ARE SS: Exam Prep, Quiz & Resources


If you’re preparing for the Architecture Registration Exam 4.0 Structural Systems (ARE SS) this is your one stop shop.  While studying for the exams, a huge hassle was finding all the right resources.  (Believe it or not, there’s a lot of crappy info out there).  This is a place you can come to find a list of resources for the exam.  If you have any additional resources, leave a comment below and I’ll add it to the list.

First?  A quiz for you to assess where you’re currently at.  The 25 question quiz below randomly selects questions from a growing library.  So every time you take the quiz, it will be different.  You can use the quiz to gauge where you’re at or use it as a study tool itself.  If you do poorly, you might want to look into the resources below. Without further adieu…  Good luck!

Find this quiz helpful? Checkout the premium SS practice exam bundle!

SS Practice Exam Bundle

ARE SS Books & Literature

ARE Exam Prep SS
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

General Exam Resources
Kaplan: Structural Systems Study Guide [$$] – I like the Kaplan study guides because they come with a lot of illustrations to help drive the points home.  Each chapter has a mini quiz review at the end which is helpful for assessing if you learned and retained the material.  There’s also a final exam at the rear of the books as well.
Kaplan: Structural Systems Q&A [$] – This is designed to help with the multiple choice portion of the exam.  It’s about 60 questions.  In the back of the book it explains the answers.  It’s certainly a decent way to measure how prepared you are for the exam.
Ballast: ARE Review Manual [$$$] – This is a giant 800 page book with all of the sections of the exam. It’s pricey, but it takes a very indepth and comprehensive look into each of the sections.  It’s thorough but is sometimes hard to get through.
Ballast: SS: ARE Sample Problems and Practice Exam [$$] – I’ve heard that this is a big help in passing the multiple choice portion of the exam.
Structural Systems Mock Exam [$$] – “The step by step vignette instructions are invaluable and the multiple choice is a great supplement to go along with your reading. I recommend this book and all of the ARE mock exams to anyone in the process of taking the exams.”

NCARB Recommended References for the ARE SS

Architectural Graphic Standards [$$$] – This book is really just amazing to have for anyone in the architecture industry.  It has so much useful information in it and 99% of it is just architectural drawings. [Also Recommended for: PPP, SPDSD, BDCS, BS]
Building Construction Illustrated [$] – I’m on-board with anything from Ching.  Beautiful illustrations with solid supporting text. [Also Recommended for: BDCS]
Building Structures [$$ to $$$] – “Illustrates concepts, relationships and basic processes of architectural design.”
Design for Earthquakes [$ to $$$] –  Includes examples and photographs to help understand what earthquakes do to buildings and “what can be done to improve building response in earthquakes.”
Manual of Steel Construction [$$$] – When I worked as a structural detailer I was flipping through this thing all the time.  When I landed a job in architecture I wished I had one by my side, but that has since subsided.  It’s been referred to as the “bible of steel”.
Seismic and Wind Loads in Architectural Design and Architects Study Guide [?] – Currently unavailable from the amazon store so see if your local library or AIA has a copy.
The Seismic Design Handbook [$$ to $$$] – Contains a wealth of information on seismic design but the section on concrete and steel design could contain more graphics and details.
Simplified Building Design for Wind and Earthquake Forces [$$] – “Contains practical, easy-to-read explanations regarding the issues and problems encountered in designing for [natural disasters related to wind and earthquakes.]”
Simplified Engineering for Architects and Builders [$$] – It seems like this book doesn’t really simplify anything. “The tables are wonderful, but equations in the book are written without units, so unless you know exactly where the author is pulling his numbers from, you will get lost and end up screwing up your own calculations.”
Structural Design: A Practical Guide for Architects [$$] – “This book explains things very well and I don’t find it near as boring as some other stuructural design books that I have.”
Structures [$ to $$$] – “The text discusses concepts from both engineering and architectural perspectives, exploring structural behavior, structural analysis, and design within a building context.”
Visual Dictionary of Architecture [$] – “Worth every penny. Having the diagrams along with definitions and examples really helps clarify architectural elements and vocabulary. Highly recommend.”

Video Playlist on ARE SS

Online Resources & Downloads for the ARE Structural Systems Exam

ARE SS ExamNCARB: SS Exam Guide – Directly from the source.  A brief overview of the test and what to expect from the multiple choice and vignette.
NALSA Vignette Tips – NALSA explains that even though the vignettes shown in NCARB’s exam guides are passing, they are not “ideal”.  Meaning… they may still contain errors.  This site has some really great tips I didn’t realize before reading it.
SBYRKTCT’s Help – There are a bunch of resources here.  I love the vignette tips & it’s a great place to get notes.
Marty’s NotesMirror 1 – Beautiful notes taken during one of David Thaddeus’ legendary structures courses.
Jenny’s Notes – 63 pages of notes beautifully organized.
David Thaddeus’ Pocket Guide to the ARE Structures ExamMirror 1 – 4 pages of formulae, diagrams, and helpful tricks and tips.
ALS Structures Mock Exam Questions – Mirror 1 – From 1996 so it’s not the most up-to-date but structures also hasn’t fundamentally changed.
ALS Structures Mock Exam Answers – Mirror 1 – Answers to the above mock exam.
Structural System Rules of ThumbMirror 1 – Visual guide to help in selecting the right structural system.
FEMA 454: Designing for Earthquakes: A manual for Architects – A document put out by the Federal Emergency Management Agency that goes into detail on earthquakes and seismic forces in a building.  It’s a lengthy read in full.  Put your focus on chapters 4, 5, and 8.
Buildings at Risk: Seismic Design Basics for Practicing Architects – Very useful resource for understanding the how seismic forces work.
Buildings at Risk: Wind Design Basics for Practicing Architects – Useful resource for understanding the basics on how wind forces work and affect a building.
Black Specs SS Video Course [$$$] – These videos are helpful at getting a general feel for the test but I wouldn’t solely rely on them to pass the exam. At ±$100/mo I’m not sure it’s worth the money, but it’s an option.
ARE Exam Prep: SS [$$$] – I didn’t purchase this material for the SS exam but I did for other exams.  If you’re feeling unsure about the exam, hate reading, or just can’t devote a lot of time to reading, it’s a good resource.  I thought the audio companion was helpful.

Post your practice vignettes to AREcoach or NCARB’s Google Plus page.

Have any additional resources for the ARE SS?  Leave them in the comments below!


  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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