In What Order Should I Take the ARE 5.0?

What’s the best order to take the ARE 5.0 exam? Here are some of the most common approaches and our recommendations for what order to take the ARE 5.0

Probably every candidate for the ARE has wondered: What's the best over to take the ARE 5.o exam? Like all aspects of studying for the ARE, this decision is actually a pretty personal one, and the best order for you might be different than the best order for someone else. So there's no clear answer, and it depends on your preference and how you learn best. 

But with that said, there are some different approaches to test taking order to help you make this decision. Here are a few common approaches, plus our recommendation, for what order to take the ARE 5.0. 

What Order Should you take the ARE 5.0 Exam?

Even though this is ultimately a personal decision for you, there are a couple of frameworks you can use to help you guide your studying and exam order. 

1. Take similar ARE divisions together

By grouping similar divisions and studying for them together, you can cover a lot of ground more efficiently. Because there is some overlap in the foundational knowledge between the ARE divisions, if you study for multiple divisions at once, the information you learn for one division will still be fresh in your mind when you go to study for the other division, allowing you to use what you have already learned.

An example of this would e studying for PcM, PjM, and CE together, and then PA, PDD, and PPD together. It's worth noting that you can still space out the exams at a cadence that works for you—so you don't have to take three exams in a month, for example—but grouping these like divisions can help you maximize your study time. 

The test questions will approach content from different perspectives based on the specific division, so it's still important to spend focused study time on each one for the best chance of passing. But a lot of the core knowledge of similar divisions will relate to each other. 

2. Utilize your existing experience

No need to reinvent the wheel: If you have strength or expertise in a particular area, you can lean into those strengths and tackle those divisions first. 

This approach may work better for people who have been working in the field for longer and have had the chance to get more experience under their belt. If you work in a particular area that maps closely onto a division of the ARE, you can start there to get an easy pass—plus a confidence boost to keep you moving through the rest of the exams! 

From there, you can make use of the like divisions together strategy and move on to the divisions that relate to the one you just took (and passed, we know you did).

3. Black Spectacles' Approach

Our staff spends a lot of time reading, thinking about, and creating study materials that are all entirely about NCARB’s ARE guidelines. After all that, here’s our suggested order to take the ARE 5.0.

Take the Practice Management (PcM) exam first

The reason you want to take this division first is that you need to actually study for it—there’s no way to gain the experience of running a firm without having your license, so you have to pick up that information in a different way before you can get to it in real life. 

When you take the deep dive into PcM, you’ll not only learn the material you need to pass this division, but you’ll also be gaining knowledge and skills that are valuable to you in the real world. Use the time it takes you to study and pass PcM to gain real-world experience in other areas too.

Next, move onto the Project Management (PjM) Exam

After PcM, we suggest taking the like divisions approach and moving on to PjM next, as a lot of the information covered is similar and there’s a good amount of overlap between the two.

What exams should I take after PcM and PjM?

From there, our suggested order is: 
PA, PPD, PDD, and lastly CE. 

These last four divisions roughly follow a project order, so it makes sense to group them together and move through what you would need to know from start to finish as you’re working on real architecture projects.

Take the ARE in the Order That's Right for You

It’s worth noting that this order isn’t set in stone, and might not work for everyone in the exact same way. As mentioned above, if you have certain experiences or strengths that make you feel more confident on a different division than the order laid out here, use those strengths! 

At the end of the day, the only person who really needs to worry about the order you take the ARE in is you. Sure, spend a little time strategizing and thinking about how you want to get started, but don’t agonize over this decision. Studying for the ARE is stressful enough without worrying about the order on top of everything. The most important thing is to just get started, and to choose the study schedule that works best for you. 

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