Posted by: PatrickJL | July 20, 2010

I’m 14% architect, but still 86% intern…

So I bit the bullet and took my first ARE (Site Planning and Design) exam at the beginning of July and I just received my pass letter this past Friday!  It was pretty challenging as tests go.  So glad I was able to do this on my first try as my motivation to continue through all seven exams might have been killed off completely.

Some thoughts about exam preparation:

1.  AREforum.org – know it, love it.  Great tips and people are actually willing to review your practice vignettes.

2.  Study Guides – PPI is what I used.  My company bought it but I would highly recommend picking a study guide up if you can.  It contains general study information as well as multiple practice exams and practice vignettes which greatly helped my preparation for the exam.  I’ve heard from several sources that Kaplan is junk, but I have no personal experiences with it.

3.  Time – Dedicate the time you know that you will need to be able to learn the information.  Since this was my first exam, I allotted far more time than I required, probably a year.  Kidding aside, I did start studying about a year ago but kept pushing off scheduling the exam.  Sometime back in May, I decided that if I didn’t set a date, I would never get serious about studying.  So I set the exam about six weeks in advance, which gave me a deadline.  In that time, I was able to review the material, take a practice exam, concentrate on my faults, more practices exams, review, review, review!

Some thoughts about the exam itself:

1.  Use the “how to use a computer” time to jot down anything you think you might need to know, calculations, random codes or standards, etc.

2.  Take a deep breath right before you start to calm your nerves.  There’s no point in getting worked up over something you can’ t change now.  You’re at the exam, you have to take it, you studied, so why not?

3.  Take your time, don’t waste your time.  I’m not going to lie, there were a few WTF questions on the multiple choice portion of the exam that I had no idea where to start.  Just mark them for review and move on.  Get through the questions you know and then take the time to concentrate on the one’s where you have no idea.  In fact, some of the questions may be answered in other questions.  It sounds like bullshit, but it’s true.  Just do the best you can and make sure all questions have been answered before you move on.

4.  The vignettes require practice, practice, practice.  If you haven’t started studying yet, the computer program they use for the vignettes is the most archaic program I have ever seen.  Just play around with it to get the hang of how it works so you won’t be wasting your time messing with the tools.  Use sketch tools to your advantage.  They are good for setting up parameters and double checking space requirements.

That’s my first experience taking the ARE, hopefully the rest will also go smoothly.  In the coming weeks, I will post my personal schedule for the test order that I am taking as well as reviews of some of the study materials I have been using.

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