I have taken PPD and PDD each 3 times now and failed each time. Three times is the limit I set for myself so I am done playing this game. I have passed all content areas on PPD and PDD, but they jump around like a shell game. The fact that I can pass a content area with a #1, then receive a #4 in the same content area on a different attempt, says to me that these exams aren't accurately/consistently measuring my capabilities. Passing PDD/PPD is more like pulling a slot machine lever and hoping for all cherries on the same line: it's not about passing 1 exam, it's about passing 5 exams (content areas) at once. If you pass a content area you shouldn't be tested on it again. I am a 3+2 tester and have used all the textbooks, Hyperfine, Amber (not YoungArchitect's stuff - too much $$, and Amber was a waste too) and it’s all the same material, reorganized with a different name. So I quit. Having made that decision I feel more free/liberated than I have in many years, since working on my internship hours. I wish I would have made this decision sooner!
With planners, engineers, code professionals, attorneys, project managers, construction managers, fire/life safety professionals, architectural designers, interior designers, etc, I am not sure why architects exist at all. The profession in its current form is obsolete, decision-makers (AIA/NCARB/NAAB) stifle competition, and thus stifle innovation. I think AIA/NAAB/NCARB could learn from the engineering model: have one general exam and optional speciality exams such as: envelope, sustainability, accessibility, thermal, research. But I don't think this will ever happen because it would expose the giant fissure in the discipline: there is nothing an architect does that can't be done by somebody else. Architecture education is based on an 18-century model and licensure is based on a 19th-century model of the architect as an Howard Rourke ideal. Current architecture discipline is antiquated like a Victorian house: it’s pretty to look at but it’s not applicable to life today because it’s based on obsolete principles. NCARB licensure can be likened to Blockbuster Video in our Netflix economy: it's also so out of touch with modern times.
I don’t know if my thoughts will help anybody but I know many test takers are struggling with ARE 5.0 issues like I was. Here is how I arrived at this decision to quit: a license is nothing more than a rented piece of paper from your state and you (I) do not need a piece of paper to do what you want (unless you want to stamp a drawing, and I could not care less about that). But if you want to do single-fam, 2-story-or-less residential, you do not need a license. For me, it wasn't just the cash up-front, but it’s the time spent studying, the stress, the opportunity costs, the constant gray cloud following me around: study, study, study, gotta pass, gotta pass, my future depends on it. If I wasn't studying, I couldn't enjoy whatever else I was doing. The reality is that, “No," my future does not depend on a license. In fact, a license might be a hindrance and prevent me from seeing/seeking other opportunities.
It might be a bit more pricey, but if you are on the fence about licensure, consider getting another degree - at least it’s not rented; you own it for life. I earned an MPA in 2.5 years at night for about $17k from a state U and it was LESS stressful than attempting licensure! If you can get through a B. Arch, you can easily do a Master's in another field. My MPA has increased my earning potential much more than a license would have and it has widened my marketability. I have parlayed into code development which has no visible ceiling that I can see, and there are no arbitrary or inflated license/cert/registration requirements. Though I wanted the license to validate my efforts, I realized that validation is not a good reason for becoming licensed. And architecture just isn’t important enough to get stressed about - I will say it again: architecture just isn't that important. In fact, some states are attempting to deregulate architecture to increase competition and innovation, and to break up the monopoly that a handful of organizations have on the discipline. I support this. Competition breeds innovation and architecture is in dire need of innovation. Can you imagine if medical professionals resisted innovation to the point that in 2020, the practice of medicine was the same as it was in 1920? I think architecture is the only discipline that has done this and consequently, it is not longer relevant.
If you are struggling, wondering if it's worth it, or simply getting tired of paying $$ to be on the hamster wheel, my advice (if you want it): set a limit for yourself and if you are not licensed by that time, walk away and don't look back because ARE 5.0 is designed for people to fail - it's not you, you are not stupid; ARE is a money-making racket. How do you think the executive quarter-million dollar salaries are funded? Every minute (year) spent on this process is time NOT spent doing something else that may pay off more like a better job, a different career path, another certification, another degree, time with family, learning piano, your happiness, etc... Architecture just isn't that important, certainly not as important as other architects would have people believe. Understanding this is especially important for those of you who are in your early 30's or younger... I am about 40 and I wish that I had cut the cord 8 years ago. I am grateful for my Master's degree and subsequent opportunities, but the time and $$ I have applied toward the licensure process will never be returned to me and looking back, it was a total waste. The things I could have done instead would have brought me much more joy. But, not to dwell on the past - this is why I am cutting the cord now. Life is too short.
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