ON FAILING THE ARCHITECTURE REGISTRATION EXAMS

 

It just so happens that one of my many lifelong manifestations of sticking it to the man has been to acquire an architectural license. Take that, male-dominated profession! Take that, field that shuts people out through a series of inaccessible hoops and magic dances! Watch me get my license and turn that 80-hour work week culture inside out!  

Interestingly enough, in order to succeed in this ambition, you have to play within the rules of the game (set up by our architectural forefathers and grandfathered into contemporary practice) that you are so ardently trying to stick it to. Subversion through submission. Okay. 

Working against me #1: I have a bad attitude. I can't play the game without complaining about the rules. Tangential and embittered rants are a common occurrence in my ARE study group, where at any given point I am eligible to explode. Scene: Three ladies sit around a table. They take turns. One recites terminologies from a precarious stack of flashcards, one peruses the latest forum threads for new and revelatory information, one reads off sample multiple choice questions from a never-ending blog. In an instant, an innocent, wine-stained flashcard unknowingly sets off a spiky cannonball. "Tell me, NCARB, how does knowing the definition of "Escutcheon" measure my ability to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public?!"  

Working against me #2: Inability to relinquish other parts of my life in favor of studying. My mission, I must confess, can at times be half-assed. Oh, if only my old architecture professors could see me now. How they would *cringe* at such an unbridled lack of rigor. Yes, I do recite that wacky acronym of the CSI Masterformat Specification Divisions while scrambling eggs in the morning. And yes, I prune blackberries to the sweet sounds of Mark Friedlander's legal lectures on architectural contracts. I've even downloaded the Study Blue app for flashcard review during my morning commute. BUT. Anyone taking these exams knows that this, even on top of my weekly ladies meet up and my first name basis relationship with the East Bay AIA Chapter (they've got the study goods) IS NOT NEARLY ENOUGH. 

These are the two main factors working against me. A bad attitude and a half-assed (relative) study routine. Hm.

In all honesty, the attitude probably won't change. I just can't get myself to believe in the process. I've talked to NCARB representatives, longtime AIA members, professors, and architecture friends, and a convincing argument for the system as we've inherited it has yet to befall my ears. The path that I am on to becoming a licensed architect means: obtaining a degree, completing 5,860 hours of Intern Development Program work, and passing 7 ARE exams plus a supplemental state exam (which takes the average "candidate" 2-4 years, just sayin'), and then, perhaps, being awarded a neat little stamp that allows you to push drawings through the building process as an architect. For me, this track has thus far equaled over 15 years of education and exams and a six figure college loan debt. Pretty big barrier to entry, I'd say, and I don't even have kids. 

However, the study routine could, theoretically, get bumped up a few notches. 

Working for me #1: The ability to eat failure for breakfast. Lucky for me, failing at stuff only pisses me off more. Failure makes me want to do it again, and do it better. Here's the conundrum with that. Doing it better is, in this case, the ARE exams, which I have to subscribe to first in order to feel like I'm pushing myself through something I believe in. Which I don't. So, in short, I have to accept a wholehearted fight for something I do believe in (licensure) through a process that I don't believe in (ARE examinations). There's that subversion through submission again. 

Working for me #2: Stubbornness. 

Working for me #3: Lots of other things. Like, I have English as a first language (shout outs to all of you ARE candidates who are making it through this process with another first language). I'm not flat broke. I've got supportive people. I don't work those infamous 80-hour work weeks. I understand that the ARE exams are not a true measure of my intelligence, my ability to become a good architect, or who I am in general. Regardless of whether NCARB sends me a pass or fail notice, I still have all of my sparkle princess cowgirl magic intact. 

In closing, I suppose this is a soliloquy of two intentions: To process that little whoosh of defeat upon receiving today's 3rd exam failure (in a row), and to remind myself to keep an eye on the prize - that is, torching the field of architecture as we know it through my eventual, wholly licensed tidings of subversion, empathy, and flaming t-squares.