10 Tips for Passing the ARE Exam on Your First Try

September 18, 2023

Here’s an astonishing fact: according to the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB), the average pass rate for all divisions of the ARE exam hovers around 50 percent. While this statistic might seem intimidating, don’t be discouraged. The journey of becoming an architect is challenging, but with the right approach and resources, it’s an achievable goal.

The Architect Registration Examination (ARE®) is a critical milestone in an aspiring architect’s career. Passing it means more than just proving your knowledge and skill—it’s a confirmation of your professional competence, a testament to your dedication, and a gateway to the world of licensed architects. But with the rigorous demands of the exam, how can one ensure a pass on the first try?

That’s where we come in. In this article, we’ll unpack ten actionable tips to pass the ARE® exam on your first attempt. Let’s dive in.

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1. Start Early

Importance of Early Preparation

Starting early cannot be overstated for a comprehensive exam like ARE®. Early preparation provides ample time to familiarize yourself with the breadth and depth of the exam content. More time equates to a slower pace, reducing stress and enabling a thorough understanding of complex concepts.

The Right Time to Start

But when exactly should you start? This varies depending on individual circumstances and previous experience. However, a good rule of thumb is to commence at least six months before your exam date.

2. Create a Study Plan

Crafting an Effective Plan

Creating a study plan is paramount to your success. It provides structure to your preparation, keeps you on track, and helps manage the daunting volume of information. Your plan should include a timetable of study hours, a breakdown of topics to cover, and a method for reviewing what you’ve learned.

Sticking to the Plan

Sticking to your plan is equally important. Remain disciplined, but be flexible enough to make necessary adjustments to your plan as you progress in your study. Remember, the study plan is a guide—not an unchangeable contract.

3. Use Multiple Study Materials

Variety is Key

Leverage a variety of study resources. Books, online courses, webinars, and forums offer different perspectives and can help clarify difficult concepts. Websites like PrepArchitect provide invaluable study materials tailored specifically for the ARE® exam.

Complementing with Practice Exams

Pair your study materials with practice exams. These mimic the actual ARE® exam, providing an idea of what to expect, enabling you to measure your knowledge and adjust your study plan accordingly.


Don’t just passively read or watch your study materials. Engage with them by taking notes, discussing with peers, or teaching the content to someone else. Active engagement can boost comprehension and retention.

4. Take Practice Exams

The Value of Practice Exams

Practice exams are critical in your preparation. Not only do they offer a measure of your understanding, but they also give insight into the exam’s structure, question formats, and time pressure. Regularly taking these exams will increase your familiarity with the ARE® exam style, improving your performance.

Analyze Your Performance

Don’t just take practice exams—analyze your results. Pinpoint areas you struggled with and use these insights to refine your study plan. Remember, it’s about studying smart, not just hard.

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5. Focus on Weak Areas

The Power of Targeted Studying

Don’t fall into the trap of studying what you already know. Identifying and focusing on your weak areas will make your study efforts more effective. It’s not the easiest approach—it’s always more comfortable to review familiar topics—but it’s a strategy that pays off in high-stakes exams like ARE®.

6. Stay Motivated

Set Achievable Goals

It’s natural to feel overwhelmed or unmotivated at times during your preparation. To combat this, set short-term, achievable goals. Each small victory will keep you motivated and drive you closer to your ultimate goal: passing the ARE® exam.

Surround Yourself with Support

Surrounding yourself with a support system can also keep your spirits high. Whether it’s family, friends, or fellow aspiring architects, a supportive network can provide much-needed encouragement and perspective during challenging times.

7. Take Breaks

The Role of Rest

While preparing for the ARE® exam requires a significant time investment, it’s vital to remember that breaks are not a luxury—they’re a necessity. Allowing your brain time to rest and absorb information is crucial for long-term retention.

Techniques for Taking Breaks

Embrace techniques like the Pomodoro method, where you study for a set time (e.g., 25 minutes) then take a short break (e.g., 5 minutes). Regular breaks can enhance focus and productivity, making your study sessions more effective.

 8. Get Plenty of Sleep

Why Sleep Matters

While it may be tempting to pull all-nighters to cram more information, skimping on sleep can be counterproductive. Lack of sleep leads to decreased concentration, impaired memory, and reduced ability to think critically—all crucial skills for acing the ARE® exam.

Sleep and Performance

Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep each night, especially in the days leading up to the exam. A well-rested mind is more alert, focused, and able to recall information, making sleep your secret weapon for peak performance.

9. Manage Your Time

Time Management in Studying

Effective time management is a two-fold process in your ARE® exam preparation. Firstly, it involves organizing your study time efficiently—prioritizing weak areas, rotating between topics to avoid fatigue, and allocating time for regular reviews.

Time Management During the Exam

Secondly, it refers to managing time during the actual exam. Be aware of the time limits for each section and practice pacing yourself accordingly during your practice exams. Knowing how to quickly interpret and respond to questions under time pressure is a skill that can earn you valuable points.

10. Stay Positive

Mindset Matters

Maintaining a positive mindset is more than just a motivational mantra—it’s a proven performance enhancer. Believe in your abilities, visualize your success, and remember why you’re on this journey. A positive attitude will help you stay resilient in the face of challenges and bounce back from setbacks.

Banishing Self-Doubt

Self-doubt can be a formidable obstacle. Counter it with self-affirmations and reminders of past successes. Celebrate your progress—every concept mastered and every practice exam completed is a step closer to your goal.

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Let PrepArchitect Light Your Path 

While this journey may seem arduous, remember that you don’t have to walk it alone. PrepArchitect is here to support you every step of the way. With a wealth of resources specifically tailored for the ARE®, you’ll have access to comprehensive study materials, practice exams, and a supportive community of fellow test-takers. 

Our goal at PrepArchitect is not just to help you pass the exam—we want to help you thrive in it. Because we believe in your potential and we’re committed to turning your architectural dreams into reality.

Embrace the journey, trust the process, and let PrepArchitect be your guiding light on the path to becoming a licensed architect. Here’s to your success on the ARE® exam!

Disclaimer: PrepArchitect and this blog post are not affiliated with or endorsed by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). ARE® is a registered trademark owned by NCARB.

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