My ARE story

My story is atypical-I am not the fresh out of college student or the young woman who has been working for a large company for a few years. Though I had an unrelated Bachelor’s degree, I was a lowly draftsperson designing custom homes for years before the last market crash and just happened to know someone hiring at a small architecture firm when the government funding was released in 2009. I worked for that firm for five years and in the meantime learned a little bit about a lot of categories, became a LEED-AP, and earned my manager’s trust enough for him to begin mentoring me. During that time, I also discovered I had epilepsy and suffered a tonic-clonic seizure, having to start medication that hindered my focus abilities beyond measure. Fortunately, I’ve been able to decrease my medication usage and regain access to my brain cells.

Six years ago, I went back to custom home design, and also worked as an independent contractor for various local architects who continued to mentor me. After a long road of completing the AXP requirements, I decided that 2019 would be the year I would complete the ARE Exams. Black Spectacles was the one program which seemed to have the most thorough and integrated study package. I followed the tests in order starting last May (studying began in April), and filled in the missing pieces I hadn’t learned through the 15+ years of experience. I dedicated myself to 90 minutes minimum of studying, 6 days a week, using the Pomodoro method (25 minutes of study, 5 minute break for snack, drink, walking, jumping jacks, etc.). This method is proven to help the material stick. I passed each test except the PPD on the first go. After the first try on PPD, I found a bit of supplemental material to add for the PPD and PDD, studied for 6 additional weeks for both of those and then passed PDD and PPD two weeks apart.The final test was taken and passed in December, 2019 and received my Architecture License in February of this year.

If this 43 year old woman can pass these tests with this training material, 20+ years after completing college, you can do it too. Dedicate the time, it not only helps you pass these exams but it will make you a better professional as well. Best of luck!


Congrats on passing the ARE and getting your license!

First time I’ve heard of the Pomodoro method but it sounds like a smart way to go. Thank you for sharing your story with us!

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What a wonderful story! I love that you used the Pomodoro method for your studying, you’re right it’s a proven method to help the material stick. 90 minutes of studying, 6 days a week is a great rhythm to get into.

And to achieve all of this while dealing with your health and medication complications shows such incredible persistence! Thank you for sharing your story for everyone. I am sure that you will inspire so many with your story!


Hello there Trinidees! Thank you so much for sharing!!!

I totally get you! I’m a bit older than you, to say the least. LOL I had started taking the test back when it was just going onto computers, version 3.0!! Right at that time, I moved from my home state to start a family and a new life with my then husband of 5 years. That was 25 years ago!!! I was well on the path of licensure, passing each section every 2 months. It was 9 sections then. I never heard of the Pomodoro method but I did something similar back when I was passing in the 3.0 version. Unfortunately, I neglected to tell my home state that I moved and I never received the notice that I had to pass certain sections to have them count for 4.0. So here I am, way older than you, and having to start all over again. UGH!

I also got pregnant right after I passed the 1st section of the ARE. I had complications in my pregnancy and my little girl was born with CP. It was such a challenging time for my husband and me. She had many complications and she needed a lot of therapy and help progressing. She’s doing great today though! So the sacrifice was well worth it. She even wants to get a degree in architecture! I restarted taking the test when she and her brother (also has special needs) were little, on 4.0. I went to the Prometrics site and was taking the test when the computer crashed on me!! I’m that person that usually passes a test if I study really hard which I always do. I asked if the program caught the previous stuff and the girl said yes. I did all the things I knew to do and felt good about having passed only to get a big “F” in the mail!!! I truly believe that the crash erased my work. I was more than 3/4 the way in the last half of the test which was then a vignette. I started with a datum line just as they warned. I know I did all I was supposed to do and I passed the written part (which was before the crash) but failed the vignette.

So here we are, now in 5.0, and it is more closely aligned with the 3.0 version. I don’t even know if it’s worth trying to get the credit for the 3 sections I already passed that would overlap directly with PcM, PjM, C&E. I never actually pursued this because it was quite a long time ago. Although I still have the knowledge having continued to work in the field, I wasn’t sure if it was possible. But you have shown me anything is possible if you are willing to go the extra mile and not give up!!!

So we are all familiar with the Covid issues and the Prometric sites closing, right? Well, guess who bought a years subscription to Blackspectacles just before Covid hit? Yup, me!! LOL So of course I couldn’t test the entire year and found it nearly impossible to study what with all the chaos and mayhem going on. But that’s on me. I know others did it and were successful. Not an excuse but I also just started a new job which was very demanding as well. I’m still not willing to give up on this because I don’t want my kids to see their Mom as someone who gives up, especially when they have to fight so hard every day just to do the simplest of tasks. The expense of getting the license is truly mind boggling though. I’m not getting paid that much even though my experience and knowledge should get me a higher salary. I think not having my license has definitely held me back when it comes to opportunities and salary increases.

Would you be able to give me any advice? If so, I’d greatly appreciate it. I don’t believe in coincidences and I think you writing this and me finding it wasn’t one. You are a very brave and amazing lady!!! I can say that you sharing your journey was such a blessing to me even if all it did was to inspire me to not give up!!! Thank you so much and keep on trucking sister!!! You got this!!!

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Greetings Jacqueline!

Never give up!

Thank you so much for the message. My apologies for taking so long to write back.

You are so strong and resilient…we working moms have much to navigate, manage and think about, always, and it takes that resilience to achieve the goals we set for ourselves, no matter what age we start or accomplish them.

It sounds like, with your background, you do deserve great job opportunities and pay that reflects your experience. Your dedication warrants that!

If I were you, I would see how much of the previous testing you can get credit for. Maybe it will save you the time and money of taking more tests than necessary. Even if you don’t get those credits though, the only way to make it happen is to set a deadline for completion. Plan to pass one test every two months. That will give you enough time, within a year, to retake a couple if you need to. You probably won’t need to retake any because you’ve been in the industry so long. I was surprised how much I knew even after 15 years…

I hope this finds you well and happy…many blessings to you for the best future- become the architect! You already are, you just need your state to acknowledge it too!

All my best,


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