Below is a guest entry from ARE Advisor --
I find that many ARE candidates struggle with choosing an effective ARE exam order because they worry too much about what other candidates are doing. There is no specific order that you have to take the seven (7) ARE exam divisions in; the choice is solely up to you and what is best for you. Some people do not find it necessary to study too much for each exam while there are others that need more time to prepare. I certainly recommend coming up with a solid plan of attack for taking the ARE and try your best to stick with it.
Before you start taking the ARE, take a brief overview of all seven exams to see what type of content will be on each exam. Chances are, you will be more familiar and comfortable with some divisions over another. This is perfectly normal as many candidates are stronger in some areas over others simply because they’ve experienced more depending on their role at work. For example, a candidate who has just completed IDP in three (3) years out of school probably is not as familiar with AIA contracts and other issues on the CDS exam but a candidate that has been working for some time may feel more comfortable with this exam. By taking some time to identify your potential strengths and weaknesses, you make the process of choosing the proper ARE exam order much smoother.
After briefly researching the subject matter on the seven exam divisions, I find it important for candidates to rank the exams from hardest to the easiest. This is not the order you should take the exams in, but it will help in planning. Once you have ranked the exams, consider some of these questions:
- Do you feel comfortable taking a harder exam towards the beginning or would you like to ease your way into the exams?
- What’s your time frame for completing these exams? Is it less than a year? More?
I find that these two questions can answer a lot when it comes to picking your exam order because they reflect your personal preferences. Some people will prefer to ease into the exams while others would rather get the hard exams out of the way and will take them first. Personally, I spread out the harder exams by staggering them in the middle with a few “easier” ones in between. The other question brings up issues of the time frame for completing your exams. Some candidates feel more pressure to finish these exams as soon as possible and may schedule exams once a month. There are others that would like to spread out the exams so they can take their time preparing for each exam. Again, this is up to you and should reflect your comfort with the material as well as the time frame that you have to take the exams.
The last issue to bring up in terms of the ARE exam order is grouping similar tests closer together. It turns out that a lot of the concepts covered on the ARE relate to more than one exam. This can be stressful to some people because it means preparing for additional material above and beyond what is covered by that specific division. Personally, I think the overlap between exam divisions can be used as an advantage for many people because if they can schedule their exams properly, you can be better prepared for them. One example of this is the overlap between the CDS (Construction Documents and Services) exam and the PPP (Programming, Planning, and Practice) exam because both of these tests cover issues such as project management, contractual relationships, and business management. Taking these exams back to back would certainly be an advantage to most candidates simply because of the fact that you won’t have to study this material twice and most of it will still be familiar to you as you prepare for the second exam.
I hope this is helpful for those of you planning on taking the ARE. Like I mentioned above, picking the right ARE exam order should mainly be based on personal preference. By planning out things ahead of time, you can save yourself time and stress later on down the line. Of course, you can make changes as you need once you start taking the exams, but sticking to a general outline can help guide and motivate you throughout the process.
To read some more thoughts and tips on the ARE exam order:
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Good luck everyone!
ARE Advisor - firstname.lastname@example.org