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The End is Nigh: Finishing the AREs

I'm still not sure how it happened, but last weekend I took my seventh (but not final) ARE, bringing me up to all seven exam attempts in the span of one year.  The good news is that I passed, which means I have only one exam left to pass!  In all, I'm pretty pleased with my progress; aside from failing Site Planning, things have gone relatively smoothly, although it's been a grueling and painful experience.  I don't think there's a better way to do it, though, and I'm glad I pushed myself to get it done in a year, rather than drag it out over a longer period of time.

Here's the original schedule I set myself, which would have had me complete everything last year:
March - PPP
April - SPD
June - Structural Systems (SS)
July - Schematic Design (SD)
September - Building Systems (BS)
October - Building Design & Construction Systems (BDCS)
November - Construction Documents & Services (CDS)

And here's the schedule I actually followed:
March (2014) - PPP
April - SPD
June - SS
July - SD
September - BS
November - BDCS
February (2015) - CDS
March - SPD re-take scheduled

The delay was partly due to a lack of available test dates on weekends (after taking SPD and SS on weekdays, I vowed to take all the other ones on Saturdays to lower my stress levels), and mostly due to my decision to take a break over the holidays.  I didn't study at all in November or December, and then started back up in January this year for the final two.  This gave me a much needed mental break, and I'm glad I spaced it out.  I also needed more time to study for BDCS than I initially thought - it was a pretty difficult one.

I'm finally starting to think about what I want to do once the exams are over, and it's hard to decide!  There are so many interesting projects I could tackle now that I have my weeknights back.  I just hope that I can motivate myself to spend my time well, rather than languishing on Facebook as it's so easy to do.  

To my architecture friends who are still on the journey, I wish I had some humorous wisdom to dispense, now that I've taken all the tests, but I think the fun has been beaten out of me.  Here's the best I can do to sum up my recommendations:
  • All you have to do is pass.  For each test, I aimed to get about 75% of the questions correct; as long as I was getting roughly 75% right on the practice tests, I figured that would be sufficient, and it was.  Don't over-study so you can get every question right - there's no gold medal for acing it, and you won't even find out how you did beyond pass or fail.
  • Don't neglect the vignettes.  Those "fatal errors" are for real, and I think that's what killed me on Site Planning.
  • Most of the content is actually relevant, so think of the exams as a crash course in applied architecture, rather than a waste of your time.  I have experienced most of what I studied on real projects in the field, and if you think of it as a way to get exposed to many different parts of architectural practice, rather than just a hoop to jump through, you won't go crazy as fast when you're on your 50th week of studying.  (This is in contrast to LEED and AIA continuing education, much of which really is a waste of time!)
  • Take breaks when you need them.  Don't make yourself crazy.
  • Use the study materials that work for you, and don't waste time on the rest.  For me, that meant I ignored all the flash cards, but took every practice test I could find.  It was enough.
  • Remember that there are ADA questions on every exam!
I'm not quite home free, but I can see the light at the end.  I can't wait to find out what post-ARE life is like!  In the meantime, I'm happy to answer any non-test-content-specific questions that you have; send me a note, and good luck!


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