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Best Architect Exam Prep Courses

Architect Exam Prep's comprehensive courses make it our top choice

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The Architect Registration Examination (ARE) 5.0 is grueling and challenging, with six exams in six different architectural divisions. In 2022, the average of all division pass rates was 55%, and the average time to complete the entire exam was more than two years in 2021. Finding the right exam prep course can save an architectural student valuable time and money and mean the difference between passing and failing the exam.

Anyone who wants to become a licensed architect must pass the ARE. It is accepted by all 50 U.S. states and 11 provincial and territorial architectural associations in Canada. Specific rules for each state, province, or territory vary.

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

Best Architect Exam Prep Courses of 2023

Best Overall : Architect Exam Prep

Architect Exam Prep

Architect Exam Prep

  • Cost: $63/month–$109/month
  • Guarantee: Subscription extended if you don't pass
  • Live Instruction: No
Why We Chose It

We chose Architect Exam Prep 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.

Pros & Cons
  • Experienced instructors

  • Subscription extended if you don't pass

  • Relatively expensive for all six division packages


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.

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 three months of access to a timed exam simulator with over 2,400 questions and instant feedback and scoring.

Architect Exam Prep sells 3-month, 6-month, and 12-month All-Access subscriptions, and each includes access to study materials for all six exams. Rates are $93/month for three months, $73/month for six months, and $63/month for 12 months. The Platinum package is for 12 months and includes everything in the All-Access package, plus additional study materials, coaching videos, and more.

Runner-Up, Best Overall : EduMind



  • Cost: $450–$650
  • Guarantee: Repeat for free if you don't pass
  • Live Instruction: Yes (online)
Why We Chose It

EduMind is our choice as the runner-up since it offers both self-paced and instructor-led live courses for students with different learning styles.

Pros & Cons
  • Self-paced and instructor-led courses

  • Repeat the class if you don't pass

  • Expensive


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.

EduMind offers review courses for all six divisions of the ARE. Students can test the waters with an on-demand preview, which includes instant access to study videos that can be viewed on any device for free.

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 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.

Best for Accessibility : Black Spectacles

Black Spectacles

Black Spectacles

  • Cost: $149/month–$2,790/year
  • Guarantee: Covers cost of retake if you don't pass
  • Live Instruction: Costs extra
Why We Chose It

We selected Black Spectacles 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.

Pros & Cons
  • Variety of educational materials

  • ARE prep for all six divisions

  • Must pay for Expert plan to get live instruction


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.

The mainstay of Black Spectacles’ exam prep is a set of 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 feature real-world project stories from architects complete with animations that help connect each project to exam objectives.

Black Spectacles also offers 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 those forms 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 three subscription options based on the features students want. Students who upgrade to a 12-month subscription get a discounted rate.

Premium Plan

  • $149 per month
  • $1,790 for 12 months
  • 24/7 access
  • Online video lectures and slides for all 6 divisions
  • Online Practice Exams with 3 different tests for each of the 6 divisions

Pro Plan

  • $207 per month
  • $2,490 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

  • $249 per month
  • $3,290 for 12 months
  • 24/7 access
  • All Pro Plan Features
  • Virtual Workshops: live, online workshops, with focused exercises for all 6 divisions led by a licensed expert every Sunday for 2 hours

Best Value : Young Architect Academy

Young Architect Academy

Young Architect Academy

  • Cost: $99–$295
  • Guarantee: N/A
  • Live Instruction: No
Why We Chose It

Young Architect Academy provides the best value since it offers video tutorials with case studies and downloadable slide decks at very reasonable prices.

Pros & Cons
  • Lifetime access with one payment

  • Inexpensive

  • Only covers three of six ARE divisions


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 further this mission, Young Architect offers lifetime access to all prep courses with a one-time payment.

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



  • Cost: $39–$375
  • Guarantee: None
  • Live Instruction: No
Why We Chose It

We chose PPI 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.

Pros & Cons
  • Well-established educational institution

  • Covers all six divisions

  • No pass guarantee


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.

PPI’s ARE exam prep offering is its Learning Hub Bundle. It includes a video series featuring licensed architects covering challenging problems with step-by-step explanations and tips. Start with a study plan based on your exam date, diagnostic exams, a quiz generator, flashcards, and practice exams with case studies, all accessible from any computer or mobile device.

Complete Exam Bundle for All Six Divisions

  • $331.50

Exam Review

  • ARE 5 Exam Review Manual: $209
  • ARE 5 Practice Questions: $100
  • ARE 5 Mock Exams: $100
  • ARE 5 in a Flash: $39

Best for Free Training : NCARB



  • Cost: Free
  • Guarantee: N/A
  • Live Instruction: No
Why We Chose It

Our choice as the best for free training is the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards since it offers a variety of exam prep tools guaranteed to represent the latest ARE exams.

Pros & Cons
  • Free to learn

  • Text and video resources

  • Up to date with latest ARE exams

  • Relatively simple

  • Some students may need more hands-on instruction


NCARB developed the first version of the ARE in 1983 to standardize the content of architectural exams, which had previously been administered on a state-by-state basis.

NCARB 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 75 practice questions to help familiarize students with the testing interface, question types, tools, and references. Students can 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.

Final Verdict

There are a variety of architect exam prep courses online; if you want to spend a little for some basic resources or a lot for more personal instruction, there's a course for you.

Architect Exam Prep is our top pick overall, with a comprehensive approach that covers all six divisions and won't break the bank. If you want to start with a free course try NCARB itself, or look to Young Architect Academy for a great value; Kaplan is another good choice, but it's best for self-paced learners who don't need much hands-on help.

Compare the Best Architect Exam Prep Courses

 Course Cost Guarantee Live Instruction
Architect Exam Prep
Best Overall
$63/month–$109/month Subscription extended if you don't pass No
Runner-Up, Best Overall
$450–$650 Repeat for free if you don't pass Yes (online)
Black Spectacles
Best for Accessibility
$149/month–$2,790/year Covers cost of retake if you don't pass Costs extra
Young Architect Academy
Best Value
$99–$295 N/A No
Best Self-Paced Learning
$39–$375 None No
Best for Free Training
Free N/A No

Frequently Asked Questions

  • 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 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. As of May 2021, the median annual salary for architects was $80,180, with 80% of salaries falling between $48,930 and $129,980. The top 10% of salaries exceeded that range, while the lowest 10% fell short of that range.

  • Is Taking an ARE 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 setbacks that come 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.


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, 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.


Ezra Bailey / Getty Images

Article Sources
  1. National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). "Examination: NBTN 2022."

  2. National Council of Architectural Registration Boards. "Architect Registration Examination 5.0 Guidelines," Page 5.

  3. Regulatory Organizations of Architecture in Canada (ROAC). "United States and Canada (NCARB) Canada / United States Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA)."

  4. National Council of Architectural Registration Boards. "Licensing Requirements Tool."

  5. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Architects."

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