Taking the ARE Exam: The Best Tips

ARE Test Taking Tips

It’s time to take your ARE exam. You’ve studied your butt off  but maybe you’re just not a good test taker.  We’re here to tell you, that you can become one with some simple tips for test taking day.  If you’re looking for study tips, check out our 11 tips to help you study for the ARE.

14 ARE Exam Test Taking Tips

  • Get comfortable – When you sit down at the computer in the testing facility take a moment to set everything up just the way to like it.  Get your keyboard and mouse in the right spot.  Set your pencil and paper in a place that feels natural.  Plant your feet flat on the floor and sit upNCARB ARE Examright to promote good circulation.  Adjust your seat if you need to.  Do this all before clicking into your exam.
  • Take some deep breaths – After you’ve set up your station the way you like it, close your eyes, say a little prayer, and take some deep breaths to calm any jitters.  Remind yourself that it’s only an ARE exam, not life and death.  Don’t let a difficult first few questions throw you off your game.
  • Have a strategy – It helps to go into the test with a strategy.  We recommend skipping any really difficult questions.  You need to be honest with yourself if you have a chance at answering a question or not, don’t spend 10 minutes on a question you’ll probably get wrong anyway.
  • Stop studying – We subscribe to the theory that you can only make so many good decisions in a day and that the later you go in a day, the worse your decision-making gets.  As you continue to make decisions, what is called decision fatigue sets in and your ability to make the right decision starts to deteriorate.  Plan to study your butt off, but leave the day of your ARE exam free so you have the most mental capacity to make the right decisions on the exam.
  • Time that’s best for you – For the same reason as above, we recommend scheduling an early exam time, but if you’re not a morning person, make your pre-exam routine light.
  • Don’t mirror anyone else – This is a battle between you and the exam.  You’ll see people at the testing facility who are obnoxiously over-confident or extremely frantic and jittery, don’t let them get you out of your groove.  Close your eyes and take deep breaths if you have to.
  • Get a good night’s rest – This is a classic.  If your friends are going out the night before your ARE exam, politely tell them you have a test the next day and won’t be able to make it.  The night before your exam, this test needs to be your priority.
    ARE Exam Tips
  • Consider an extra day – Consider taking the day before your exam off of work to do some last minute cramming.  We recommending using our ARE practice exams to see what content areas you might need to brush up on last minute.
  • Use triggers – Do you have a favorite sweatshirt you like you wear when you’re studying?  Wear it during your exam.  Or maybe you listen to a certain kind of music while you study, on your ride to your exam, listen to that music.  Use triggers to get you in that ARE state of mind.
  • Eat a good pre ARE exam meal – Food that is particularly good at nourishing our brains are the ones that have high amounts of fats, nutrients, water, and just a little carbs (or glucose).   Have a pre-exam meal that incorporates any of the following: nuts, apples, yogurt, blueberries, curry, salmon, pumpkin seeds, broccoli, sage, dark chocolate, leafy greens, or eggs.  Avoid sugar and anything greasy.
  • Use the bathroom even if you don’t have to – The ARE exams are long. Even if you don’t have to go to the bathroom before you get into the testing facility, try to.  You don’t want to be uncomfortable during the exam because you have to “go”. The last thing you want is to come back from your break and discover you need to use the bathroom when your time has started.
  • Be hydrated –  It’s well documented that your brain needs water to function properly.  Make sure to drink plenty of water in the few days leading up to the exam.  You should aim to drinking half of your body weight in ounces.  So if you’re 120 lbs. drink 60 oz of water per day.  We use a smart cup by Ozmo to track our water intake.  It will remind you with a little vibration to take a sip of water every hour.  It’s a little over-the top to have a cup you plug in but we’re techie and actually really like it.
  • Use your break wisely – When you sense your concentration drifting off , finish the question you’re on and take your break.  Again, even if you don’t feel like you have to, use the bathroom.  It’s also a great place to privately do some stretches to get that blood flowing again.  Take a drink of water and head back into the testing facility.
  • Know the software – NCARB puts out a mini practice exam that allows you to see what the actual exam is like.  Get familiar with it so you’re not fumbling around when you’re in the actual exam.

Have your own ARE exam taking tips?  Let us know in the comments below.

10 Comments

  1. Tony August 30, 2017 at 7:07 am #

    In the NCARB ARE 5.0 handbook they reference Fundamentals of Building Construction: Materials and Methods in both of their example questions for cost estimating. Unfortunately there isn’t a specific chapter on cost estimating, it’s woven throughout the content.

  2. Spencer August 30, 2017 at 1:15 am #

    What is the best reference for cost estimating for PDD.

  3. Amy July 26, 2017 at 3:24 pm #

    Thanks! Great advice

  4. 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.

  5. 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?

  6. 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

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

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

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

    Paige,

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

    Best,
    Tony

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

    Will you have SS questions on here at some point?

  10. 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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