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How to study for the Practice Management division of the ARE

Studying for PcM while balancing life and work can be challenging. However, timely decisions, smart work, and a little bit of guidance can help you cross the finish line.

The Practice Management (PcM) division is where most people begin their ARE journey. Even though some people may consider it to be one of the easier divisions, it should not be taken lightly. PcM has a passing ratio of about 51%, meaning that despite its positive reputation, a lot of people still struggle to pass it.

PcM focuses on the management of an architectural practice and all the concerns a founder or manager will encounter working with clients, employees, and even self management. It includes topics like: professional ethics, fiduciary responsibilities, contracts, and architectural regulations. Passing it requires an understanding of business structure, business development, and asset development & protection.

Here is how the PcM exam is structured:

  • Number of questions: 65
  • Test duration: 2 hrs. 40 min
  • Allowed break time: 30 min
  • Total appointment time: 3 hrs. 20 min

If PcM is your first exam, it may seem overwhelming to start the studying process, here are a few tips to get you on your way.

1. Make a plan and be consistent

Every person is unique and what works for someone else won’t always work for you. This is why planning is very important as it gives you a structured approach to concentrate your efforts. After you make a plan, it’s just a matter of following the plan and studying consistently. To help you out, we’ve created a simple 9-week study plan for the Practice Management division.

If you find this plan interesting, be sure to check out Remy & Ray’s Guide to the ARE which will feature many helpful tools for passing your first exam.

2. Sign up as soon as possible

Once you are eligible to take PcM, schedule your appointment immediately. Don't overthink, the longer you wait the easier it becomes to get distracted. It may sound cheesy but 

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” 

Scheduling the exam will give you a concrete deadline and spark a sense of responsibility which will help you stay consistent.

3. Don’t be afraid of failing

The pass rate for each division is just around 55%. The fact is that you will most likely fail one or more divisions throughout this process. What you have to realize is that failing is not the end of the world. As Henry Ford said,

“Failure is only the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently”

Mentally create a contract with yourself now, ahead of taking any of the divisions, that even if you fail at one, you will keep going.

4. Don’t be too hard on yourself and connect with a supportive community.

Success and failure are a part of life and if you never fail, you’ll never learn. It’s no secret that studying for and taking the ARE will require a lot of emotional strength. Picking yourself up and starting again isn’t easy but it is one of the greatest human abilities and once you master that, nothing can stop you.

There are many online communities where people regularly discuss the ARE, help each other, and regularly share ideas or study materials. At DesignClass, we believe that the best way to support your professional journey is through a community of designers from around the world. Whether you join our community or something else, the important thing is to connect with people who are on this journey and can understand the struggles. These fellow soldiers can help you stay mentally and emotionally fit.

5. Find mentors

It’s likely you know someone in your firm or AIA chapter who has recently obtained their license. If you feel stuck, go and seek their advice! Most people will be excited to share their knowledge and what has worked for them. 

If you don’t know any recently licensed architects, online and professional communities can help you get connected. Don’t be afraid to do a quick search on LinkedIn and connect with someone in the industry, send them a message, and more than likely you’ll receive some very good advice and maybe even make a new friend.


At the end of the day, constantly remind yourself why you started and why you are pursuing this goal. These exams will be rough, but they’ll make you a more valuable professional, trusted consultant, and informed leader.

If you’re already studying for the ARE or planning on starting your journey soon, take a look at Remy & Ray’s Guide to the ARE. It is the most fun & interactive way to study for the ARE and prepare for the challenging Case Study sections.

Don't forget to download your free study guide to the ARE.

How to Study for the ARE: Practice ManagmentHow to Study for the ARE: Practice ManagmentHow to Study for the ARE: Practice ManagmentHow to Study for the ARE: Practice Managment
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