About Michael Ermann
Michael Ermann, AIA is a licensed architect and tenured full professor in Virginia Tech’s School of Architecture + Design, where he’s taught design studio, environmental building systems, materials and methods of construction, and architectural acoustics for 16 years. Professor Ermann has authored or co-authored eight journal papers in the field of acoustics, and presented more than 30 papers on building systems. He authored the book Architectural Acoustics Illustrated (Wiley, 2015), is the former Undergraduate Architecture Program Co-chairman, and has earned design, teaching, research, and outreach awards for his work. Prior to joining the VT faculty Professor Ermann was an acoustical consultant in New York City and Florida. He received a bachelor of science in mathematics from Tulane University and a master of architecture degree from the University of Florida. He was the first person to pass all six ARE 5.0 divisions. He enjoys hosting ARE Building Systems prep courses for those in practice. He’s taught over 1,000 at his in-person ARE exam prep seminars for AIA New York, AIA Miami, AIA Northern Virginia, AIA New Mexico, AIA Triangle (Raliegh), AIA Houston, AIA Alaska, and AIA Washington DC seminars.
Study Tips for the A.R.E. Exams
- Schedule the exams before you start studying. If you have already started studying and are not sure whether to schedule the exam, you are probably more ready than you think you are. Schedule the exam. Seriously, do it now.
- The NCARB practice exam questions, including the ARE 4.0 practice questions, are an overlooked resource. In my experience, they are very similar to the actual exam items.
- Think probabilistically and be okay with positive ambiguity. If you sit at the testing center and get tripped up by one question out of 90; if you are obsessed with a single question you saw in an exam prep book that you can’t figure out the answer for; if you are studying random picky questions because you know the exam has random picky questions (but you have no reason to think that your particular random picky study question will be covered on the exam); if you are searching the web for exactly what you need to do to pass. . . well, then you’re putting yourself at a deficit. My advice: (a) If you are taking an exam and don’t know a question, make an educated guess and move on. (b) Prioritize your studying based on the probability that topic will be on the exam. For instance, the ARE 5.0 exam devotes large portions of its content to materials & technology and very little to architectural structures. Every question is worth one point, and you cannot fail the ARE 5.0 exam because you “failed” structures. I’m going to say that again: every question is worth one point and you pass and fail based only on your final score, regardless of which section those points came from. If you get all the questions incorrect in structures you will have gotten about 1% of the division’s problems incorrect; if you get all the problems in materials & technology wrong, you will have gotten about half the division’s problems wrong. So study materials & technology! (You don’t have to worry about self-prioritizing if you take my classes because the content priorities are baked into the curriculum.) (c) Don’t ask yourself, “What do I need to do to pass?” Instead ask, “What do I need to do to have a high likelihood of passing.” These questions seem similar but they are fundamentally different. If you ask the second question, you’ll recognize that failing some of the exams may be part of your process. Put yourself in a position to probably pass this exam and then take it. Then take the next division when you are likely to pass it and so on. Retake failed exams ASAP as needed. Remember, the goal is not to pass the exam you are currently studying for, but rather to get licensed in the least amount of time.
- Think of the least-competent licensed person you work with. If he can pass, you can too.