Studying for the ARE


An interview with Matt Quijada

Matt’s approach to studying for the ARE


We are really excited for you, you’ve passed what…2 tests now? And there are six total, right?

Matt: Thank you. Yes, six total. The two I took were about the business of architecture, like the technicalities of contracts and operating an office.


What was the easiest test for you so far? Which was the most difficult?

Matt: Both Practice Management and Project Management were pretty similar in terms of material and difficulty. Project Management felt like a “Part 2” of Practice.  I would suggest studying them together, and taking one after the other.

Thus far, ARE 5.0’s time limit has proven the most challenging aspect for me. You cannot overthink the questions. If you don’t know the answer right away, flag it and move on.  That said, my LEED Green Associate exam was harder than both AREs I took (in my opinion).

How did you study/prep for the tests? Can you share your experience in deciding when to start taking your tests and how often to schedule them?

Matt: For me the most challenging part of studying was determining the scope of the material I would need to cover.  It can be a bit piecemeal. Study this book, then another book, then this contract, then maybe watch this video… the material is not all in one place.

I worked for a couple years before starting the exams. I studied some by osmosis. Things I overheard in the office helped me answer test questions.

Any advice for study material? Anything that you’d recommend not using?

Matt: Above all else, use the resources list provided in ARE 5.0 Handbook. They are coming straight from the people who write the tests. As for the study guides, the Practice Problems in the Ballast study guides are harder than the actual test, so those questions helped set my expectations. The Brightwood questions were too easy. For Project and Practice Management, use the Architect’s Handbook to Professional Practice as your holy Bible.

So, when this test is done you are officially an architect right? What is required to become an architect? (degree, AXP – internship, and the test)

Matt: In Ohio, a Master of Architecture degree, the interning hours, and six exams. Then some red tape and procedural stuff and you are granted your license. NCARB requires additional steps if you’d like “reciprocity”: the power to practice in other states as well.


We read that it takes most people a little over 4 years to complete AXP, and if you factor in school, AXP and testing the average length of time to become an architect is 12.5 years – how does your experience compare?

Matt: I’m okay with that. I’m learning that architecture is about an “incubation period”. It takes years of exposure to the topic with a certain mindset to really start grasping it.


Is there continuing education required after passing your test? (yes, Ohio requires 12 hours of HSW and AIA requires 18)

Matt: Yes, but I haven’t delved into those specifics yet.  Trying to take it one step at a time.


Are you excited to be able to seal drawings?

Matt: Yes!! But I’m more excited about officially calling myself an Architect. If you ever watched Seinfeld, you realize how important that is. As for sealing drawings, that’s complex, because that power is partially dictated by insurance.


What types of projects are you looking forward to next?

Matt: Right now, I’m working on a brand-new lodge, a 100-year-old university library, an old movie theater, and a trendy apartment building. I love that variety. I hope to keep it going.


Do you have any advice for aspiring architects apart from the test, like thoughts on school, travel, things to read or skills to develop?

Matt: Don’t listen to the naysayers – architecture school really does prepare you well for professional practice. It’s not about memorizing technical facts. Its about learning to see the world through a completely new lens.


Who’s buying drinks to celebrate when you get your license?

Matt: To be honest, drinks should be on the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards. All joking aside, I’ll let a friend (or two) congratulate me this way.