On June 10th, 2022, NCARB released their free ARE 5.0 Practice Exams for each of their six divisions to test-eligible NCARB record holders. Before, NCARB had only provided a Demonstration Exam for test-takers to get a sense of what to expect from the test items you’ll come across (there’s now a version of the Demonstration Exam called the Multidivisional Practice Exam, which contains the same content but also provides feedback for your answers).
For the same reason that musicians and actors rehearse on the stage where they will perform, test-takers should treat these exams as if they were the real thing, simulating the exam environment to get familiar with the testing experience and get an accurate picture of how close you are to a passing score. That means setting aside three to four hours to sit down in a clutter-free and quiet* environment free of distractions.
*Earplugs or noise-canceling headphones are generally great investments if it’s hard to find quiet in your day-to-day life!
Here are some tips below to give you an idea of what you should do to get the most out of this experience.
1. If you’ll be at a test center, find or make a quiet space wherever you can to take the practice exam. This could be a guest room at your home, an empty office space at work or a reserved study room at a library. Give yourself space to focus.
2. If you are going to do an online-proctored exam session, take your practice exam in the same location that you’ll take your real one, and if possible, at the same time — wouldn’t you hate to find out that the sun just happens to be shining in your eyes in the middle of test-taking at that time of day where you’re sitting? In their ARE Guidelines, NCARB has a section for online test-takers to help with setting up and making sure both your environment and system meet the requirements outlined by PSI and NCARB.
3. Go into it when your mind is fresh. It would not be a great idea to have a three- to four-hour-long commitment after working all day.
4. Review your exam to get a clear understanding of what you need to study for and take note of how they ask their questions. Some of the questions you’ll come across can be extremely wordy and particular, so if you're not too confident in your ownership of the content, it may be difficult to separate the relevant information from the extraneous. In a way, it’s like mental gymnastics where you can find yourself overthinking how much information can be packed into one question. This is also why we recommend taking the exams when your mind is fresh — you may find yourself reading without understanding, eyes glazing over the text and having to re-read the same lines more than once.
5. Avoid taking breaks if you can. For a division like PjM, 40% of the content comes from the AIA contracts, and you’ll likely find one or two of those contracts in the case study reference documents. If you take a break, you can’t see any of the test items that you saw before the break, so no break = no access to the case study reference documents for all of your questions.
6. Take them with joy! It probably seems strange to say this knowing that a decent amount of you stress over this process after months or years of studying. Try to have fun learning this content and go easy on yourself. Passing these exams will bring you success, which is worth pursuing, but don’t conflate success with contentment or your value as a person.
On a final note, Amber Book has recently gotten NCARB’s approval to go over their practice exam questions. Do you wonder why a particular answer was chosen for a question and find the available feedback to be lacking?
You can send in requests at email@example.com for us to go over them in our Thursday 40 Minutes of Competence sessions. If you haven’t signed up yet for the weekly invitations, you can find our form here.