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What you should know when studying for the ARE

December 3, 2019

You graduate from college with an architecture degree, secure a job (hopefully), and then the real work starts to become a Licensed Architect. Internship hours and the dreaded Architecture License Exam (ARE) still loom over recent grads before they can add the elusive AIA after their name. Recent ARE test-takers, Samantha King and Ethan Warren, reflect on their experience studying for the ARE and what you can expect.

When Ethan and I decided it was time to start taking the ARE, we thought it would be easier, and slightly more fun, to do it together. We found that having the extra accountability was really helpful and encouraging to know someone was studying too while also working, raising a family, and having a life. It really kept us motivated over the many many months of studying and test-taking. 

Samantha’s right; it was better knowing we were working on this together. If you can find a study partner or group to join, we’d definitely recommend it. We know everyone is different and has different studying preferences but we wanted to pass along some ARE tips and takeaways that Samantha and I discovered while preparing for the ARE.

Things to know when studying for the ARE:

  • These tests are not like the tests you take in college. Meaning you can’t cram in a bunch of information the night before or memorize the material and expect to pass. These exams test you on how to apply certain principles within our everyday work.
  • A LOT of hours are needed for studying. I think we average around 80-120 hours per test depending on which test we were taking. Some weeks we would spend upwards of 30 hours studying, when some weeks it may have only been 10 hours.
  • If you are not good at taking standardized tests, then you may fail a time or two just getting used to the format – Practice tests are a very useful tool (We like Designer Hacks, Black Spectacles, and Ballast.)
  • Understand your most effective method of studying.
  • Make a consistent study schedule–and stick to it!
  • The sooner you begin the process after graduation, the better. It’s only going to be fresh on your mind for so long.
  • Schedule the exam; don’t just study–give yourself a deadline.
  • Assume things will come up that interfere with studying–plan to miss scheduled times every now and then for more important things in life.
  • Cut out extra activities you enjoy doing outside of work. Focus on studying so you can be done with the tests sooner rather than later.
  • Be honest with yourself about what you know and understand. Don’t waste time convincing yourself you understand something, or you will be swiftly humbled by the exam.

Takeaways from taking the ARE:

  • Seek out help from colleagues, former classmates or an online community. There are a lot of resources available for study schedules and recommended reading material. 
  • Don’t wait until you have kids to start testing. It’s not a good idea. BUT if you do have kids along the way, it can be done! 
  • We started by taking the two largest/hardest exams first. At first, it seemed like a great idea to get those out of the way early. It was a little discouraging after the first few failed attempts. But looking back, it still seems like the best order to take the tests.
  • Be sure to give yourself a couple of days or a weekend to relax after taking an exam. (We suggest margaritas.)
  • It’s very easy to get burned out taking these exams. Try to keep the end goal in sight and keep pushing on.
  • You can pass these exams without knowing all there is–don’t turn down an opportunity/experience just because you are done with that portion of the ARE
  • It took a few weeks to get back to normal life after the tests were finished. It was such a huge weight lifted after finishing, and such a relief to not have to study anymore.
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