As anyone studying for the ARE can tell you, studying to earn your license can be overwhelming. It can be hard to keep up with updates from NCARB, stay on top of work and family commitments, and learn all the material at the same time.
When you’re studying, figuring out the study strategy that works best for you will be the key to lowering your stress and learning the material you need to pass the ARE. There are a lot of different routes you can take to do this—two of which are tutoring and online test prep.
In this article, we’ll dive into the pros and cons of both, and help you figure out what study method might be the best option for you.
Consider Overall Cost in the Long Run
For most people, the biggest factor when it comes to choosing how to study is the cost. Which option makes the most sense for your financial situation? Here are some things to consider when creating the budget for your study materials.
Cost of an architecture exam tutor
According to Wyzant, architecture tutors can cost anywhere from $40 to $65 an hour, with some charging close to $100 an hour. To estimate, if you’re studying 10 hours each month, you could be looking at $400 to $650—perhaps more if your tutor charges more.
Something else to consider with tutoring is your tutor may not supply any of the materials you need to study, which means factoring in additional costs for practice exams, study books, etc.
Costs of ARE 5.0 online exam prep
Ideally, your online prep provider would include all the materials you’d need to study, so you’d have no additional costs outside of what the provider charges.
Black Spectacles pricing ranges from $179 to $329 and is an all-inclusive price—meaning no additional fees for materials or any surprise costs. We also offer firm licenses for firms who want to support their employees on their journey to licensure.
You can make the pitch to your firm to get them to consider a firm membership, which would then be free for you and considerably cheaper for the firm than paying for individual memberships. Plus, if you have colleagues also studying, you’ll be able to work together in a built in study group.
Determine Your Learning Style
Once you’ve determined what kind of budget you have and what kind of payment option you want to take, then it’s time to consider how you learn best and go for the study strategy that best aligns with that. Here we’ll walk through some of the different kinds of learning styles, and how it impacts tutoring vs online prep.
Think about how you learn best
This can be tricky, and requires some self-reflection. Think back on your time in school, as well as how you absorb information in your daily life. Do you do best in groups where you can collaborate with others? Are you a visual or auditory learner? Do you do best when you can proceed at your own pace, or do you need someone else to hold you accountable and set a schedule for you?
All of these questions will help you narrow down how you learn best, and what kind of material would best support that learning style. If you know you learn best on your own, then self-guided online test prep is probably a better option for you. If you’re overwhelmed and feel like you need dedicated, one-on-one attention from an expert, a tutor might be worth the expense, at least while you get your confidence up.
Then, consider the materials that your online test prep provider might offer. Black Spectacles has study materials that cater to all different kinds of learners, and are designed to be used in tandem with each other to reinforce the material.
For example, our quizzes offer breaks in the video lectures to test your knowledge and reinforce topics, and digital flashcards are a quick and easy way to learn vocabulary and concepts. Then, our practice exams are designed to look and feel exactly like the real ARE, so you can get a feel for what your exam day will look like, as well as any areas where you’re excelling or needing more practice.
If you do learn best with collaboration and in-person conversation, Virtual Workshops are held each week for each division, and offer real-time collaboration with your peers and a licensed architect so you can ask questions and solve tough problems together.
Pros and cons of tutoring
When studying with a tutor, you have a built-in accountability system. Though it likely will be a collaborative process, your tutor can provide you with some guidance for what sections to study in what order, how to approach certain problems, and then troubleshoot with you if you get stuck.
On the other hand, if you’re meeting with someone (whether remotely or in person) you have to have schedules that match, and find someone who can meet at the frequency you need. Most tutors are only available to meet once a week, though some may be able to increase your sessions for final review as you get closer to your exam date.
If you have an inconsistent work schedule, work long hours, or have family commitments during usual working hours, it may make it difficult for you to find a tutor that can consistently meet with you. On the other hand, if you study with online test prep, you entirely set your own pace. Learn best at 2 in the morning in your pajamas? No problem—you’re in charge here.
Pros and cons of online ARE 5.0 test prep
Though you miss some of the dedicated attention and structure, online test prep gives you a lot more flexibility to study when you have time and when you have your most productive, most creative hours of the day, which isn’t the same for everyone.
Going back to cost for a moment, if you increase the number of sessions you see a tutor, your cost will accordingly increase. But if you want to study more hours as you approach your exam date, or if you’re particularly stuck on a certain area, your cost for online test prep will stay consistent regardless of how much you use it.
During your reflection phase, if you determine you study best in cycles (starting slow and then increasing as your exam approaches) then it’s also worth doing the math to see if an increase in cost is also worth it.
The Bottom Line: Which is Right For You?
Ultimately, we can’t tell you exactly what route you should take. It’ll be up to you to take a look at your situation and decide what you’re most comfortable with and what makes the most sense for how you learn. If flexibility, stable price, and a built-in network are important to you, then online test prep may be the best way for you to achieve your goals and get your license.