Festina Lente (and the Architect Registration Exam)

March 23, 2014

Somehow February and March came and went, and now it’s the season of Lent, a time in the Christian tradition reserved for penitence and fasting, which I’m observing by forcing myself to take the Architect Registration Exams (AREs) and by trying to write more regularly. “Lent” means “spring,” and also “long,” which together describes this exam period quite well, since it will probably take me from now until the end of the year to finish all seven of the exams. A long spring indeed. (After that, I will also take the California Supplemental Exam, or CSE, once my internship hours are complete.) Lent, or lente in Latin, also means slowly, which again describes the exam process quite well… and my attempt to get this over with as quickly as possible? Festina lente. So there you have it. A long, slow spring of studying.

But what you really want to know is whether I passed my first exam last week, the Programming, Planning, & Practice (PPP) exam, which covers practice management, site planning, building codes, and more. Happily, I did pass, and now I’m on to studying for Site Planning & Design (SPD). Unfortunately, a passing score means that I received no information whatsoever about my performance on the exam, so that’s all I know. Only failing scores come with a breakdown of performance on different subject areas. So there’s nothing for it but to continue on.

I found the PPP to be broad, as expected, but more focused than the study material seemed to indicate. I’m using both Kaplan’s series and Ballast’s ARE Review Manual, as provided by my office. Ballast seemed the better source for this exam. The graphic portion of the exam (the graphic “vignette”) was very easy once I figured out how to do it. The exam guides are quite clear on this part, so it’s not any trouble. Next up, SPD, should have a significant amount of content overlap with PPP, so I’m hoping it won’t be difficult. After that come the hard exams.

My exam schedule looks to be as follows:

March - PPP

April - SPD

June - Structural Systems (SS)

July - Schematic Design (SD)

September - Building Systems (BS)

October - Building Design & Construction Systems (BDCS)

November - Construction Documents & Services (CDS)

Failing one of the exams requires one to wait six months before re-testing, so this schedule puts the hardest exams in the middle. This gives me time to take some easier exams at the end, so that my re-test dates would be in January, not too long after my final exam.

But then, once all the hours and all the exams are done? I get the stamp. Not that I’ll actually get to stamp my own drawings once I have it - for liability reasons, all drawings in my office are stamped by the firm principals, not by the project managers or job captains - but I’ll be a real architect. The real deal. No more of this “oh, so you’re an architect?” “Well, yes, sort of, but not exactly.” Clarity - that’s what we all want. Clarity and better pay. No, clarity, better pay, and respect - wait, let me come in again.