Yesterday, I received the news I had been waiting for. And unfortunately, it was not good news. It was the worst possible scenario related to taking the ARE. I passed 6 exams in a row, and failed #7.
Beyond the obvious disappointment and frustration that goes along with failing and now having to put my goal on hold until I’m allowed to take the test again (technically 6 months, but since NCARB changed the rule the day before I took the exam, I’ll be able to schedule on Oct. 1), it’s not like I can do anything until I can schedule the retake. If I had failed one of the middle sections of the sequence, at least I could take another section while I waited for the mandatory retake time to play itself out. But now, I have to just sit and dwell on this failure, knowing I was that close to becoming a licensed architect, and just fell short. It sucks.
I’m very frustrated with myself, as I failed the graphic portion of the test – I had to design a roof plan for a two volume space, a handicap accessible ramp between two levels, and a stair connecting multiple levels. I KNOW how to do all those things – I’ve been doing this long enough now that I know the rules that are associated with ramps and stairs and roofs. What frustrates me about failing is not necessarily that I did (although that does aggravate me a lot), it’s that I am not exactly sure what I did wrong to receive the failing grade. The results letter doesn’t say you failed because of x, y, and z – it just gives you a ‘level’ – 1 being that you reached the minimum standards for competency, 2 being just barely not achieving the minimum standards, and 3 meaning you were far from the minimum standards (incompetent). I got two 2 scores and a 3. I kind of expected a 2 or 3 on the stair portion – I started the drawing over with 25 minutes to go in the test, so I think subconsciously I knew failure was a good possibility due to rushing myself. I don’t know what I did on the other two vignettes to not reach a passable grade. I thought I had had met all the requirements of the program, and had covered my bases by checking each one twice (or more). Apparently I missed something, but I’ll never know what that was.
My biggest complaint, (I have heard this from others and now having failed myself, I understand) is that the feedback is so generic, that there’s no way to know exactly what it was that caused failure, so I can learn from it and avoid it next time. Without knowing WHAT I did wrong, I cannot possibly correct it on the next exam. I will study my tail off to try to get a perfect score when I’m able to take the exam again, but what if I fail again, because I made the same mistakes and don’t realize it? The secrecy around the ARE causes so many unknowns – we are not allowed to discuss specific exam content with anyone, and so studying with friends is out of the question. There’s a vague aspect to the scoring also. The test is pass or fail – no numbers. The vagueness presents itself in weird ways. People will ask me, what score do you need to pass? The answer is, I don’t know – the registration board does not release those numbers. Makes it kind of hard to judge how close you came to passing/failing when you never know what the passing score is – although even if you knew what the threshold was, you don’t know what your score is, so I don’t think it matters much.
There’s no fighting the system, so complaining about it does me no good. I’ll spend a few more days feeling disappointed in myself and sorry for myself, then start buckling down and trying to figure out what the magic combination is for those graphic vignettes for the next go ‘round. I can still accomplish my goal this YEAR, so I guess it’s not so bad… just delayed gratification.