Best ARE 5.0 Study Materials to Succeed at the ARE Exam

You’re ready to begin studying for the Architect Registration Exam, the ARE 5.0. Maybe you’ve passed some tests and are ready to prepare for the next division but can’t stomach the idea of analyzing another 200-page book. Or maybe you’ve failed a test or two — hey, there’s no shame here! The ARE 5.0 is challenging. Whatever the case, now that you’re ready to start studying, you may be asking yourself, “Where do I even begin?”

If you can relate, I can help you. Your first source for ARE 5.0 study material is, of course, Amber Book. Most architects are visual learners, so I’ve created this animated course with visual learners in mind.

Amber Book offers you the surest and shortest path to passing the ARE 5.0. It covers all six divisions of the exam, has the highest instructive value, and is fun — well, it’s at least the most fun you can have while studying. It is not just the animation that makes the Amber Book different from other ARE 5.0 study materials; it’s also the content. I want to maximize the effectiveness of the time you spend studying. After all, we all have other things we’d rather do.

The Amber Book Test PrepSource

The Amber Book course includes 50+ hours of video designed to cover all six divisions of the ARE 5.0. It’s not just a video of me reading the information; it is engaging illustrations of the information itself, designed to help you learn and remember the content you need to know for the exam. The course is self-guided, so you can go at your own pace and watch each video as many times as needed.

Tuition includes the animated course, a hard copy of the companion workbook, case-study examples, digital flashcards, practice exams for each division and “panic” notes to look over the night before the exam. The whole course should take around 150 hours to complete, including stopping to answer the questions. You may be able to plow through the course in less time, but our average enrollment lasts for approximately a four-month duration.

The workbook, “The Amber Book: ARE 5.0 Edition,” is a 375-page illustrated companion for the video course — a great place to make notes while you watch the videos. Flashcards are an important part of completing the course. (Some people assume that the flashcards are a simple review of content earlier in the course, but they are not.)

With some exceptions, I recommend that you take all of the Amber Book course, then sit for all your remaining divisions of the ARE 5.0 as if they are a single test spanning multiple days. I know it is a lot, but this method will help you obtain your license in the shortest amount of time. We recommend you enroll in the course, immediately schedule your exam — all divisions — about four months out, take the full course and sit for the exams before you forget what you learned.

That being said, most of our enrollees prefer to take the divisions one at a time, and I totally support that, too. I want to see you get licensed, no matter which path you take. 

Let’s say you complete the Amber Book course and take all your remaining exams, but you failed one division out of the six. At that point, I recommend going over the course a second time. However, if you start retaking the course and an hour into it you find yourself thinking “Why am I doing this again? I already know this stuff,” then please, stop paying us and move on to another source of study material. 

About 2/3 of our enrollees will benefit more from retaking the course a second time while the other 1/3 who remember and understand the content of the Amber Book will benefit more from moving on to other sources.

What are the other sources? I’m glad you asked! Here are a few recommendations, in no particular order.

Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice (AHPP)

The AHPP is not only a good source for study material — it also will help you with your future practice, especially if you’re interested in becoming a principal of a firm or owning your own firm in the future. 

For study material, in particular, focus on chapters 1.1, 6, 7, 9, 10, 12, 15, 16 and 17 to help with the exam divisions: Practice Management (PcM), Project Management (PjM), and Construction and Evaluation (CE).


Hyperfine offers courses for all the divisions of the exam and is the only other third-party exam prep material besides Amber Book that I recommend. It engages you with open-ended questions and prompts you to research the answers on your own. It’s also affordable. 

Michael Hanahan’s Schiff Hardin/Perkins Coie Lectures

These lectures, given by a construction lawyer and professor (with a degree in architecture), are fantastic. They are especially good for the PcM, PjM and CE divisions. And as a bonus, they’re free!

The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB)

Not surprisingly, the developer of the exam makes an accurate practice test: NCARB’s ARE 5.0 Demonstration Exam. To access this, go to MyNCARB, log in and click on the “ARE 5.0 Demonstration Exam” link in the right column. 

NCARB also offers helpful videos and the ARE 5.0 Handbook — each of which are free resources.  

Fundamentals of Building Construction

There is a Foundations chapter in this book that is particularly helpful for the Programming and Analysis (PA) division, but the entire book is helpful for PPD and PDD. For CE, focus on the wall sections. This is a book that you could continue to reference throughout your career.

Building Construction: Principles, Materials and Systems by Mehta, Scarborough and Armpriest

This book is an introduction to construction methods and materials by a team of authors that have decades of experience. Again, focus on the wall sections for CE, but the whole book is helpful for PPD and PDD.

The American Institute of Architects (AIA)

The AIA is the source for architectural and construction contracts. Focus on the AIA B101 Owner-Architect Agreement, AIA A101 Owner-Contractor Agreement, AIA A201 General Conditions and AIA C401 Architect-Consultant Agreement.

Sometimes contractual language can be difficult to follow, so don’t be afraid to ask your supervisor or mentor for help when reviewing these. 

Again, these are materials I would recommend if you’ve completed the Amber Book, failed a division of the exam and need additional resources. My goal is to get you licensed as quickly as possible, not have you spend unnecessary hours reading everything you can get your hands on. If you’re like me and love studying, by all means, dig in, but if you’re like most people and want to get these over with as soon as possible, don’t over-study.

One additional suggestion: if English is your second language or you’re not stellar at reading comprehension, grab a book you think you’ll enjoy — not for studying, just one for working on the skill of reading. Leave your phone in the kitchen at night and read for at least 10 minutes before you go to bed. You’ll see a noticeable improvement in your reading comprehension in six weeks and a major improvement in six months. 

I love helping so much and I really want you to pass the ARE 5.0, so here are a few additional thoughts on some of the divisions.

Programming and Analysis (PA)

In addition to The Fundamentals of Building Construction mentioned above, the Site Planning and Design Handbook, chapters three through seven, are helpful for this division, as well as FEMA Document 454, Chapters 4, 5, 8 and 9. You can visit your local zoning ordinance online and read it. If you really want to have some fun, sit in on one of their meetings.

A note on the Programming and Analysis division: move fast through this exam, more so than any other single division. Allow yourself an average of two minutes per regular question and four minutes per case study question. While this pacing works for all six divisions, it is especially important with this one, as people run out of time on this division more than any other. 

If you need more time on a particular question, use the mark question feature on those that you want to come back to review after you run through the entire test first. 

Project Planning and Design (PPD) and Project Development and Documentation (PDD)

FEMA Document 454 can be helpful with these two divisions as well as Elif’s PPD+PDD Bundle of questions.

Construction and Evaluation (CE)

I’ve listed several sources for additional studying for this section above, but here’s the thing about this one: people who know nothing about this exam assume that, because of its name, this division must be about technical content. Others who have read a little about it online might think that it’s a professional practice exam. Those who have taken this division know that it is both — about 70% of the content falls under professional practice and the other 30% is technical content. 

You need to study both technical and pro-practice content anyway, so why not take all the exams at once?

Put It All Together With Amber Book

Put It All Together With Amber BookSource

That’s a lot of information. It might seem overwhelming, and if you studied all of those resources, it probably would be overwhelming! My goal is not to overwhelm you but to let you know that my Amber Book course can simplify this process for you. Over 16,000 emerging architectural professionals have completed the course, and you can read some of their success stories here.

Look, I know more about these exams than anyone in the world. My course is designed to help you own the content that the ARE 5.0 covers, go into the test with confidence and — dare I even say — make the questions seem easy.


This course is an Architectural Registration Exam shortcut — but it’s not short. You’re going to have to work hard and be the hero of this story; I want to be your guide. Give Amber Book your next 150 hours of studying, and I promise that it will help you more than any other use of your time. If you’re not thrilled with the results, I’ll give you 100% of your money back — no questions asked and no fine print!

Still unsure? I offer weekly Amber Book: 40 Minutes of Competence Zoom meetups Thursdays at 6 p.m. ET. You can join one of these study sessions live for free without a subscription. Come and see what you learn. I know that it will make you want to subscribe to learn more. 

You can also click here to schedule a free 20-minute Zoom call with me, and we can talk more about the exam process together.