How I passed the ARE

I can’t say I look back on this period of time fondly. The road was curvier and bumpier than I had hoped; and I fell into the ditches on the side a couple of times. It took approximately three years for me to complete all of them.

I took all of my exams under ARE 4.0 back when there were seven, still computerized but with the vignette. I had already been out of school for a few years and gotten my LEED AP. Though I can’t exactly remember, I think I needed to complete all my IDP (now AXP) hours before I could sit for an exam which is why it took me some time post graduation to get one under my belt. I started with Construction Documents & Services (CDS) in 2009. I was told this was one of the easier exams; and I knew I needed a win to keep me motivated. Fortunately, I passed.

That wasn’t the case for all of the exams. I failed BS and SS twice. My hangup on Building Systems was electrical. After the second fail, I knew I needed to supplement my studies. I had read Kaplan and Ballast. I had actually read MEEB. It wasn’t clicking. So I found an AIA Workshop for architects on electrical engineering; it didn’t hurt. I also reached out to an electrical engineer I had worked with and asked to meet one Saturday for brunch. He walked me through the basics about three times in three different ways until it clicked; and I could repeat it back to him. THIS worked. I reached out to a structural engineer and essentially did the same thing. I passed on the third try for both.

We didn’t get scores the day of the exam. I had to wait weeks before getting a letter in the mail with the PASS or FAIL. I checked the mail every day, anxiously awaiting results. My performance was all-consuming and no other studying was getting done while I waited. I procrastinated and crammed, drinking far too many Red Bulls. I paid rescheduling fees (ouch!) because I cut it too close on a few occasions. My technique was far from healthy or ideal; and I would like to think that if I were to do it again, I’d go about it a different way. I was working full time and burning the candle at both ends in hopes my efforts would one day pay off; and they did.


“(until) I could repeat it back to him. THIS worked”. I love how you diagnosed your own gap in knowledge, and drilled into it, finding these extra resources, and as you say, repeated what you learned back to him. That’s a brilliant method for burning something into your memory, if you can teach it to someone, you know you understand it… Three years is a long road, clearly persistence is a key trait to your success. Thank you for sharing your story for everyone to see. I’m sure it will be inspiring to so many who read this!