Monday, October 9, 2017

Passing the Test

I have literally no advice for anyone taking and passing the Architectural Registration Exam today.  I am sure that was not the intent of this month's topic, but I took it so long ago...

How long ago was it?

I am glad you asked.  It was so long ago the Vitruvius only had seven Books on Architecture at that point.  John Ruskin only had five Lamps of Architecture back then.  They were just digging the foundation for This Old House...
From my yearbook...

Alright, it wasn't that long ago, but I did begin in 1999.  It was version 1.0 of the fully computerized test, I believe.  I couldn't wait to get it done.  I think the fact that I didn't know what to call myself until I did finish the exam pushed me.  I was once introduced to a client as "an intern" after a few years on the job.  Then the client asked when I went back to school.  Come on, man!

I completed my hours for the Intern Development Program (now called AXP) in the minimum amount of time possible and registered to take my first division of the test.  I resolved to take one division per month until I passed all of them.  There were nine divisions then.  I took the first exam in October 1999 and finished the last in June of 2000.

There were two other interns in the office taking the exams at the same time.  I remember the three of us rummaging through the mail bin to try and find our letters from the State Licensure Board to see if we passed or not.  You see, you used to have to take the exam at the testing center and leave without knowing if you passed or not.  What's more is, notification was snail mailed to you and, looking at the postmarks, we had to wait a full month after sitting for the exam whether or not you passed.  It was a painstaking wait!
This is all we got and we had to wait about a month to get it!

Older architects would regale us "newbies" on the merits of taking the entire exam over the course of several consecutive days in an old Post Office in Philadelphia, with T-Squares on old doors.  But being in the first generation of computerized testing was also a challenge.  The design software was available for download for practice for the Building Planning and Site Planning portions of the exam.  The software was was rinky-dink and fussy.  Otherwise, the tests were more or less multiple choice on the computer, which sounds easy, but I recall only leaving one exam with a feeling that I definitely passed it.  I was lucky enough to pass them all the first time, but there was one which scared to devil out of me.
Ah, the good olde days.

I forget which test it was, I think it may have been Materials and Methods, but I was at the end of one section of the exam.  Back then the computer saved each section before loading the next section  you were going to take.  After the second of three sections I pressed the "Save and Go to the Next Section" button - and I got a Fatal Error.  I had to get the test administrator to restart the computer.  The administrator couldn't tell me whether the saving "took" or not.  I was left to complete section three of three not knowing if the first two sections saved properly or not.  That was a long month to wait for a Score Report.
Never a good thing.  Really not a good thing on an exam.

Fortunately it came back as a "PASS".  But that is all they tell you in the test report.  If you failed, there was no indication on what you didn't do well on in order to study for the next time.

This post is part of the ArchiTalks series where a group of us (architects who also blog) all post on the same day and promote each other’s blogs. This month’s theme is "The Architectural Registration Exam" and was led by Meghana Joshi.  A lot of other talented writers who also are architects are listed below and are worth checking out:

Matthew Stanfield - FiELD9: architecture (@FiELD9arch)
What is the Big Deal about the ARE?
Lee Calisti, AIA - Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
what A.R.E. you willing to do
Lora Teagarden - L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Take the architect registration exam, already
Eric T. Faulkner - Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
ARE - The Turnstile
Michele Grace Hottel - Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
the architect registration exam

Brian Paletz - The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
I forget
Drew Paul Bell - Drew Paul Bell (@DrewPaulBell)
The Architecture Registration Exam
Jeffrey Pelletier - Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
What is the Benefit of Becoming a Licensed Architect?
Kyu Young Kim - J&K Atelier (@sokokyu)
Every Architect's Agony
Nisha Kandiah - ArchiDragon (@ArchiDragon)
To do or not to do ?
Keith Palma - Architect's Trace (@cogitatedesign)
Test or Task
Mark Stephens - Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
Part 3!
Ilaria Marani - Creative Aptitude (@creaptitude)
How to Become a Licensed Architect in Italy
Jane Vorbrodt - Kuno Architecture (@janevorbrodt)
Seven Years of Highlighters and Post-it Notes


  1. Heh ya...I did the exams just a few years after you. I dug out one of the old NCARB mailings last night just to remind myself.. I mean, there was a kind of extremely nerdy thrill that I remember getting from those PASS notifications. I think I would have preferred to do the exams on paper, by hand. Oh, btw, the link to my post above is broken, my fault, I messed up. Can you please replace it with Thank you so much. -Jane

    1. Fixed the link - liked your post although I had done a good job up to that point of blanking out the testing center feeling out of my memory - now it is back! Mine was between a Chinese restaurant and a KMart in a strip mall. Ah the stale air hinted with tones of fried rice...