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How to go from Failing the ARE 5.0 to PASSING by knowing what a failed exam REALLY means

sad emerging professional receiving likely fail on architecture exam

“I failed the ARE.”

Don't worry. You're not alone! I’VE BEEN THERE, TOO.

I recall first seeing the “FAIL” on my ARE exam. Overcome with defeat and confusion, I went to my car and literally Googled, “I just failed the ARE 5.0.”

“WHAT DO I DO NOW?!” I kept asking myself.

To my surprise, there wasn’t a lot of information online that gave me answers on what my next steps would be. Sure, a couple were helpful, but not enough to make me feel like I was understood.

Logically, I knew that it wasn’t the end of the world (or my career, to be less dramatic), but at that exact moment, it felt so frustrating and embarrassing. I felt like I wasted a HUGE chunk of my time and energy. What bummed me out the most was knowing that I had to go through it all over again.

This inspired me to do what I do now. I promised myself that once I finished the AREs, I would share my experiences and help others going through the same thing so they won’t feel like they were going through it alone. In March 2020, I came out with my first video, discussing my ARE process and the realities of failing. That video ended up taking off, and since then, I’ve had tons of amazing conversations with people about their ARE journeys. This encouraged me, even more, to use my platform to help make the ARE journey a little bit easier.

Today, I want to go back to my original intent on why I started all of this. It’s COMPLETELY normal to feel disappointed and discouraged after putting so much time and effort into studying. However, it's important to remember that success is not achieved by avoiding failure but by persevering through it.

I know this topic is an uncomfortable one, but I realized that it’s something that needs to be talked about. Failing the AREs doesn’t mean you’re not a good architect or you’re not meant to do this. In fact, some of the most successful architects and designers have faced setbacks and failures before achieving greatness. So, don't throw in the towel just yet! Take a deep breath, shake off the disappointment, and let's talk about ways to help you bounce back stronger than ever so you can become the LICENSED ARCHITECT you were meant to be.

NCARB ARE 5.0 Pass Rates

Let’s be real. Unfortunately, failing the AREs is COMMON.

It may feel heavy and monumental, but trust me, once you’re licensed, it will feel much smaller than it does now. In fact, once you become a licensed architect, people won’t even care or even ask about your failed exams. While passing the ARE is a significant milestone in your architectural career, it's not the only thing that defines you as an architect.

If you’re looking for info to support what I’m saying, here’s a fun fact: The passing rate for the ARE is an AVERAGE OF 55%. Knowing the reality of the statistics and knowing there is a high chance you MIGHT fail can really change your expectations. Of course, it’s important to study hard and go into it confidently, but taking the exam with a prepared mind and thought-out steps to move forward can make ALL THE DIFFERENCE.

Woman making a study plan

One of the best ways to move forward from a failed exam is to make a plan; with specific steps to identify areas where improvement is needed, such as reviewing study materials or seeking additional resources and support. Having a plan will help you keep on track AND provide a sense of direction and purpose.

There’s a story about Michael Phelps that has always stuck with me. During swim meets, he would visualize every scenario possible (good or bad) and devise a plan in his head for each of them so no matter what happens, it doesn’t throw him off his game. When you don’t create a plan of action for bad scenarios, it’s really easy for your brain to go into “defeat mode.” We quickly give up and accept defeat even if there’s still a chance to turn things around. Imagine if Michael Phelps had this mindset. The moment something went wrong in a meet, he would give up even if it wasn’t over yet… Swimming slower, telling himself he isn’t going to win, and just stopped trying… He wouldn’t be the multi-medal famous swimmer he is today.

Now, imagine sitting down to take your first ARE exam, and your first three questions are things you know nothing about. If you don’t have a plan of action, you’ll be ruminating over what you couldn’t answer and self-sabotaging the rest of your exam because your focus is hyper-fixated on what you DIDN’T know instead of tapping into what you DO know.

In my group coaching program, Mind Over ARE, I talk about creating a plan a lot. We tackle different strategies, action steps, and what to do during, before, and after the exams. These are amazing ways to help you stay consistent, motivated, and tap into what you know versus letting fear take over and becoming a self-saboteur. If you want to join us, click here to get on the waitlist. I’d love to have you join us!

feel deal heal conversation card deck
Tiffany Roe | Feel Deal Heal

Tiffany Roe (an amazing therapist!) has this tagline that I love!

“Feel, deal, heal.”

It’s so simple, yet so true! And I think more people need to hear this.

When we fail an exam, it’s easy to push things (and people!) away and sweep things under the rug. When we cower, we end up associating the AREs with our bad experiences. We develop anxiety and deal with things through procrastination, self-doubt, or plainly not wanting to try again. I firmly believe that “life is all about perception,” Most of the time, our perceptions and reality are influenced by our past experiences.

It is critical to FEEL and acknowledge the emotions (even though they’re probably mostly negative). Ignoring or suppressing your feelings can actually hinder your ability to move forward and grow from the situation. Once you’ve conceded to the situation and accepted your feelings, it’s time to DEAL with what you went through. After releasing all that initial build-up of emotions, you'll have the strength to take a step back from the situation, see it with a clearer understanding, and start thinking of your next steps. Finally, you can HEAL. Regain your energy and confidence, and move on with a positive mind and happy heart.


A failed exam is just DATA.

A failed exam is literally just data letting you know what areas you need to improve on. THAT’S IT.

When we get a failed exam, we have to stop turning the results into an identity. We have to stop taking it as “I’m a failure” or “I’m not meant to do this” and start thinking, “I didn’t pass because the data wasn’t proficient enough.” Look at the failed exam for what it is rather than identifying as a failure.


If you’re doing the same thing over and over and it isn’t working, something has to change. We have to change in order to create change.

Everyone is different. What works for some may not work for others. Understanding yourself as a student, learner, and architect can make a HUGE impact on your results.

As I mentioned, my goal is to use my platform to help people through the ARE process. I have a few things that I hope will help:

  • ARE Personality Type Quiz: This is a fun quiz to help you figure out what studying personality you have. Knowing what personality type you are is one of the most significant factors when it comes to retaining information. Your quiz results will help you optimize your studying style and give you tips on leveraging your strengths.

  • Study Notes Workshop: In this workshop, I’ll teach you how to improve your note-taking strategy based on your specific personality.

  • Mind Over ARE: Finding the right community could also be the game-changer you’re looking for. Having other people going through the same process as you to have open discussions with and share experiences with is another great way to rewire our brains, gain support, and increase our motivation.

  • Ultimate Study Plan: It can be easy to feel unmotivated to study after failing an exam. I break down each exam in the Ultimate Study plan into 6-week increments. I provide a week-by-week study plan for each exam for what to study and when. PLUS, I also give a lot of tips on how to optimize your studying without burning out!

A “FAIL” on an ARE exam can be a setback, but you are MORE than a four-letter word. The ARE exam path isn’t rainbows and butterflies but will teach you some of the best life lessons. You’ll learn so much about yourself and the type of architect you’re going to be.

Maya Lin once said, “For the most part, things never get built the way they were drawn.” Let that sink in for a bit.

Embrace the challenge, stay positive, and keep pushing forward, and I promise you, you will feel like such a badass once you get that last “PASS” you deserve.


Looking for ARE® Resources?

Join the Mind Over ARE waitlist now to get first access to my next ARE group program.

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If you enjoyed this episode, it's inspired you, or you've found value in it, please let me know on Instagram or YouTube @ByoungDesign.

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