NCARB has retired their rolling clock policy, moving toward a more equitable and fair score validity model. What does this mean for you?
What Should I Do After Failing the ARE?
Almost everyone fails the ARE, but almost no one knows what to do about it after. Learn tips and strategies for how to move forward after failing.
Failing the ARE at least once is something that almost everyone experiences. But despite how common this experience is, people aren’t always equipped to process it or make a plan to move forward.
So many people in the architecture community do fail multiple exams, and a lot of times they’re going through these exams by themselves or without a really supportive community around them who understands what they’re going through. And especially once someone has those multiple fails, it can feel like, “What am I even doing?”
If you’re starting the beginning of your journey, having a plan in place for what happens if and when you fail is key. Because at any stage you may deal with failures, but especially with your first exam. So as you’re going through it, it’ll be nice to start with a good foundation, so that you can overcome failing when it happens.
Know You’re Not Alone
These exams have a 55% pass rate, give or take. So the likelihood of failing at least one is pretty high. It’s pretty much going to happen. There are unicorns who can pass them all and get them all done on the first go, but for the majority of people that’s not the case. So it’s really great to understand failing and figure out how to overcome it when it happens, so you don’t postpone your exam process for months or years—or in some cases, decades.
The important thing to remember is you’re not alone when you’re going through this, and that so many people in the field go through this. Failing an exam is very frustrating, it’s not ideal, and it’s not something you should feel like you have to celebrate. But we can normalize it, so it’s less detrimental when it happens and you can focus on figuring out how you can move through it.
Reframing the Narrative
Today we’ll be talking about what a failed exam really means, how to overcome a failed exam when it happens, and how to prevent it. We’ll be talking about how to prevent a failed exam, but also what you should do afterwards. We’re also talking about the secret to staying consistent in order to finish.
It’s easy to think that the end goal is just to pass the next exam in front of you, but really the big end goal is to become a licensed architect. So you can use that goal to motivate you and help you get through the journey.
When we do hit that failure, which the majority of people will, it can put people into a spiral of bad emotions. Disappointment, embarrassment, shame, and a whole host of other things. And it makes it really hard to feel good about these exams, to want to share them, to want to stay consistent and want to finish.
The goal of this is to turn around this typical, totally normal reaction to a failed exam so that you’re able to bounce back a bit quicker and easier to stay consistent.
It’s also important to note, though, that even with the right tools, you’re not going to pass every single exam. Like we said before, there’s roughly a 55% pass rate for these exams. So this is not about going in and passing every exam, but rather help you not hit rock bottom when it happens.
A Failed Exam is Just Data
One way to reframe a failed exam is to look at your fail report as just data. Your fail report helps you narrow down:
What you’re already proficient in
When you get your score reports back, you can see what areas you already are doing well in.
What areas you need a deeper understanding of
On the flip side, you’ll be able to see what areas you got fewer questions correct, and where you need to spend more time and what you need to understand better.
What topics you didn’t review that you should have
As you go through your score report, you can see if you’re even studying what you need to be studying. Seeing what’s actually on the exam is the best way to see if you’re actually reviewing relevant information.
What you need to do to improve the exam experience
People focus a lot of time and energy on resources and material, but how you feel the day of the exam really matters too. The score report gives you data on how you’re actually reacting when you’re in the exam. Did the time you took the exam work well for you, or maybe not at all?
When you look at your score report, take it as an opportunity to find out more data to help you be a better architect. This will not only help you create a new study strategy to move forward, but will also help you reframe some of the natural negative thoughts that come with failing an exam.
Using the score report as data helps you realize a failed exam doesn’t make you a failure, or mean that you’re not cut out to be an architect. Once you can start looking at your score report as data that tells you what you need to focus on and where you can improve, it can help you re-strategize your studying without all the emotional energy of a failed exam.
Taking a Holistic Approach
When it comes down to it, how can you actually take a holistic approach when it comes to preparing for the exams? Often, people take a one-sided approach. People gather their resources, study them, and then go in and take the exam.
While this is certainly part of any study strategy, taking only this approach doesn’t always give you a ton of clarity into what else you need to do to prepare. After you’ve failed on (or multiple) exams and have examined your score reports, you may have more clarity into what you need to do next. But after you fail an exam, you may not have that confidence because you’re remembering the heightened emotions that come with failing.
So when it comes to taking a new approach to exams, it’s not just about making sure you have resources or a good study plan. It’s everything together. It’s creating clarity so you know exactly what you need to do and when. It’s proper preparation so you have everything you need to pass the exams.
It’s also having a strategy, which is huge for your study sessions and your exam day. When you have a good strategy, you end up being a lot more efficient and effective, because you know exactly what you’re doing.
So for example, if you’re sitting in an exam and get a question that’s totally out of left field, you have a plan for what to do when that happens, and it doesn’t sabotage everything else. You also have to have the confidence to feel good about your strategy, and trust that you’ve done the work to make it successful for yourself.
When you study with this approach, you leave time for your health and your life outside these exams. You’re able to stay consistent, and you can take your exams with more clarity.
This holistic approach looks like this:
Step 1: Clarity
Clarity is making sure you know exactly what your plan is. You have some kind of study and plan in place so you know what you’re doing, when you’re doing it, and how you’re doing it.
Step 2: Preparation
This is where most people start out and the majority of people are pretty well-prepared. This is where you use a course like Black Spectacles and take practice exams, quizzes, and really dive down into the material.
Step 3: Strategy
Step 2 is an important one; you definitely want to spend time with the material and be prepared. Where some people aren’t putting enough time is developing a strategy. This step is where you figure out what works best for you and then implement it. Some people recommend audio learning and listening to lectures, but maybe listening doesn’t really work for you. Maybe you’re more visual and reading a textbook works better for you.
It’s okay if what worked for someone else doesn’t work for you. That doesn’t mean you’re going to fail because that’s what worked for them. This is where strategy comes into play, is figuring out exactly what study method words best for you and then putting together a plan that helps you retain the information.
Another element of strategy is just test taking strategies. What do you do if you come across a question on the exam that you just have no idea how to answer? It’s important to have a plan and some tools in place before you go into the exam so you can get through that question as best you can and still do your best on the rest of the questions.
Step 4: Confidence
Confidence comes with competence. When you start putting all these other steps in place and start feeling competent about the exams, talking good to yourself, and looking at a failed exam for what it is—data—then you can start building that confidence.
Celebrate Your Wins
When you’re working through the exams, it’s so easy to focus on the failures we’ve experienced. It’s easy to focus on the negativity and push aside the accomplishments that we have. When you focus on the wins, even the small ones, your brain becomes open to doing more of that.
Even being eligible to take these exams is a huge win. Graduating architecture school, one of the hardest majors, is a huge win. Getting there and taking an exam, whether you pass it or not, is a huge win. Sharing with a friend that you failed and you feel bad about it, and you’re trying to figure out what you need to do next, is a huge win.
Make it a regular habit to physically write down your wins. Even if it doesn’t feel like it in the moment, taking the time to actually think through and recognize everything you’ve accomplished can help give you the motivation that you need to get yourself over the finish line.
Watch our full webinar to get more insights and tips into how to move forward after failing the ARE.