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Overwhelmed with ARE studying? Here’s your free ARE 5.0 study plan to pass all 6 exams.

This post originally appeared on 21st Night, a studying app blog.

If you’re like most ARE studiers, you’re probably feeling pretty overwhelmed.

These exams are long and hard. They test entirely disparate topics (drainage! masonry! insurance!), sometimes back-to-back.

So what are you going to do? Give up? No! You’re going to pass this thing. Here are your steps.

(By the way, I know you’re busy. You don’t want to read this whole thing now? No problem! Sign up below to get it sent to your email.)

ARE 5.0 Study Plan

Before you start studying

  1. Open the Handbook in a new tab. I know it’s intimidating, but we don’t need to worry about that right now. We just need it open.
  2. Go to the section on whichever exam you plan on taking first. My recommendation is to take the exam 1, 2, 6 then 3, 4, 5 , as there’s a ton of overlap in those first 3 and those last 3. Up to you, though.
  3. For just this first exam, go through the topics and write down the ones that are unfamiliar to you. If you want to skip this step and just get a list of all the topics on all the exams, I can email them to you.
  4. Once you’ve done this, go to the section at the end of that exam in the Handbook marked “References”. These are the books you’re going to need to obtain. Don’t worry about getting all the books, though. I have a list of just the ones you need. (Note: you can also shortcut this by purchasing guides or a course, which will be cheaper than purchasing the books).
  5. Last, dip your toe into the water by going back and trying the practice questions in the Handbook. Don’t worry if you struggle. This is just so you get a sense of how the ARE asks questions.

While you’re studying

  1. Time to crack open those books! Now, the ARE is a tougher exam than you’ve taken before. You cannot study for it just by reading through these books like a novel.
  2. Instead, focus in on the specific sections of the books. Take notes on concepts, and make flashcards for facts. If you’ve never made flashcards before, this is the perfect time to start.
  3. If you’re not sure which facts to focus on, I have an email course that lists the exact facts and topics the ARE loves to test.
  4. When you’re taking notes, make sure to recall those questions you did from the Handbook. The ARE loves to come back to a few questions: what’s legally necessary? what’s the cheapest option? what’s the most environmentally friendly option? Your notes should focus on these questions.
  5. Once you’ve finished with your notes, go back to the ARE Handbook. Your notes and flashcards should have enough information to solve the questions.
  6. If they do have enough information, but you still have trouble doing the question, put the question in an error log. Record the question, the answer, and the correct process, then make sure you go back and review the process for solving the question.

Before you take the exam

  1. Before the exam, you should have memorized all your flashcards, mastered all the questions in your error log, and understood all your notes.
  2. If you are unsure on whether you’re set, you should try practice questions from another source, like my Guide to the Overwhelmed series.
  3. Last, watch the ARE demonstration exam from NCARB before you start with the test.
  4. Enjoy the test!