This is part 7 of an episode of Black Spectacles' ARE Live podcast on the Architect Registration Exam – case studies, a new question type on ARE 5.0
How to Identify the Right ARE 5.0 Study Materials for your Learning Style
How to choose the right ARE 5.0 study materials for your learning style
Written by Black Spectacles
We know that getting your license is no small feat, so we’re here to help you find the best ARE 5.0 study materials, designed to support you on your path to licensure and beyond.
By choosing the right test prep materials, you’ll be able to pass your exams faster and with less stress. Here are some steps to help you do just that.
Step 1: Identify How You Learn Best
There are so many different ways to go about learning and retaining information, and you may have to try out a few before you find the one that works best for you. Here’s a quick primer to help you sort out which one might be your best fit:
What are the different ways to learn?
For many years, educators and researchers assessed students and learners by the VARK model, which broke down different learning styles into visual, auditory, reading and writing, and kinesthetic learning, or movement learning. The idea initially was that all students fall into one of these categories more than another, and that material should be adapted to that format to help them retain the information better.
It’s worth noting that since this framework became popular, research has found that there isn’t sufficient evidence to suggest that people only learn in one style or another as a categorical given, as suggested by the VARK framework. Most studies find that while many people have a preferred method of studying and learning new information, a lot of people find that combinations of different kinds of styles work equally well for them.
For example, a student may find that they prefer reading notes over listening to a lecture (suggesting, in the old model, that they are a visual or a reading/writing learner) but that same student may retain information from a video or a podcast just as well (suggesting an auditory style). Depending on the information presented, the day, and the mood of the student, one learning style may be just as helpful as another.
All of this is to say, don’t feel that you have to stay limited to one kind of studying. Determining your learning style is more an act of self-reflection than it is filling out an assessment or painting yourself into a studying corner. To determine how you learn best, you’ll need to spend some time thinking about what’s been successful for you in the past—and also recognize that it may be something different now, and something else entirely in the future.
How have you learned best in the past?
So, let’s walk through how you might go about this reflection. Think about classes you did well in at school, or exams you’ve passed recently. When you studied for these, did you take extensive notes by hand? Did you download lectures to listen in while you were commuting or working out? Or did you do best when you joined a study group and talked tough questions out with your peers?
Also think about how you explore subjects you’re curious about outside of work or school; are you an audiobook or podcast nerd? Do you prefer going down rabbit holes on YouTube, or do you reach for Wikipedia first?
Once you’ve gathered all this information, you’ll have a basis for the information delivery method that feels most natural and comfortable for you. Some people likely will fall into one of the four categories named by the VARK model; if you retain information well by reading it or listening to a recorded lecture, then there’s no reason to rock the boat.
But, if you’re struggling and find you have a hard time retaining information the way you’re studying now, take this as an opportunity to explore other options. There’s nothing stopping you from mixing up your study methods to see if something else might work better—and if it doesn’t, then you can always go back to what’s tried and true. But you also might discover a new way for your brain to absorb new information!
At the end of the day, learning is an individual process, and most people learn best when they use a variety of different ways to approach and absorb new information. So with that in mind, let’s walk through some of the options you have when studying for the ARE.
Step 2: Find Materials that Match Your Learning Style
To make things simple, we’re going to break down different study materials roughly as visual, auditory, and interactive materials—bearing in mind that you might fit best into just one, and that it’s probably a good idea to use a little bit of all three. By using multiple methods to review the same information, you’ll also be reinforcing those concepts over and over again.
Visual Learning Toolkit
If, during your self-reflection, you recognized that you prefer to read material over listening to it, or prefer looking at drawings and diagrams to help concepts get through, here are some tools you can use in this learning style:
These can be someone going over a practice question, lecture videos explaining concepts, or even videos about test-taking strategies in general.
Lectures and lecture slides
Many lecturers include images, diagrams, and other visual cues in their lectures, making it easy for visual-learning learners to follow along. You can also download these slides to take notes during or after the lecture, making it easy to find what section of the lecture a fact or note corresponds to.
Even though a lot of material on the ARE is too complex to be boiled down to a single flashcard, there are some key terms and ideas that can, and memorization hasn’t been around this long for no reason. Using digital flashcards can help you commit those terms and formulas to memory—and you can do them from anywhere, whenever you have a few moments.
Auditory Learning Toolkit
Do you prefer an audiobook over the paperback version? Do you listen to podcasts or enjoy listening to lectures without taking notes? If so, you may benefit from auditory learning tools like:
ARE Live episodes
Even though these webinars do have a visual component, you can listen to just the audio version of every episode to get study tips, test-taking strategies, and deep-dives into all different content areas of the ARE.
Again, even though our lecture videos all have, well, a video component, you can listen to just the audio as well. Sometimes it’s helpful to see the visual and audio components together, particularly when the instructor is drawing an example or referencing an image.
Who says you have to take notes by hand? If you have a smartphone or a computer, you have a voice recorder. As you watch videos or read through study material, take your notes by speaking them to a recording that you can listen back to later.
Interactive Learning Toolkit
There’s an old proverb, attributed to Confucius, that says “I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand.” Often the best way to make sure we truly understand something is by interacting with it, whether that’s through practice exams, explaining a concept to others, or asking questions and engaging in a discussion. If you learn best by engaging with an interacting with a concept, here are some tools you can use:
Truthfully practice exams are extremely helpful at all stages of learning and for all kinds of learners. They’re a great way to gauge what you’ve retained from your studying and what areas you need to go back and spend some more time with.
Because the Black Spectacles practice exams give you a report of all your correct and incorrect answers, along with reference material that corresponds with each question, you can use them as an interactive tool to understand what areas you’re confident in and where you need to improve.
Meeting and talking with others who are studying the same material as you can be a great way to learn new information and reinforce what you already know. Events like our weekly Live Workshops are a great way to interact with the material, experts, and your peers so that you can learn new information and help reinforce what you already know.
If you can explain a concept simply to someone else, you know it pretty well yourself. Plus, the value that community brings when you’re studying, the knowledge that you’re not alone and you have support, can do wonders for your stress and overall well-being.
Bottom Line: Find What Works for You
It can feel overwhelming to have to look within yourself and come up with the learning style that works best for you. The good news is whatever method you choose right now isn’t permanent.
Everyone is a constant lifelong learner, and what works for you now doesn’t have to work for you always. And you may find that trying something new is just what you need to get you over the finish line and get your license.