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. allstarcarpetandtiles June 24, 2019 at 10:31 am #

    Great tips. I’m bookmarking this page. Its a great resource to keep. Thanks for sharing.

  2. hamzakhan17826 May 19, 2019 at 7:16 am #

    Ok sure, I will follow your steps before going to do exams. I hope your article will help me more.

  3. karlmistos May 14, 2019 at 10:41 pm #

    Thanks for sharing this. I’ll definitely share this with my classmates at de la salle zobel.

  4. classboat01 October 17, 2018 at 7:37 am #

    Hello there and thanks for your information, I have certainly picked up allot new info from right your post. You are also provided information about best tips for exam,Which is very helpful to me and other people also.

  5. mikemoreno September 5, 2018 at 3:48 am #

    thank you very much, verry helpfull…

  6. jogesh12345 August 14, 2018 at 1:55 am #

    Very effective and informative article.Thanks for sharing such an important tutorial.

  7. FLMIMA August 11, 2018 at 9:20 pm #

    Really helpful website

  8. Rumi July 15, 2018 at 7:16 am #

    I feel very grateful that I read this. It is very helpful and very informative and I really learned a lot from it.

  9. RJennings April 28, 2018 at 6:12 pm #

    Thank you for this website. The practice questions are helpful.

  10. Scott March 22, 2018 at 1:50 pm #

    Taking this test on Saturday. Last 4.0 exam to complete for the trio, then on to 5.0. This site is my go-to place when organizing what materials I’ll be studying

  11. shozab January 30, 2018 at 2:22 pm #

    Hi , very good article.

    thanks for sharing, keep up the good work

  12. dyba January 27, 2018 at 1:08 am #

    Good advice. Best of luck to all!

  13. KendraShirley January 16, 2018 at 4:04 pm #

    This is my favorite site for practicing for my tests! Great advise and super helpful.

  14. reximagetrim January 16, 2018 at 10:37 am #

    Nice post to read. A complete guide that can help all of us.

  15. tylerstockholm December 17, 2017 at 9:37 pm #

    Nice one… very helpful! Thanks!!!

  16. Aartiwalvekar November 21, 2017 at 8:56 am #

    Nice post

  17. Aartiwalvekar October 9, 2017 at 9:45 pm #

    Great post!

  18. 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.

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

    What is the best reference for cost estimating for PDD.

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

    Thanks! Great advice

  21. 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.

  22. 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?

  23. 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

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

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

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


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


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

    Will you have SS questions on here at some point?

  27. 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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