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Dec 20, 2013
Tricia Bertke

Twas’ the night before the Architectural Registration Exam, when all through my apartment, not a creature was stirring, except for me, pacing back and forth with sheer panic about the upcoming audit of the knowledge I should possess in order to advance my career.

Ok, so I failed at that rhyme fairly quickly, but as we enjoy this season of cheer and good tidings, I’m sure several of you (young project designers, draftsperson, interns, and project managers) are beginning the seemingly daunting task of becoming a Registered Architect.  With two down and five to go I’m definitely no expert, but below are some tips and positive thoughts for all you architectural candidates, snug in your beds as visions of great architectural feats dance in your heads… so in the spirit of Christmas, I give you the 12 days of ARE Prep.

On the twelfth day of Christmas the ARE brought to me…

12 Attempts to Sign Up

Stop just visiting the websites, set the date, bite the bullet and sign up for your first exam.  This makes it a goal, and goals are attainable.   You’ll need resources – financial ones, as well as time.  Maybe an extremely hectic moment in your life is not the perfect time to put something else on your plate.  That being said, there is no time like the present.  Now that you’ve paid for the exam, there is no choice but to begin preparing.

11 Questions for your Peers

Bring your questions to work.  Your Project Managers love being quizzed about Flemish bonds and architectural styles – trust me.  Ok, so maybe that’s an exaggeration, but hearing a real life example or answer to a subject you read about helps you understand more fully and remember it more easily.  And if by chance the Project Manager with nine year’s experience (A chance to stump Mike Christensen is always a welcome delight) doesn’t know the answer – you’ll feel a little smarter (or more smug) for learning it.

10 Cups of Coffee

Baby, it’s cold outside… so might as well stay inside, bundle up, and start studying. Make it fun and take pleasure in the little things.  Many don’t enjoy studying, but some do enjoy sitting in a cozy café sipping a delicious Gingerbread latte as the snow is falling outside, while reading about project delivery methods.  Make a goal to finish an exam or three during the winter months so you can celebrate and enjoy the summer!

9 Ways to Fit in Studying

Make a schedule and stick to it.  It really is the only way.  Is there a study group you can join so you will feel obligated to keep the commitment?  Choose one night a week to go to a coffee shop to study and really put in some time on the weekends.

8 hours of studying

After working all day, it is pretty tough to spend your night reading and studying.  I found that 2-1/2 hours is my study limit, so I try to break it up.  How did I ever manage to pull all-nighters?  I averaged about 8-10 hours a week and upped it the week before the exam.  I schedule the exams for Mondays so that you can get a little extra studying in over the weekend and let yourself forget about your project deadlines and work stress and focus on the exam.  I do suggest taking the day before off.  Give yourself some time to recoup.

7 Exams Awaiting

Having only taken two, it’s hard to think about still having five more exams, but you must persevere.  This is what you went to school for – to become an Architect.  It is a great career move and a big accomplishment.  And you get a really cool stamp with your name on it. Who doesn’t love stamps?  But seriously, don’t get carried away with the stamping… this is a serious stamp…full of liability.

6 Million Note Cards

Ok so maybe I didn’t have quite that many, but my study drawer is quickly filling up.  After reading through a lesson and grasping the main objectives, I reverted back into the college mentality and wrote down the key points on note cards.  They’re portable and make it possible for some extra studying, like reviewing them while you scarf down a sandwich for lunch.

5 Years to Pass

NCARB has now instituted the 5 year rolling clock which may seem like a long time, but in actuality it flies by as life and career happen.  Go out and enjoy friends and family, take vacations, enjoy life but keep at it – don’t make the mistake of taking a long hiatus, it makes it that much harder to get back into the swing of things.

4 Hour Tests

Don’t get discouraged – stay positive.  During the exam, you’ll more than likely find yourself asking why do I need to know (insert obscure architectural fact here) to become an Architect?  Hang in there – some of the questions may seem odd and there will be things that you didn’t study.  Focus on the questions you did study for and that will help you pass.

3 Tips from a Teacher

For anyone who encounters the last minute panic before an exam, here are some random tips completely unrelated to the ARE that you can do.  These tips are courtesy of a teacher with 22 years of teaching experience, who knows a thing or two about passing a test.

1. Eat tuna the night before your exam.  Tuna = brain food.

2. Eat peppermint the morning of to keep you focused.  Peppermint bark coffee fits right in with the Christmas season.

3. During the exam if you get stuck tap your forehead or yank your ear for a brain waker-upper (did I mention she taught elementary school?)

Although I have yet to formally measure the direct correlation between these tips and a passing test result, I find them way better than a rabbit’s foot or lucky (dirty) socks.

2 Nervous Nelly’s

On the day of the exam, avoid any overly talkative test-takers who may want to share with you how hard they heard the exam was.  Don’t absorb their nervous energy.  You know the type.  It is best to keep confident and be assured that you prepared the best you could.  You ate the tuna and peppermint bark right?  The nervous test-takers probably skipped this step and drank a big cup of negativity.

1 Awesome Architect! 

Take a minute to imagine the moment when you have passed all 7 exams and all your hard work has paid off.  Keep your eyes on the prize and stay positive… oh, and have yourselves a merry little Christmas.