August 21, 2019


It’s me, your (Past) National President, Amy Rosen – here to share all the tips and tricks that I learned while embarking on the 6-in-6 Campaign earlier this year. Before I jump into all of that, I want to take a moment to emphasize that every architecture student has their own definition of success and will embark on their own unique path throughout their career. Whether you want to become a licensed architect or want to drift into an alternative career pathway, I hope you all recognize that licensure is foundational to the field of architecture. There is a misconception that licensure is about practice as a whole; FORGET THAT NONSENSE! Licensure is an excellent way to open up many doors for you as a professional, whether that be towards capital “A” architecture, interior design, research, urban planning, or any other “architecture-adjacent” field. AND it is the best way to expand your knowledge of architecture!  So start thinking about your path to licensure and be sure to utilize the tips and tricks below to maximize your time and get moving on your path to success!


*Okay…but what WAS the 6-in-6 Campaign?*

The AIAS serves an important role as the sole student voice amongst the five architectural collaterals and we have an obligation to inform our members of the importance of licensure and how that relates to their education.  Given this imperative need, I, Past President Rosen, embarked on the 6-in-6 Campaign over the course of the 6 weeks, within which I studied and took all 6 ARE® 5.0 Examinations. Throughout the campaign, I intended to demystify the process for licensure by dispelling existing stigmas regarding the ARE® process, while showcasing the value of taking the Exams, the various requirements of different state licensing boards, and the pros and cons of available ARE® study materials and study groups.

In addition to highlighting replicable resources and strategies that AIAS members can utilize when taking their licensing exams, this campaign was also geared towards raising awareness of the existing AIAS PASS scholarship and raising additional funds for future PASS scholarships.  PASS is geared towards encouraging young professionals to make a plan to move toward professional licensure and begin on that path as soon as possible. The Scholarship is available to alumni of the AIAS who aim to pass a division of the ARE® within one year of graduating, covering the full cost of that Exam – which is $235!  If you are a recent graduate, consider applying today!  If you would like to support future architects, donate to the PASS now!

The structure of the Campaign was as follows: 6 weeks were dedicated to the campaign in total – with Week 1 beginning on January 20th, 2019 and Week 6 ending on March 2nd, 2019.  Since most alumni members are only able to study for their ARE® Examinations in the evenings after full days of work, my studying took place every evening from around 5:00pm to 11:00pm, allowing for 6 hours of studying each day. This strategy of time allotment is geared to allow the results of the testing process, and the campaign as a whole, to be much more valuable and accessible to members.



The campaign was structured into a Week-by-Week system, such that students and alumni would be able to garner useful tips and tricks for each Exam separately and scale them to whatever study time period is appropriate for each individual.  In addition to providing insight into each Exam division independently, the Week-by-Week system also intended to provide insight into optimal study/cramming strategies for one’s last week of preparation prior to an ARE® Exam.

But most importantly, by consolidating the entire examination process in 6 weeks, I wanted this portion of the licensure process to be as digestible as possible.  In addition, I did not take all 6 exams in 6 weeks thinking I could or would pass all 6!  This process helped me show myself, and hopefully all of you, that failing is okay, and that the path to licensure is not one that can or should be rushed.

It is important to remember that each individual pursuing licensure is different; thus, each individual person’s study strategies should be uniquely fitted to their personal capacities.  However, this campaign will provide AIAS members with the opportunity to learn from President Rosen’s experiences and be more confident when structuring and navigating their individual path to licensure.

Throughout the six-week campaign, I utilized the @aiasorg Instagram story to share periodic updates and study tips and tricks.  These updates occurred on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and the compilation of videos can be found here



Fun facts that you may not know:

  • Grading of the exams is based on the difficulty of the exam questions
  • Each exam has questions that are not included in your overall score – they are simply for NCARB research to see if that content is valid
  • There are different versions of each exam – of various degrees of difficulty
  • Your state has its own licensing requirements!! Be sure to familiarize yourself with the licensing requirements of each state and jurisdiction prior to registering for a particular one.

Each exam has a different amount of items (aka: questions) and test length.  The number of items and time allotted for each exam can be found in the ARE Handbook and outlined below:

Practice Management (PcM):

  • 80 items
  • 2 hr 45 min test duration

Project Management (PjM):

  • 95 items
  • 3 hr 15 min test duration

Programming and Analysis (PA):

  • 95 items
  • 3 hr 15 min test duration

Project Planning and Design (PPD):

  • 120 items
  • 4 hr 15 min test duration

Project Development and Documentation (PDD):

  • 120 items
  • 4 hr 15 min test duration

Construction and Evaluation (CE):

  • 95 items
  • 3 hr 15 min test duration

The order of the exams, as illustrated by NCARB, is intentional and I highly recommend you follow them, or at least begin with PcM and PjM.  When I embarked on the campaign, I took PA, PPD, and PDD (in that order) prior to taking PcM, PjM, and CE, which was definitely a mistake. The content required for PcM, PjM, and CE is incredibly valuable for all six exams, especially the contract and business management information; and PA, PPD, and PDD are definitely the more robust exams that require more studying and time.  I learned this lesson the hard way, and hopefully now you will not have to!


  • You get a score report with a breakdown of how you did on each 
    • It is recommended that you utilize the score report to focus your studying after failing an exam.  For instance, when you get a Level 3 or 4 on a particular content area, those are the areas that you probably want to focus on.  HOWEVER, it is critical that you review all content, even in the areas you may have done well on previously, since each version of the exam is unique and you never know what you will be tested on!
  • You will get emotional about the “failure” but remember: most licensure candidates fail at least one exam, and it does not mean that you are not worthy of an architecture license!
  • You can only retake a particular exam three times in a calendar year, so plan accordingly!


  • You do not get a score report 
  • Your 5-year rolling clock begins
    • This means that when you take an exam and pass it, that “PASS” lasts for 5 years and then expires.  You must pass all 6 exams within a 5 year period.



  • Prometric Centers are public testing centers where individuals can come to take ANY professional/licensing/state-administered examination. This means that you will most likely be sitting next to someone who is not taking an ARE®, and you must be prepared for the variety of test-takers you will be surrounded by!
  • Turn off your phone and other electronic devices prior to entering the center, as you are not allowed to use them 
  • There are sound-cancelling headphones provided, and if you require TOTAL SILENCE, these are for you!
  • You will get one break during your exam – time it wisely, and be sure to use the bathroom!
  • Bring “brain food” that will energize you when you take your 15-minute break
  • Your testing center may or may not have a water fountain – bring a water bottle just in case!
  • Don’t forget to bring an ID!
  • Wear clothing without pockets – you get a full security screening scan every time you enter your testing room, and this will save you time checking in and out of your testing room when you are taking your break.
  • Get there at least 30 minutes early to check-in, get situated, and BREATHE!



Take advantage of your available resources!  If you’re working at a firm, you might be able to get your exams paid for!  They might also have office study materials that you can use. Be sure to ask your coworkers about the licensure support your office provides before going out and spending your paycheck on materials they may already have available.  

Resources I’d recommend:

    • ARE 5.0 Handbook
      • READ THIS OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND OVER! Familiarize yourself with what you are getting into and take advantage of the sample questions that were written by the same people that wrote the exams you are about to take!
      • There is also a Reference Matrix at the bottom that is extremely helpful when you are unsure of where to begin studying for a particular exam! 
      • Cost: FREE!
      • Exams this resource applies to: ALL
    • NCARB ARE 5.0 Community to learn from others’ on their path to licensure, and study with your peers!
      • Hundreds of licensure candidates are sharing advice and study guides EVERY DAY!  Make this website your homepage – trust me, you won’t regret it.
      • Cost: FREE!
      • Exams this resource applies to: ALL
    • Black Spectacles to gain a holistic understanding of the content on each exam.
      • The Videos are a great way to learn the breadth of understanding that you have to know for each exam.
      • The Flashcards are an awesome resource to look into more detail, and you can even make your own flashcards to mix into the ones they already provide!
      • The Practice Exams are my personal favorite part of their test prep materials.  The software is structured similarly to what the exam is actually like in the prometric center, and they are a great way to practice getting used to the time limits, the attached resources that are provided during the exams, and to test how prepared you are!
      • Going into the campaign, I thought the Black Spectacles videos would be sufficient to prepare me for the exams.  This was not true. The videos are a great way of gaining an overview of content, but definitely supplement these videos with other test prep materials to fully prepare for your exams.
      • Cost: $200/month (DON’T FORGET: AIAS Members get a 50% discount!)
      • Exams this resource applies to: ALL
    • ARE 5 Ballast Review Manual + Practice Exams to get into more detail on the content for each exam.  
      • Pro-tip: You can buy an online subscription and have it all on your computer so you don’t have to lug around heavy books everywhere!
      • This review manual is DENSE, but is an excellent resource to get into the nitty-gritty details that you will want to know to feel confident going into your exams.
      • The practice exams have some typos and a few mistakes, but if you catch them, it will only help you feel more prepared!  Also, it is worth noting that these exams are particularly complex and burdensome, so I’d recommend reviewing with the Black Spectacles Practice Exams and using the Ballast Practice Exams as more of a study tool than a review tool.
      • Cost: $250 (Review Manual) + $95 (Practice Exam)
      • Exams this resource applies to: ALL
    • Architect’s Studio Companion
      • A critical resource to have in your collection to review for structural and HVAC systems.  This book is ESPECIALLY useful when preparing for PPD and subsequently PDD. This book pairs well with the FEMA Earthquake Manual (see below) when trying to gain an overview of lateral forces and design.
      • Cost: $30-40
      • Exams this resource applies to: PA, PPD, PDD
    • Building Construction Illustrated
      • Hopefully it is no surprise that Francis D.K. Ching made some of the most essential resources for architecture students and licensure candidates alike.  Hopefully you already have Building Construction Illustrated in your collection, but if not, this is a book that you don’t want to sleep on! It is an excellent resource for site design, building systems, and building construction.  This content is ESSENTIAL if you are looking for a clear and digestible overview of the basic concepts underlying building construction.
      • Cost: $20
      • Exams this resource applies to: PA, PPD, PDD
    • Building Codes Illustrated
      • Similar to Building Construction Illustrated, Building Codes Illustrated is clear, concise, and somehow makes dry building codes visual!  It is an exceptional resource for understanding which portions of the code are relevant for which aspects of the design process and uses visuals to demystify the IBC text that is too easy to glaze over while studying.
      • Cost: $30
      • Exams this resource applies to: ALL
  • Architectural Graphic Standards
      • Another book you hopefully already have from architecture school – Architectural Graphic Standards may as well be the “Architect’s Bible”.  It illustrates everything from codes and standards to key architectural processes and assessment methods. Highlights in the book include in-depth coverage of building materials and elements, as well as key formulas for structural calculations!  You’ll definitely want to reference this book when studying building sections and preparing for the point and click test items in particular.
  • Cost: $130
  • Exams this resource applies to: ALL, especially PPD and PDD
  • The Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice
      • AHPP is a must-have.  This book is basically a summary of the best professional practice class you could have taken, touching on everything from business management and project-delivery to the legal and technical aspects of the profession.  When preparing for the PcM, PjM, and CE trifecta of examinations, this book should be in your back pocket at all times.
      • Pro-Tip: Don’t forget to reference the Narmour Wright Guides to Navigating the AHPP to know exactly which chapters of the book are most important for each exam!  Work smarter, not harder.
      • Cost: $130
      • Exams this resource applies to: ALL, especially PcM, PjM, and CE
    • FEMA Earthquake Manual
      • This is a MUST-READ!!! I cannot say this enough.  Please do not make the same mistake I did and underestimate the value of understanding lateral loads as you go into the PA, PPD, PDD exam trifecta.  It is especially important to read Chapter 5.
      • Cost: FREE
      • Exams this resource applies to: PA, PPD, PDD
      • This is a resource that I did not have the time to utilize during the campaign, but that I have learned from online reading is an excellent guided study course if you like to learn in an assignment-based setting!  Based on past AIAS member feedback, this resource is especially helpful for truly wrapping your head around all the content for PPD and PDD.
      • Don’t forget to click through the resources tab on Hyperfine as well for a boatload of free links, youtube video playlists, and other online tools.
      • Cost: $35 – $45 per exam
      • Exams this resource applies to: ALL
    • Pluralsight
      • Similar to black spectacles, Pluralsight provides video overviews of content for most, but not all, of the ARE® exams.  This particular resource also allows you to take notes on the platform while watching the videos.
  • Cost: FREE 10-day Trial
        • Take advantage of this trial to see if their videos and other materials are for you, and then extend your trial if you need!
  • Exams this resource applies to: PcM, PjM, PA, PPD
      • This is an incredible example of a licensed Architect who saw the need to share tips and tricks with future licensure candidates!  Austin provides study recommendations and tips for each exam that you can adapt to your own study method as you see fit, as well as some incredibly useful study guides!
      • Cost: FREE (All he asks is that you share it with someone to spread the ARE® love and support!)
  • Exams this resource applies to: 
    • Schiff Hardin – Hanahan Lectures on Professional Practice – Lectures 6, 7, 10 and 11 especially
      • These lectures are the best overview of the B-101 and A-201 Contracts available online.  These are NOT background resources. When you listen to these lectures, be sure to put your headphones on, have the contracts open on your laptop or on your desk, and take notes on key points!  
      • The link above also includes pdf files of the lectures so you can follow along as he is talking!
      • You’ll want to listen to these over and over until you feel you know these contracts like the back of your hand. And don’t forget that AIA has all of their contract documents online to review for free, including a handy diagram of the relationships between the contract documents!
      • Cost: FREE
      • Exams this resource applies to: ALL, but especially PcM, PjM, and CE
  • ArchToolBox
      • The ArchToolBox is a wikipedia for many key architectural skills that you will need to master for the ARE® exams.  In particular, this resource is exceptional at preparing for reading and understanding the vast array of drawings you will receive in the case study problems.  It also has a wonderful summary of key materials and systems, and even project management information!
      • I’d recommend spending a solid amount of time flipping through the tabs in the toolbox and making the most of this free composite of easy-to-digest information.
      • Cost: FREE
      • Exams this resource applies to: ALL



Studying for your ARE® exams is the BEST way to become a better architect.  Even if you don’t pass an exam or two or three, you’re on your way to being competent at maintaining the health, safety, and welfare of the public in your work, AND YOU LEARN SO MUCH ALONG THE WAY!

If there’s one thing I want you all to take away from this campaign, it’s that you should TAKE THE PLUNGE!!

Take your first exam sooner rather than later, because it’s the only way to truly understand what it is like to be in a prometric testing center, to see how the ARE® truly tests you, and to get comfortable with the process.  Most candidates start and finish the exam portion of the licensure process in 2 years. This is because many candidates start taking their exams and have some success, but then life gets in the way and something happens that makes them inactive.  So, DON’T BE AFRAID TO HIT SPEED BUMPS!

Throughout the process of taking all 6 ARE® exams, I received 5 “FAIL”s.  It is really easy to look back on an exam and feel disheartened when you see the provisional “FAIL” come up on your computer screen.  However, failing an ARE® does not mean that you are not intelligent or a good designer or worthy of your license.  THE ARE® EXAMS ARE FEROCIOUS!  At their core, they are EXAMS and it’s just as much about understanding how to be an architect as it is about knowing how the exams are structured.  After talking to a number of brilliant individuals who failed many times on their journey as well, I truly learned that failing is an unfortunate but enlightening part of the process.  My biggest piece of advice to get over the heartbreak that is seeing a provisional “FAIL” is: have a friend or mentor or group of fellow licensure candidates to call on for support and guidance.  No matter how strong you are, you will feel tempted to give up and perhaps doubt whether you deserve a license at all. Having someone who you trust and can rely on to remind you that you are doing your best and that you are amazing and WILL GET THROUGH THIS PROCESS will go so far in terms of lifting you back up and getting you back on your path.  

To be honest, I would never recommend taking all 6 exams in 6 weeks to ANYONE!  The exams are not designed to be fast-tracked, and it is incredibly difficult to study for 6 hours every night after a full day of work.  However, the 6-in-6 model could be applied to 6 months or 12 months for instance! The key is to find a consistent study method that works for you and go with it.  The resources and tips I’ve gathered over the past six weeks can be applied to any study period you feel is best for you, so be sure to utilize them!

All in all, this experience opened my eyes to the value of studying and taking the ARE® exams, and I encourage all of you to start studying as soon as possible.  And when you inevitably have that “I’m scared of failing” feeling, just remember: you CAN try again, and the only person stopping you from becoming licensed or quitting your journey is yourself.  

AND DON’T FORGET: the AIAS is here to help you get started on that first exam with our PASS scholarship.  If you’re courageous enough to take your first ARE® within 1 year of graduating (which I hope you all are), you can apply to the PASS today to have that first exam paid for by the AIAS!  

Thank you to those of you that tuned in throughout the campaign.  It was definitely one of the most challenging adventures I’ve embarked on thus far, but I’m not done yet, and I can’t wait to continue this journey with all of you!  For those of you getting ready to embark on your path to licensure or perhaps already taking your exams, feel free to reach out for support or guidance at any time. Together, we will continue to change the world, but one day, we’ll do it as licensed Architects.


Keep #kickingAIAS, success seekers! 

Your (Past) President and fellow #futurearchitect,