Need Advice. Mid 30s and I am on the verge of giving up on licensure. I only have one exam left.


Long time lurker on this great community

To preface, I am not here to complain about NCARB or the ARE. Although I do have my criticisms on the content of the exams, I would not be here making this post if I passed my final exam.  I would appreciate your advice in how some of you persevered or switched gears in your plans. Did some of you give up on the licensure process? Any hindsight? Did any of you hit your rolling clock and start all over again? Is it just time and age that helps?   

So far I can't pass my last exam (PPD). I've taken it 4 times already. My rolling clock expires in about 5 months, and I am going to give it all I got. Hopefully this next time is my last exam with a PASS. (I can take it a total of 2 more times before my rolling clock expires, but I always firmly believe this is my "pass")

Every other exam I have taken, I passed on the first try. 2 of my exams I took 2 weeks apart and passed. Yet this exam, I just can't budge. 3/4 of the times I took this exam, I felt great during the exam. I felt like I passed until I saw the provisional feedback and the official results which were FAILS. I study diligently but not excessively. 

I have over 14 years of professional architectural experience. Years of ground-up experience for wood, concrete, and steel construction projects. Have been through every phase of a project for numerous years. Take projects through SD to permitting and CA with relative comfort, but we all have those stressful moments once in a while. 

I feel slightly embarrassed because we have new hires in their early/mid 20's already licensed (IPAL and great test-takers) yet they don't know how to put a proper CD document together nor do they know how to navigate client correspondence or permitting process on their own. And that's normal at their experience level. I am mentoring them along the way and I have no problem doing so, I love to teach about details and how envelopes work to enthused minds. But I would be lying if I said it didn't make feel insecure that the people I am mentoring have a "professional" title yet I don't. 

I want to be licensed because:

1- I will start my own practice next year. Regardless of licensure, but licensure helps with credentials. 

2- I do tons of design work. I am the project designer in my current firm. But was also project manager for many years. I would like to apply for international architectural competitions, yet many of them require licensure of your country. I have won numerous conceptual international competition works, but I want to go after built work proposals.

3- I do not want to depend on another design professional (AOR) if I can use my own stamp. However, I am OK if that becomes a reality and sometimes  you have to, especially for international work or out of state work for large scale. I look to John Pawson and Heatherwick as an example of non-licensed professionals with vivid portfolios,  however, it takes rigor, connections, luck, and Calvin Klein (Pawson's first commission) to be as successful as them.  

I am in my mid 30s. I want to start a family with the love of my life. I don't want to always worry about these exams but it's always on the back of my mind. But how much money, and most importantly, time, am I going to keep spending on this exam? I love architecture. Even with all its negatives, and it has its negatives. I love design. 

Thank you all for your time and thoughtful answers. 

Jan 14, 23 2:32 am

First, it's fairly apparent that you're over thinking this exam given your knowledge and experience. You already know this, but I'll say it again, this test is not about what you know, but how well you can play the game and answer the questions. Get out of your design head, solve the dumb problem in front of you, not the one in your head. Create a matrix of the requirements, and solve. 

I recall when I first took Site Design, I failed that exam, primarily because I didn't create a simple matrix, and I had to go back and forth to recall program requirements, this part of the exam timed out, and I knew I failed - I was trying to fix something, a sidewalk or parking lot. I still progressed to the second vignette and finished the exam. 

When I took Building Design, I created a matrix, solved the problem, finished the exam with 45 minutes spare and passed. That strategy set up my retake of Site, and I passed that one too. Site was the only one of nine I had to retake. 

I was 39 when I got licensed.

You can do this. 

Jan 14, 23 6:50 am  · 
19  · 

That's a great analysis of the "design" focused tests. Get out of your head, and solve the problem immediately in front of you. Maybe OP you can focus more on reviewing the examples and get a feel for how truly dumb many of the "correct" answers are.

Jan 14, 23 10:40 am  · 
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great advice. i failed site planning on my first try after running out of time trying to finesse a flawed arrangement, totally overthinking it. to some extent the exams are a test of how good you are at playing dumb and just doing what was asked even if the result will be unacceptable to your own judgment.

Jan 14, 23 5:38 pm  · 
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You can and should finish the exam.  I too was licensed in my late 30's after taking the various sections over a period of seven years or so.

Owning and operating a firm of your own in that does high quality work is going to be nearly impossible without a license in the US.  Commercial work will be very difficult to get.  The hiring an AOR thing will only work financially if the job is relatively large, which is not the size project a new firm will typically get.   On the residential side, you will be competing with drafters for whatever projects the local authorities will let people do without a stamp. 

Jan 14, 23 11:02 am  · 
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b3ta’s advice is spot on. Think of it as fitting the right shapes into the right slots, not as designing a building. You’re obviously smart enough and experienced enough to pass this, you’re just psyching yourself out!

Being licensed feels really, really good, whether you use the license professionally or not.

You got this!

Jan 14, 23 1:20 pm  · 
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I'd agree with b3ta. Basically, finish the last exam. It's easy to feel like giving up after a fail or two or four times. If you keep failing, there is something wrong with what you are doing. So, what are you doing wrong?

Starters, at #1, you have a problem there. Stop that. Don't think about it until AFTER you completed the exams. #2, same kind of problem.... don't even think about it until you get this exam out of the way. It's a distraction adding pressure. Same again with #3. No point in exerting your brain usage on it until afterwards. You'll have plenty of time to think about it after you are licensed.

Where are you having issues on PPD? It's a fairly challenging exam. We are not an ARE study forum but I think there may be some that can give you good pointers that might help without violating the NCARB testing and exam confidentiality rules.

Jan 15, 23 7:55 am  · 

Do not get me wrong. I am not saying you shouldn't have goals for what comes after licensing. It is just not something you should set a deadline or to really be thinking about it. Also, don't get me wrong in assuming that is the reasons you are failing PPD division of the ARE. It's not. It may contribute to it but not the reason.

Jan 15, 23 8:43 am  · 

I think this may be an issue of HOW you are studying and preparing. Can you tell us what you are doing before each attempt?

if you are merely reading guides or watching videos that is not adequate. I highly recommend getting a black spectacles subscription and taking their PPD practice exams over and over until you are scoring close to 90%. You will be more than fine after that. Don’t do anything but that IMO. I would stack your study time in the 2 weeks prior to an attempt and take the practice exams in a relaxed atmosphere such as a library or coffee shop. 

Jan 15, 23 11:10 am  · 
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I have used both Black Spectacles and Amber Book for PPD. Study period was/is generous between 3 weeks -2 months for the previous exams. Ironically, I only used ARE 4.0 material for PDD, I thought I failed on my first try, but passed. Yet it's the complete opposite for PPD, where I felt great after the exam, little time to spare, yet failed. I am not going to spend anymore money on study material.

Jan 15, 23 4:37 pm  · 
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Sign up for the Black Spectacles live exam prep, i believe it is offered 1-2x per week per exam via zoom. That was singularly one of the most useful study resources i used. They walk you through thinking about the questions like an exam, rather than like real life (which, as others have noted, sounds like your bigger problem right now).

Jan 17, 23 9:16 am  · 

Well, sometimes you got to spend money to make money. I also think that spreading out your studying across a longer period of time is less effective. Choosing the correct study environment may also be important to counteract all of the stress you have accumulated. Good luck.

Jan 17, 23 3:09 pm  · 

Hello, I failed PPD six times after passing all other exams with no problem at all. First five attempts my score was around 521-525. I studied diligently for another six months and failed it again with a really low score (under 500). Black Spectacles questions have nothing in common with actual PPD exam. Amber book questions are easier than actual test questions (and I was able to pass all previous exams by using Amber book and NCARB demo practice tests). Elif questions are the best but still didn't help in getting any better score. At this point I don't know what else should study. Will keep going and trying. Also I feel like questions are getting harder and more complex every retake.

Jun 6, 24 6:14 pm  · 
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Have you tried looking into more specific test prep resources? I'm in an ARE Facebook group for example that offers a lot of advice and helps forward people to the right kinds of preparation programs for their specific situations.

Jan 15, 23 11:24 am  · 
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When I was in college I decided to take the RE licensure exam and work RE for a while to make some money.  I had a 4.0 gpa.  I breezed through school, tests, etc.  for some reason, I couldn’t pass this RE test.  I took it 6 times before I passed.  6 times.  It was not even hard, I just probably stressing it to you point of detriment.  Maybe try to take it at a different time of day, or a different location to break that spell.  

Jan 15, 23 12:29 pm  · 
1  · 

OP, consider taking an exam prep course to get focused in on the issues that are directly pertinent to PPD.

It isn't a design problem; it's a series of hoops to jump through. Know what the hoops are and jump through them. No more; no less.

I used "whole enchilada" for my California test (long after my ARE). Passed first time. The study materials made a difference between me flailing & being scattered with my prep. I believe they have course prep for the ARE too.

Jan 15, 23 2:31 pm  · 

here you go: [same guy that did whole enchilada for Cali exam -- & looks like it's 20% off in January with code]. I didn't do this one nor am affiliated, but, if it's at all the same, you'll be happy

Jan 15, 23 3:43 pm  · 

Took their prep class for PPD, didn't help at all

Jun 6, 24 6:15 pm  · 

I would agree with others that say to absolutely keep at it. The licensure process can be, and typically is, very frustrating but well worth it in the end. I had success with the Ballast reviews, I found that they were significant in content but not overwhelmingly so. I gave myself 2-3 for studying before exams, I found that anything beyond that I would lose retention & it would interfere with other aspects of my life.

Others have also made the point that you cant let questions get to into your head design wise, just take the bare minimum answer and move on. Keep at it. At the end of the day it doesn't matter how many times you take the exams as long as you pass them in the end.

Jan 16, 23 12:06 pm  · 

and how it's worth it? 10% percent raise and tons of extra responsibilities? it's not worth it and architect's salary is ridiculously low

Jun 7, 24 10:14 am  · 

Well for now, both Amber Book and Black Spec are probably the best prep materials, which you already use. I took PPD and PDD back to back, and it felt like the same exam, except for the case studies. 

So I think you definitely have it in you to pass the exam. Good luck.

P.S. The person who sits in front of me experienced the rolling clock, but kept going untill he got licensed last year.  

Jan 16, 23 1:47 pm  · 
1  · 

Complete the exam and get registered. You won't have to think about it again and its in your back pocket for life. If you don't do it you are just another design hack. It's not easy and struggled to complete all the requirements in the day too but never ever regretted completing the exams and registration.

Jan 17, 23 5:13 pm  · 
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If your rolling clock expires, then it goes without saying that you have to go through the whole process again. Ultimately, it comes down on how badly you want it. Surely, there are many architects who get their license later in life and it's perfectly fine to do so. If you've passed them once, then you can pass them again. We all go at your own pace so don't fret over your supposed "progress" in licensure when compared to others.

Jan 18, 23 2:39 pm  · 

I think if your rolling clock expires then you only lose passed exams that are older than five years.  I don't think you lose all of your passed exams all at the same time.  I could be incorrect though.  

Jan 18, 23 4:10 pm  · 
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Rolling clock does ultimately depend on individual states but most are operating on the same NCARB "rolling clock" rules regarding ARE. What happens in most states, you have to retake the exam divisions that expires. You will most likely not have to retake every exam division.

Jan 18, 23 7:55 pm  · 

Thanks for the clarification, I've obviously been out of this game too long to remember. Everything else I've said still applies though :)

Jan 18, 23 9:12 pm  · 
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I agree.

Jan 18, 23 9:25 pm  · 

*** More for DesignMuse and others who wants to understand how the NCARB's rolling clock works. It's good to review the ARE Guidelines published by NCARB ***

I'm currently authorized to take the ARE so it helps me to remember those details. Yes, the reason it's a "rolling" clock is that each exam division expires when they reach 5 years from the date the exam division was taken. Once that happens, that exam division has to be retaken. 

If you pass all the exam divisions including exam retaken after expiration, all exam divisions from the oldest unexpired exam to the most recent as to be completed in a 5-year window. You have to pass all 6 exam divisions of ARE 5.x with the oldest exam unexpired to the most recently passed exam is within 5 years apart. So if the oldest unexpired exam was 6/15/2019, then the remaining exam divisions must be passed by 6/15/2024. 

If the second oldest exam was taken on 2/15/2020 and current date date was 6/16/2024 then the first exam taken on 6/15/2019 needs to be retaken and passed by 2/15/2025, otherwise you would have to retake the second exam you passed in 2/15/2020. All exam divisions must be passed within 5 years of when you passed the oldest unexpired exam division. 

Once that happens, you passed the ARE and will not require taking it again unless you let your license expired for a very long time and you have to meet the current requirements to get relicensed... as in so long, just doing CEUs and pay fee for reinstatement... won't cut it. I think there are a few places like that like if you have not been licensed for 15 years.

Jan 18, 23 9:46 pm  · 

To expand on proto's good idea above, consider hiring a coach.

A smart and capable friend of mine took exams and did just great, except for the building design section.  (This was back when it was a 12-hour, bring-your-lunch, code book, and-drafting-board extravaganza.)  I think he failed four times over a couple of years.  He was experienced and well into his practice years, but could not pass this one.  It became like Ahab's whale to him, and he was psyched out worse with every subsequent attempt.

Finally he hired someone to tutor and prepare him well in advance.  I can't recall who, but it was somebody with much experience in the examination writing and grading process.

Next time, he passed.

Jan 18, 23 5:10 pm  · 

The 12-hour thing is no longer part of the ARE for quite awhile. They replaced that with vignettes and then that had been replaced in the ARE 5.x. There's no drafting board thing any more in the last, 20+ years, IIRC.

Jan 18, 23 7:58 pm  · 
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I took the ARE in Hawaii based on a Bachelor of University Studies (BUS) degree from UNM (architecture & planning, urban design, civil engineering, and public administration) and twelve years verified (notarized document) licensed architect office experience - this was 1998 - because of this method NCARB would not allow this license to be transferred to any other state because I didn't have a M.Arch. from a NCARB-acredited college - the company that writes the ARE makes a fortune for making these exams deceptive so that exam candidates must take it multiple times for their company's financial gain - they are in bed with NCARB and AIA in my opinion - I could go on but I won't - this is the nature of the American "architectural game" as it is currently played with the intent of restricting professional competition - please get your license and NCARB endorsement - Bluecorn Planning & Development and Matrix Modular USA would welcome you as a general partner with open arms - we are old dusty coyotes so you, being 30, means your have a project design shelf life of at least 40 years (God willing) - we are New Mexico and Texas-based (Houston) and design environmental homes, commercial buildings, Micro-Homes (tiny houses), affordable housing, sustainable developments, micro-grids, and have patents on a next-generation building system - don't lose sight of the brass ring and keep the faith - there is nothing like creativity - ask any artist - John T. Keliiaa, Principle Planner ...        

Jan 18, 23 10:00 pm  · 

"The company that writes the ARE makes a fortune for making these exams deceptive so that exam candidates must take it multiple times for their company's financial gain"

I think most of the ARE tests the baseline for not getting sued as an architect. Unfortunately, there's an insane amount of knowledge architects have to possess and use on a daily basis (and that knowledge base continually grows, it seems, as we become liable for more parts and pieces within a building). I don't think the ARE is unfair in its assessment of that.

It was frustrating taking the tests and not getting a good metric for what I did and did not answer correctly (got my license under ARE 5.0, right before the 5.1 pandemic changes). I failed a couple of my exams the first time, feeling quite confident that I'd passed, and it was more difficult to study the second go-around without knowing exactly how I'd failed.

Jan 19, 23 7:10 am  · 

I'd also add that the tests are done in such a way as to not mimic or be similar to any one computer program. This in theory levels the playing field and doesn't give anyone and advantage.

As stated by Jovan the ARE's are the MINIMUM knowledge you need to have in order to practice architecture.  The formatting of the test itself is part of the test.  You have to take the questions literally.  

I don't think the tests are deceptive or designed to make the test writers money by causing a candidate to fail multiple times.  The test is difficult because architecture is difficult.  

Jan 19, 23 11:20 am  · 
1  · 

I'm just curious why people always say that AREs are the minimum knowledge to practice architecture. As evidenced in OP's message, there are younger architects who pass WITHOUT the knowledge to contribute meaningfully and there are older professionals that can't pass but WITH the knowledge to mentor and foster the growth of these younger staff. By saying that AREs are the minimum knowledge to practice architecture, does that mean that those who can't pass really don't belong in architecture?

Jan 19, 23 2:07 pm  · 
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Not really, the ARE is dysfunctional video game with an architecture theme. People with bad test taking skills and those who don't study the specific source material for the test will have trouble passing it. You could fall into either group and still possibly be a capable real-world architect.

Jan 19, 23 2:30 pm  · 
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I'm almost positive the intent of the ARE is not to determine your ability to design. The content of the exam is HEAVILY geared toward the legal knowledge an architect should know: how to recognize fault on a job site; how to navigate building code to minimum competency; how to evaluate the roles and responsibilities of various parties in a given scenario. THAT is the minimum knowledge that the ARE is testing, and I would argue that anyone without that minimum knowledge absolutely should NOT be practicing architecture.

Jan 19, 23 3:16 pm  · 
1  · 

First off, ARE is not the minimum knowledge to practice architecture or even building design. The exam tests on the subject matters pertinent to day to day practice of architecture. 

The licensing process as a whole establishes a baseline just as it is for building designer certification. The exams are an assessment tool on the baseline or so-called "minimum knowledge" but to really assess all of the minimum knowledge, it would take literally years of 8 hours a day, of daily testing to do that. 

So, instead of slamming every examinee with absolutely every possible question on every subject matter pertaining to the practice of architecture... let it be a pool and pepper the examinees with a random subset of the entire pool of questions. The profession of architecture/building design is a field with such vast knowledge that we continuously learn because even if we could live a thousand lifetimes, we will always be learning. 

The point of licensing or certification is not to know everything but to assess you have the knowledge and skills necessary (from schooling or education from experiences, practical skills to deliver, and assessment through examinations) or reasonably should possess in the process, to competently practice. It is not fool proof. 

There are people who passed the exams and are incompetent. Getting licensed does not mean you should start designing a skyscraper or something not for the inexperienced. 

There are plenty of much simpler projects that require a licensed architect so those should be the projects young minimally experienced newly licensed architects should work on and incrementally work on larger and more complicated projects. I'm a building designer, and there are projects that are exempt that some young newly licensed architects are not well equipped to design. This has to do with unique criteria of the project and some of the differences. Some people work with commercial and institutional buildings at firms but have not worked on residential projects. 

Logically, we often assume, a licensed architect should be able to design any exempt building and non-exempt building. It doesn't always happen to our dismay. It is not a perfect system. We have yet to implement a better system for licensing in the U.S.

Jan 19, 23 4:03 pm  · 

There was a time in history (the 70's in my case) where the architect or building designer submitted the commercial drawings for the building permit - we met face-to-face with the planchecker over the counter and we knew each other by name - we did the structural drawings and details, electrical drawings, and the mechanical drawings because we knew how from taking workshops provided by different parties including the AIA - you were issued a certificate of completion - the plan checker was provided the engineering calculations either on a drawing schedule, riser diagrams, piping isometrics, energy calc. forms, or as a plan set attachment - our designer knew how to survey so we surveyed our sites for one foot contours - we worked with the City civil engineer for a storm drainage (G&D) strategy - these were different times where the architect did have to have very different levels of advanced architectural and applied engineering skills - my associate architect says consulting engineering fees are about 60% of total fees his firm charges (up from 40%) and has exceeded 100% on some government projects - another architect associate stated that "this profession is under siege" and I would agree - this isn't your father's (or mother's) once proud profession - anyway, my two cents ...        

Jan 19, 23 1:22 pm  · 
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60%? exceeded 100%? are these for utilities or factories?

Jan 19, 23 2:32 pm  · 

Loved this post. It reminds me of the 70-80 year-olds I used to work with, who now mostly dead :( They had mad skills that began with their 1950's architectural educations that were incredibly technical and practical compared with today's curricula in the US. Today's consulting engineers suck also. Can't remember the last time I have actually had one show up prepared for a meeting. And don't get me started on the crazy fees they want nowadays for cut-n-paste rubbish drawings and specs.

Jan 19, 23 2:38 pm  · 
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60% for the usual consulting suspects - civil, structural, electrical, mechanical (HVAC & plumbing) engineers - 100% on some projects where not-to-exceed fees were specified ...

Jan 19, 23 3:17 pm  · 

Our fee is typically 60 - 70% arch and 30 - 35% for struct, mep, civil, landscaping. LEED and acoustics are separate fees that are only added into a project if the client asks for them. This includes government work.

Jan 19, 23 3:45 pm  · 
1  · 

@chad, that's more what of what i'm used to seeing from my commercial time -- there has to be some sort of typology thing that the arch is getting so little (maybe doing little more than managing the process?)

Jan 19, 23 4:13 pm  · 

I would suppose it depends on the projects but yes, it's very possible that the work involves some advanced engineering. It depends on the project. I don't have enough facts on the projects Bluecorngroup and your (Chad) firm to really compare. I know more about your firm (from an outside perspective) than Bluecorngroup. I assume these were very different projects that may have more specialized engineering needs.

Jan 19, 23 4:15 pm  · 

In every firm I've worked for since 2002 fees were a percentage of total construction costs. 

 I've worked on many project types. In fact the only ones I haven't worked on are correctional, highrise, and zoo's. 

 In all of the projects I've done we still need to coordinate all of the consultants - including the owners consultants. I can think of maybe six projects in my entire career where we didn't need to work with an owners consultant. Those where a few radio towers we had to be a part of because of an IDIQ we had with the BLM.

In every project except for those six our 70/30 fee split didn't change.  

Jan 20, 23 9:58 am  · 
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Our office is primarily commercial work & the 70/30 figure is probably about right, for smaller stuff it's more like 80/20. We don't typically do percentage of construction cost though, everything is fixed fee. The goal being to sell a block of hours & then do it in fewer.

Jan 20, 23 11:54 am  · 

This profession is about solving problems including developing a strategy to pass the ARE - at UNM we formed an ARE study group consisting of six of us that were allowed to sit for the exam - we bought the test prep material together and shared it on a rotating basis (about $150 at the time) - we met at my regional planning office every Saturday for three months before the exam (scheduled once a year at that time) - for the structural exam we hired the structural engineer that taught this subject at UNM, which was a two semester course - obviously we had gone through the study material so this was a four hour question and answer session  - at the conclusion of this training the engineer stated he had taught use everything that he normally teaches in two semesters in four hours - every one in our study group passed full ARE series of exams the first time - the salient point is there is strength in numbers ...  

Jan 20, 23 12:24 pm  · 
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Nice. I wish I'd had a similar setup when studying for the exams, this sounds like an extremely useful approach. Well done.

Jan 20, 23 1:51 pm  · 
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Not sure if anyone cares, but wanted to update the thread.

I passed my last exam after the 4th try. 

I only studied for 10 days. I only used ballast 4.0, NCARB practice exams, and reading material. 

The three previous times I studied for 2 months average, used a plethora of study material like black spectacles, archexamprep, amber book, ballast, Kaplan, reading materials. 

What was the game changer? The NCARB practice exams. Having the time to actually analyze and study the language that is used in NCARB, taking an analysis of how they phrase questions and how they structure questions, the options they provide in relation to the question being asked, and actually having that time to study and analyze the NCARB old practice exams completely made the actual exam seem like another practice exam. If they provided these practice exams years before, it would probably encourage a good number of applicants to continue taking and more importantly , completing the exam. 

How do I feel?

I think it's bittersweet. I think it's overdue. I already applied for reciprocity in another jurisdiction. I have work to do.

In some aspects I would say the exam evaluates competency, but in other aspects it doesn't. At the end of the day I think these exams are just exams. I'm not a more competent architect just because I passed my last exam. I have been taking projects all the way through to construction for many years prior, me passing this last exam doesn't officially make me competent.

On the same token, I don't think there's anything wrong examining applicants. I actually think the case studies is a great direction forward in testing applicants knowledge and application of knowledge in the profession. 

If it were up to me, I think NCARB should only have 4 exams. Only case studies. And only based off of objective experiential aspects that the majority of architects experience on a daily basis.

1- Building codes

2- Energy codes

3- Zoning codes

4- Contract / Architects contractual scope of work

If NCARB further simplified the examination process to only those four categories and only use case studies, they would have a huge surge of applicants applying for licensure. 

 I understand that there was a time when there were nine exams, then eight, then seven (4.0), and now we're at 6 (5.0). I think NCARB is starting to realize that the new generation of applicants are just not going to put up with a high level of bureaucracy and gatekeeping. So they are trying to simplify and facilitate the process, it's just taking them a while.

I'm almost certain there are a number of applicants who have years of experience and just can't budge their last couple of exams, and they end up not following through and finishing the examinations because life happens, they don't have the money to pay for exams or for private courses, they have a change of heart, or they just feel hopeless.  I hope NCARB realizes that if they have a paradigm shift on the content of the exam and the rolling clock rule, it will encourage a number of people to continue taking these exams. Again, I think NCARB is starting to go in the correct direction by providing older practice exams and allowing in home examinations, I think the case studies are great, but there is just a number of content related items that are so irrelevant to the actual profession that are probably making some people fail. 

For people who are on the fence about getting licensed or not, I think you should give all of your efforts to get licensed. My rolling clock was going to expire in months. I knew I had to give it my all. I knew I wanted to start my own practice, I knew I wanted to do international design work, I knew that credentials help. We have to understand that the United States is a credentialist country. Credentials are everything. It sucks. I wish it wasn't. Even if you're a crappy doctor who has horrible bedside manner and misdiagnoses people, which happens hundreds of times. As long as you're an MD, you're somehow competent and qualified. But we know that's far from the truth. We all had horrible experiences with doctors who are just not qualified, and you end up getting a second or third opinion. Ironically and luckily, architects have way more oversight because buildings can kill a lot more people much faster, so we have the permitting offices and the building inspectors who double check our work on the site. 

The other countries that have an arduous licensure process is the United Kingdom and Japan. Other than that, the vast majority of countries have a more facilitated process to become a licensed architect, which then facilitates entrepreneurial endeavors or international work since a lot of international work requires applicants to be licensed in their home country. How many American architects have won the pritzker? I don't think the pritzker is the end-all be all, nor do I think it defines an architect. But why does the pritzker almost bias it's work to Japanese and western European architects? Why do we celebrate the work of international architects at the expense of local American architects? There was (and I like to believe, still is) a huge swath of American architects who are doing beautiful thought-provoking contextual work but are being pushed aside for international architects. Tadao Ando. Zaha Hadid. Heatherwick. Pawson are just a few people who would legally not be allowed to be called architects, but their work speaks for itself. I think that's why it's important in architecture school to push the architectural discourse in the United States, whether or not you like practices like Ghery and partners or Morphosis, or DSR, you cannot deny the fact that they are agitating or at least used to agitate the discourse and provided a completely different perspective in Architecture. Whether you think the work is a waste of money and lacks contextual sensitivity, we need work that agitates and makes people question and have a reaction. We also need to celebrate pure pragmatic works of architecture, works that may look "boring" but beneath the surface provide huge insight on budgeting and elegant construction detailing. There's room for all types of discourse, and I think the United States is probably one of the best places for that discourse. 

Feb 12, 23 1:08 pm  · 
5  · 

PS. I would like to thank everyone for their thoughts and advice!

Feb 12, 23 1:21 pm  · 
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i'm not sure your appraisal of doc's certs is correct or that we should be lowering the bar (maybe move the goalposts?), and i do hate ncarb with a fiery passion, but i'm glad to hear you passed

Feb 12, 23 1:39 pm  · 

Never lower the goal posts for MD. If anything, they need more accountability. The point I was trying to make was title credentials are so important culturally in our country that an MD is taken at such face value we often forget there are a plethora of horrible MDs

Feb 12, 23 1:44 pm  · 

Congrats DesignMuse. Glad you made it through the ARE.

Feb 12, 23 10:12 pm  · 

​Hey I am in the same boat as you (PPD is my last exam and I just failed for the second time)-I think I am going to go back to Ballast and try the NCARB practice exams. What was the additional reading material that you used? Thanks in advance.

Apr 9, 23 10:39 pm  · 

Honestly if you just do the NCARB practice exams for PPD, PDD, PA, CE practice exams as if you are taking the actual exams, 2 or 3 times, you will be well prepared for PPD. That's what I did and I used ballast 4.0 material. Those NCARB practice exams is truly a game changer because it desensitizes you to the language of the exam. It makes you realize how obvious the questions are after you read their explanation of the answers and 90% of the time you can figure out the answer directly from what's given, you don't need to index your brain of prior knowledge.

Apr 10, 23 11:11 pm  · 
1  · 

Design, just curious if you noticed the questions are the same but rearranged everytime? I do wish they had a larger pool and varied the questions. You are right though, very helpful to get in the mindset for the exams.

Apr 10, 23 11:16 pm  · 

Congrats DesignMuse, a great step for you and glad you have accomplished this and put it to rest. It must feel bittersweet as you said! Regarding the NCARB practice exams you mentioned, is this what you were referring to? or are there other official NCARB practice exams online?



Thank you!

Feb 12, 23 2:33 pm  · 


I am talking about the OFFICIAL NCARB practice exam from the official NCARB website. 

Feb 12, 23 4:00 pm  · 
1  · 

Posted to take it and pass it then noticed in the comments you passed and edited this post. Congrats!

Apr 11, 23 12:45 am  · 
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I identified my issues/errors in the practice tests and concentrated on fixing / managing them on the actual test.  Mostly as you noted, know how and what they are asking in how they word the problems.  My other was carelessness in unit conversion - got too cocky and would forget a step or two.  [only used practice test and a few books from school and managed to pass; tried not to over study, but be comfortable finding info quickly in the code sections -and taking advantage of the long format question materials at end of test on the front half].

Jun 20, 24 3:17 pm  · 
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