My ARE 4.0 Resources Guide

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I’m going to break done some of the study resources I have used, links to where you can find them, and some miscellaneous tips. I want to start off this post with one of my biggest pieces of advice--if you find something you think is really useful but you are not studying for that exam yet, download it and save it for later. You never know when a link or website will no longer work.


This will be a collection of resources for the ARE 4.0. Once ARE 5.0 releases study materials I can reorganize these resources for the new exam version. Let’s start with a general collection of study materials that can be used for every test.


The ARE Google+ Community.


This community is a great way to get some feedback/answers from NCARB representatives as well as others taking the exams. You can post vignette questions, have people look at one of your practice vignettes, or simply ask questions. It really helps to have those answers before going into your exam.


Notecards / App

I used this app/website to create a good amount of my own flashcards. You can create flashcards for a section and be able to access it on your laptop, desktop, tablet, phone, etc.  It is a great way to have flash cards on you when you have some spare moments to flip through some of them.

Kaplan  vs Ballast

Kaplan (or now known as Brightwood Architecture) and Ballast are the two main resources your office may have.  They’re a pretty good review for all the sections; both are good depending on the exam. Sometimes I read both and other times just one over the other. I mainly went off other blogs and feedback I read on forums on what to study. For instance, for structural systems many sources said Kaplan focused too much on the math and Ballast was a better resource. Kaplan is usually a longer read and may be considered more broad. I usually like going through both of them because they will include some information that the other does not include. The Ballast is also organized by topic and not necessarily by exam, so you can pull together chapters that you find important.

DORF Videos!

If you are taking ARE 4.0, the DORF videos are the way to go. He used to grade vignettes himself and will help make the vignettes less overwhelming. He will walk you through the problem, give you tips, and go through areas that most people don’t do right causing them to fail. I highly recommend these videos.

Prep A.R.E.

Courses (~$60) and Practice Exams (~$12)!about-prepare/mainPage

I have not used this for most of my exams, but if you are looking for more practice problems, it is a nice cheap option. Or if you learn better in a classroom setting the courses option may be a good choice for you. It may also help you to stay on your study schedule because you only have access for a limited amount of time at those prices.

ARE Coach

Another resource like ARE Google+ that was created PRIOR to Google+. This was a great spot where I would start studying for an exam. Scrolling through the exam categories for any advice of studying, what else to study, what not to waste my time on, and any other general advice. You can also post you practice vignettes for people to look at as well. Note: This is not NCARB reviewing anything, that’s the Google+ community.

Arch Exam Academy

This is another good source for links and downloads to study. I did find most online if you search long enough but if you are just starting to find study materials it may be a good start for you. If does cost a little to subscribe. My only warning is they will charge you to re-subscribe automatically. (You can get your money back) So if you are done using the site I would send the cancellation email to them.

Architecture Exam Prep.

I decided to check out the CDS package. It is a pretty good resource if you do not have access to Kaplan or Ballast. But I felt like those two sources covered what Architecture Exam Prep covered. I really wish you could order the audio companion and multiple choice sections separately. I did really like have the additional 300+ Q/A practice and the audio was nice to listen to on the bus. And they are in the process of making study materials for ARE 5.0 Products.

Now that I went through the overall study materials, I will break down some additional resources per exam. I will save my tips per exam for other posts, but here are the resources to get you started! If there are sources that I think are extremely important for this particular exam, note them with **.

Studying 1



Jenny Notes!

Caroline Notes

The Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice (14th ed) **

Ch. 9: Risk Management;

Ch. 11: Project Definition;

Ch. 12: Project Delivery;

Ch. 13: Project Management;

Ch. 14: Quality Management;

Ch. 15: Building Codes and Regulations;

Ch. 16: Types of Agreements

Whole Building Design Guide

Brudgers Site Zoning Study Guide

ADA and Ansi 117.11998

Also study : CDS and Site



Jenny Notes

Caroline Notes

The Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice


SchiffHardin Lectures – 2015**   


AIA Documents - A201, B101

ADA and Ansi 117.11998

Construction Documents and Service (CDS) ARE Mock Exam by Gang Chen

CDS ARE Mock Exam

Also Review: PPP and Site



Fundamentals of Building Construction: Materials and Methods (Allen/ Iano) **

Chapters related to foundations, soils, sustainability, etc.

Jenny notes

Site Planning and Design Handbook - Second Edition

ADA and Ansi 117.11998 **

Site Planning & Design ARE Mock Exam by Gang Chen

SPD ARE Mock Exam

Also study: PPP and CDS! Lots of overlap with these exams **



Jenny Notes






Jenny Notes

Building Construction Illustrated (Frank Ching) 

Architectural Graphic Standard (Ramsey/ Sleeper)

MEEB Study Chart

ADA and Ansi 117.11998

Building Design and Construction Systems (BDCS) ARE Mock Exam

BDCS ARE Mock Exam

Fundamentals of Building Construction (Allen/ Iano) **

Grant Adams Videos**

Construction 144 – Fundamentals of Building Construction

Also review: BS, PPP, CDS **



Jenny Notes

FEMA - Chapter 4, 5 ,8, 9 **

AIA Buildings at Risk : WIND **

AIA Buildings at Risk : SEISMIC **

Brudger's Structural Vignette

David Thaddus Course

Great resource to take a course like Thaddus or Prep ARE for the structural systems exam. They help walk you through the math you'll need to know, what to memorize, and what not to waste your time on. Kaplan for this exam tends to just focus on the math portion and does not tell you which math you should focus on the most. I'd highly recommend a course for this exam.

Prep A.R.E.

Courses ($60) and Practice Exam ($12)!about-prepare/mainPage

Structural Systems Reference Index

IBC Chapter 16

Marty's Notes

Structures Mock Exams





References During Test

Jenny Notes


MEEB Study Chart**

Study Materials and Quizzes from MEEB

HVAC Distribution

Def'n Lighting

Alkikat Notes


This list of materials can be very overwhelming, but just take it one step at a time. I’d save what you can in folders based on exam, and then simply start reading. You’ll have those resources when you are ready for them. The other biggest piece of advice I have with these exams is that you can never know EVERYTHING for the exam. There will always be questions that are thrown in that are not on anything you have studied. I would not expect you to read over everything I have listed in this post. Do your research on what others thought about a particular exam and make your best judgement on what you think you need to study based on the amount of time you want to study. If you have any questions, I am more than willing to try and help out. And don’t forget your coworkers and friends are great resources for advice, or getting a study group together. I know the Pittsburgh Young Architects Forum holds study sessions that you can attend. Check out your local YAF if they are doing the same!


Good luck! You can do it!

Thanks Katelyn

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