Throwing Money at The Architect Registration Exam

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Hand throwing dollars at the architect exam

This post is part of a series on NCARB’s Architecture Registration Exam. Having recently completed this long process, the series examines my journey and the various things I learned along the way. Click here to see all the posts of my Architecture Registration Exam Series.


I started taking the Architect Registration Exam in 2009 right after the stock market went to hell. When I started testing, my employer was supportive, but couldn’t really help me much more than pay for my AIA Associate membership, so I could attend the ARE Classes.  We were a small firm and at the time “getting a raise” looked more like being allowed to show up at your architecture job every day and have a project to work on.

Attitude Change

In 2009 I was really paranoid about the future of my architecture career. I had also recently relocated across the country to a town where I didn’t really have a network if I lost my job. At the beginning of the process I was extremely thrifty in how I looked at money. I would gingerly ride my bike across town to a library branch that had a book that was on NCARB’s suggested reading list. (a list i do not recommend using verbatim.) I even would patiently get in line at the AIA office to borrow their Kaplan study material, so I didnt have to buy it..

At the end of 2012, I had the complete opposite attitude. I was bitter, mad at myself for taking 2 years off and pissed off that I didn’t have an architecture license. I consciously decided to stop being petty about the costs of the exam and my meager architecture salary. I was going to do whatever I needed to finish the process. I often bitterly said to NCARB, Kaplan and Amazon “here just take all my money” while I threw money at the problem.

My bad attitude didn’t help, but throwing my money at the problem actually did help. But I want you to know that It only worked because it was matched with taking action.


Time is more valuable than money.

Sure my personal financial situation changed between the beginning and the end. It was better, but still not great. I started to think about the relationship between the money in my pocket, the cost of the exams, the missed opportunities from not being licensed, the big picture timeline of the past few years and the small picture timeline of how I was spending my time day to day. I thought about this a lot.

I realized that time was my most valuable resource. I needed to do whatever I could to use it more effectively. I stopped wasting time and I stopped worrying about the financial impact the exams was having in my life. I made big cuts everywhere else to make that happen.


People don’t take action with free information!

This is true, myself included. I have an entire folder on my computer called “Ebooks” most of which I got for free. I have read about 1/4 of them, and, because I have gotten them for free, I don’t take them too seriously. Yet, I have a much higher record of reading books that I have actually paid a few dollars for.

I know a lot of architecture grads that work in big fancy architecture firms that have every single ARE study guide and they all talk and talk and talk about getting licensed and living the good life, but very few of them actually do it.

The reason why Michael Riscica completed the Architecture Registration Exam is because I aligned everything I did with completing the exams, took a lot of action and made sacrifices to get there.

Throwing money at the exam was part of the sacrifice and once I realized that I just spent $500 that I didn’t really have, on a class to help me pass the Structural Systems exam, I made sure I sucked all the value out of it.


Read the full series This post is part of a series on NCARB’s Architect Registration Exam. Having recently completed this long process, the series examines my journey and the various things I learned along the way. Click here to see all the posts of my Architect Registration Exam Series.

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About the author

Michael Riscica

Michael Riscica is a Licensed Architect who lives in beautiful Portland, Oregon, with his Labrador Retriever. He is passionate about helping Young Architects change the world. In his free time, Michael likes to take very long bicycle rides across America. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Linked In.

swapna parab - May 1, 2016

you are so right. I recently bought ARE exam prep just because i wanted the option of using the mp3’s while driving. My commute time is 1 hour each way and I just could not imagine sitting in traffic getting frustrated about loosing precious study time. It has helped me immensely and also reduced my stress levels as I start my day off by studying in the car.

    Michael Riscica - May 1, 2016

    That’s Great!
    Figuring out what works and how to fit studying into your already busy life is the name of the game.
    I like the part about reducing your stress because you’ve already started the day off with studying.
    Keep up your great work!!!

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