The 6 Best Architect Exam Prep Courses of 2020

Pass the ARE and get your license

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The ARE is grueling and challenging and consists of six exams in six different architectural divisions. The average pass rate is 67%, and preparing for it can take a year or more. Finding the right exam prep course can not only save an architectural student valuable time and money, but it can also mean the difference between passing and failing the exam.

Passing the Architect Registration Examination (ARE) is necessary for anyone who wants to become a licensed architect. It is accepted by all 50 U.S. states and 11 provincial and territorial architectural associations in Canada. 

We looked at over a dozen ARE exam prep courses and chose the best based on accessibility, the variety of study resources available, cost, and support for different learning styles. Here are our top picks.

The 6 Best Architect Exam Prep Courses of 2020

Best Overall: Architect Exam Prep

Architect Exam Prep

Architect Exam Prep

Architect Exam Prep was created in 2011 by David Doucette and Eric Corey Freed, architects with a combined 50 years of experience. The mission of the company is to help students pass ARE exams using a combination of multimedia and traditional teaching methods. We chose it as the best overall since it offers exam prep for all six ARE divisions, a study guide that can be viewed on mobile devices, supporting audio guides, an exam simulator, and more.

Each study package comes with a PDF study guide with supporting graphics and diagrams that can be printed or viewed on a computer, tablet, or smartphone. The courses also come with MP3 audio guides with commentaries from David and Eric that can be downloaded and accessed from a computer or smartphone music library.

Additional resources include hundreds of printable flashcards, three case study guides for each division with documents and more than 100 questions, and 30-day access to a timed exam simulator with over 2,000 questions and instant feedback and scoring.

All study packages come with a 30-day money-back guarantee and are priced as follows:

  • Practice Management: $149.95
  • Project Management: $149.95
  • Construction & Evaluation: $149.95
  • Project Planning & Design: $99.95
  • Project Development & Documentation: $99.95
  • Programming & Analysis: $149.95
  • All 6 Courses: $649.95 (a $150 discount)

Runner-Up, Best Overall: EduMind

EduMind

EduMind

EduMind has been helping professionals prepare for certification exams and advance their careers through continued education since 2004. The company offers prep courses for engineering, management, ARE, MCAT, and LSAT exams. We chose it as the best runner-up since it offers both self-paced and instructor-led live courses for students with different learning styles.

EduMind offers review courses for all six divisions of the ARE with options for both on-demand and instructor-led learning. Students can test the waters with an on-demand preview which includes instant access to study videos that can be viewed on any device free for 30 days.

Other self-study options include monthly subscriptions that grant the same access to the video courses along with a learning center where students can interact with instructors and other students, review instructor notes, and work through practice questions.

EduMind’s ultimate learning experience is its live online classes. Here, students get access to instructor-led classes with the ability to chat with the instructors, ask questions in real-time, and send them messages through the student learning center. Best of all, students who don’t pass their exams after taking EduMind’s live online classes may be eligible to repeat the class for free.

Course On-Demand Monthly Subscription 4- or 8-Month On-Demand Live Online
Project Planning & Design $90 per month

$270 for 4 months

or $540 for 8 months

$690 (one-time fee)
Practice Management $90 per month

$270 for 4 months

or $490 for 8 months

$690 (one-time fee)
Project Development & Documentation $110 per month

$330 for 4 months

or $660 for 8 months

$840 (one-time fee)
Project Management $90 per month

$270 for 4 months

or $540 for 8 months

$540 (one-time fee)
Construction & Evaluation $90 per month

$270 for 4 months

or $540 for 8 months

$690 (one-time fee)
Programming & Analysis $90 per month

$270 for 4 months

or $540 for 8 months

$690 (one-time fee)

Best for Accessibility: Black Spectacles

Black Spectacles

Black Spectacles

Launched by architect Marc Teer in 2010, Black Spectacles is the only learning platform created entirely for architects. In addition to providing ARE prep for all six divisions, it also offers video tutorials for AutoCAD, 3ds Max, Photoshop, and other architecture and design software. We chose it as the best for accessibility because it offers videos, practice exams, flashcards, and virtual workshops designed for viewing on computers, mobile devices, or via a native app.

The mainstay of Black Spectacles’ exam prep are video lectures presented by Mike Newman, an architect considered to be one of the most engaging and informative instructors in the industry. The 120 hours of videos included also feature real-world project stories from architects complete with animations that help connect each project to exam objectives.

Black Spectacles also offers 3,000 digital flashcards that link to video lectures for more details. Students can shuffle the cards, mark some as mastered, or create their own. Practice exams are also available in three different forms with questions distinct to that form to help test students’ knowledge of the material rather than their memory of the questions.

Finally, Black Spectacles offers two-hour long virtual workshops featuring in-depth, targeted group exercises guided by a licensed architect. Each workshop focuses on topics candidates struggle with the most and includes time for a Q&A with instructors.

Black Spectacles offers four subscription options based on the features students want. Students who upgrade to a six-month plan get one month free, while students who upgrade to a 12-month subscription get two months at no charge.

Standard Plan

  • $99 per month
  • $495 for 6 months
  • $990 for 12 months
  • 24/7 access
  • Online Video Lectures and slides for all 6 ARE 5.0 divisions

Premium Plan

  • $149 per month
  • $745 for 6 months
  • $1,490 for 12 months
  • 24/7 access
  • All Standard Plan features
  • Online Practice Exams with 3 different tests for each of the 6 divisions

Pro Plan

  • $199 per month
  • $995 for 6 months
  • $1,990 for 12 months
  • 24/7 access
  • All Premium Plan Features
  • Digital Flashcards for all 6 divisions
  • Online real-life Practical Application videos presented by practicing architects
  • Study guides for all 6 divisions

Expert Plan

  • $299 per month
  • $1,495 for 6 months
  • $2,990 for 12 months
  • 24/7 access
  • All-Pro Plan Features
  • Digital Flashcards for all 6 divisions
  • Virtual Workshops: live, online workshops, with focused exercises for all 6 divisions

Best Value: Young Architect Academy

Young Architect Academy

Young Architect Academy

Young Architect was founded by licensed architect Michael Riscica, who struggled with standardized tests as a child to help other students take and pass their ARE exams. To help with this mission, Young Architect offers lifetime access to all prep courses with a one-time payment. We chose it as the best value since it offers video tutorials with case studies and downloadable slide decks at very reasonable prices.

The first thing to note is that Young Architect only provides exam prep for three of ARE’s six divisions at the moment: Practice Management, Project Management, and Construction Evaluation. The company constantly adds new courses, however.

Each Young Architect program includes hours of video addressing the objectives of each division, an approach on how to study for each exam, recorded case studies, videos featuring students discussing the why behind each practice question, and downloadable slide decks.

All Young Architect courses come with lifetime access for a one-time fee:

  • Practice Management Course: $99
  • Construction Evaluation Course: $99
  • Project Management and AIA Contracts Course: $169
  • Practice Management, Project Management, and Construction Evaluation Bundle: $295

Best Self-Paced Learning: PPI

PPI

PPI

Founded in 1975 and purchased in 2018 by Kaplan Professional, a world leader in online training and certification, PPI offers engineering, architecture, and design test prep, educational services, and professional licensure programs. We chose it as the best for self-paced learning since it offers a variety of print and digital study programs to suit the needs of any student.

PPI’s first ARE exam prep offering is its Learning Hub Digital Bundle. It includes a study plan based on a student’s exam date, diagnostic exams, a quiz generator, flashcards, and practice exams with case studies, all accessible from any computer or mobile device.

PPI’s Complete Exam Solution features everything in its Learning Hub Digital bundle along with a video series featuring licensed architects covering challenging problems with step-by-step explanations and tips.

Finally, PPI’s Print Review offers print resources that provide a review for all six ARE exams. This print bundle contains tables, figures, exam-taking strategies, practice problems, flashcards, and practice exams organized by division.

Learning Hub Digital Bundle*

  • $29 per month
  • $59 for 6 months
  • $89 for 12 months

Complete Exam Solution*

  • $39 per month
  • $89 for 6 months
  • $119 for 12 months

Print Review

  • ARE 5 Review Manual: $250
  • ARE 5 Practice Problems: $95
  • ARE 5 Practice Exam: $95
  • ARE 5 in a Flash: $39
  • ARE 5.0 Complete Exam Bundle: $422

* Price per division

Best for Free Training: NCARB

NCARB

NCARB

The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) developed the first version of the ARE in 1979 to standardize the content of architectural exams, which had previously been administered on a state-by-state basis. We chose it as the best for free training since it offers a variety of exam prep tools guaranteed to represent the latest ARE exams.

NCARB’s offers two downloadable PDFs to help students prepare for the ARE. The first is the ARE 5.0 Guidelines, which covers everything students need to know about starting the ARE, establishing eligibility, scheduling, taking an exam, and other details. Next is the ARE 5.0 Handbook, which walks students through each division, providing specifics on objectives, sample questions, references, and more.

NCARB also offers a free ARE 5.0 Demonstration Exam that includes 20 practice questions to help familiarize students with the testing interface, question types, tools, and references. Students can also get more exam prep support with NCARB’s ARE 5.0 Test Prep Video Series, which provides additional information about each division’s objectives and offers sample questions and suggested references.

What Are Architect Exam Prep Courses?

Architect exam courses help students prepare for and pass the ARE exams by breaking down the methodologies of each division, offering real-world examples, and providing a variety of study materials and sample exams.

Because the ARE exams can take up to a year or more to prepare for, it’s essential for students to learn as much as they can about the way the exams are presented and practice as much as possible.

What Do Architect Exam Prep Courses Include?

ARE exam prep courses typically include a variety of study resources to help students prepare for the exams based on their learning style.

Test prep materials often include PDFs or printed books, detailed video tutorials, and sample exams. Some course providers let students download all of the prep materials (PDFs and videos) for a one-time fee, while others only offer access for the length of the subscription.

While most of the courses we reviewed were self-paced, at least one offered live, instructor-led courses in which students can interact with each other in real-time.

What Is the Cost of an Architect Exam Prep Course?

Architect exam prep courses vary greatly in their cost. Some offer monthly pricing between $30 to $100 per division, while others charge $100 per month for access to materials for all six divisions. Courses offering one-time pricing usually come in at around $150 per division.

How Much Do Licensed Architects Earn?

Legally, an unlicensed architect can’t call himself an architect. This closes off many job opportunities for those who haven’t passed the ARE exams. What’s more, unlicensed architects earn an average of $58,000, whereas a licensed architect can make between $79,000 and $138,000.

Is Taking an Exam Prep Course Worth It?

Preparing for ARE exams can be almost as grueling as the exams themselves, taking up hours of study time each week for months on end, if not longer. Take into account the setback that comes from failing the ARE exam and it becomes apparent how important it is to be as prepared as possible before taking the ARE exams.

Young Architect founder Michael Riscica was inspired to create his ARE test prep courses because he realized that thousands of friends and colleagues who wanted to get licensed didn’t feel like they had the support and resources they needed to pass their exams. So, if you’re struggling to find the necessary support, a test prep course can definitely be worthwhile.

How We Chose the Best Architect Exam Prep Courses

We reviewed over a dozen architect exam prep courses before settling on our choices. Due to the detailed and difficult nature of the exams, we made sure to review providers that offered a variety of prep materials to match the individual learning styles of each student.

We also looked at providers that offer sample tests, since that was an essential part of preparing students for taking the actual exams. Prep courses that included supplementary materials like downloadable audio files, case studies, and student/instructor interaction were also high on our list.

Because we were most concerned with finding prep courses that helped students in multiple ways, the cost was not one of our primary considerations. In the end, it’s the materials and resources that match the learning styles of each student that will mean passing or failing the ARE exams.

Article Sources

The Balance requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy .
  1. Young Architect. "What is the Architect Registration Exam?" Accessed June 26, 2020. 

  2. NCARB. "10 Reasons to Take the ARE." Accessed June 9, 2020.

  3. School of PE. "Benefits Of Architect Licensing: Salary, Career Advancement, And More." Accessed June 9, 2020.

  4. Young Architect. "About Young Architect." Accessed June 9, 2020.