Why Smart, Talented People Fail the Architectural Registration Exam(ARE)

  • 20 October, 2021

You may be wondering, "I'm smart, I did very well at my architectural school, I'm successful at my architectural designer job, so why am I failing the ARE?" From my own experiences, I have identified four main reasons why smart, talented people fail the ARE:


  1. You didn't properly prepare for the exam.

    Sometimes failure can be caused by a lack of preparation time or lack of managing your preparation time. Sometimes it's for lack of resources. Sometimes it's due to not knowing exactly how to prepare. But the most common reason for failing the ARE is due to lack of preparation. There are many study resources available (for free as well as for purchase), and it's important to take time to go through them so you are properly prepared. Sample questions are often the most effective way to study, as they can give you the most realistic sense of what to expect on the exam. You can also time yourself when taking practice exams to simulate the actual exam experience as best you can. But in any case, studying and preparing for the exam is the best way to ensure a passing score.

  2. Why Smart, Talented People Fail the Architectural Registration Exam(ARE)

  3. You ran out of time.

    While the exams allow adequate time to complete the questions, your time is not unlimited. You need to budget your exam time to make sure you're able to review all the questions at least once. As I mentioned above, I recommend you time yourself when taking sample exams to gauge whether you think the allotted exam time will be adequate for you. Then when taking the exam, watch and budget your time carefully. Spend more time on problems you are confident on and save the harder problems for the end of your time after you have answered everything else to the best of your ability.

  4. You relied solely on your work experience.

    Many seasoned designers with years working within the field approach the exams with an overconfident attitude. They assume that their years of experience working as an architectural designer will be enough to carry them through the exams with little to no academic studying. While work experience can be helpful on the exams, sometimes the correct answers don't align correctly with the individual's career experiences. For example, AIA Contract Documents are a critical topic of the exams. Someone's personal work experiences may have been based on non-AIA contracts or project delivery/ execution. While someone may have been extremely successful implementing their non-AIA-contract projects, their project experience may be different than the AIA and lead them to an incorrect answer. It is extremely important to know the specs for the exam and what material is being tested on to best focus your preparation.

  5. The exams are just plain difficult!

    If the exams were easy, then everyone would pass. But they are purposefully intended to reflect architectural and technical competence to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public. These exams test the critical aspects of our profession and it's important that you are well-versed in these tested areas before becoming a licensed architect. Preparing properly and managing your test time effectively are two of the most critical pieces of advice I can provide.

    In summary, you may fail one or multiple exams- but that's okay. Don't be fearful of failure: it can be paralyzing and prevent or delay you from taking exams, but the longer you wait, the bigger the build-up (or self-induced pressure) will be. Keep in mind that failure happens. It's what we do with the failure that matters. There are always opportunities to take the ARE exams again; with the right preparation and effort, you will be a licensed architect in no time!
About the Author: Carissa Oyedele

Carissa Shrock Oyedele, AIA, NCIDQ, LEED BD+C is an Associate Principal at Moore Ruble Yudell Architects & Planners. She received a Bachelor of Architecture degree with a minor in Construction Management from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. Her education provides a solid foundation for solving creative design solutions to various project types, such as those with complex programs, schedules, and delivery methods. Carissa's portfolio includes masterplans, civic, campus, and mixed-use projects locally, nationally, and internationally- with notable projects of the Santa Monica Public Library and US Embassies in Helsinki and The Hague. Carissa has been recognized as a leader in the architectural community as a recipient of AIA National Young Architect Award, Top 20 Under 40 by ENR (Engineering News-Record) California, and NextGen 10 in Real Estate & Finance by CSQ Magazine.

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