After years of setbacks and some (ok, a lot of) procrastination, I scheduled the Architect Registration Exam (ARE) 5.0 Practice Management (PcM) exam for early November. As the test date came near, I increased my efforts to balance work, study, and home life. I took off work the day before the exam for a final focused but calm cram session followed by a good night’s rest…I passed.
I plan to share more in the future about the Prometric experience, studying while balancing two young kids, and what I would have done differently. But today I shall focus mostly on what content I studied. NCARB is very precious about their exam content, as they should be, so I won’t be sharing anything I saw during the exam. However, I would like to share what materials and sources best helped me prepare for that pass.
What NCARB wants you to study:
While NCARB doesn’t release branded extensive study material, in the ARE 5.0 Handbook they do offer an extensive list of resources which were utilized in the creation of exam questions. I have read all of the below, however, many sources have indicated that is not necessary to pass PcM…I agree. I do, nonetheless, believe that understanding how to run a practice properly is an important skill for any architect even if they do not plan to open their own practice. I have placed a * next to the ones I suggest reading for the knowledge even if you were not taking the AREs.
- The Architect’s Guide to Small Firm Practice*
- The Architect’s Handbook for Professional Practice*
- Law for Architects: What You Need to Know*
- Professional Practice: A Guide to Turning Design into Buildings
- BIM and Integrated Design: Strategies for Architectural Practice*
- NCARB Rules of Conduct
- Legislative Guidelines and Model Law/Model Regulations
- AIA Codes of Ethics and Professional Conduct
- AIA B101-2017
- AIA C401-2017
PcM Study Materials I found most useful
ARE 5 Review Manual – Ballast
It may not be without fault, but the Ballast ARE review manual offered a good enough overview to prepare for PcM. I have a hard copy but also paid for access to the ebook. The app for the ebook has the option to utilize text to speech so that you can listen to the book. The standard reading speed is a bit slow but (on Android) you can adjust the speech rate as well as select from other Google voices. I like the British woman best because it sounds less robotic. In my personal experience listening to an audio of something I need to remember helps even if I listen to it while falling asleep.
Architect’s Guide to Small Firm Management
This one is worth study for anyone who doesn’t have formal business training but needs to know how to run a firm properly. Even those who have been running a small studio for years are likely to pick up better firm management practices by reading this guide. As far as PcM study materials go, this one is essential and by far the least dry to read. None of the study materials are page-turners, sorry. If you are short on time and only want to study one relatively short read, this one may be enough to pass if you have worked in a practice for a few years and are already familiar with the AIA contract and legal/insurance issues.
If you have $40 sitting around and like to study on your phone then the paid practice exams from Designer Hacks are a decent option. I would have liked to see more variation in how the test questions were asked. After seeing the same multiple choice question a few times you start to wonder if you are learning the answer or just memorizing the correct multiple choice answer when presented in that specific order. Still, I think it did help with familiarity with terms and is easy to use on the go. If you score high enough on the timed mock exam they offer a money back guarantee, so it is also a low-risk investment.
Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice
Another great resource for running a practice but incredibly dry and often wordy. Nonetheless, a prime resource for PcM (and PjM) with lots of information that is of practical use when setting up and managing an architectural practice. It is not really necessary to read this whole book for the AREs. You can utilize the topics breakdown provided in the ARE handbook to determine which sections are most useful to you based on your current knowledge base. I personally preferred to try to read the whole book and am still working toward that goal.
Young Architect Academy
YAA’s video courses are AIA is the best format of study material I have found for the money. I, unfortunately, did not realize that they had released Contracts for PcM, PjM, and CE until the day before my PcM exam. Fortunately, the one day is all I needed to brush up on the AIA B101 and A401. I also listed to A201 before the exam even though NCARB’s handbook didn’t specifically note it as a covered topic. My understanding is they are diligently working on releasing a PjM course soon.
There are multiple other sources for studying for PcM and the AREs in general. Unless you work at a larger firm with an updated ARE library or have access to books through your local AIA office, you’ll likely want to limit your study material purchases to the minimum necessary to achieve baseline competence in the subjects. There is some free content on YouTube including some Black Spectacles podcasts. I also mentioned some other ARE resources a while back that you may find helpful. Feel free to add your suggestions in the comments.