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.
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!