Find a Better Study-Life Balance

The key to surviving the ARE? Face it with a balanced mindset. You’re not a Human Doing, you’re a Human Being. We’ve got tips from the Pros to help you recalibrate.

by Katie Robleski

Whether you’re just starting on your ARE journey, or you’re way deep into this adventure, we know your kind. You’re ambitious. Perhaps a bit of an over-achiever. Maybe it feels like All or Nothing when it comes to your goals.

But you’re also a human with a regular human life. Got people you love? Intense workload? Clients or colleagues who could care less that you’re buried under all things ARE? When you’re sweating profusely with your heart racing, stressed about tight schedules and complex concepts, balance might be the furthest thing from your mind.

But it’s never too late to hit that reset button.

You can reshuffle your priorities and your habits so you’re able to balance all the things AND devote yourself to the ARE. How? Fear not, we’ve got Pro Tips! Helpful reminders based on interviews with architects who have recently passed the ARE, so you know these are the real deal. Today, we’re kicking things off with tips to build a better Study-Life Mindset.

Pro Tip: Live by your study schedule.

We find that successful licensure candidates spend about 10-15 hours each week studying. But how you disperse those hours is completely up to you.

  • Pre-plan: What days/times and with which materials? Even if it’s just 15 minutes every morning for a quick flashcard session during your commute or lunch break, or an hour after family time at night to watch a video. (Expect to watch for 2-9 hours per week depending on which exam you’re studying for.)
  • Time-block your days: Make it visual, something you’ll see every day, like on your phone or even an old-school analog daily planner or calendar.
  • Schedule breaks and free-time! Productivity and learning basically implodes when you don’t take breaks (try 5-10 minutes for every 1-1.5 study hours).
  • Stick to this schedule as best as you can, but Always Be Flexible. Cut yourself a break if you miss a study sprint and commit to making it up the next time.

“Go back to NCARB’s handbook . . . this targeted percentage is going to be about these content areas. So allocate your study time and efforts accordingly. Be wise with your time . . . that’s the way I got through it.” - Kelli Franz

Pro-Tip: Act like your physical health is on the test.

Studies show that healthy routines alleviate anxiety. Habits build rhythm. Rhythm builds familiarity. Familiarity helps us feel less Fight or Flight and more calm and motivated.

The reason you feel all those weird, gross bodily symptoms when you’re nervous? Your sympathetic and autonomic nervous systems launch you into heart palpitations, sweaty palms, dry mouth, nausea. Basically adrenaline overload. Restore balance by keeping the parasympathetic system — the one directly in charge of de-stressing your body — healthy and happy. You want that passing score? It’s just as vital to run your mileage, eat your veggies, and snag 7-8 hours of sleep a night, as it is to time-block those video lectures and flashcards.

PS: Studies show that massages help too. Treat yourself!

Pro-Tip: Just be competent.

You know this, but here’s a healthy reminder: NCARB tests your minimum level of competency of the material on the exam. ARE 5.0 moved away from basic rote memorization and recall to more meaningful learning so that you truly understand the concepts and how the material spans throughout an entire project.

So for this reason, remember to focus more broadly rather than go deep on a specific subject. You can prove you’re that brilliant, specialized, expert architect after you’ve nabbed that license.

Pro-Tip: Talk it out.

“You’re not expected to know everything about everything, but you’re expected to make reasonable judgment calls on the design of these buildings and coordinate with the people who know a lot more than you in some of these fields…. What would it take to have a reasonable conversation with my structural engineers?” - Kelli Franz

Learning inside of a tiny bubble that consists of you, your computer, and a notebook gets real old real fast. Chat with colleagues about the material. Ask questions. Give your manager a heads up about your exam day.

To be “minimally competent,” you’re expected to make reasonable judgment calls and have competent conversations with colleagues. Try it out! You won’t just learn a lot through these external interactions; sharing will keep you motivated and excited. And it never hurts to have a bonus cheer section on your side.

“My firm pulled out all the stops, they paid for fees and exams and time to take the test, there’s a lot of other colleagues around going through the same thing . . . that really helped to get motivated.” – Michael Miller

Do you have some bonus study tips of your own? We’d love to hear ‘em! Comment below or tweet at us. And definitely check back here for Practice Exam and Exam Day tips in the coming weeks.

As always, we’re here to help you get closer to that coveted license of yours. Learn how Black Spectacles ARE 5.0 Prep can get you there ›