Aug 4

The Complete Guide to Preparing for the ExAC ExAM

Explore our comprehensive guide on preparing for the ExAC Exam. This article offers in-depth insights, tips, and strategies to excel in the ExAC, including study materials, practice tests, and expert advice. Ideal for architecture professionals and students aiming for success in the ExAC Exam

The ExAC (Examination for Architects in Canada) is a practice-based exam, which means it mainly depends on your own practice experience and your exposure to various architectural project stages during your internship period. For most interns, it is considered one of the most difficult steps in obtaining an architectural license. This year, the ExAC was postponed due to COVID-19 – instead, the CExAC (Committee for the ExAC) is going back to the in-person delivery method and scheduled the exams in February 2022 (according to a recent update on the ExAC website).

While the ExAC can be intimidating to many, if you prepare for it well in advance with a proper study plan, there is no reason why you can’t successfully complete it. Here’s how it’s done:

ExAC preparation In your office:

  1. Get involved in every project type if possible, no matter how difficult it is. Remember, you may open up your own practice one day, and familiarity with every different type of project will be crucial to your success.
  2. Get involved in every project phase – even if you have to do it at home.
  3. Review old projects IFC sets. This will enable you to learn about a variety of construction details.
  4. Review previous and current project contracts where possible so that you may better understand the relationship between an architect and various stakeholders.
  5. Review previous and current project tenders including specifications. This is a critical subject area addressed in three ExAC sections.
  6. CODE, CODE, CODE… participate in every project building code review, assessment, and drawing. The key to success in SECTION 2 is the ability to efficiently and accurately navigate through the National Building Code.

ExAC preparation at home:

Now, this is a debatable subject. Every person has developed a unique way to study based on what works for them. You can review our previous post  that will provide you with some direction, however, here are some common titles:

ExAC References:

The CExAC has published a comprehensive list of References & Resources which can be overwhelming. Here is how we rearranged it:

  1. Canadian Handbook of Practice for Architects, 3rd edition, 2020, Royal Architectural Institute of Canada. This is covered and explained throughout our Live and recorded webinars
  2. National Building Code of Canada, 2015, National Research Council of Canada, Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes, Ottawa.
  3. Building Construction Illustrated, latest edition, Ching, F. and Adams C., John Wiley & Sons, New York. We can’t emphasize how important this reference is in understanding Building Systems and Construction Methods.
  4. The Internship in Architecture Program, 2012, 3rd edition, Canadian Architectural Licensing Authorities (in Quebec the 2001 edition is still in force). This is identified as a principal reference on the ExAC website.
  5. Mastering the Business of Architecture, 2004, Stone, D., Ontario Association of Architects, Toronto, volume 2 section 2 and volume 3A sections 1 to 4. This is good reading and a guide for architects of all backgrounds!
  6. Assemblies Cost Data, Commercial Renovation Cost Data, Hanscomb Yardsticks for Costing and Metric Construction Cost Data, current versions, RS Means. There will be an exercise on how to use them in SECTION 1 of our live and recorded webinar.
  7. Canadian Standard Form of Contract for Architectural Services, Document Six, 2017, Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, Ottawa, and document 9 as well.
  8. Standard Construction Document CCDC 2, 24, and as many more as you can read.
  9. Everything else listed on the ExAC website
  10. SIMPLY ExAM provides complete ExAC Materials that summarize the above references simplified and easy to follow. It’s not meant to add one more read to your list as you already have plenty. Rather, it’s a series of fast keynotes to all 4 ExAC sections.
ExAC Questions:

ExAC questions

This is the most unclear item in the ExAC, because ExAC questions are protected by copyright (to the CExAC). Everyone writing the ExAC will sign a confidentiality agreement, agreeing that they will not disclose or share anything they have read during the ExAC for the next 5 years.

That said, there are a few ways to clarify this vague area:

  1. ARE (Architectural Registration Examination) Questions: the ARE is regulated by the AIA in the United States of America. Many entities online sell “ARE Exam Mock-ups” – they are harder and more sophisticated than the ExAC but would serve well in enriching your knowledge.
  2. Your province code authority and education entities sell provincial code exams for practice. Please note that the National Building Code is different from any Provincial Code in terms of values, but the organization and principles are very similar.
  3. SIMPLY ExAM offers homework after every session to test your knowledge of what you have learned that day.  Our focus, however, is on teaching you the answers so that you are ready for any question in any form.
  4. SIMPLY ExAM also offers access to members forums where students can ask questions and get answered by other members, share notes, and form study groups.
During the exam:

The CExAC has published its Preparation Guide for the Online ExAC. But the following items are common regardless of the exam platform:

  1. Time management is key! I cannot reiterate how important is to properly manage your time.
    Spend 1 minute once you start the exam to review it and its appendices, do a fast calculation to see how much time for each question is appropriate.
  2. The number of questions varies per section and year, but the types are as stated below:
    • Multiple Choice;
    • Pairing/Matching of components;
    • Placing steps/statements in order – sometimes combined with multiple choice;
    • Sentence completion/Fill in the blank;
    • Short Answer.
  3. interns have found starting with Short answers types of questions are better as they may take some time, but they are always worth more points than other types of questions.
  4. Set a specific amount of time for the type of the Short answer of questions and do not exceed it as you’ll run out of time for sure! The allocated time shall be according to the ratio of those questions vs the rest of the other types.
  5. For SECTION 2 exam, make sure you tag the codebook for fast flipping through its parts. And use the index as it will assist you for fast search.
  6. If you think a question will require some more time to think about, mark it and move on to the next one. Once done with them all, you can go back to it. like this, you can guarantee all questions that you can easily answer.
  7. If you finish all questions ahead of time, make sure you go back and read all (or as much as you could) of your answers again.
  8. If you run out of time and there are still more questions to solve, just pick an answer (if it’s a multiple-choice type) as you have a 50% chance of getting it right. But DO NOT leave any unanswered questions.
After the exam:

Relax! and pat yourself on the shoulder for all your hard work.
If you took one of our workshops, tell others on GOOGLE how amazing it is!

Disclaimer:The above guide is based on other students’ feedback and may not apply to everyone or future exams. For official ExAC guidelines and resources please refer to and your authorization letter.

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