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My Journey to Becoming a Licensed Architect

21-Jun-2017 -  By: Reyna Ramirez • AIA • CDT • LEED GA
I’m not great at taking tests. And it seems like the more time passes after you’re done with school, the harder it is to get back in the study mode. I have a million excuses why I didn’t take my tests as soon as I was able; basically life got in the way. But if I could give my younger self advice I would say don’t wait! Start now, get it done, the testing only gets harder and you are cheating yourself of better opportunities.

In 2011 when I was unemployed and could not find a job, I got serious about taking the Architect Registration Examination (ARE). I knew that if I had that 'AIA' behind my name on cover letters, I would have better chances of getting noticed by potential employers.

I quickly realized that the longer you are out of school, the more difficult it is to retain information. I had study material, but didn’t know where to start. I found a seminar that provided me with a schedule and study guide. I followed the method and started taking the tests, completing all seven tests in about six months. I was working by then and it was harder to study. I passed less than half on the first try. Then in second round, I passed all but one, building systems. That bump in the road was not going to stop me. I took a two-day seminar with a guarantee that if the test is taken within three weeks you get a full refund if you don't pass. So a week after the seminar, I took the test and passed. A big milestone, huge sigh of relief, but not yet done...now on to the big one: the California Supplemental Examination (CSE)!

  • Plan your study schedule
    Have a plan, stick to it, when life happens then get back on track.
  • Prepare
    I took several practice mock exams to prepare for the longer, more mentally taxing tests. This gave me physical and mental endurance that prepared me for test day.
  • It’s never a good time
    We have lives, there’s always something going on, the holidays are fast approaching or its summer, and a great time to go to the beach. We live in California, there are many sunny days ahead, make time now! The trick is to make time for studying by making it part of your daily routine, like brushing your teeth.
  • Get a study buddy
    It helps to have somebody you to share study materials, and give you moral support!

Your friends and family will wait. They might miss you while you’re in study mode, but they will understand that you are away for a good cause and more than likely they will be happy to celebrate your success.

Enlist help from your friends and family. You don’t have to do it all on your own. Your family and friends love you, they will help you succeed. During the last week or so before my tests I would ask my mom to help me prepare a few meals for my family that we could reheat so we didn’t have take-out the entire time before my test.

So what are you waiting for? Make a plan and get studying. That AIA looks so good after your name, and lets people know that you are a serious professional.

Reyna Ramirez
STIR Architecture
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