Your exam order for the ARE is something that you want to plan out.  It is important to factor in what you feel comfortable with and what your strengths are, but there are some other factors to consider when choosing a starting point.

Begin by reviewing the pass rates, exam specifications, expected exam length and expected preparation time for each test (see Architect Registration Exam – ARE 4.0 and Creating an ARE Study Plan for more information on this). Based on your personal experience, different factors will have different relevance to you. Here are a couple examples of information that would be important to consider:

—Schematic Design and Site Planning & Design have the highest pass rates, 71% and 69% respectively—

—The Programming, Planning & Practice division and the Construction Documents & Services division each have a multiple choice section, and pair well because they deal with professional practice/contracts—


Once you have a good feeling for what is involved in each exam, you can consider these different methods for creating your personalized exam order. Here are some examples of logical considerations that have been used by the Academy team.

The Grouping Method

First of all, there is a lot of overlap on several of the exams such as Building Systems and Building Design + Construction Systems, and similar content/questions will show up throughout the exams. One suggestion is to view the exams in two distinct groups based on this overlap. Using this philosophy it doesn’t really matter what order you take them in, so much as you maximize your studying by working on themes and overlapping content.

Group #1 – PPP, SPD, CDS

Group #2 – BD/CS, SS, BS

Group # 3 – SD


The Difficulty Method

Some people work better doing the most difficult tasks first to “get them out of the way” or to “save the best for last.” So start with the hardest (structures) and devote a large amount of study time in the beginning and then dial it back for the other exams (since there is a large amount of overlap).



The Confidence Builder

Alternately, the logic is to take a couple easy exams first and build up your confidence. This will allow you to familiarize yourself with the test environment and process before trying to tackle a section that you think you might have difficulty with. Give yourself exposure to the testing center with SD before beginning with multiple choice components. Then start with what you know, CDS and SPD, and follow with PPP because it has a lot of overlap with these two. After BS and SS, your accumulated knowledge from the first six tests will contribute to BD/CS.



The Arch Exam Academy Order

Based on all of these considerations, and a few specific common points here is our optimized order with associated study times.

SD and SDP have the highest pass rates, but SD has the shortest estimated study time, and is a good final test to take. SS, BS, and BDCS are ordered such that there is a ‘break’ between the two hardest tests with BS.

Preparation of construction documents is first because architects prepare a lot of CDs and have experience around the office. SDP is second because it is considered an easy exam. Building confidence on these exams and building upon knowledge will help you gear up for some of the more difficult tests. SD is last to finish on a good note.


CDS (5 weeks)
SPD (3-4 weeks)
PPP (4 weeks)
SS (5 weeks)
BS (3 weeks)
BD/CS (4 weeks)
SD (1-2 weeks)


3 thoughts on “ARE Exam Order

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  1. I have seen a number of posts that attempt to discuss how long it takes to prepare for certain segments of the ARE. Frankly after being at this for a while it is superficial to conclude one can quantify the amount of time to prepare for the ARE in general blocks of time without identifying the specific study resource they are using broken down to specific time frames…if the source is Kaplan and Ballast how are those study guides broken down and what pace is maintained? Is it 3/day or 5 chapters (Kaplan) a week for 3 weeks? When are the graphic portions studied…? So, what I am sharing is candidates should make their schedule as detailed as they can based on their own individual abilities. To say SS takes 5 weeks is meaningless unless there is a study source that the 5 weeks is based on. Just my thoughts…//Chuck

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