Steps After A Failing ARE Exam

Failing an ARE exam

When we ask what aspiring architects fear the most one of the answers we get most often is: failing ARE exam.  So in this post we’re going to delve into some tips on what to do if you’ve failed an exam so that it doesn’t keep you from achieving your goal of becoming a licensed architect.

Social Pride

One of the biggest things that stop candidates from pursuing licensure after they fail is the perceived social aspect.  It’s common to think,

“I failed, this is a sign that I shouldn’t be an architect.”


“Everyone will look at me as a phoney because I didn’t pass on the first try.”

Both of those are completely bogus.  Some of the best architects failed ARE exams.  No one will be as disappointed as you are when you fail in the same way that no one will be as excited as you when you pass.  If it really worries you about what other people think, don’t let anyone know you’re taking the exam until you’ve received that pass. This is hard work, it takes a lot of self-discipline and drive, but the only way to truly fail is to give up.  At the end of the day this is a battle between you and the exams.  Don’t let some multiple choice questions stand in the way of achieving your goals.

Plan to Fail

failing ARE exam

It’s great to be confident going into an exam, but don’t let your guard down.  If you have extra time, use it to review your answers.

After A Failing ARE Exam

After failing an ARE exam it’s important to ask some questions to assess why you failed the exam and how you can better prepare for your next go.

  • What content categories did you fail and how should that shape your studying? For any levels you received below level 1, assess what resources would be best to improve in those categories.  We have a sortable and clickable list of all the ARE 5.0 study materials.
  • How do your AXP hours align with this exam and the content covered on it?  Working knowledge of topics covered on the exam can greatly help you retain information for testing day.  If you failed an exam take a look at your AXP hours and see if maybe you can gain some more time with on-the-job training before your next test.  Be careful with this one though, it’s a common pitfall for candidates to gain working knowledge that doesn’t exactly line up with the best practice or by-the-book methods.  It’s always helpful to study the information while you’re practicing it.
  • Assess your test taking strategy and methodology. When it comes to any exam, you’ll hear of “good” test takers and “bad” test takers.  Daniel Tosh has pretty funny skit about “bad” test takers.  We don’t necessarily agree with Tosh, but we think that bad test taking is a result of any number of the following factors: anxiety, poor test taking strategies, and/or poor study strategies.  If you get a failing are exam it’s a good idea to do an audit for your test taking strategy.  Check out our ARE test taking tips.
  • Assess your studying strategy and methodology. It’s possible that you spent all your time studying in a way that doesn’t resonate with how you learn.  Unfortunately most of us went through school being taught in a certain way, and when we start studying for the ARE exams we use those same ways, regardless of whether they are effective for us or not.  We’re probably most familiar with tactile, auditory, and visual learning, but there is new information that suggests that there are actually eight “intelligences”.  We also put together a post with some ARE study tips.
  • Schedule your retake.  You might want to move on to another exam after receiving a failing score which is completely fine, but set a timeline for when you plan to retake this test.
  • Shake things up. If you’ve taken an exam a few times and failed it’s probably a good idea to move onto another exam if you have any available.  The NCARB exams always have overlapping information so studying in another area might help reinforce what you’ve already learned

Lastly, remember that nothing worth having comes easy.  You’ve got this.
ARE fail

Have your own tips for those with a failing ARE exam?  Let us know in the comments below.


  1. Kristen July 14, 2018 at 8:07 pm #

    I failed PPP and found it hard to get going again, but I found this site after and it was extremely helpful. As a straight A student who has never failed before this was a blow that I could not take. But after a year and seeing the impending 4.0 deadline, I took action and I recently passed PPP and CDS. I unfortunately failed SPD because the NCARB Software malfunctioned during my examine and NCARB basically did not care. This fail was mich harder for me emotionally because I passed everything but the vignette where the program malfunctioned. I immediately signed up for the 5.0 equivalent PA exam so I didn’t let it interfere. I am still reeling but my coworkers and friends have been supporting and know I have been working hard and are encouraging me to not get off my study track because of one unfortunate event. It’s hard but we all have to get back on that horse.

  2. ELIF June 2, 2018 at 1:18 pm #

    I passed the CDS at second time with the help of this site I believe. First time around I think I didn’t understand the logic of the exam but after solving the CDS, PPP and SPD questions on this site many many times, over and over again I passed!! I recommend solving the same questions over and over again because first of all solving questions and reading the solutions/explanations (even the ones that you did right) teaches really well in general. However there are not too many questions available out there so keep solving the same questions until you get perfect score at home. Secondly, try to study all related exam sections not just the one that you are taking. I think solving SPD and PPP questions here and reading related sections on Kaplan and Ballast helped me a lot to get a better understanding on CDS.

  3. SM508 April 18, 2018 at 7:11 am #

    It is a good idea to practice questions. I have failed PA and now I’m taking a break on it. I don’t think I focused enough on the material. Make a list of what’s expected to know from the ARE handbook and then look at the books they recommend and make a list of the chapters you need to read for that area. In between your reading come to Designer Hacks and test yourself throughout your studies.

  4. ELIF March 15, 2018 at 8:57 am #

    I have failed on CDS once and now I am working again to take it on April after 2 years….I know it was a long pause. The problem was, when I first take the test I studied all available sources, solved all available questions in the market and on the test day it felt like the test had nothing to do with what I have studied/read or practice. After failing the test I found this website and this time I feel a little more confident and we will see what is gonna happen.

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