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).

With so much to think about when preparing for the ARE, it’s important to simplify the factors you can control—like your study habits and testing schedule. Keeping things consistent across all divisions can help reduce your stress and elevate your comfort level. In my last post, I shared some of the different strategies you can implement in your preparation for the exam. Today, we'll look at the things you can do to feel more relaxed and comfortable on test day. 

Get a Good Night’s Rest and Arrive Early

This may sound obvious, but sleeping well the night before your exam and having a nutritious breakfast the morning of is very important. The more rested and comfortable you feel on the day of your test, the better your chances are. I also recommend arriving to the testing center early—at least 30 minutes. There’s nothing worse than showing up at the last minute and feeling rushed. Arriving early gave me enough time to sign-in, use the restroom, gather my thoughts, and then enter the testing center on my own terms.

Regular Routine

If possible, try to keep the same routine as you take each division. Schedule your exam at the same testing center location, the same day of the week, and around the same time of day. I took my exams on Wednesday mornings at 8 a.m., which would give me the afternoon off to relax. With seven exams to take, you’ll be surprised at how comfortable you’ll become if you stick to a routine. It may take an exam or two to figure out what works best for you, so don’t panic if you don’t like how you scheduled your first exam. Remember, it’s all about what makes you comfortable.

Treat Each Exam as Two Tests

Taking any test is mentally taxing, and the ARE is no exception. Six divisions have two different sections compromised of multiple-choice and a graphic vignette, with a 15-minute break in between. (Schematic Design contains only vignettes.) After a few hours of tackling multiple-choice questions, it can be difficult to quickly switch to a graphic vignette mindset. 

When I was testing, I would find myself getting distracted during the vignette portion because I was stressing about how I answered the multiple-choice questions. To combat this mental block, I learned to treat each exam as two separate tests. You have to try your best to block out what happened during the multiple-choice section (whether good or bad) and focus all of your energy on the vignette. This is hard with only a 15-minute break in between them, but it’s the only way to stay focused.

After the Test

Like I mentioned in the previous post, it’s imperative to stick to your overall game plan after taking an exam. Whether you think your results were good or bad, it’s important to schedule your next text. This way you’ll focus on preparing for the next exam instead mulling over the one you just took. Remember, you can’t change the past, so it’s not worth worrying about. The best thing you can do after a test is to start thinking about the next one.

Good luck!

PreviouslyARE Study Tips Every Candidate Should Know