Frequently Asked Questions
To purchase the Amber Seminar, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
What if my partner and I want to pay separately and start at different times?
No problem. Just send the addresses of everyone interested to email@example.com and we’ll work out the details and contact each of you separately.
You say that people can pass these exams with these videos, even if they don’t study other material. Can this be?
Yes. . . . and no. Bear with me, here.
I believe that this video series gets you the highest likelihood of passing in the least amount of time. With the ARE 5.0 for instance, if you have a 90% chance of passing each of the six exams, that means you have only about a 50% chance of passing all six exams on the first try. Most of the exams have pass rates about 55%, So the goal for most of you isn’t to pass this next exam, but rather to get licensed as quickly as possible. That may involve some division re-takes.
For most people, I don’t think that studying additional content will, on average, get them licensed as quickly as going through my course and taking the exams without additional studying (then retaking any exams that you don’t pass as soon as possible). It is natural to feel that failing an exam is a setback, but so is spending 50 extra unnecessary hours more than was needed to pass one of the exam divisions. In the latter case, you just never receive confirmation of the error because you got the pass from NCARB and didn’t know you over-studied.
I don’t understand the previous paragraph. Can you explain it more clearly?
I think this course allows for the highest likelihood of passing the most exams in the least amount of study time.
Do you have videos for all of ARE 5.0?
Do you really think I should schedule the exam for right after I’m finished with the videos?
Yes! This suggestion isn’t based on a deep-held conviction, but rather sprouted organically from the emails I’ve received from folks who took the test right away–and from sad emails from those who waited.
What are the pass rates for these divisions?
NCARB reports pass rates at https://www.ncarb.org/pass-are/are5/pass-rates. Most of the divisions have pass rates between 50% and 60%. That means that failing an exam is more of a feature than a bug. If you fail an exam, reschedule it right away, for as soon as possible.
How quickly can I go through these videos?
I think one week is the fastest you’d go through all of them, though that would be an intense week.
Do you offer firm licenses?
I’m signing up with a friend, but she’s not taking the exam for a while. Is it okay if I take the seminar now and she takes it later?
Sure, but she’ll need to pay for the seminar so you can each receive the $100 discount, otherwise, you’ll be charged the additional $100 per month. She can start the seminar any time after she has paid.
What is the discount if there are three of us signing up together?
$100 off each (the course will be $290/month per person).
Can I pay full price now to get started and get a partial refund when I find a friend to join with next week?
How do you decide what to cover in your videos?
I prioritize content based on “yield.” To calculate the yield, I not only consider the content of the exam, but also how much time it would take you to study that content, how familiar practicing architects are likely to be with that content already, and how many questions related to that content are actually on the exam (every question in a division is worth one point).
How old is the video?
I’m always adding content. I won’t let this series of videos become outdated.
What is the difference between the book and the video?
Our just-released ARE 5.0 workbook includes about half the practice questions in the videos and a small portion of the overall content that is in the videos. It is intended to act as a companion to the videos, and I recommend watching the videos with the book (the book, which is almost 400 pages and is heavily illustrated, comes free with the videos), but the book can serve as a stand-alone study guide too. If you are interested in purchasing the book alone, without the videos, let us know and give us your mailing address at firstname.lastname@example.org. The cost is $90 (free shipping) and if you decide to enroll in the videos later, there is a $20 discount for those who have already purchased the book.
But I only have two exams left. Why do I need to purchase access to all the videos?
Each of the exam divisions require access to all, or almost all, of the videos, so having fewer exams doesn’t typically mean that you need access to less content. That is the nature of the extreme content overlap between divisions in ARE 5.0.
Can I watch the videos when I am not connected to the internet?
No, these videos can only be streamed with an internet connection.
Do you have content on codes?
Yes. You can see a sample of our code video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NqgbL7H6Ujk
Do you have content on structures?
Yes. You can see a sample of our structures video clip at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AvvaCi_Nn94
Do you have content on case studies?
Yes, we send you a case study to practice with.
How is ARE 5.0 different from ARE 4.0?
I spent time two summers ago at NCARB headquarters in Washington DC where the testing staff there held a two-day workshop for exam prep providers on the subject of the transition to ARE 5.0. I took all six ARE 5.0 divisions in six consecutive available Prometric time slots (including a stint of four exams in three days). I passed all six. I’ve also taken three ARE 4.0 divisions. And finally, I’ve been getting feedback from others who have taken my course and then taken the 5.0 exams. What follows are six takeaways I’ve learned from those experiences for those curious about the now-completed transition from ARE 4.0 to ARE 5.0
1. Breathe. In some ways, the new exam is a bit better because there are fewer picky questions: the kind that asks you to recall the width of an electrical outlet. I just made that question up, but it was the kind of question that popped up the old exam and doesn’t seem to be included on the new one as much. It is a bit less about remembering trivia and a bit more about testing understanding. Plus no vignettes. Studying for ARE 5.0 will be more complicated though.
2. ARE 5.0 has a LOT less structures content and a bit more business content (they call it Practice Management), but most of the content will be the same as in ARE 4.0. The change is the way that the questions are grouped into divisions.
3. Most of the old ARE 4.0 11,000-question bank remains in use (NCARB calls questions “items”) and those items will be rotated into your ARE 5.0 exam. Those older questions (single answer multiple choice, check-all-that-apply, and numerical fill in the blank) are now supplemented with three new types of items: (a) hot spot items (i.e. over the building wall section on the right, click the cursor where flashing should be located), (b) drag-and-place items (i.e. drag the rainwater barrier, rigid insulation, and air retarder drawings on the left in the correct location to create a cavity wall section on the right), and (c) case study questions (given the searchable pdf files we’ve included with code excerpts, program description, and site plan, how many parking spaces are required for this project). I’d rather you not focus on the types of questions, and instead focus on the content. That strategy will serve you better. It’s very important that you use the search function in the case study questions; otherwise you will spend too much time on just a few questions while reading a zoning ordinance or a long code excerpt.
4. NCARB has been commendably transparent and proactive in keeping test prep providers like me in the loop on all matters of the exam transition, but I’m still unsure why separating divisions by design stage is better than separating divisions by subject matter. This is, however, the system we live under, so let’s move on from that discussion. You’ll have more studying to do before taking a cluster of exams, but I believe you’ll spend less total time studying in the new format.
5. But doesn’t that mean that I need to study a LOT of content at once and somehow fit all of that in my head? Yes. Many of you will be upset by this change. I, however, feel that in this new ARE 5.0 regime, studying for all your remaining exams at once is the fastest path toward licensure with the least number of hours studying and the fewest months devoted to this effort. I’ll revise this advice on this page if I change my mind after I get more feedback from test takers on this strategy, but as I type this, just last night someone wrote me and thanked me for this advice. She took all six exams in six weeks, against her better instincts, and just found out that she passed the last one and is now licensed. It is kind of like the old-timers who got their license with one giant exam, taken over several days in a gymnasium. I’d still rather take a test in a gym than in my local Prometric testing center. Is there anything the architecture profession has done worse than the design of these testing centers?
6. Several things remain the same in ARE 5.0 as they were in ARE 4.0. In ARE 5.0 you can still retake a failed division after a 60-day wait. The price for testing remains the same. Every question has the same weight on your score and there is no partial credit for a question (like if you correctly identify some but not all of a check-all-that-apply item). Your pass or fail is based on your overall score, so if you fail every code item, you might still be able to pass the exam. (Currently, the format of the exam report that shows up when you fail a division might make you think otherwise.) Finally, stop determining whether you are ready for an exam based on the number of exam prep questions you answered correctly. ARE 5.0, like ARE 4.0, does not have a fixed percentage of correct items you need to achieve a pass across all the divisions. In fact, in ARE 4.0, a multiple choice score as low as 59% can be a pass in one division and a score of 76% might be a fail in another. Likewise, the cut scores vary across the six divisions of ARE 5.0 from 57%-correct minimum to pass to 68%-correct minimum to pass.
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