ARE 4.0 Reading

Visualizing ARE 4.0 [Part 1] [ Part 2] [Part 3] [Part 4]

arewethereblog_ARE 4.0_reading

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The ARE seems to be such a mystery to a lot people. For those who are looking to get started, the two most asked questions are “What do they test you on?”, which I attempted to answer in my previous post, and “Is there a lot to study?”, which is what I try to answer in this post. Short answer, 1794 pages. Long answer…

I have made this diagram that visualizes how many pages there are to read in each test, from the two main publishers. Before we dive into the diagram above, I must make one point extremely clear:

Kaplan and Ballast are NOT the only books you have to read.

Kaplan and PPI (commonly referred to as “ballast”, after the author) are both publishers who publish ARE review materials. They seem to be the most popular, although I don’t know if NCARB has ever declared them “official” study materials. Some people study them exclusively while others say they are “complete waste of time”. If you go to “coach”‘s forum, you will see a diverse range of study materials and different opinions about these two publishers. Resources go from wikipedia, youtube to user-contributed notes, flash cards and quizzes, but that’s the topic for another post.

Nevertheless, Kaplan and Ballast are usually where people start. Kaplan publishes one book for each test and Ballast is one giant 800-page review manual. I broke them down to all the chapters so you can see the topics in each test. Since Ballast is one complete book, it does not repeat information if it’s included in two different exams, but only cross-references it between sections. Kaplan on the other hand, tends to repeat information in different books.

There are few things that this diagram doesn’t quite convey:

  1. Ballast is more technical and more wordy. For me it takes at least twice as long to read one page on Ballast compared to Kaplan.
  2. Some content areas are way heavier and more complicated than others. This is highly subjective, it really depends on your knowledge and work experience. Like for me, going through 10 pages of PPP’s “urban design” is like a walk in the park compared to 10 pages of SS’ “Seismic Design”. All I am trying to say is merely looking at the number of pages might not give you an idea of how hard the subject is.
  3. The “links” between tests are the most obvious ones, but there are many overlaps in general. You will know what I mean ones you start studying.
  4. These are pages for the multiple choice section only. You will also have to read and practice for the vignettes.

So here you go, my attempt to answer “how much do I have to read”. Not too surprisingly, SS is the winner, followed by CDS, BS, BDCS and PPP with more or less the same amount of reading, and then SPD has the least. The amount of time you have to spend on reading them depends on your test-taking order, familiarity with the subject matter and whether you focus solely on these two publishers or branch out to read materials from other sources.

Like I mentioned previously, getting started is the hardest thing to do. Once you get started, the more you read, the faster you read, and the more comprehensively you understand things. For me, the first 1-2 months were hell and everything got easier afterwards. I personally don’t like reading (architects are all visual people after all, right?), but I do have to say, there is so much I just can’t learn from work (nobody has time to explain to me how all different types of HVAC system works) and reading all the materials has helped me a lot professionally.

Again, please feel free to share this with whoever wants to know more about the ARE.

Now, back to my reading of the AIA contracts for my CDS test next Thursday…

Visualizing ARE 4.0 [Part 1] [ Part 2] [Part 3] [Part 4]

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Study Mondays

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In general I study alone, I mean, it’s very hard to study “together” because everybody’s schedule and study modes are so different.

That said, I made plans to study with my friend Xiaopeng every Monday. It’s good to feel that you have some mutual support, and it keeps us going.  We usually just go to Starbucks, find a table and do our own thing. I made it through the “bidding process” chapter, I’ll all it a day!

 

List of Documents & the Project Manual (CDS)

List of Documents & the Project Manual

[CONTRACT DOCUMENTS]
Everything on the list

[BIDDING DOCUMENT]
Everything EXCEPT Contract Modifications

[PROJECT MANUAL]
Bidding Requirements
Contract Forms
Contract Conditions
Specifications

[CONSTRUCTION DOCUMENTS]
Drawings
Specifications

More info: AHPP on google books

By the way, if you want to write some study notes on a wall in the apartment like I did, you can buy the chalkboard paint from Benjamin Moore. They can make it ANY color. It’s kinda fun! They sell their standard colors online too.

ARE 4.0 contents

Visualizing ARE 4.0 [Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3] [Part 4]

ARE 4.0 content

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ARE 4.0 has 7 divisions, and for those who are looking to get the process started, the amount of information can seem overwhelming and intimidating. When they are trying to figure out their exam orders, they often want to know which exams overlap most so they can schedule those back to back or study both at the same time. While I was procrastinating instead of studying last night, I thought, maybe I can visualize it with a venn diagram. I have only taken 5 tests (passed SD, PPP, BS and SPD, failed SS), but I think I’ve read enough to make a summary. Here you are- all 7 exams and their contents in one poster. You can click on the division to access NCARB’s official exam guides. You can also click on the links at the bottom for my blog and pinterest page with additional ARE info.


The Multiple Choice
There is a general consensus that CDS, SPD and PPP belong to one group (left half of the diagram), while BS, SS and BDCS belong to another. In my opinion, BS and SPD actually also have some significant overlaps, as illustrated above.  Unfortunately I could NOT get the sizes of the circles to correspond to the amount of materials in each test– SPD and PPP are definitely much “lighter” tests. As you can see in the diagram, these two have minimal exclusive topics and a whole lot in common with others. SS is almost the opposite.

Now I am not saying they can’t ask you how elevators work in CD or test your structural concepts in PPP… because they can. But as far as studying goes, this is pretty much it. Most people take all three of the same group and then move onto another group, but I personally chose something that looks more like a heavy-light-heavy-light order.

SD is a stand-alone satellite, it has NO multiple choice questions, and is the easiest (although of course, one should by no means underestimate it). People either take it first, because it can boost their confidence; or they take it right in the middle, so they get an easy pass through the mid-way hump; or they take it last, because there’s nothing worse than failing your last test and waiting for 6 months without doing anything.

In the center of the diagram is ADA, IBC and zoning. They matter more to some exams than others, but in general they are sprinkled throughout. You can really get any code-related questions in any test. So, no matter which test you are taking first, start by getting your hands on the codes and you will benefit from it. You will find yourself going back to it for every single test.

The Vignettes
Vignettes are generally easier than MCs. Most of them can be prepared for within a week. Out of all 11 vignettes, I’d say SD’s interior layout, BS’s M&E plan, as well as SPD’s site design are a little trickier than the rest, mostly because of the time limit you are given. Anyway, all it takes to pass the vignettes is a little patience, the ability to follow directions, and attention to detail. Practice, develop a strategy for each type, be careful, and you will be fine.

I have 3 more test to go, so I am somewhere between seeing light at the end of the tunnel and having a long way to go (I have to RE-take SS for crying out loud!) So far I think getting started is THE hardest thing to do. Once you get your feet wet things will pan out one way or another, and so I hope this article will give you an overall idea of what it’s like and make the first step a little easier. Please feel free to share it and/or leave me some comments. Good luck fellow ARE-takers!

Visualizing ARE 4.0 [Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3] [Part 4]

Lesson #1: Shh…..

shush

I stumbled upon this TED talk video a while ago, and in it speaker Derek Sivers said, “Repeated psychology tests have proven that telling someone your goal makes it less likely to happen.”.

I find it very true, at least for me. So before blogging about anything related to the AREs, I’d like to share this useful tip – Keep your goals to yourself. Think about it… instead of keeping everyone posted, changing your facebook status every time you passed or failed a test, it can just come up casually during a conversation one day like “oh by the way, I passed all my tests and now I’m a licensed architect.”… how awesome would that be?!

We all know that taking the ARE is going to be a tough journey… Whatever your goals are, good luck! Just don’t tell me what they are…