ARE Study Tips From Richard H. Wilson

We asked ARE 5.0 examinee Richard H. Wilson some questions to help you study for the exam more efficiently.

About Richard: Richard H. Wilson is an intern architect at Integrus Architecture in Seattle who is working on a combined 300,000 sq. ft. high school and middle school project. He is taking ARE 5.0, and has passed three of six divisions so far.

Richard has wanted to be an architect since he was a kid. He finished high school one year early to get a jump start on his architectural career at Portland Community College, which gave him a technical education. He received his Bachelor of Architecture from University of Idaho and Master’s in Urban Architecture from the University of Oregon, where the education was focused on sustainability.

In the future, Richard hopes to be the lead architect of the first commercial Space Port project.

Q: What ARE prep materials do you recommend?

I recommend reading the NCARB ARE 5.0 Handbook thoroughly and keeping it nearby while studying. The handbook also provides a comprehensive list of book study resources near the end. The ARE Review Manual is useful and comes with practice material. I also recommend reviewing contract documents. AIA provides printable, sample, contract docs for ARE candidates that are extremely helpful. AIA has a resources page with video study materials, and sample contracts here.

Q: How do you suggest examinees start their studying process?

“Chunking.” For about an hour each day, try reading a section of the ARE Review Manual (or other material of choice.) This can be a few pages at a time, or in-between bold titles, or between example questions in the book. Make flash cards while reading, make notes and sketches (for visual learners) in a notebook, highlight the related literature in the book, on printed contract docs, etc. Study these notes on the bus, at a cafe, during lunch at work, or wherever feasible. Repeating these steps for reasonable chunks of material allows me to strengthen important details along the way.

Q: What are some tricks you have discovered that have made a difference in your studies?

Stickers and highlighters are useful tools when used right; however, I find aimlessly using stickers and hi-lighting is not necessarily helpful, since stickers will drown in the sea of a thousand pages. The point of these tools is to identify content that needs to be studied, estimate the time it will take to go through that content, form a plan, and then start. Also, I find studying for long periods of time looking down at a book on a table creates neck and eye strain. Consider positioning the book vertically or using a computer monitor that is level with the eyes to avoid neck strain.

Q: What is your most successful study technique?

I found the most successful study strategy is to generate practical application of the content that I study. What’s nice about the order of the exams is they generally follow the course of a normal project. My advice would be to:

  • Imagine a client
  • Write a contract
  • Identify a program
  • Pick a complex building site
  • Research local codes
  • Research building codes
  • Design a building
  • Then show off the results to your friends

Every question likely tests your ability to understand a real-life issue and respond to it. This is complicated because it can be convoluted. While reading and using flash cards are all good ways of looking at text and pictures over and over, I find nothing beats trying to solve real life problems.

Q: How do you recommend examinees schedule taking each exam division?

By using one-month testing intervals. For one month: read, review flash cards and sketch notes, watch supporting online videos, etc. Then dive into the practice materials provided by PPI and schedule that exam while practicing. Why one month? Because the amount of information to study is tremendous! Architectural practice experience doesn’t necessarily guarantee success in terms of the the way NCARB has constructed the exam.

Q: What do you recommend doing after completing an exam division?

I immediately go to my favorite cafe, reward myself, and then break out a notepad, because I’m not done yet. It’s important to reward our brains for hard work. Our brains will thus learn to identify an exam with a reward, which is an important life lesson.

This content is from:

Richard H. Wilson, M.ARCH, Assoc. AIA

Intern Architect