ARE Exam Prep – CDS: Quiz & Resources

are exam prep cds

If you’re looking for ARE Exam prep for Construction Documents & Services (CDS) this is the place.  When I was studying for the CDS exam I kept track of all of the resources I came across and listed them here.

First?  The pool of multiple choice questions.  The questions below are randomly selected from a library of 30 questions.  If you enjoy this quiz and find it helpful you may want to look into the CDS exam bundle.  You can use the quiz to gauge where you’re at or use it as a study tool itself.  If you do poorly you should look into the additional resources below.

Find this quiz helpful? Checkout the premium CDS mock exam bundle!

CDS  Mock Exam Bundle

As I come across additional resources for the Construction Documents & Services exam I will add them below  Note that these are prep for ARE 4.0.  The resources here will be valid until 2018 when ARE 5.0 is implemented.

ARE Exam Prep CDS Books & Literature
ARE Exam Prep CDS

To help guide you I’ve located [$] below for any links that lead to paid resources.
[$] means less than $50
[$$]  means between $50 and $100
[$$$] means over $100

Kaplan: Construction Documents & Services Study Guide [$$] – A pretty easy read considering.  It has a lot of graphics which help move it along and reinforce concepts.

Kaplan: Construction Documents & Services Q&A [$] – If you like the multiple choice format above this is a good buy.  It’s just questions and answers.  The index in the back explains the reasoning behind each answer which really helps learning the material.
Ballast: ARE Review Manual [$$$] – This is a giant 800 page book with all of the sections. It’s pricey, but it takes a very indepth and comprehensive look into each of the sections.  It’s VERY thorough.  The only downside is that it’s lacking in graphic helpers.  The ARE exam prep for CDS is in section 8. [Also recommended for: BDCSBSPPP, SPDSD, SS]

Ballast: CDS: ARE Sample Problems and Practice Exam [$$] – Has 123 sample problems in the same format of the exam.  It also includes a sample vignette to prepare you for the graphic portion of the test.  It also includes an additional 100 problem practice exam and vignette.
How to Pass the ARE [$] – Ebook or Audiobook – If you’re starting to go through the ARE this is a great resource for you to get in the right mindset.  It doesn’t go over exam specifics (aka it’s not a study resource), but it will help you know what to expect and give you strategies for overcoming hurdles.

NCARB Recommended References

The Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice [$$$]- An up-to-date guide on the aspects of architectural practice. [Also recommended for: BDCSPPP, SPD]
CSI MasterFormat – This is basically just a list of all the CSI divisions and subdivisions.
The Project Resource Manual – CSI Manual of Practice [$] – A comprehensive resource for the “organization, preparation, use and interpretation of construction documents encompassing the entire life cycle of a facility”.
Rules of Conduct – General rules for how an architect should practice architecture.  Basically, the dos and don’ts of the architect’s role.

Video Playlist on Construction Documents & Services

Online Resources & Downloads for the ARE Construction Documents & Services Exam
Construction Documents & Services Exam Resources

NCARB: CDS Exam Guide – Right from the horses mouth.  Gives you an overview of the test, what to expect, and some sample multiple choice questions.
NCARB: Practice Program – The CDS graphic vignette is hard to study for without the software.  Download the software and take it for a spin.  You can post your solutions to be reviewed at
Caroline Joseph’s Study Notes – Mirror 1 – Caroline used Kaplan to compile these notes.  It’s a pretty comprehensive 50 pager.
Rich’s Study Notes – Much shorter than Caroline’s but not organized as graphically.   Some of the pages of bullets look a little daunting.
Black Spectacles: Video Course [$$$]- If you’re like me and hate reading you might want to consider taking a video course.  The guys over at black spectacles do a great job at explaining everything but it comes at a $100/mo pricetag.  They have some sample videos up you can check out before buying.  Their blog also has webinars which have a lot of information as well.
Candy’s ARE we there yet? blog – Candy shares help on specific selections or snippets of the CDS exam.  It’s really neat to see how the exam weaves into her life.  Being on her blog makes it feel like you’re taking the exam with her and her visualizations of the exam are simply stunning.
Free AIA Contracts through NCARB – You can download some of the AIA contracts directly from NCARB to use in your studies.  It’s probably safe to say you should be focusing on the contracts they provide you with.
AIA Document Commentaries – All of the major AIA contracts directly from the source.  The NCARB contracts are free, but the commentaries here will help give background to everything.  Although I think the Lecture series does this as well.
Architect Exam Prep Downloads & Courses [$$$] – If you’re willing to drop some $$ they have a bunch of addons.  I’ve never used it, but it’s an option.
Architecture Lecture Series Audio – An entire course of lectures about the legalities behind the profession of architecture.  It’s all free and each lecture has PDF notes for download as well.
Mixed Bag of CDS ARE exam prep resources


  1. Tony June 29, 2017 at 7:23 am #

    Deciduous trees should only be used for shade (especially in temperate climates). Deciduous trees lose their leaves in the fall and will have little protection against wind in the winter when it is most needed. Likewise, the leafless trees allow solar heat gain in the winter when it is desired, and shade in the summer.

    Coniferous trees are only to be used to block wind and views. Since they don’t lose their needles, they work great for these two items year-round.

  2. Shahid Logan June 28, 2017 at 4:50 pm #

    Hello. My name is Shahid. This comment is for anyone who would like to reply. On the Siteplanning test. To block the wind, can you use a Deciduous tree or must you use a Coniferous tree?

  3. Mike January 4, 2017 at 11:04 am #

    Hi Tony,

    I need to take 5.0 PPD & PDD. Do you plan on posting notes such as “Caroline’s Notes” that you had posted for the various 4.0 exams for either of those sections? I found those notes to be some of the best resources in studying for the 4.0 sections. If so any idea when? Thanks

  4. Stephen October 17, 2016 at 9:30 pm #

    Hi Tony,
    Any updates on the SS exam ? If there’s an expected release date ? Thanks

  5. DesignerHacks October 4, 2016 at 12:11 pm #


    We are releasing practice exams for the SS exam later this fall.


  6. Paige October 4, 2016 at 11:34 am #

    Will you have SS questions on here at some point?

  7. Daniel September 9, 2016 at 8:47 am #

    Great post, very helpful with the lists of suggested materials, I just passed CDs in July and am taking PPP in November so I definitely needed the list.

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