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  • Writer's pictureMark

But I FAILED......

"Sometimes the most brilliant and intelligent minds do not shine in standardized tests because they do not have standardized minds" Diane Ravitch

What happens when you fail?

Why did you fail?

What should you do?

How to not fail the next time....

When all else fails - Try something different!

Moment of Honesty:

Both Ben and I failed one of our exams.

I failed ARE 4.0 Construction Documents once. And then I failed ARE 4.0 Construction documents AGAIN. Then, NCARB converted to ARE 5.0. AND THEN, I failed ARE 5.0 PPD. Ben failed ARE PDD on his first attempt.


We learned MORE BY FAILING then we learned by hours and hours of studying.

"The best-laid plans of mice and men oft go astray" -some famous guy

Failure happens.

It does not mean you will not succeed. It just means, you did not pass this time. Failure happens

And honestly, it is not in NCARB's best interest for you to actually pass the exams. Just like it is not in ARCHIZAM's best interest for you to pass and not need us anymore.

(Of course, we exist to help you PASS. So we do not hold it against you when you do pass, and no longer need to use us for practice. We encourage that, and wish you the best! But please do recommend us to your friends, family, and co-workers! Thanks!)

#1 - What happens when you FAIL?

Well, when I failed, it ruined a week of my life. I DO NOT recommend this. I consider myself a smart guy, and it hurt my ego to fail. But my family still loved me, my friends still respected me, and honestly my coworkers were impressed that I took the damn exam.


When you fail, it gives you 60 days to study and learn everything you can. So REGROUP. Make note of every topic that came up that gave you trouble and write it down so you can use that study and not miss that question again. Take a look at your results matrix. (It is not worth too much) and think how if reflects what you feel you know.

For example, if your PPD exam tells you that you did the worst on the Planning portion - read everything you can on planning and site design again. And then test yourself on what you learned.

#2 - Why did you FAIL?

I don't know. And maybe you don't know. But you probably can remember one or two questions you just did not know the answer to. Questions that you had no idea what was being asked, or no idea how to answer. TRY TO FIND THE ANSWER TO THOSE QUESTIONS.

Dare I repeat - you are SUPPOSED TO FAIL! Generally 50% of people who take the exam DO NOT PASS.

So they say there is a certain number of questions you need to answer correctly. Each question is worth ONE POINT. Theoretically, it does not matter if you get EVERY QUESTION in one section wrong you COULD STILL PASS, right? (Probably not...) But if that happened, then you should probably focus on studying that section for your retake.

I have said many times - you will not pass by just knowing what the (ARE 5.0 Ballast Manual) says. You have to UNDERSTAND what you have learned.

#3 - What should you do?

Take a minute. Breathe. Have a beer, or a green tea, or whatever makes you happy, and CONGRATULATE YOURSELF ON TAKING A FREAKING ARCHITECTURE REGISTRATION EXAM! Not a ton of people in the world do that. Not even a ton of people who went to architecture school do that!

And then: RESCHEDULE YOUR EXAM! and then Study some more! Focus on the things that the exam showed you that you did not know. BUT! DO NOT FOCUS ONLY ON THEM! Because you will not get the same exam that you had the first time, and the score report can trick you into focusing on the wrong topics. Point is - you need to LEARN stuff, and then BE ABLE TO EXPLAIN IT TO YOUR GRANDMOTHER and make her understand. And THEN you REALLY know what it is that you are talking about, and then you should know more than the people at NCARB.


BE CONFIDENT! You have devoted a large portion of your life to studying for the exams; to learning to be an architect; to knowing all the things you need to know to successfully protect the health, safety, and welfare of the general public. YOU WILL PASS!

HAVE A HYPE SONG! Mine was SUNDAY BEST - "feeling good, Like I should" (because I had all the answers).

BREATHE! and take it easy. It's just a test. One of many. And plenty of opportunities to retake it. You will pass. You will pass. You will pass.

We had a WHOLE POST about WHAT TO DO DAY OF YOUR TEST! that I took down because no one read. :-)

(Comment below if you want me to repost it)


It is the key. It is the way to pass. It is how you will become an architect. You NEED TO KNOW what it is, that you ACTUALLY NEED TO KNOW to be AN ARCHITECT. The whole point of these tests is to prove to the National Council of Architecture Registration Boards that you know "everything" you need to know to be a registered Architect.

(Whether or not they are who you need to prove yourself to... well they are the people who create the tests, and who the states rely on to verify your knowledge.)

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I would second Fernando's comment of re-posting this article. I recently failed the PcM exam last week and this article was a refreshing perspective on taking the ARE's.


In favor of re-posting day of exam approach.

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