5 Common Reasons Why (Smart and Talented) People Don’t Finish the ARE.

Finish the ARE

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.

Failing At The Architect Exam

I recently launched a new program called The ARE Boot Camp to help ARE Candidates prepare for their first exam. Over the course of 10 weeks, a small group of ARE Candidates and I will meet weekly via video chat to discuss the content of their first Architecture Registration Exam, as well as any challenges that may have come up while they prepare.  Click here to learn more about The ARE Boot Camp.

A big part of the inspiration for creating this program was constantly watching myself and others fail. When I say “Fail,” I don’t mean that they actually failed the exam. By failing, I mean that they didn’t finish what they started, or they never truly started on the right foot. Either way, they ended up abandoning the whole architecture registration process altogether.

After years of taking and following the exams thes are the common reasons why people do not complete the Architecture licensing process.

1. They Have a Terrible Support Network.

My friends and family love me. They love me soo much and want nothing more than for me to be successful in life. They make sure that I know that I am loved every single day.

However, I can’t tell you how many times I had to tell them, “No, I can’t _____ because I have to study.” They almost always did not like hearing this. Always needing to study for my exam was constantly ruining their fun, and I hated letting them down.

I literally had to train them about hearing that response.

Sure, they love me, but they had absolutely no idea what it meant to pass this exam. And all they wanted was to spend time with me and have fun. Telling them no wasn’t easy, and none of us enjoyed it.

A good support network includes people who may or not know anything about the Architect’s exam, but who definitely understand that you are working toward something great, which requires a long, sustained, concentrated effort.

A good support network understands that this process has many highs and lows and admires your dedication while striving toward this goal. They are willing to support you, however you ask them to along this journey.

ARE Candidates who do not finish the ARE typically do not seek out or surround themselves with a good support network.

2. They do not know how to use all the information.

The one good thing about the ARE is that there are plenty of excellent study materials, and they just keep getting better.

I can’t tell you how many people I have met who show up to study for their first ARE, read the Ballast book cover-to-cover like it is the Fountainhead, look at nothing else, take the exam, fail, and wonder why.

Studying for the ARE, you have to constantly be working on your weaknesses, including anything you are not strong at. This is contradictory to architecture school, where after students figure out what their strengths are, they figure out how to take them to the next level.

In some ways, there is too much information available. Certain study guides are better than others depending what you are looking at. All of them need to be cross-referenced with each other. Even if you have the very best ARE study guides ever made, unless you know how to study effectively, they have absolutely no value.

3. They Cannot Get Past the Huge Learning Curve.

For anyone who starts taking the ARE, there is a huge learning curve and a never-ending list of things to figure out. Those topics could be:

This list can go on and on forever. I have done all of these things

Sure, you definitely need to sort all of this stuff out, but none of these things translate to getting closer to the goal. Most people who do not finish typically burn a ton of energy on this minutia before they actually do any useful work.

4. They Are Not Prepared For the Self-Guided Process.

If you stop studying for the ARE, guess who notices?

Absolutely no one!

In the moment, no one cares, and it’s always nice to catch up with all your friends after you have been busy studying.

Except 2 or 3 years down the road, you have to start explaining to people that you still aren’t a licensed architect. You have completed 4 of the 7 exams, but that doesn’t mean anything to anyone. There is no award or acknowledgement for getting halfway through, but not to the end.

Completing the ARE requires discipline and motivation to keep showing up, so you can study by yourself day after day until the process is completed.

I dunno about you, but there was nothing about my architecture education that prepared me to read massive amounts of textbooks and schedule and pass 7 exams within 5 years—all on my own with no one to talk to about it, except people on forums who all have silly screennames based on construction materials.

The ARE can be very lonely. Not everyone is extremely self-motivated. In fact, being smart and talented means nothing about being self-motivated enough to finish the ARE.

5. They Have Bad Beliefs or Believe in Crappy Excuses.

Not believing in yourself and believing some made-up crap is the most debilitating reason why most smart and talented people do not complete the ARE.

Since I have started writing about the ARE on this blog, I have heard more garbage beliefs that people have about the ARE than you can imagine. Let’s review some of the popular ones:

I should have taken the ARE right after I graduated from architecture school. I have been out of school too long and am disadvantaged. Not true. Real-life experiences are just as (or more) helpful than remembering stuff from architecture school.   Either way, the exam tests on such a wide variety of information, your preexisting knowledge will only help you for small moments of time during the process.

I work too many hours. or I have too many kids. or I’m too old to study for this exam. or I’m too broke to pay all the fees. or I’m getting married or buying a house, and I’ll deal with it later.
None of that stuff matters. People who really want to complete the ARE always figure it out. I personally know people who have overcome all of these obstacles. It is never convenient for anyone to take the ARE. The longer people wait and keep telling themselves this, the greater their chance of not completing the process.

The ARE is in the middle of a transition. I’ll wait, so I don’t get stuck in the middle of that.
Irrelevant. If you plan your tests accordingly, no one will get stuck in the middle of the transition. Do you also realize that all the study materials will need to reordered and rearranged, and it will take a while for the ARE 5.0 materials to be available? If you wait, you may be accepting a harder challenge.

English is my second language. I don’t know if I can take this exam.
This is a good excuse, but certainly not a valid one. I always tell people who speak English as a second language that first and foremost, they should study the practice questions. NCARB does a really great job of confusing people who speak English as their FIRST language with the linguistics of the questions. Recognizing and learning how to read through tricky questions can definitely be learned, and practice questions are the fastest way to get there. 

I don’t want to accept the liability of being a Licensed Architect.
OMG, shut up! Here in America, anyone can sue anyone.
Just because you don’t have an architecture license, you are not free from being ethically responsible. If you do something stupid and something happens or someone gets hurt, it will somehow come back to haunt you, license or not. There is a lot of responsibility in doing this work, and you are definitely not avoiding it by not having an architecture license and working under someone else who does.

All of these beuliefs are untrue and I believe they preventing ARE Candidates from being successful in life. I do also believe there are many legitimate reasons not to become a licensed architect.

Smart and Talented People Who Do Complete the ARE.

There are many more reasons, but these are the ones that I repeatedly see. When I created The ARE Boot Camp, I designed the program to accomplish the following goals:

  • Create a positive support network for ARE Candidates who are working on the same goal as you and want to help you succeed.
  • Establish a realistic schedule and learn how to use the information appropriately for the task at hand.
  • Quickly move you past the learning curve of getting started and up-to-speed with moving toward the goal.
  • At the end of the 10 weeks, leave you with a very clear idea of what you need to do and how to effectively finish the remaining 6 exams.

I would love to have you join us for the ARE Boot Camp. If you have any questions about the program, please feel free to contact me at [email protected]

Click here to learn more about The ARE Boot Camp

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.

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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