The Simple ARE Exam Order Strategy

The Simple ARE exam order strategy

When I decided I was ready to take the Architecture Registration Exam (ARE) I wanted to know where to start and figured a good place would be to come up with an ARE exam order strategy.  I searched around online and had a really difficult time finding a clear answer.  One person would say one thing, and the next would completely disagree.  After trudging through loads of recommendations I’ve come up with two different ARE exam order strategies for you to pick from.  I like to keep things simple.

In order to figure out which ARE exam order strategy will be best for you, you’ll have to answer this one question:

Do you want to…

A) Start of with a well-rounded breath of knowledge that will prepare you for later portions of the test

B) Learn bits of information, take tests as you learn, and leave the most robust tests for last


If your ARE Exam Order Strategy is A…

This is the route I decided to take when I came up with my ARE exam order.  I was really eager to learn more about architecture sooner so that I could contribute more to my firm and understand the things around me better.  After you pass the first few exams in this strategy you’ll be equipped with a  large breath of knowledge and the confidence to tackle the rest of the tests.

To create this order I have taken Kaplan’s study guide suggestions, the NCARB ARE 4.0 pass rate for each division, and various exam taker suggestions into account.  This strategy is a front loaded with the most intimidating tests at the beginning. Choosing this strategy can be daunting because you’re learning so much early on, but know your hard work will pay off later.

  1. BD/CS (Building Design & Construction Systems)
  2. PPP (Programming Planning & Practice)
  3. CDS (Construction Documents & Services)
  4. BS (Building Systems)
  5. SS (Structural Systems)
  6. SPD (Site Planning & Design)
  7. SD (Schematic Design)

If your ARE Exam Order Strategy is B…

This is a great strategy to take the tests but you want to make sure you don’t leave too much time between your first and last exams.  You’re going to be building on what you learn so it’s important to make sure you don’t forget anything.  It’d say if you go this route, take all your exams within a year.

  1. SD (Schematic Design)
  2. SS (Structural Systems)
  3. CDS (Construction Documents & Services)
  4. SPD (Site Planning & Design)
  5. BS (Building Systems)
  6. PPP (Programming Planning & Practice)
  7. BD/CS (Building Design & Construction Systems)

Be Prepared to Fail

I’m sure there are some architects who have taken all of the ARE’s and not failed a single one, but I personally don’t know any.  Even the most talented architects I know failed at least one exam.  Know that failing an exam is real possibility and embrace it.  Don’t let failing an exam set you back, stand firm in your desire to become an architect and try not to get discouraged.

If you fail an exam, be ready to kick it’s butt the next go around.  After each exam you take, go grab a coffee or a bite to eat and sit down somewhere.  Take out a notepad and write down what areas of the test you felt you struggled and where you felt most comfortable.  Your test results are going to take 3 to 4 weeks to get back to you.  If you happened to fail you want to make sure you know what to brush up on when you get back to studying.  Jotting things down in your notepad is crucial.

ARE Exam Order Strategy

While you’re waiting for your 6 months to roll over after failing an exam there are two routes for you:

  • Start studying for the next test on your list while brushing up on your failed test
  • Study for a test with a high pass rate to get your confidence back.

Even if you pass, knowing your weak points will make you cautious for other tests that have overlapping subject areas.  Not to mention that as you pursue licensure, you should personally be aware of your weaknesses and constantly trying to improve on them.

Getting Started After Choosing Your Exam Order

After you have your ARE exam order strategy you want to start to acquire resources to study with. NCARB has some pretty good resources to get you started.


  1. Tony Gushanas April 24, 2014 at 1:25 pm #

    Thanks :)

  2. Voices30 April 23, 2014 at 11:34 pm #

    excellent content . I like it very much, thanks for helping us to learn more about this sometimes intimidating field.

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