A.R.E. Hacks = No More Excuses


You need to buy this book. Don’t base this decision on my review, just go and buy it.

I’ll admit book reviews are a rarity for me; in fact, I don’t remember doing it before. I’d have to check the archives. Nevertheless, when I was asked to read and review an advance copy of “ARE Hacks, Learn How to Pass the Architect Registration Exam”, by my friend Evan Troxel, AIA, I was eager to oblige.


I won’t hide from my strong opinion that those who have set out on this course to be an architect, completed their degree and are working in architectural practice – must get their license. The profession needs them and I’ve never heard a good excuse for avoiding it. This book does a far better job than I ever could, explaining not only why one ought to take their test, but HOW to get there.

Evan starts his book with his own story. He gains instant credibility by sharing personal details that give us a peek into his own story and reasons for delaying taking the exam. He starts his book by sharing how he became interested in architecture and the many chapters of his journey from a high school kid to the architect we know him as now. What follows is his explanation of the Architect Registration Exam and its general history.

I found his section on the history of the A.R.E. a fascinating place to pause and consider what happened when NCARB changed the legacy of test in 1997 to an all computerized version and what impact that might have on the current architectural culture. This insight reveals a casualty from technology (my words) that needs to be addressed by NCARB. (Warning – digression coming). I took the test pre-1997, in fact I took the A.R.E. in 1995 – only four years after graduation. If you don’t know, it was historically an all paper version offered only once a year over the course of four straight days. Fortunately, I did pass all of it on my first time. Evan continues by pointing out the difference for those whose frame of reference is limited to the current scenario of isolated applicants taking computerized exams in anonymous testing centers and how so much changed from the previous pattern. Just for the record, he does address passing and failing later in his book, so for all of those that fail at least one test along the way can relax and feel rest assured that no one will know (or care).

By the time you reach Chapter 4, the proverbial gloves come off and the discussion of lizards and pain emanate from the voice of a firm but understanding coach. Every excuse used by those who have avoided the exam is nullified as Evan neatly dissects each one leaving everyone ready to sign up for the exams because we are all left with nothing left to do. I like the take-no-prisoners approach that is done so carefully that half of the time I didn’t realize the lecture and the other half I was cheering for him for writing it out so carefully and so clearly.

Now that Evan has convinced us of his authority to send this message, has all of our ears open and left empty of excuses, he begins the meat of the story by clearly mapping out a detailed path to pass this exam. The one thing that generally keeps me from reading business books or other self-help type of writings is a lack of specificity and common practice of talking around issues for hundreds of pages only to give the disappointing secret on the final page. This book is different. There is no disappointment and no waiting.


I can believe this advice because it’s personal, it’s been tested and it’s detailed, specific and fool-proof. He’ll prove to you that you can and will make time for it. This may be the plan personally taken by the author, but it’s broken down into a step-by-step process that can and should be followed all the way to that magic license.

Chapter 10 begins with strategies for test taking as many find themselves at varied skill levels for taking exams regardless of preparation and comprehension. Read this book and you’ll discover a way to conquer that once and for all. With our world of technology today, there are more resources available than I could ever imagine, let alone have at my disposal in 1995. All I had were the study guides commonly used today. Now applicants have books (paper and digital), flashcards and limitless apps and tools that allow someone to study at home, at work, on any known vehicle (well, I’d advise against a motorcycle) and for any amount of time. Twenty minutes is a minimum dedicated time slot recommended by Evan. A comprehensive list of resources and associated links are neatly noted.

This guidebook wraps up by describing in great detail the conditions one might find at a testing center. Isn’t this what gets all of us nervous – not knowing what to expect in a given situation? I found his eloquent description of his local testing center a light reprieve as I imagined his less-than-satisfactory conditions. Even this is a keen life lesson about being prepared, being flexible and being focused, not letting even our environment defeat us.

This is THE book for anyone ready to take the Architectural Registration Exam. It was a great read for me, someone who is over twenty years out from taking and passing the exam, because not only was I able to reminisce about a very challenging time in my professional life, I am now able to have empathy for those taking the exam today.

It’s hard.

It’s a challenge.

It’s costly.

It will kick your butt.

However, if you haven’t experienced this yet, there is nothing more satisfying in life than working hard at something for a long period of time only to finally succeed. In a world of instant gratification, quick fixes, and cheap thrills, we need more architects willing to endure the process. This book could change the culture of architectural graduates struggling to get their license in a positive way.

No more excuses – I don’t Evan want to hear it (see what I did there). Buy this book. Take the test. Come sit at the table.

All images are ripped off from Evan’s ARE Hacks Website with little or no apology. I give him full credit.

are hacks.jpg

A.R.E. Hacks = No More Excuses

3 thoughts on “A.R.E. Hacks = No More Excuses

  1. I will share your article on my twitter account and I think it is something to talk about on my Highlights in Architecture segment on my podcast, so stay tune. Thank you for the quick review. I might go out and get the book. I am 5 years out from graduating architecture school with 2 years of solid experience then .5 years of off and on experience but on the low side, I had little to no experience 2.5 years right out of graduation. That is the reality for many millennials so I do not encourage them to go out for a licences, I would encourage many to feel out the industry, get an understanding of it and where you fit in. Also keep an eye out for what the universe is saying to you, is it leading you to that direction or else where? Unfortunately becoming licensed in architecture is a bigger deal than it should. Some how, engineers were able to divide up the engineering field, with there being only 2 very hard exams to take. Yes, Engineers that make building stand, with an entry level salary higher than architects only take 2 exams. They also have a name for their engineers that are not licensed, EIT (engineer in training), while architects have nothing but made up names each company make up. I am not too happy with where the industry is but I love architecture and the many solutions it can carry at the same. Architecture really needs to be shaken up a little because the name will be taken away if not used. Now I am googling architect and I am getting “tech architect.” Yep tech companies are using the names. I hope my platform can do so a little. AIA said to me via twitter they are working on the title for architects that are not licensed. Hopefully they come up with something soon. The next generation of architects should not have to think of those silly things when I am done, lol. But in all honesty thank you for the blog post. People of all levels of “working class” should be able to earn their license and not have to take 2 years off from full time work to do so. Yes, that was what one person I know did. Have a good one.

    1. I appreciate your comments and point of view, but we are on opposite sides of the issue. It’s good to hear varied views in order to understand the issue better, but I simply can’t understand the lack of interest. I believe the license is critical and should be gotten as soon as possible. From there, one can explore, decide or whatever, but no license and there’s no credible voice.

  2. Sheldon says:

    Ultimately, is it producing better Architects? The system sounds strenuous and laborious. Currently, America isn’t producing the best Architecture, people look at countries like the Netherlands, Scandinavia, Germany, Japan, Australia amongst others for leading edge Architecture.

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