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ARE Series: Practice Management PcM

Updated: Apr 1

Let's break down the ARE (Architecture Registration Exam)! In this new ARE Series I am taking you through each exam, how I studied, what I found useful, and how to pass. The first in the series is all about Practice Management (PcM).

One of my most popular videos on YouTube is all about getting through the ARE. If you haven't watched that one yet definitely check it out below to get a general idea of the entire exam process, what order to take the exams in, and most importantly what to do if (when) you fail.

Since I have released this video, I am often asked about specific exams, so I want to bring you through each one. In this series I'm going to be talking about what topics are on the exam, what the best resources to study, how much time you should take to study, and dealing with testing anxiety.


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Practice Management

Practice Management is typically the first exam people take in the ARE series. It's not required, but it's a good one to get your feet wet. This doesn't mean it's an easy exam, but it's a good one to figure out how to study, what the exams are like, and how you do taking the exams. I like to think of the first exam as a practice test - no pressure! If you pass, awesome! If you fail, you'll have a better understanding of what you need to do next time, what the exam process is like, and what areas you need to focus your studying on.

Practice Management is heavy on information we’re not necessarily used to seeing as budding architects (or even what we enjoy!). Since it’s much heavier focused on financials, company structure, business, deliverables, running a company, etc. After taking this exam I wanted to go out and teach a course on Entrepreneurship and Architecture and have everyone in the class take PCM at the end and if you pass you ace the class. Because I love business and have a background in it, I saw how much this topic was lacking in our education system. It's maybe slightly brushed over in one of our courses, but nothing like we're expected to know for the exam. The exams are stressful enough and then you get thrown into your first one where you are expected to know information you likely never learned about in school or even in the workplace. So, while I’m not going to have a full entrepreneurship and architecture class, I can at least fill you in on some of the info you need to know for this exam and where to find it.

So what are the actual sections of the exam:

SECTION 1: Business Operations 13-17 20-26%

  • How to run a business

  • Laws and regulations with running an architecture firm

  • Standard of care

SECTION 2: Finances, Risk, & Development of Practice 19-23 29-35%

  • Spreadsheets

  • Financial health of the company

  • Contracts + proposals

  • How to deal with budgets for a project

SECTION 3: Practice-Wide Delivery of Services 14-18 22-28%

  • Contract types

  • Project delivery types

  • Red flags and risks associated with a project

SECTION 4: Practice Methodologies 11-15 q's 17-23%

  • Firm goals and business structure

  • Phasing of a project and how different methodologies affect your risk

How to get started

  1. ARE Handbook - Look over the handbook and see what they want you to study. This is a small piece of the puzzle but an important one. It’s easy to take a look at this in the beginning of studying and then sort of forget about it. I recommend always going back to the handbook as a checklist to make sure you are studying all the topics they list. Sometimes, you’ll focus heavily on one topic and completely forget about another. I have seen people fail an exam by only one section, and all the other sections are in the “blue”. So, even if one of the sections is a smaller percentage of the exam, you still have to put as much value into that because each section is graded on its own. You have to pass them all in order to pass the whole exam.

  2. Resource Guide - Download my resource guide to show you what resources are best for this exam

  3. Architect's Handbook of Professional Practice AHPP - your new bible, especially when it comes to financials. I have PDFs within my resource guide that break down what sections of the AHPP to study so you can focus your energy on the sections you need for the specific exam.

  4. Practice Practice Practice - The ABC Club, Ballast practice exams, and Designer Hacks.

  5. Schedule it! You'll never pass if you don't just schedule it. I recommend scheduling before you're done studying. Don't wait until you feel 100% ready because you'll never get there.

It’s important to have a deep understanding of the information, these tests are not based on rote memorization. For example, when you are working on financials, it’s not going to be memorizing an equation. You have to understand what they are really asking you, so when you are taking your practice exam break down the question so you get an understanding of what answer they are looking for. You can literally cross out any “fluff” words that are there to distract you and highlight keywords, so your brain isn’t bogged down with useless information.

Use this first exam as a practice. If you pass, amazing! If you fail, it’s a great way to get started. Don’t be afraid to fail, and try not to get overwhelmed. The first exam can be intimidating and these exams can bring on a lot of test anxiety. Even if you know the information, your nerves may throw you off. So, give yourself grace on this first exam (and all the exams!), knowing that whether you pass or fail, you are making the first step towards your goal. Good luck, and congratulations on starting your licensing journey!


As a special thank you, we're giving you ARE® 5.0 practice problems from our Activity Book for Architects... completely FREE! Download your ARE® homework here to take your studying to the next level.


Download my free list of resources here

Ballast (15% discount when purchased through this link)

*Note: Some of the reference links are affiliate links. This means if you purchase through the links, it will help my small business. You won't pay a penny more, but we'll get a small commission. Every recommendation is there because I have personally used, tested, and highly recommend it. You will never find a recommendation solely for monetary purposes. Thank you for your support!



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