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5 Tips about ARE Multiple Choice Questions

Okay so... The #AREs are not easy. Right?

I spoke to a person the other day who has taken many of the exams, some two or three times at this point. He echoed the feeling I had EVERY SINGLE TIME I sat for one of the exams:

"I THINK I know the answer, But then I reread the question, and I think the question is trying to trick me into selecting that answer when another answer is probably the correct answer. Do I change my answer from the one I think is correct to the one I think NCARB wants me to put? OR do I stick with the answer I think is correct, even though it may not be the MOST correct answer of the bunch?"

Was that statement as confusing as the ARE questions themselves?

I think so.

Please allow me here to try to give you some insight or at least commiserate with you into/about the architecture registration exam questions....

1. Go with your Gut

It is pretty common knowledge that NCARB deliberately puts 2 answers in most multiple-choice questions that are similar and both seem correct, RIGHT?

I call this the "Go with your gut" instinct. The first answer you want to select is probably the correct answer.

This instinct is based on how much you studied. If you studied your face off, and you think that you know everything about the exam that NCARB could possibly throw at you - Then I am going to tell you to BE CONFIDENT and "Go with your gut." If you maybe did not study everything, and the question kind of seems like a no brano-braineriner, I will tell you that question is probably trying to trick you into picking the "low hanging fruit."

2. Pick the answer that is MOST CORRECT

One of the common things you will run into on the ARE is a few answers that are correct-ish, but which one is the one NCARB wants you to pick? The key to these is, what is the question specifically asking for? If one of the answers Is broad and covers two other possibly correct answers, that one is probably the correct answer. But if the question is asking for something very specific, you will want to pick the specific answer.

3. Pick the answer from the Source

Another common occurrence on #ARE exams is a direct reference to the primary source material. What I mean is, a question will be asking you for an answer, that happens to more or less come DIRECTLY FROM one of the PRIMARY REFERENCES. There will be a question that mentions a certain very specific subject - and you have to understand what that subject is so that you can provide the exact answer they are looking for. You have to have read and understood the subject matter to know these answers. These questions are not "up for interpretation." These questions are not "give it your best guess." These questions are SUBJECT - UNDERSTANDING (NCARB - U/A) that are looking for you to give the exact answer as you would find it in the reference material.

If you do not know what the PRIMARY REFERENCES are, I recommend taking a look at the ARCHIZAM's GUIDE TO THE ARE's

This can be a hard thing to understand when you have not taken an exam. There will be questions that are looking for you to provide the exact answer from the reference material. Many of these will be the "Select 4" of the 6 provided options. Some of these will be singular multiple choice answers. It is possible that you did not read that specific primary reference, and you will not automatically know the answer. It happens. Each question is worth 1 point. Move on.


Let me emphasize though - the #AREs WILL NEVER ask you to memorize and repeat facts or content. You will never get a question that is "The definition of mullion is:" where you pick the one and only answer that is correct. The #AREs are not grade school tests where 1+1=2 and that is the only possibility. The #AREs expect you to use your brain and solve the riddle that is being posed to you. The #AREs expect that you have read the material, and taken the time to know how to apply the information to real-life practice of architecture.

The point of the #AREs is to determine if you understand enough about the practice of architecture to competently perform your role as a Registered Architect. Ever heard the old expression "If it was easy, everyone would be doing it" ?

5. Do NOT Overthink

The Architecture Registration Exams are TIMED examinations. You have a certain amount of time to spend on each individual question. (This varies by exam and is readily available in the NCARB Handbook.) (Exam timeframe / # of Questions = time for each question) Though I never looked at it this way, some people do.

What I want to tell you here is - there will be questions YOU KNOW YOU GOT RIGHT. There will be questions YOU KNOW YOU DID NOT KNOW THE ANSWER TO. There will be questions You just were not sure of. I used to keep tally during my exam of all the questions that applied to those 3 categories.

You could spend all 3-5 hours of your exam time staring at one single question to contemplate the meaning of life and the intent of the words in the question. But then you would FAIL. You would fail because you never answered the rest of the questions! Each question is worth 1 point. You are allowed to not know all the answers. In life you will not know all the answers. And in my 14 years of professional practice, I have found it is OKAY to not know all the answers.

I spent a LOT of time at the end of my exams, re-reading, re-reviewing, and re-answering, the questions the #ARE was asking me. I am telling you right now, in the end, I PASSED. I will also tell you that in the end, I HIGHLY DOUBT that any of the answers I re-thought, re-analyzed, re-processed, and changed my answer to caused me to pass or fail.

It was all about what I did and did not know.

We at ARCHIZAM always recommend taking the Exams and testing your knowledge. It may turn out that you did not have the right or full understanding at the time. But once you have taken the exam, you will have a metric of what you did and did not know. Then you can use that as a tool to learn more and pass the next time.

The #AREs are not easy. The #AREs pass statistics are not encouraging. In 2018 there were 115,316 in the entire United States - which means Architects are only a tiny percent of the population. But the fact is - you CAN DO IT, and you are working hard to become a Registered Architect. Your determination will pay off!

We can not wait to congratulate you on your success!

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