10 Ways the ARE Boot Camp Helps You Pass the Architect Exam



I have been running The ARE Boot Camp since September 2015. At the time of writing this blog post (December 2016), I have done 12 groups and worked with 70 people getting started on their exams. Looking back at everything that has happened along the way, I can honestly say that creating this program is what I am most proud of—out of all the projects and things I have done throughout my career.

At least once a week, I receive an email from someone who’s taken the program, letting me know that they’ve passed another exam. The frequency of these emails has been picking up—as more people graduate from the program.

The creation of the ARE Boot Camp was completely organic, and I never would’ve thought I would be as passionate about helping people study for the ARE as I have been. After I published How To Pass The Architect Exam, Young Architect readers started approaching me and asking me to coach them with getting started on their exams. Then the Boot Camp was born.

Instead of working independently (which is one of biggest problems of the ARE anyway) I tried an experiment and brought a small group of people together for a 10-week virtual study group. At that time, the ARE Boot Camp Program was inspired by (and modeled after) a 200-hour 10-week training program for Yoga teachers, which I’d recently completed.

Since then, the program has evolved and changed A LOT! I have tried so many different things in the ARE Boot camp. I’ve kept the good things, and eliminated the stuff that doesn’t work or isn’t helpful. Compared to the ARE Boot Camp a year ago, the ARE Boot Camp today is a drastically different program. Nevertheless, it’s always been really amazing—since day one.

Below, I share 10 Reasons Why This Program Is So Powerful for the people involved.

To learn more, visit the current ARE Boot Camp blog post. And if you still have questions after you’ve read the entire blog post, feel free to email me at [email protected]

Have a wonderful rest of your day, and keep up the good fight with getting past your exams. You can do this!


Michael Riscica AIA


10 Ways the ARE Boot Camp Helps You Pass the Architect Exam

1. It’s a Program, not a Course.

I always have to stress that the Boot Camp is a PROGRAM, not a COURSE.

OK… So what’s the difference?!??

  • A Course will teach the content to you while you sit, listen, and absorb it. And hopefully, you’ll learn something. (Think economics lecture class)
  • A Program sets you up to independently study on your own, while guiding and supporting you along the way.

Courses are passive, but Programs are highly interactive.

YOU have to do all the work, not me. My role isn’t to teach the information to you. It’s to help you teach it to yourself. I could teach it to you, but that would be doing you a disservice.

The goals of the Boot Camp are to teach you the process of studying for the Architect Exam, get you quickly up to speed, and set you up so you can replicate the process for the remaining exams on your own.

People getting started on the Architect Exam need a Program, rather than another Course.

2. Getting Back to the Design Studio Model of Learning

Every architecture school has a community and comradery of students working together, on their personal design projects.

A big problem with the ARE is that everyone is studying independently. So there’s little communication or support between the people that are actively working on similar goals.

The Design Studio is a very effective format for learning architecture design. Since we’re all familiar with it, it also works beautifully with studying for the ARE—except in the ARE Boot Camp everyone is studying for an exam, rather than designing a project.

3. A Syllabus, a Schedule and Some Deadlines

Part of the challenge with the ARE’s is that there is TOO MUCH information available to study. Where do you even start? How can you make sense of it all?

I’ve created a syllabus that guides you through the study material in a very logical sequence. It'll have you studying the right information at the right time. Problem solved.

Now let’s talk about schedules and deadlines:

  • A problem with architecture is that nothing in the Architecture Industry becomes a priority without having a deadline. If it’s something I don’t want to do and there isnt a deadline, then it’s just not on my To-Do list. That’s my reality and I bet yours too.
  • One of the biggest problems with the Architect Exam is the lack of deadlines, schedules, or milestones along the way. Instead, NCARB gives us 5 years to get all this work done (while trying to make a living). I think the 5 year deadline actually makes things worse. 5 years is a long time, especially to a group of people that are prone to procrastination without tangible deadlines.

The ARE Boot Camp has a very intense 10-week schedule—with several milestones to achieve while you’re studying throughout those weeks.

We even try to identify any disruptions in your schedule that may occur while you’re studying.

Everyone in the ARE Boot Camp is working full-time, and many have kids and lots of other life responsibilities. The program is meant to help you figure out how to fit studying 8-15 hours per week into your schedule, while maintaining all your responsibilities.

I have created milestones and deadlines to facilitate and help you figure things out.

4. Creating Solid Studying Habits

Architecture School does not prepare you for the Architect Exam. (…and I personally don’t think it should) The two have very little in common—especially when it comes to studying for the ARE.

Studying for the ARE is more aligned to studying for a history, economics, or sociology class, than it is to Architecture School. There is a ton of information and concepts to learn, digest, and comprehend. It’s a lot of reading, and the fact that you’re a highly creative fantastic designer may now become a disadvantage for getting past the Architect Exam.

During the first half of the program, we focus on showing up to do the work, trying out different studying approaches, and systematically reviewing all the study material.

If you don’t know how to consistently and effectively show up to study for these exams, day after day, year after year, then all the best ARE Study information will be useless to you.

5. Not Just All Reading

Another problem for many people studying is that they only read—without ever doing practice questions, watching videos, or focusing on other ways to study the content. Then when the time comes to take the test, their heads explode, because they have not practiced recalling the information.

In the program, I constantly say, “We study every day.”

What that means is:

  • You should plan on sitting 2-3 times a week for at least 1-3 hours of reading.
  • On days when you can’t read, I give you a long To-Do list of smaller tasks to work on, such as practice questions, blogposts, YouTube videos, flashcards, and many other smaller, but more manageable items that will help keep you studying every day.

After 10 weeks of taking these baby steps with the smaller tasks, they have a powerful impact on helping you be prepared to take the test.

I highly encourage everyone not to just read and to do other things. I strongly believe, If you don’t practice answering questions, then you won’t be able to answer the questions on exam day, even if you’re an expert in the topic.

6. The Weekly Meetups

The Boot Camp has an official meeting each week at a dedicated time on video chat to check in that has mandatory attendance.

During the week between the official meeting, there are several unofficial optional meetups that take place. Everyone in the program is in charge of organizing a meetup for everyone else—at least once.

During these meetups, whoever is available shows up, and they study together. They work on practice questions, review chapters, and have a discussion about all the information they’re studying.

Depending on how many groups currently are running, that decides on how many weekly meetups there will be. The November Boot Camp is 3 groups. So that means there are 3 additional meetups to connect and study with people during the week.

7. A Supportive Community of Peers

During our dedicated meeting each week, I check in with each person to discuss how their studying went. I help them troubleshoot any obstacles and make sure they are appropriately guiding their energy in the right direction.

Hearing other people’s successes and struggles becomes very powerful information, since everyone is working toward the same exact goal.

Everyone learns from each other during the weekly meeting.

There is also a big accountability element to it. Each week, I (Michael Riscica) will ask you:

“How’d it go?” and a handful of other questions I have pertaining to the work you’ve done throughout the week.

I’ve been told many times, that people work a lot harder, because they know I’m going to follow up with my questions, and also because I’m so deeply invested in helping them succeed.

8. Study First, Then Schedule

Here’s one of the most popular pieces of advice many people give about the ARE:

Just commit yourself to doing it: schedule your exam and then start studying.

Ugh… I hate this heavy-handed ARE Advice, and I’ve seen a lot of people crash and burn from taking this approach.

How can you schedule the exam before having an understanding of how much work is involved in preparing for it?

In the ARE Boot Camp, we schedule our exams AFTER we review all the content, have been studying for almost a month, look at what’s happening on the calendar at work and home, and reflect on how it’s gone so far.

It takes about a month of doing the work—and consistently showing up—to make an informed decision about when you’ll be ready to take the exam.

This is just my opinion: the rest of the ARE Community may disagree with me, and that’s alright.

9. Writing Practice Questions

Authoring our own ARE practice questions is another tactic for understanding and comprehending the information.

Each week, everyone must submit one practice question that they wrote—regarding something they learned from studying that week.

I encourage people to write questions about something they wouldn’t have known or would’ve gotten wrong before they studied that week.

Everyone’s questions get reviewed in the meetings, and we continually discuss how to write better questions—which are more aligned with the logic that NCARB uses. All submitted questions are shared and studied by the others in the program.

 10. Value and the Time Saved

The goal of this program is to get you up to speed quickly, and take you through the process of studying for the Architect Exam. Then after the program is over, you’ll know how to move forward on your own.

I always need to point this out: Not everyone who takes the ARE Boot Camp will pass their test. There are 4 or 5 versions of each exam, and some are wayyyy harder than others. I wish I could say that everyone who has taken the ARE Boot Camp has passed their test. But that’s just not true.

I’ve seen people who were very well-prepared when they showed up to take a test. Then the actual experience was not aligned with any the information that was supposed to be on their exam. (This also happened to me personally.)

And I’ve seen others who were not as prepared as they should’ve been and passed the test. (And this has also happened to me personally.)

The ARE Boot Camp pass rate is about the same as what it is for everyone else who takes each test. The ARE is a gamble. Sometimes there’s nothing you can do to be prepared for the test they have decided to give you.

I very firmly tell everyone in their interview, This is not a guarantee that you will pass your test.

However, I can guarantee that if you follow the process and do the work, you will be glad you took this program regardless of the result of your exam. 

The ARE Boot Camp

This blog post just mentions and highlights a small portion of what this program really is. There are many more moving parts to it. You can learn more about The ARE Boot Camp, by clicking right here.

If you are interested in reading more posts about The ARE Boot Camp also checkout:


Michael Riscica

Michael Riscica is a Licensed Architect, Founder and Head Coach of the ARE Boot Camp Coaching Program & Online Study Group.

Hi I’m Michael Riscica.

My goal is to help as many people as I can PASS their exams and succeed in their architecture careers.

This is accomplished with the following offerings:

Free FB group that is 12k+ members strong
Low-cost, high-value upcoming webinar
Affordable and Quality ARE Study materials
Professional Development and Powerful Networking
Premium 10-week ARE study program