Coming out of school and entering the profession of architecture, the thought of spending any more time studying or taking another test was the last thing I wanted to do. Becoming licensed, while a career goal, was not high on the priority list. This changed this past spring when my wife and I learned we would be expecting our first child. I knew that free time would become even more of a limited commodity and if I wanted to become licensed starting the testing process would become harder the longer I put it off. Looking for study materials, I wanted to be efficient with my time and not let the ARE control my life. With the motto of “the highest likelihood of passing in the least amount of time studying” the Amber Book study material seemed to be the best fit.  Here are some takeaways that I learned through the process and using the Amber Book material.

Taylor Terrill

Have self-discipline.

There is no way of getting around taking the exams without putting in the effort. I kept hearing terrible stories from colleagues about being chained to their study materials, saying goodbye to their social life for months, and taking and retaking tests. Following the Amber Book curriculum guidelines, you can expect to study about twenty one hours a week for six to seven weeks. Yes, you do have to have the self-discipline to study. No, you don’t have to say goodbye to your friends and family. The content is concise and self-paced. If you get behind one week because life was crazy, you can catch up the following week.

Take all your exams at once, as fast as you can.

I scheduled all six divisions for a marathon six-day adventure at my local testing center.  This can seem intimidating at first, but now being on the other side of it, I wouldn’t recommend you do it any other way. You just spent all this time studying in-depth; take all the divisions while the content is still fresh. There is so much overlap in content between sections that it feels like one giant test rather than six individual sections. It was also a nice feeling to be done with the process in a week rather than dragging it out over a year.

You don’t have to know everything.

Set aside the mindset that you have to completely master every subject before testing. You don’t get a letter grade at the end of your test, you just have to pass.   The test content can become daunting if you feel like you have to know the finite details of the practice of architecture. Potentially failing an exam can feel like a setback, but so can spending fifty unnecessary hours studying to pass a single section of the exam. The Amber Book curriculum does a good job of giving you enough confidence to say you understand the concept, but not overwhelm you with too many details that are less likely to be on the test.

You know more than you think.

If you have had any experience in the profession of architecture, the course does an excellent job of acknowledging what you most likely already know and spends more time in areas that you may be less familiar with. You quickly will be able to relate content in the teaching modules to what you recently saw on a job site or an interaction with a client. The course prioritizes content based on “yield” meaning you’ll spend more time on areas that are heavily tested and less time on areas that have fewer questions on the exam.

You’ll become a better architect.

This isn’t like studying for the SAT where you memorize unnecessary vocabulary words and learn testing strategies. By the end of the Amber Book curriculum, you will ask better questions. Your field reports will become better.  You will have a better understanding of what your MEP consultants are talking about during a conference call. Your email correspondence between contractors will become clearer. Overall, the course not only prepared me for the ARE, it made me a better architect.

My experience lived up to the study material’s motto and in the end, I passed all six divisions within a week on my first attempt. All that’s left is the easy part,  to complete my last few remaining APX hours. Taking the ARE is a huge undertaking and should not be taken lightly. But using the Amber Book material equipped me with the best process for studying and fast-tracked my journey in becoming licensed. Plus, I didn’t have to say goodbye to my friends and family.

AIA Virginia still has discounted Amber Book subscriptions available! Click here for more info.