This morning I sat down for the 5th of 7 ARE (Architects Registration Exam) sections. The title of this latest gem: Programming, Planning and Practice. What does that mean, you ask? Well, if you have taken the exam, or know someone who has, or follow the ARE Forums you know this exam basically covers most anything under the sun. And I can mostly confirm this. And so, as with other posts on the subject, below is an overview of what and how I studied as well as my thoughts on the exam content – both graphic and multiple choice.

What I studied:

I have found so far, with most of the exams that extensive study beyond what is contained in the Kaplan/Ballast study books, practice software and flash cards is unnecessary and incredibly stressful. The ARE as a whole tests your basic knowledge of principles and design and systems, as well as your general ability to follow the simplest of instructions regardless of what you think is right or wrong. So, getting into the nitty gritty and detail of every aspect of architecture and building engineering….not really necessary. This exam is no different.

The Test – my reaction:

The critiques and reviews of this exam on the ARE Forums are pretty spot on. The Multiple Choice section wasn’t completely all over the place, but there were a fair amount of WTF questions that did not appear in the study materials. There was a very heavy concentration on Programming, Contracts and “most appropriate” or “best practice” kind of questions. The section is 120 minutes long and only 85 questions. I finished with a good 26 minutes left on the clock and that was after reviewing every single question a second time and verifying my answers. The first go around I took about 30 seconds for each question, which was plenty of time to carefully read and understand each word in the question given and understand what exactly they were trying to get at. This is critical for all of the multiple choice sections so far – understand the English language and really READ the questions. I honestly have no clear feeling of how I did on this section. It’s a real 50/50 shot in the dark.

The Graphic Section, however….seriously…it’s kind of a joke. If I failed this section I will appeal the decision because there’s no way in hell. Like most of the graphic exam sections, you have to read the instructions/program and DO WHAT IT SAYS. Nothing more, nothing less, just do EXACTLY what it says. The way I accomplish this is simply by writing it all down and having that program list right in front of my face as I’m working through it on screen. As I complete each requirement I scratch through it and move on to the next. Once finished, I go back through and verify each item on the list, scratch it off again and then check one last time to make sure I didn’t miss something stupid. You’ve got 60 minutes for the Site Zoning Vignette. After I finished, checked, rechecked and then checked one last time I still had 20 minutes left.

All told, for a 4 hour exam, I finished in 2 1/2 hours, including my 15 minute break. And in about 4 weeks I’ll know if what I studied was enough. Good luck to all the candidates out there.

Lisa Saldivar