7 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Preparing for the NCARB ARE 5.0 Exam

December 12, 2023

As the famed American architect, Louis Kahn once said, “A great building must begin with the immeasurable, must go through measurable means when it is being designed, and in the end, must be unmeasured.” This sentiment resonates well with aspiring architects preparing for the architecture accreditation exam. It’s a journey that begins with immeasurable passion and enthusiasm, goes through a rigorous, measurable process of preparation, and eventually culminates in a significant milestone – passing the exam. However, many stumble along the way, falling prey to common mistakes in their exam preparation. Recognizing these pitfalls can help you navigate the path to success more efficiently.

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Inadequate Study Time

The architecture accreditation exam is a vast ocean of concepts, methods, and applications. Many aspirants stumble on the first step by not allocating sufficient time for studying this vast curriculum. To avoid falling into this trap, create a detailed study plan that accommodates all the topics required for the exam. Dedicate adequate time for each concept, utilizing various study materials such as textbooks, online resources, and practice exams to fortify your understanding.

Overemphasis on a Single Topic

In the race to master key areas of study, students often overlook the importance of gaining a holistic understanding of the subject. Overemphasis on a single topic can leave gaps in knowledge about others, skewing your preparation and potentially impacting your performance in the exam. To steer clear of this pitfall, ensure a balanced approach to your studies. Use comprehensive study materials and engage with sample questions from each topic to cultivate a well-rounded knowledge base.

Insufficient Practice

The architecture accreditation exam is not just a test of knowledge, but also a test of application. Insufficient practice can weaken your ability to confidently and correctly apply your knowledge under the pressure of the exam. Combat this by practicing as many sample questions and real-world scenarios as possible. Utilize practice exams and online resources to simulate the exam environment and familiarize yourself with the potential question formats.

Skimming Through Questions

Another widespread mistake among candidates is hastily reading through the exam questions, often missing out on crucial details. The questions in the architecture accreditation exam are typically multifaceted, requiring a meticulous reading to understand the problem correctly. Make a conscious effort to read each question slowly and deliberately. Pay special attention to keywords and tricky phrases that could provide clues to the correct answer. Being alert to details can help you avoid falling for traps such as double negatives or irrelevant information.

Poor Time Management

As the saying goes, “Time and tide wait for no man.” The architecture accreditation exam, being a timed test, necessitates proficient time management. A lack of it could leave you racing against the clock, increasing stress and potentially leading to careless mistakes. Develop and practice time management techniques such as pacing yourself, skipping challenging questions to return to them later, and judiciously allocating time for each section of the exam.

Not Seeking Help

Sometimes, the journey to architectural accreditation can feel like a solitary trek. But remember, you don’t have to climb this mountain alone. Many students falter by not seeking help when they face difficulties. If you find yourself grappling with a tough topic or question, don’t hesitate to reach out for assistance. Tutors, professors, classmates, and even online forums or study groups can prove to be invaluable resources during your preparation.

Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay

Neglecting Self-Care

Last but not least, an often-overlooked error is neglecting self-care amidst the exam preparation process. The rigors of preparing for the architecture accreditation exam can take a toll on your physical and mental health. Make sure you maintain a balanced lifestyle throughout your preparation journey. Prioritize sleep, maintain a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and don’t forget to take breaks. Consider adopting stress management techniques like meditation or deep breathing exercises to help you stay centered and calm.


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.

A Closer Look at Common Mistakes

As we have identified these common mistakes, let’s delve deeper into a few of these issues and provide more context. We’ll cover four key mistakes and suggest strategies to avoid them.

Neglecting Balance in Study Topics

Overemphasis on Favorite Topics

It’s natural to gravitate towards topics you enjoy or excel in. However, overindulging in these can lead to an imbalanced preparation, creating blind spots in other critical areas.

  • Step 1: Identify all necessary topics for the exam and make a checklist.
  • Step 2: Allocate time for each topic based on its complexity and your current understanding.
  • Step 3: Stick to your schedule, resisting the urge to spend extra time on favored topics.
  • Step 4: Review and adjust your plan regularly to account for progress and challenges.

Ignoring Difficult Topics

Conversely, aspirants may tend to avoid difficult topics, leaving considerable gaps in their knowledge.

  • Step 1: Identify the topics you find challenging.
  • Step 2: Allocate more time to these areas and seek help if needed.
  • Step 3: Use various resources like online tutorials, textbooks, or group studies to understand these topics better.
  • Step 4: Regularly self-assess your progress and adjust your plan accordingly.

Lack of Practical Application

Solely Relying on Theoretical Knowledge

The architecture accreditation exam tests not only theoretical knowledge but also practical application. Sole reliance on theory can limit your ability to respond to application-based questions effectively.

  • Step 1: Practice problem-solving with real-world scenarios.
  • Step 2: Use practice tests to familiarize yourself with application-based questions.
  • Step 3: Review solutions for practice questions to understand the application of theory.
  • Step 4: Regularly test yourself to gauge your progress.

Inadequate Exposure to Various Question Types

Different question types require different approaches. Not exposing yourself to a variety can impact your performance.

  • Step 1: Identify different types of questions you may encounter in the exam.
  • Step 2: Understand how to approach each question type.
  • Step 3: Practice answering various types of questions.
  • Step 4: Regularly review your responses to improve your approach.
Image by annca from Pixabay

Wrapping Up!

By thoroughly understanding these common mistakes and implementing the suggested steps, you can effectively prepare for the architecture accreditation exam. Remember, the journey towards architectural accreditation is not about perfection, but progress. And every step you take brings you closer to your goal.

At PrepArchitect, we are dedicated to providing comprehensive, curated resources to help you avoid these common pitfalls and excel in your exam. Start your preparation journey with us today and build the foundation for a successful architectural career.

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