Can AREs Be a Positive Experience?

Let me answer my own question before I say anything else:

Yes. I genuinely believe you can turn your ARE experience into something positive.

It has its ups and downs -like your test crashing is not in your control and can really spoil your experience- but overall, if you have the right approach to this at the start, you can have a much more positive experience.


It has been a while since I started talking to ARE-takers. I had one on one exchanges with over a thousand people at this point. I have access to many anecdotal data regarding how people study and pass these exams. So I shaped a few opinions about how to study for these exams and how to pass while still enjoying the process. I am not saying, This is the Way, but I trust my understanding and approach to AREs is one of the working methods.

It has more to it than to the list below but, in a nutshell, my method is:

  • Regularly study every day, 1.5 to 3 hours.
  • Start with reading the books listed by NCARB in the Reference Matrix and solve a TON of questions to supplement.
  • Use any third party to supplement your studies.
  • Set the right expectation from the start that this will take time and patience, and failing is part of it.
  • Don’t have a deadline; study as much as you need for each exam.
  • Don’t compare yourself to others. We all have different backgrounds and experience levels.
  • Don’t believe too good to be true ARE stories you read on social media. Do you believe everything else you see on social media? I don’t. 😉

In my opinion, well-informed people set the right expectations. They experience fewer headaches and fewer heartbreaks along the way. They can recover from failure much faster. That is why, even though my suggestions seem to be very hard to do, based on my experience, recovering from a failure is much much easier once you know what to expect from the start. Restoring self-esteem, believing in the process and remembering your motivation to start it at the beginning is much easier when you have the right tools and a well-rounded understanding of what you are going through.

One day, I received an email from a guy who quietly read all of my social media comments, my blog posts.. and followed what I suggested on his own. He never reached out to me until after passing all his exams. His coworkers gave him such a hard time along the way because they all said it didn’t make sense how hard he was studying for the same exams they did. It made him question his decision to follow suggestions, but somehow he kept following, and he eventually passed all of his exams. He said he would hate to fail or fail the same exam over and over. The fear of failure made him follow my suggestions. I can relate to that, by the way. Some people may have nerves of steel; I am not one of them. LOL. This guy wasn’t either. He read all the books in the Reference Matrix with stars next to them. He solved hundreds of questions every day, especially the last 2 weeks before his exams. He studied for 2-3 hours every day regularly, even more on weekends and holidays… He only failed once, but it wasn’t as frightening as before because he knew what to do next… I think you got the gist. Obviously, he wasn’t done in 2 weeks or 2 months cause reading MEEB takes 2 months, LOL, but he was done in a very reasonable time, much less than what I spent to pass my exams. I intentionally will not tell you how long it took him to complete it because I HATE setting a deadline for the process. It increases stress for no good reason. But in the end, he finished his exams before his colleagues, and now they were all converting to what he did.

When I explain my methods to people in person, sometimes they frown and ask questions that have a lot of buts in them:

  • But I don’t have time to read all those books. (Most of the time, this means I don’t want to spend time reading cause it is boring)
  • But I saw a post online saying they finished all their exams in 2 days with no studying, LOL!
  • But how can someone read a book with a thousand pages?
  • But did you really read MEEB, did you..? (insert suspicious looks here)
  • But…
  • But…
  • But…

Before asking these questions, one thing they fail to think is;

I am a third-party provider myself, too, right? So before telling you to read MEEB or HCL, why don’t I try to sell you my materials?

If I told you all you need is maybe a book or two and my questions and videos…you would LOVE me (at first), and I would make more money.

Am I secretly self-destructive? LOL

OR, I know how traumatizing it can be to fail if you tried this, and it probably wouldn’t work. I think you know the answer.😉

But again, I am not saying this is the only method to pass AREs. You are free to make your own decision. After all, there are a lot of opinions about AREs out there. But this is the method/answer you will hear from me when you reach out. I cannot lie to you to make you feel better. I don’t want just to get your money and don’t think about what happens to you after you fail an exam. I know how it is.

What you need to change here (to turn your experience into something positive) is your opinion about reading. Reading takes time. That is correct. But why can’t you spend some time to achieve this goal in your career? Why is the rush? Or, to ask it from another direction, why do you assume you will have a better ARE experience when you rush the process? It is typically the opposite.

Do you think it takes 2.7 years on average to complete these exams because everyone is spending these years reading? I don’t think so.

More like, it goes like this: 

👉🏼Everyone assumes they will be done with minimal effort, like the guy they saw on the NCARB forum who completed their exams in 6 months and start with that expectation.

👉🏼Fail the first exam.

👉🏼Quit the whole thing for 6 months.

👉🏼Come back trying the same method again, maybe passing 1 or 2 exams this time but spending another year.

👉🏼After 1.5 years, realising this is not gonna work, so switching to doing more deeper research and changing my perspective from just passing the exams to learning the content,

👉🏼And after another year, passing the remaining exams and being done!

Total of 2.5 years.

Sounds familiar? I know, right? We’ve all been there…Believe me 😂

So even though reading is hard, during the process, we all come to accept it after some point and start doing something similar to the method I feel like working the best.

So why not start doing it from the get-go?

Besides, reading may not be as hard/bland/impossible as you think. You have done it for min 16 years until you finished architectural school. We forgot about how good reading was. The ability to learn is a gift. You will become a better architect in the end. We have zero patience or attention span left for anything, but life can be more than scrolling down Instagram. You can regain your reading skills. It is a process, but I swear it comes back.

So all I say is, if you change your perspective/opinion about reading and learning, this can be turned into a positive experience. I wish someone told me this when I started my journey.