6 Things NOT to do when Studying for the ARE

6 Things not to do

1. Don’t multitask! Yes, I said it – no multitasking! I know that we, as aspiring architects, like to think that we are very talented in the realm of doing ten things at once. Save yourself a lot of extra time and repetitive reading by forcing yourself to just study. That’s it. Just study!

I found that for me, personally, I would tell myself that I could study, watch my favorite TV show, eat a snack, check LinkedIn and Facebook, and do all four really well at the same time. Wrong… I found myself re-reading the same paragraph three times before I felt like I actually comprehended what I was reading.

So do yourself a favor, when you say you are studying from 8:00 pm to 10:00 pm, do just that – study and only study for those two hours! Put your phone on silent, turn off all TV’s, tablets, music, and just focus on the ARE in front of you. You will find that you will comprehend things much better and spend less time studying.

2. Don’t study at the wrong time of day. I found that most people have a certain time of day that they can study the best – a time where they are fully awake, focused, and ready to dive in. My time of day was at night after dinner, but a lot of people I work with would study in the mornings before work. Some people even use their lunch hour to study or they get their study session in right after 5:00 pm before they go home for the day.

I’m not a morning person, so the night thing worked better for me. I found that it was not doing me any good to be studying in the morning as I’m doing the whole “bobble-head” dozing off thing. The key is to be self-aware – what works best for YOU? Are you a morning person? If so, try waking up a little earlier and squeezing in an ARE morning session before the stress of work hits. Are you a night owl like me? Find that sweet spot either before or after dinner time (or workout time, whatever) where you have decompressed from work and are ready to study.

3. Don’t keep putting off an exam just because you think you aren’t ready. Let me let you in on a little secret… You will NEVER feel 100% ready for the ARE exams. You may feel pretty confident, but I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone that has said “Yep – I’m ready to pass this thing right here, right now!” The important part of this suggestion is to be honest with yourself about your study habits and the time it takes you to fully comprehend the massive amount of ARE material. Figure out a time frame and schedule that works best for you, then schedule the exam and stick to it! My motto was always to make a reasonable schedule that worked for me, set the test date, and then study as hard as I could up until that date.

Even though there was never a single test I felt 100% prepared for, I still wanted to go into every exam knowing that I did everything I could to prepare myself for it. That way, pass or fail, I at least had the peace of mind that I tried my absolute best.

4. Don’t get discouraged if you fail a test (or two, or three). It happens! People fail, that’s just life. I know it’s discouraging to fail one of the exams – it sucks! I’ve been there, done that. You have to realize that not everyone is the type of person to just pass them all on the first try. It may seem like you are surrounded by those people, but I promise there are just as many that have failed around you, too.

We are all unique – some being great test-takers, some being great at memorization, and some being great at applying what they have learned. Everyone is different and everyone’s ARE experience is going to be different. Just because you failed an exam does not mean that you don’t know what you are doing or are incapable of becoming an architect. Keep going, keep pushing. Take the test again! Or take a different exam and then come back to it! And try to learn from your failures (I know NCARB doesn’t help much with this one), maybe you need to try a different study technique or find a different way to learn the material. Most important, just keep taking the exams! And one day, you’ll pass them all and be done for good!

5. Don’t allow yourself to get freaked out by looking at too many ARE forums, Facebook posts, or Google + pages. These resources are fantastic! Use them to your advantage, BUT don’t let yourself become overwhelmed by how many questions or vignettes solutions you may see that you didn’t think of or had no idea what they were talking about.

This happened to me on my second exam. I started looking at a forum page for one of the vignettes, and I very quickly started to have a panic attack at all of the solutions and questions people had posted that I hadn’t even thought of or seen before. My brain immediately began thinking “Dang, I hadn’t thought of that” or “Crap, I haven’t studied that yet!” or “Is that really a solution to that?” I quickly learned to limit myself on how much I looked at these – or – I would go in to look for one specific thing and only look for that. Again, these forums are great, but they can freak you out if you don’t filter it some.

6. Don’t set unrealistic expectations for yourself. This was a tough one for me. I’m one of those people that wanted to impress everyone and finish super-fast. Well, it only took one week of studying for me to realize that I needed to pace myself a bit. Find a schedule that works for you and your study habits. Don’t try to race with someone else –  your pace will probably be different from theirs. I found that the schedule below worked the best for me (without burning myself out):

Weeks 1 – 4         Study

Week 5                 Take Exam

Week 6                 Take a break, recover, and wait for results


Those are my 6 NOT to do’s while studying. Best of luck to everyone studying for the ARE!!! If you have any comments, ideas, helpful tips for fellow ARE takers, I’d love to hear them! So comment below…

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