Hey @cristalpwilliams09, thanks for reaching out.
First, welcome! This is a great first step in starting your exam journey. Definitely take advantage of all the materials Black Spectacles has to offer. For just starting out, I’d recommend listening to the past ARE Live sessions and signing up for the upcoming one. It’s a free webinar that poses a few practice exam questions and gives you a ‘taste’ of what each exam is like. This can be helpful in gauging how much you know about the different divisions. You can sign up for the upcoming ARE Live on 8/13 here.
Second, flip through the ARE Handbook. This will give you a further in-depth snapshot into what to expect in each division of the exams.
Third, and my personal advice; the exams are in a specific order for a reason. I would’ve saved myself a lot of headache (and extra study hours) if I had tested in the following order:
- Practice Management (PcM)
- Project Management (PjM)
- Programming & Analysis (PA)
- Project Planning and Design (PPD)
- Project Development and Documentation (PDD)
- Construction and Evaluation (CE)
The exams sequentially build on each other, so by testing in the above order, you’ll continue to gain and expand upon the knowledge you gained in the previous exam. A great study tip if you find yourself getting stuck on one exam is to check out study material for the ‘sister’ exam, which is the exam before, or after in the above order. The one caveat I’d make to that order is inserting CE above the PA exam. I’ve heard people have great success breaking the exams into two chunks: PcM, PjM, and CE; and PA, PPD, and PDD.
Fourth, you’ve gotta jump into testing at some point. I strongly encourage people to sign up for two exams to start with. This was the absolute BEST advice I was given when I started testing. Sign up for two exams, one a couple months from now, and the other about 4-6 weeks after your first one. By doing this, you’re committing to studying and keeping up your momentum after your first exam, even if you don’t end up getting the results you want. My first fail was HARD. I’m so glad I had signed up for my second one already, because it meant I had to get going. I ended up ‘leap frogging’ all of my exams after that, taking one, taking another, retaking the first, retaking the second, etc until I had passed them all.
Finally, everyone is different. Please don’t believe the posts on different forums telling you that the only way to pass is by reading every single resource cover to cover and studying 80 hours a week for 6 months at a time. It’s simply not true. My study schedule was studying 4-5 days a week, for 1-2 hours a day, for 3-5 weeks before an exam. That said, I didn’t pass all my exams on the first try (failed 3), but this study schedule kept me sane and motivated. These exams are hard but not impossible, you got this.
Phew! Sorry for the essay! I hope you find some useful information up there.
Here are some links I found useful during my testing days, and hope you will too:
My favorite books for studying (PS, check your local library/AIA component for these!):
- The Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice, 15th edition
- The Project Resource Manual: CSI Manual of Practice, 5th edition
- Planning and Urban Design Standards
Good luck, and keep me updated on your progress!