What are the Best Architecture Textbooks to Help You Pass the ARE 5.0?

It's tough to learn everything you need to know to pass the AREs in a short time — let alone on your own! Fortunately, there are some excellent architecture textbooks that can help you make sure every minute is spent most effectively. If you’ve already completed the Amber Book course and want to move on to other study materials, this article will go over readings that will give you the most bang for your buck that’ll not only help with your exams but with your own work as well.

Most of what you’ll find on this list is taken from NCARB’s list of reference materials in their ARE Guidelines. NCARB’s “Reference Matrix” is a breakdown of what they use in creating items for their exams and displays which divisions each reading is most relevant in. We highlight what we believe are the most worthwhile investments for efficient studying. Most of the readings here contain an abundance of illustrations, renderings and photographs to go along with their text. At Amber Book, we believe that people learn better by seeing rather than just hearing or reading about them — and this collection reflects our commitment to visual learners.

The Best Architecture Textbooks 


Relevant Exam Divisions: PjM, PcM, CE, PA, PPD, PDD

The Architect's Handbook of Professional Practice offers a comprehensive guide to the business, legal and technical sides of architecture. With topics ranging from project delivery methods to business management, it’s an essential resource for architects seeking accreditation. 

If you’ve read our other post, “Best ARE 5.0 Study Materials to Succeed at the ARE Exam”, you’ll find this book (along with a few others here) on that list too. Professional practice as a whole is relevant for every division of the AREs. The AHPP’s wide-ranging coverage has made it indispensable for all six exams (more so in PjM, PcM and CE) and an industry standard.


Relevant Exam Divisions: PA, PPD, PDD

Also an industry standard, MEEB contains some of the most important information on mechanical and electrical systems, including design details, equipment selection criteria and the latest and emerging technologies and design trends.


Relevant Exam Divisions: PA, PPD, PDD

The Architect’s Studio Companion includes guidelines for preliminary structural and systems designs and designs relating to code compliance. You can see how the fundamental systems of a building work by relying on clear explanations and simple diagrams. Not only is it good study material for the more technical exams, but it’s crucial to integrate building systems into the early design stages of one’s own work to avoid costly redesigns later on and stay on schedule.


Relevant Exam Divisions: CE, PA, PPD, PDD

The Fundamentals of Building Construction is another detailed, step-by-step guide to everything from foundation design to framing methods; from the basics of building design to an introduction to important structural principles, this book covers many topics in a clear and enjoyable way.


Relevant Exam Divisions: PA, PPD

“Sun, Wind, and Light” provides strategies for incorporating climate and site context for your designs. Many may be familiar with this piece of text from their design studios or have seen this referenced in lectures regarding environmental building systems. This book demonstrates how to optimize the use of sun, wind and light in architecture by focusing on resource assessment for particular sites. It also provides design strategies organized by building groups (e.g., single-family residences or commercial buildings), building parts (roofs vs walls) as well as supplementing passive systems.


Relevant Exam Divisions: CE, PPD, PDD

This book is our personal recommendation. “Building Construction” is the only reading here that isn’t on NCARB’s list of references but is an exhaustive yet comprehensible introduction to the process of construction. It reflects a philosophy that provides students with an in-depth understanding of the principles and science behind construction that will prepare them to meet future challenges. Emphasizing materials and systems science, this text aims to better prepare architects, engineers and constructors for producing a resilient built environment.


Although they aren’t books, We recommend you take a look at NCARB's free practice exams which will be helpful as you study for your exams. They are available in each division and accessible through your NCARB record once you're test-eligible. They replicate the format of the official exams and are an excellent way to practice and get familiar with the content before taking it live. 

If you are new to studying for the AREs and unsure of what kind of questions to expect, taking NCARB’s demonstration exam from your NCARB Record is a good way to get started. And if you’d like to hear our tips for the best way to take an ARE 5.0 practice exam, check out our article here.

I hope this has given you a better sense of what to look for in ARE 5.0 study material. Whether you’re just starting out on your journey to becoming an architect or you’re already a practicing professional looking to brush up on your skills, these books will help you pass the exams and do great work as an architect.