Path to Licensure: Advice on Experience and Examination

With college commencements having occurred last month, many newly graduated architecture students are soon entering our industry. For these graduates, we offer the following interview with Orsi as she discusses her path to licensure, including work experience and examination.

Was licensure always a goal for you?

I’ve always planned on becoming a licensed architect which is why I decided to pursue the 5-year Bachelor of Architecture degree. For me, it was a personal goal. I saw it as not only the next step in my professional career, but also as the culmination of my collegiate education.

How long did it take to complete your experience requirements?

I worked at a firm while pursuing my degree at Temple University; therefore I started to earn experience while still in school. I was able to complete my IDP (recently renamed AXP) two years post-graduation.

What is some advice for current students or recent grads regarding work experience?

Simply put, get as much experience as you can and establish your NCARB record to keep track of your hours (and later your exams and licenses). I worked for a small architecture firm, where I was exposed to and involved in all facets of the profession on a daily basis. During my early years, I ran blueprints and maintained the materials library, in addition to drafting. As my experience grew so did my responsibilities and eventually I became a Project Manager running all aspects of my own projects. These early experiences contributed to owning my own practice today. My advice for anyone is to ask to be involved and to appreciate all that goes into the design and construction of a building. Keep in mind that there are no small tasks and that you can learn something from everything.

How long did it take to complete your Architect Registration Examination (ARE)?

It took me 20 months from my first study session to my last exam. I tested under ARE 4.0, so there were 7 divisions total.

What were some of your study strategies?

I studied for one division at a time. On average, I gave myself about 2½ months to prepare for each. I started with the valuable materials and information found on NCARB’s website. As my primary study aid I used the Kaplan (recently renamed Brightwood) study guides. I highlighted important points as I read and then took notes from them afterwards. Later, I reviewed those notes. The books included quizzes at the end of each chapter and a final exam. After completing the quizzes and exams, I used them as part of my review process as well. For the Structural Systems and Building Systems, specifically, I watched YouTube videos. Seeing concepts visually explained helped me to understand them better. Regarding the vignettes (in ARE 5.0, case studies have replaced vignettes), I just practiced to the point where I became comfortable with the software. During the exam, your time is valuable and solving the design problem should not be affected by your lack of software knowledge,

How did you stay motivated while studying for the ARE?

I stayed motivated thanks to my study group. From day one, I studied with a friend. We met once a week for about two hours to review the chapters we had read the week prior. We would go over quizzes together and discuss any material that we didn’t quite grasp. The buddy system ensured that we stayed on schedule and were not only accountable to ourselves but to each other as well. And the bottom line is that it worked.

What is one advice you’d give to others studying for the ARE?

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the whole process. The important thing is to break it down to manageable pieces. While passing the ARE was always in the back of my mind, I tried to concentrate not even on passing one division, but on just reading one chapter and understanding its content. Also, realize that it is only a test. It’s impossible to memorize all the content and you don’t have. The test is less about knowing every piece of data, and more about understanding concepts. Study enough where you get comfortable with the software and the concepts. Later, once you’ve successfully passed the ARE, you’ll have plenty of time to gain more knowledge in the areas that interest you. Realize that this is only the beginning of your continuing education.

Now that you are a Registered Architect, how do you feel about the ARE process?

As stressful and challenging as it may have been, it made passing the ARE that much more rewarding. Additionally, I think that preparing for the exam may expose you to topics that you haven’t been to either in school or through work experience. You might just find a new area of interest that you’d like to pursue further, which in turn will only make you a better architect.