Test Day Advice for the Architecture Registration Exam

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Test Day Advice for the Architecture Registration 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.

Are You Ready for ARE Testing Day?!?

For months you have been studying for the Architecture Registration Exam. Reading books, practicing the vignettes, and preparing for this day.  ARE test day is extremely exhausting.  Even though you are just sitting there in front of a computer for 4-5 hours, after its all over, you will feel like you just ran a mental marathon. I always took the day off. Sometimes I even took a nap in the car before I left the parking lot.

During my many trips to the testing facility I learned a few things that really helped me get through the day.

I hope you find this information helpful and good luck with your exams.

Breathe zen - Test Day Advice for the Architecture Registration Exam
Don't forget to breathe.

Be really nice to the people that work there and follow all their rules.

This is my most important advice. You will see these people at least 7 times. I learned their names and killed them with kindness at each visit.

Prometric (the company that administers the exam) has a laundry list of rules to make sure no one cheats on a test inside their facility. They will make you empty your pockets and show your ID each time you exit or enter the room. The people that work there didn't write the rules and are just doing their jobs. Other exam takers are constantly giving them a hard time about the rules – They usually only visit the testing facility once in their life.  As an ARE Candidate you will be seeing these people over and over.

Also don’t look at your phone on break it’s a rule that no one follows and drives the Prometric Staff crazy. It’s not worth jeopardizing the test and all your studying.

Learn what page your name is on.

Each time you enter or exit the room they make you sign in and out of their notebook. Take note of what page your name is on, so you can say “My name is on page 4.” instead of waiting for them to flip through the notebook looking for it, while your testing clock is running.

Ask where you are sitting before you sit down. 

My exam center had eastern facing windows that were really distracting  in the middle of the summer. There were also several testing booths that had AC vents blasting out of them. All year long that room was freezing. If you don’t like where you are being placed before you take the exam they can move you. However, after you start the exam clock they can’t really help you.

Better to be early then late.

Prometric schedules from the morning up. If you are late, fitting you in can jeopardize someone who scheduled after you. If you are early and they can fit you in and get you out of there earlier making their day easier. Being 30 minutes or even an hour early was always OK at my testing center.

Bring Food

Bring a lunch that you can scarf down in less then 15 minutes. My brain works better when I eat lightly. I would typically bring a salad and some fruit. A big heavy lunch that takes forever to eat, digest and makes you want to take a nap wouldn't be good.

Take advantage of time during the boiler plate testing info.

The first 10 minutes of the exam is dedicated to reviewing how the test works and the NCARB Confidentiality Agreement. After I was done reviewing this information I would use the remainder of this time to make charts on my scratch paper for the vignettes and the check mark method.

Make multiple laps around the exam.

After taking the exam a few times I learned that I kept getting freaked out by the first 20 questions. Eventually I learned to stop taking those first few questions so seriously. I started to use this methodology with the multiple choice questions.

The first pass is the least important. I would casually look at each question and only answer it if it was super easy. If it required too much thinking I would just move onto the next question.  I would confidently tell myself “I know all the answers, but I will answer this later.”  This allowed me to get into the rhythm of quickly answering questions, which was huge for me.

Sometimes the wording of one question would help give the answer to another question. Moving through the exam several times allowed me to make these connections.  I always just needed to warm up to answering the questions and that damn clock always freaked me out.  By the end of the exam I would flip through enough questions to learn that everything that I was intimidated with in the beginning was really no big deal at all.

Mark all calculations or WTF questions.

On the exam you can mark (more like tag) a question to be reviewed later. I would typically tag all WTF questions and lengthy calculations and tackle these with the remaining time after I tackled all the other questions.

Stop studying a few days before.

I always crammed a week before the exam and took the last few days off before the exam.  You are better off being well slept and in good spirits. Sometimes I would casually review some last minute info that I was having a really hard time keeping inside my head.

You cannot reschedule your 0-3 business days before the exam.

Saturday and Sundays are not considered business days, even if your testing center is open.

If your test is at noon on Tuesday you will need to reschedule before noon on Thursday.

I embarrassingly screwed this one up for BDCS. I decided to just show up with about 1/2 of the studying done and didn’t do so hot.

The scores are available before you get the email.

Not sure this is good advice, but anyway here goes. NCARB releases your score on the website many hours before they send you an email saying that your score is ready.  I became obsessive checking the website for my last test score and actually found out at 3am PST when I got up to go to the restroom.

I got my last test score in 8 days after the exam. Before they upgraded the process (Summer 2013) it used to take me 3-4 weeks to get a test score.

Pretest Questions

Read this blogpost and learn about pretest questions. http://blog.ncarb.org/2014/April/HowAREScored.aspx

15-20 questions  on the test may not even influence your score. These could most likely be disguised as questions that have nothing to do with anything you studied for for your exam. DONT LET THEM FREAK YOU OUT. If a question seems to not related to your exam and you have no clue, just mark it and skip to the next question. After you've answered all the questions you can, use the remaining time to work through all the questions you have marked for later.


Congratulate yourself for taking the exam. Its alot of hard work and your already winning by getting to this point and just showing up.

Please leave a comment if you have any other ARE test day Advice tricks that you have learned along the way.

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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Michael Riscica

Michael Riscica is a Licensed Architect, and the creator of Young Architect, an online platform and community dedicated to helping the next generation of Architects become the most successful generation of Architects. 
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Hi there!

I’m Michael Riscica, the guy behind Young Architect. I write to help Architecture Students, ARE Candidates and Young Architecture Professionals be more successful at school, work and life!


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