The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB).
Every year, New Year’s resolutions are made and quickly forgotten. Now that your holiday decorations are (or should be) packed away, let’s get serious about setting some goals for taking the Architect Registration Examination® (ARE®).
If you are an ARE candidate who is just beginning, your goal should be to map out a study strategy and schedule your first test. With ARE 4.0 retiring in June 2018, you will want to complete Construction Documents and Services (CDS), Programming Planning and Practice (PPP), and Site Planning and Design (SPD) first. Once you’ve completed those three exams, you’ll only have to take two divisions in ARE 5.0.
If you are an ARE candidate who has completed at least three exams, your goal should be to create a plan for how you’re going to complete ARE 4.0 before June 2018. The faster you can wrap up the ARE, the sooner you can move on with your life and career. There is no reason to wait.
No matter where you are in the process, your only New Year’s resolution should be to make massive progress on the ARE. To help you kick off 2016, here are six tips to consider when studying.
1. Take One Day at a Time
ARE candidates often place too much emphasis on the future—what’s going to happen three tests from now, for instance. But if you can learn to focus on what you need to do today (like setting aside 30 minutes to study or scheduling your next exam), passing the ARE can seem more attainable. Finishing the exam is only accomplished by repeatedly showing to get the work done. Be here now!
2. Create a Realistic Schedule
Accelerated study schedules work for a few people, but certainly not for everyone—especially if you’re working 40-plus hours a week. I spent an average of 12 weeks per exam, and I took a little break after each one.
You’re not a machine, so don’t approach studying for the ARE like one. It’s not sustainable. The average time to complete the ARE is currently 2.5 years, according to NCARB’s data. Be realistic about what you can accomplish, and remember to schedule downtime with friends and family.
3. Don’t Forget About Your Health
In my book, How to Pass The Architecture Registration Exam, I wrote a chapter about doing everything in your control to give yourself the slightest advantage. Small measures like eating healthier and exercising will have positive impacts on what you can accomplish while you’re studying for the ARE.
4. Cross-train With Different Study Materials
There are currently more study materials available than ever before in the history of the ARE. Some of them are better than others. I recommend getting several points of view on the same subject from different publishers or forums.
5. Learn From Your Colleagues
Taking the ARE can be grueling, so pay attention to what is and isn’t working for your peers. There are a number of variables that come into play and affect each candidate’s experience. See what you can learn from everyone else. The ARE is a self-guided process, and it can become very lonely at times. So try to talk to people about it.
6. Celebrate Small Victories
Think about taking the ARE like climbing a mountain. Every time you pass an exam, it’s like you’ve reached another plateau, and you’re one step closer to your goal. Acknowledge your hard work, and feel proud each time you make it to the next level. The ARE isn’t an easy exam, and it’s not supposed to be. But if you can learn what works for you early on, you’ll get there faster.
Here’s to making massive progress on the ARE in 2016!