic the test day environment by turning off your phone, and use a digital notepad. Avoid eating or drinking during this time. Essentially, simulate the test day experience as closely as possible. Once you can comfortably sit down for 3-4 hours, answering 300 questions without distractions, you’ll be well-prepared for the real exam day.

These are the four most crucial and valuable recommendations I can offer to any test taker preparing for the ARE exams. As I mentioned at the outset, passing the six ARE exams is a significant achievement that demands substantial effort. However, I hope these tips will make your journey more manageable and ultimately lead you to success.

Best of luck on your ARE journey!

Elif Bayram, AIA