On failing an ARE


You just failed an ARE exam? Before you go hide yourself under a blanket or go on a shopping spree, read these two cents of mine.


You probably feel bad because you think your hard work was wasted. You feel tired, and don’t want to think about architecture right now. I get you, I went through that so far three times. But, there is a different way of looking at your failure. Your fail is an OPPORTUNITY. Here I am pointing out a couple of them, and a few more ways of channeling your feelings and efforts in the productive direction. Your failure is a GREAT THING that just happened to you - congratulations! Before you call me crazy, allow me to explain myself. You made the sacrifice. You paid the exam fee, you gave up quality time with your dear ones, quality time with your mind… just to study. And you studied a ton, went in (somewhat) confident - but the exam whooped your bum. It just didn't work out this time. Let me tell you this - this fail i opportunity to exercise your resilience muscle and laugh in life's face! I completely understand that you feel like you wasted your time, that the exam was really stupid and unfair, that it didn't evaluate your knowledge accordingly… But trust me, your fail happened to you for a reason. Deep down in your heart you probably know exactly why you failed, but you might not be ready to admit it to yourself just yet. Cease the opportunity to make the best out of a failure, to have YOU happen to a failure, and not have a failure happen to you! Use your failure as an opportunity to become a better, more improved version of yourself.

Failing an ARE exam per se does not define you as a person, as an intellectual, as a future architect. What you make out of a failure is what defines you either as a whiny quitter, or a brave ARE and life gladiator!

The following point came across as I was talking to Kyle, my principal, after my latest fail. Kyle was always a great test taker, and he was able to resonate back exactly what his educators were looking for. In his own words - being a good test taker is a great thing, but it can only help you a certain amount. Don’t beat yourself up because of that. Being good at recognizing what an exam question is looking for, and finding the clues quickly is obviously a valuable asset. In real life, though, exam questions will translate into listening to what clients, partners, team mates ask you. Sometimes their directions will not be clear at all, nor will they themselves know exactly what they need. In such situation it won’t serve you much that you are a great test taker, because you will obviously need to ask for more information. That’s when your sense of communication, compassion and growth, understanding what’s at stake, is going to shine through. Part of your job is going to be making others feel like they can trust you, and that you can make them feel safe and heard. How are you going to do that if a small problem upsets you so much? Failing an ARE exam makes you more experienced at dealing with disappointments, and growing that resilience muscle is much easier if an ARE exam is at stake, than if the whole construction is at stake.

Similar to my points above, use your failure as an opportunity to really learn the stuff that you need to know to become a better practitioner, and not just to pass one test. When I failed my PjM exam, I felt like the exam was overall unreasonable, I blamed NCARB for purposefully wanting me to fail cause they’re after my hard earned money, I thought I was ready for it, and they didn’t adequately test my knowledge… I thought all that until I started getting ready for retake. I quickly realized that for my first PjM test I was going way too quickly over some stuff, especially financials and some pretty important aspects of contracts such as indemnification, subrogation and insurance. For my second attempt I went all out on making all that really clear to myself. I spoke to my firm’s accountant, I spoke to a principal, I tried to get their perspective. And you know what - it made the world of difference. Right now, and I don’t want to sound braggy, but I feel quite confident in my knowledge of financials, risk management, quality control, etc. I didn’t cram anything, I learned it properly. Imagine what would have happened if I had by some miracle passed that first PjM attempt. The opportunity to know all those things as well as I know them now would have been taken away from me.

When you become licensed, nobody is going to ask "How many times have you failed your ARE exams?".

There are far more important things in life than the AREs. If you ever catch yourself making an ARE failure seem like the whole world crashed down on you - take a deep breath... and come up with three things that you are grateful for today. Turn around yourself and see all the things that could have easily gone wrong, but they didn't. From all you know, you could have slipped this morning in the shower and broke your foot. Don't allow a lousy ARE failure cloud your perspective. You failed an ARE exam - that is completely okay, young lion! Chin up! You should be proud of yourself for stepping up and taking the risk. You will make it next time. If that's the worst thing that happened to you, then you have a pretty good life, my friend. You should be thankful for it. Hashtag blessed haha!

This is an oldie, but don't compare yourself to others. When I saw that I likely failed my PA, I felt a little bad. But when Kayla told me that she passed on the same day - I couldn't help myself but feel three times worse about my fail. Our brains are simply wired that way, we compare ourselves to each other. It happens perhaps subconsciously. That's why it requires extra effort not to make comparisons. That effort is so much needed, though. You gotta see that shithole of self pitying in front of you, and waaaalk around it. Walk around it. To be honest, I don't think I ever got anything good from comparing myself with someone else. It mostly always put me in the mood when I think "Aww poor me, no one understands me, no one cares for me..." Comparing myself to others never made me feel inspired, honestly. If I want to feel inspired, I listen to someone who is on the level where I'd like to be - Queen Beyonce for example :D You're on your own path, you're your own master. Focus on enjoying your own dance, rather than being distracted by observing others dance next to you.



When you're disappointed because of your ARE failure, think of your loved ones. They also have a stake in this. They want to see you jubilant. They invest their faith in you. They might be wishing they could spend more time with you. You might be aware of that too. But don't beat yourself up more because of that. The best thing you can do right now, right this moment, is not to spoil it with more sadness. Cheer yourself up by embracing those that really deserve and need you and your happiness.

Decide on your own whether you want to be vocal about your fails and passes, or you want to put your head down and make the progress. If you choose to be vocal about it, you need to carefully pick who to talk to. You don’t want to end up in a continuous spiral of complaining, or making yourself feel bad and embarrassed. You are looking to talk to someone who is going to make you realize that things are not as bad as they seem. It’s always much more effective to talk to people who have been further down the road. Seek their advice and get excited about tailoring your own future. I personally don’t have a problem talking to Kyle about my fail. I know that he will have something valuable to say that will make me feel better.

Remember, you will get through this. If you remain a stubborn, resilient gladiator not only will you get that ARE pass, but you will get so much more. And it will be grand!



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