I have taken 4 divisions PA, CE, PjM & PcM, each twice and failed all 8 exams within 1 year. Never passed an ARE 5.0 exam once. I've invested over $4,000 on exams fee, primary study guides and third-party resources. I have studied over 500 hours on top of working full-time as designer at my architecture firm for over 8 years. With that I've been challenged to be a full-time single mother of children age ranging from 3-17 yrs old and running 2 small side businesses. I graduated with my masters 10 years ago, so you can imagine my study habits are very different now especially with the daily life stress load.
I've been encouraged not to quit by my colleagues due to to the amount of years I've invested to get where I'm at and where I want to be once I'm licensed. Recently I signed up up to take my 9th exam, which is my 3rd try on the PcM exam. This time I studied 40 hours in 6 days, since I knew the bulk of the information from previous exams and had to only refresh my mind and change my study habits by doing more exam simulations and add more study tools.
On the whole hour drive to the exam I cried with anxieties. Even when I sat in front of the computer I continued to tear for another 5 minutes starting into the exam. I could not focus at all. I stared and read the first questions over and over for 5 minutes. It took me 10 minutes to get through just 3 questions. I wanted to quit and was about to walk out on the exam after just answering 3 questions. Instead I stayed in my seat and continue to take the exam because I reminded myself, for the first time I had to pull out my eldest son's college fund to pay for this exam, and he graduates this month. I had to make worth of the money I used, so I decided to use it as a practice test should I passed or failed. My anxieties finally washed out and I saw I had 1 hour remaining. I had over 20 questions marked and haven't even started the 20 case study questions. I freaked out and rushed without thinking twice on any of the questions. I felt it was one of the worst exams I've ever taken.
Once I reached the end I wanted to see the preliminary results like I usually do, when I had already convinced myself that I've failed. Instead to my utmost surprise, I thought the computer had a glitch and it stated "likely to pass." I read it 8 times and said I must be so brain fogged that I forgot how to spell F-A-I-L. I was extremely overjoyed and have to say this is by far the most exhilarating experience. My trial and errors and commitment to persevere made this moment monumental and worth all the fails I did experience.
This is my experience with failing and how I achieved my 1st pass:
- after each failed exam, I changed by study routine by adding more areas of studies in certain areas that was most effective (audio, flashcard, more exam simulators, coaching, etc.), I always added more study resources and read it more thoroughly each time
- time management on the exam- should I spend more than 30 seconds on a question I skipped it, and I skipped all calculation questions, when I returned to them I did not second guess it
- read the exam questions thoroughly, the question is very straightforward, it seems the hints were obviously in the question itself
- I reminded myself the exams do not care about my personal matters and it could care less about my feelings like my anxieties, so then I treated it like my practice exams
- I take the day before the exam off, no study at all
- I feel an average of 50 hours per exam will suffice and I like to condense the study 5-8 hours a day (regardless its a weekday or weekend)
- I did use 4.0 study resources along with 5.0 study resources
- join architecture communities and heard stories of other colleagues who are struggling with the exams, knowing you're not alone and receiving the comradeship help with anxieties tremendously and help find study tools that may help you
Resources I used to pass the PcM:
- the ARE exam is mainly about applying NOT memorization, so I hired coaches from AEP (Architect Exam Prep) to help me understand the mindset needed to pass and the intention that NCARB wants from a licensed architect
- complete AEP study guides (great audio, since I drive 3 hrs a day to and from work, great practice exams that help with applications- do it till all test simulators are aced)
- black spectacles
- designer hack multiple choice (great for knowing terminologies) and on the go with your phone
- learn all the contract purpose of AIA A, B, E & G series contracts
- Francis Ching building structure book
- DPIC Contract Guide
- ARE handbook and sample questions (a must- should explore all its reference)
- AHPP text book (must have- long reading but the information is most detailed and need to know)
- Ballast (it's okay great for overview, condenses AHPP info, practice exam question is too complex and not necessary)
- Jenny notes (great for terminology- quick overview)
- Schiff Harden lectures (good if need expansion on legal and contracts, I listened to it once)
- Archiflash (contracts documents, use if you want to sharpen your memory, not necessary)
- ADA (must know)
And last tip that may just helped me was CRY before the exam so I get exhausted and don't have the energy to overthink while testing :)
Best wishes to you all & congrats to all that have passed at least once. It's a huge milestone in our architectural career.
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