Kimberly Dowdell (2013)

What ARE We Doing?
By Kimberly Dowdell
Licensed 2013
Written 6/26/2013

I definitely dumped my boyfriend because passing my last Architect Registration Exam (ARE) division had me beyond stressed out. It was not the only issue in our relationship, but it was big enough to put me over the edge. Having not been among the lucky few to pass all of my exams on the first attempt (or second in some cases), I built up a lot of anxiety over the situation. I had never experienced such disappointment, frustration, anger, fear and anguish in my entire life. I am not even kidding…it was rough. The only people who understood what I was going through were those who’ve done it, which is such a small percentage of my network that practically no one got it. Most people would listen to me complain and stare blankly at me. “It’s just a test, you can do it…didn’t you go to Cornell?” Umm, yes I am smart, but this test isn’t about being smart. For me, the ARE was about being resilient. I am very grateful that I made it through with my sanity and health mainly in tact. I thank God for the perseverance to keep getting back up again after being pushed down and around by the infamous Architect Registration Exam for nearly four years.

The main reason why the ARE was such a challenge for me and perhaps many others is because it lacks structure (no pun intended). As a new ARE candidate, all you know is that you have seven exams to tackle within a five year window. You can take them in any order, at any time that is offered at the various testing centers. One typically begins to strategize and set exam dates around the busy lives that many young architects lead. We all had really high hopes of working in firms, enjoying our twenties, serving our communities and passing our exams all at the same time. What happens in reality? Well, lets start with a recession. With people losing their jobs left and right, maybe this isn’t a good time to carve out a huge amount of study hours because I’d rather stay at work late and remain employed. Oh, I realize that I scheduled an exam for a date next month, but there is no way I’ll have to time to really devote to studying properly in light of my other responsibilities. I have two options: try it anyway or push it back to another date. Ok, I’ll try it anyway…FAIL. The next time that situation comes up, you push it back and then you keep pushing it back. Eventually you take it and PASS. Success, finally!

From what I’ve gathered, the old school ARE was offered once a year, all at the same time. It sounded like torture… three days of straight testing with hundreds of other aspiring architects. I suppose the grass is always greener on the other side, but I actually would prefer a one-shot deal on a specific set of dates. The way that I did it was so isolated and random. I had gotten organized with other testers, but then a study buddy had to reschedule to attend a wedding or because work got crazy. There are infinite excuses for why we can’t study. The most important question to ask yourself is this, “Why ARE you doing this?” Let that be your guide and hopefully you’ll have a better chance of success. It’s also really important to ask for advice from recent test-takers so that you can learn from their mistakes instead of your own.

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