Hello All, Hallellujah! After 10 months of Architecture industry, science and technique bootcamps + resources and studies galore, I have completed the ARE, and I'd like to encourage the designers, innovators and theorists around our field out there that it is worth it. My background is Theory+innovation--to name a few potential distractions of Architects-- but after a few unbuilt experimental commissions and a track back into the industry from filmmaking, mission work and teaching, I knew a bigger opportunity in the profession was there and that deeper knowledge of our field's richness was necessary to achieve it.
First, my resources in order. My Goal: I wanted to pass in less than a year, and that decision costs but rewards at the end:
Passing PCM, PJM, PA
1 ARE Facebook Group + Young Architect tips (occasional Black Spectacles) and NCARB guide
2 Archiprep (free month)
3 ARE Exam Prep
4 70% of the NCARB reading list ($$ business expenses worth $$$fails)
Passing CE PPD
5 Designer Hacks, PPD, PDD, and manufacturer data (especially fire construction) 6 The Amber Book
7 Archiprep 1 month Passing PDD
8 Pluralsight(50% worth it, free month agreement read very closely)
9 ARE Questions, PPD, PDD
10 Passed PDD thereafter. The resources preceding my passes are essential for me and my timeline, monthly testing, not to undercut any particular resource--but they all recommend several resources.
Tips on starting
Listening to AEP was a daily thing my 1st few exams, and study cards using Quizlet. I had basic understanding, PJM being the easiest. PCM, my first was hard and had me tense, but I passed.
Tips on finishing/avoiding/surviving failure You may or may not 'fail' an exam, but you will experience stress for committing to study and do this when other important and fun things wait. I in the end sacrificed for best focus to finished. I make courses myself and am building a fabrication shop to continue my thesis study, but push to shove, including getting married, required me to make tough choices. Some may call it sunk costs, but I likely tripled my investment in study material. Also online proctoring did not work for me--perhaps my exam, but the gift card was nice to have.
I was working out 2 hours starting my exams, but sitting and reading material seemed needed--it took lots of my workout time, until, I found re aloud apps and ebook titles. I even photographed my books to study on my stationary bike. Not working out before exam was not successful for me. I even bought humidifier and heater as ideal night condition helped me sleep and think better, as cold temperature made it hard to sleep and study after work. I took walnuts and focus vitamins as well, I tried every trick, up to you what works and your will in the end. Retaking after quality study is easier, though I've heard friends fail 2x. Forgetting is a risk, so focus for deep and repeat learning. I read "Make It Stick" and a few memory books that did help me as well managing mind and body.
Following my fascination with motivation, I knew mood would empower or cripple my study. I continued to draw and sketch and take creative breaks during studies. I replaced my chess game time with quizzes to wonderful effect. I did not listen to music studying, but being on the stationery bike and reading, watching and increasing note taking made my understanding and sense of purpose even deeper. Finally before my exams, I started with a electronic massager and coffee, and I finally decided to add Gospel music and fasting from food before exams. Distractions before exams are taxic, so whatever motivates you, use it.
I gave in to NCARB resources when passing technical materials proved to need more study, however most books are tedious and boring to design minded people. The ARE 5 Community and several other blogs recommend reading sections that I recommend searching on. I started with great motivation and coaching after after talk with founder of ARE Exam Prep, and that deserves credit. I didn't really see the big picture on technical subjects til Amber Book and Designer Hacks--though I may have had enough data and motivation with other materials. Whatever resources makes concepts and relationships clear in comprehensive buildings, materials, structures, etc., I recommend trying it. I practiced more than concepts and recommend you study more than is necessary there. PDD is not the same as PPD, and my need to know code, specification and fire construction is why I list the above materials. Finally, I have several notebooks of hand written notes from diving into the material for technical exams. I never ended up making a big set of study cards, or even printing out ones I got as quizlet and online cards made more sense--make use of what helps yoh, my top resource tip.
Life Balance Hacks
Supportive community is key. My faith in God is where I start and end. Seeing myself as an Architect called by God, drives me every day through some tough industry and creative situations. Faith is asset in this process. My Fiance in the end is my biggest earthly support, and I make sure to support her. Love truly helps conquer all. I shared my studying and tests at first with larger work and family environments, but pressure to pass for them led me to be low key. I did celebrate with colleagues and got an awesome set of cookies at work, that I will forever be grateful for. In general community is nice, for the right purposes, but keep sharing positive and trust closer relationships in hard time. Like my hacks above, I did many things to keep my life and body improvement going. Covid did make it easier as things were not going on generally, but I did spend major holidays with family. I did many online sermons from my Church, and also did a full Bible devotional with a pre study and pre exam prayer from a friend. After each pass, I had ice cream, and a good movie. Endgame and Tenet were some I watched. You should reward yourself regardless. Finally, after years encouraging others to continue professional, personal and community effort and impact, the exam fit as part of my life mission and it fits into what I will do after. Its important to stitch it in or see a fit. The ARE exam and licensure isnt for everyone, but I do believe anyone can pass with enough effort and hacks. Its part of a larger process, best way to not get bogged down.
Experience is not enough to pursue this exam, as it is very technical and tactical. Its solving multiple day to day problems within minutes. If you reframe your experience into tactics that can address several problems rapidly, then it will help. Also, I admit to being involved more in design, winning projects and competitions more than the detailing side--experience that doesn't really translate into passing a comprehensive professional exam. Whichever you have, see the test as a fresh start and you will avoid assumptions or overwhelming yourself. Final notes This exam is worth the pursuit of Architects at any stage post school to decades of practice. I am the 3rd oldest in my firm and it felt right to complete. As an instructor and teacher, I also intend to make a video and some more content as ARE tutorials seem a valuable thing to teach and help others with--also a good inspiration to learn while teaching others. This is of course not the only challenge to Architects as many are developing innovative projects, building firms, or simply contributing to teams they admire, but it is a valuable one centered on mastery and understanding a craft we have already spent so much to enter. I've heard uniquely that Minorities are a small percentage of licensed Architects and the opportunity to inspire those in any community, it is worth it.
Final, I am writing now not to brag but in thankfulness, as I don't generally post. I wanted to wait til I finished. I embraced being a beginner in this whole process and I asked several dumb questions along the way. I generally was an 'A+' student until the randomness of transition from a technical elementary skillset to the creative Architectural world. That advantage was not the only reason why I passed, but a discovery and marriage of 'hacks' and will along the way and the help and support of skilled professionals and supportive community. Remember the below above any 'hack' and you use will be fine, no matter the time, I truly believe it.
"People will not remember your failures, so keep going and give it your all, and you will succeed."
Much Love and Success on your journeys, Brandon A.
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