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Posted By: Oliver Milot on 01-19-2022

I’ve spent a while putting this post together and I apologize for how long this is.... but I need to say it: I hated many of you.

Let me rephrase's not that I hated you, but I was (and still am) very jealous that you've been able to pass the exams in such a quick timespan. I saw many of you passing so quickly, I saw my old friends and classmates passing. I started this process 10 years ago, taking my exams (under 4.0) and it was a PROCESS. I had been approved earlier, but it took me a while to get to a point where I thought I was ready to sit for the exams. I started when there was 6 months between retakes, I followed Young Architect (Mike Riscica) when he was still just a blogger. I used Kaplan books, my own experience, and my own books thinking it was good enough; it wasn't. I eventually added ballast- It still wasn't enough.

I failed.... a lot. My first exam: I got in my own way and couldn't get past the part 2 ramp, the math was correct, but I just couldn't get the diagram to work; I was super frustrated. The time ended and I failed, no other way to have passed. I cried as I left the building and did the same in the car for at least 30 minutes.

The first time I passed was when my father was in the hospital; I wasn't focused on the exam or getting in my own way and overthinking the questions. Fail, fail, fail. The next time I passed, my father was in the hospital again. There seemed to be a pattern.

Eventually I got married, still working my way through the clock. Soon enough, NCARB started to change to 5.0 and I only had 3 exams left. I tried my best passing the exams before I was forced to make the transfer- I didn't trust the new tests because it was new (I knew I wasn’t the only one in this position, there's always a learning curve). A coworker decided to make the leap after failing a few in 4.0- he failed, and I waited some more. Granted my coworker took the hardest exams and didn't have any practice with 5.0, I didn't want to take the risk until it got sorted some more and there was more support. I stopped testing; I dislike exams, and their failures and that I don't know what questions I answered wrong. I had a daughter and I just pushed testing off, I had a few years of my clock- plenty of time.

2 years later and 2020 comes around, my clock is quickly counting down with only a few months left. As horrible as COVID is, it was helpful for me as it granted me extensions on my 5-year clock and NCARB kept updating and extending it until January 2022. Did I study at all in 2020? No... when 2021 came around I told myself I'd have to get moving before it was too late. I had debated whether to do Young Architect for a while but money and not knowing if it was the program for me; I did try a few videos from Black Spectacles but found they liked to hear themselves talk too much. I did Mitalski's Structures course, but that wasn't enough. I reviewed other options and thought I should try Young Architect. If it didn't work...I'd be out a bunch of money, but I already spent a lot of money on the exams and didn't pass. I had to try something different; I signed up. I joined the technical bootcamp: it provided a small study group, accountability, and a whole lot of resources (including a lot of zoom meetups).

While my coworkers were working their way through the exams, they didn't really have any study groups that I knew of; I couldn't really do evening/weekend study groups as coordination was difficult (zoom sessions didn't really exist). When my coworkers passed their exams, they passed their study materials to the next person until I ended up with it all; I was now the ARE librarian. Young Architect helped me change my study habits and opened me to a new method and materials of study.

The Boot Camp was great, but you can't help but compare your study hours against others because it's all visible to everyone in the group. It didn't matter that our situations were different, I had a full-time job and a family, for 10 hours was decent, 15 hours was nearing the line- others in the group were doing 30-60 hours...I hit 20+ hours one week and had a panic/anxiety attack, it was rough (plus health concerns with my father and father-in-law happened). Boot Camp ended, but during that time, and a little after, I joined as many meetups as I could to get exposure to more information. At some point it became overwhelming for me. There's too much information and my favorite meetups ended. Many of the others were at times I could no longer join due to the timing and the increase of my workload. I had to take a break. I calculated a schedule for when I could take the exams and all the reschedules before my clock expired. I started to fill out paperwork for any extensions I could to not have to lose my transfer credits and start all over; this would cause additional anxieties.

I took a month break and joined the Young Architect summer series. I met a lot of supportive people. Out of those, a few of us chatted after the conference and created a small study group. On the first night we made a pact: we would help each other pass the exams until we all did. We kicked it into high gear studying. At first it was only a few nights. I overdid it at first and had another attack. I relaxed and tried a different method but ramped up the studying to almost every night. Whether someone joined me or not, it didn't matter- I was on a mission. Since I had never taken 5.0, one night my study group watched me take the NCARB practice exam in its entirety...the rest of the nights we discussed things that we found in readings or questions we had; we created practice quizzes and allowed ourselves to debate the answer and search the internet for the answers and not just answer off the top of our heads. We talked about different test taking techniques and how to relax. I took the day before my exam to just relax- called out of work, listened to some videos, including Amber Book 40 Minutes of Competence.

August 4, 2021 was my first test in almost 4 years.... My old "lucky" testing clothes were nowhere to be found, so I dressed in something different with layers as comfortable as possible. Before I left the house, I got a kiss from my daughter and her telling me good luck (that was the newest thing). I listened to the advice my wife gave: take an old pass exam and stare at it for at least a minute and repeat: I passed. I sat for the exam, no breaks because I didn't want to lose any questions due to the changes. I changed my method of test taking to make myself slow down and think differently. Down to the last few minutes, I struggled with a couple of questions. Remembering that each question was worth just one point, I answered them quickly and with 10 seconds left, I finished the exam. I thought about what Mike Riscica said: don't click the feedback button just in case you have an exam coming up and have it discourage you with your next exam. My next exam was in 2 weeks, but I had to try it. My hands shook and when I clicked it, I had to read it a few times...I passed! Cue waterworks. I barely could get out of the building, I couldn't see. I sat in the car for 20 minutes crying tears of absolute joy while trying to talk to my wife. When I was finally able to drive, I went back home to relax and join Elif’s Structure Webinar.

Every night for the next 2 weeks, I studied for the next exam. August 18, 2021, came around. I wore the same clothes, because if there's nothing else, there's superstition! I did my same routine as the previous exam and sat down. An hour in, and I was done with 95% of the multiple choice, which I thought didn't seem right, but I couldn't let that thought start clouding my judgment. I worked on the case studies and just took my time. At least an hour or so left on the clock, I called it. Before I clicked on the feedback, I psyched myself up and told myself I passed. The button was clicked...on my screen I saw the words: likely pass! I was excited, I thanked the staff and left. The first words I heard on the car radio were the chorus of Smashing Pumpkins song Today. "Today is the greatest day that I have ever known."

I went home after telling my family and study group. We had a meetup later and had some drinks.

The following week, my wife took me and my daughter on a surprise vacation to celebrate. This helped reset myself- I needed to relax.

The next day, NCARB sent my paperwork to the State. A few days later, the State told me I had to get my paperwork updated as it had been a very long time since I last did it; I dropped everything and took care of the paperwork. A few weeks later, I reached out to the State to make sure they received the paperwork and to see if there was anything I could do to assist further. I received a letter on September 20th: my certificate and architectural license, the next day I got an email response telling me I had already been licensed for a week. I was so ecstatic! Although, I will admit, a 2.5-year-old knows how to keep you humble. While I was saying I was now an architect, my daughter yelled at me telling me that I wasn't. I tried to explain to her a few times, but I was not an architect to her- Iggy Peck was. It's only been recently (this week) where she recognizes I might be an architect, but then so is she.

It still doesn't feel real that I am an architect, maybe because there's no need to use my license at work and I live in a different state. I still feel like they gave me the license in error and that they will take it away. I felt the same way about the exams- I didn't cheat, but after so many years and many many failures, it felt too easy. I feel as if I have a bit of Imposter Syndrome. I don't know if I would pass the exams if I had to do them again...

I did have lots of help along the way and I don't think I could've done it without everyone. Pardees is my first big thank you, without her daily bootcamp meetups, I wouldn't have pushed myself so hard. Julie for picking up the group after it stopped- I wish I could've kept going in her sessions, she's a great leader, but life sometimes takes over. The next is Louis, Beth, and Tomas. Tomas was a fellow Boot Camper in my group, and we kept in touch to keep studying together. Beth and Louis, I met during the YASS21 conference during the social events hosted by Marli and the lounge by Andy. Thank you also to Fiona for joining our group and helping.

Everyone at the conference that I talked to were great supporters and offered tons of advice. Thank you especially to Andy for hosting the lounge and being someone to just chat with.

We got together right after the conference and made a pact that we would keep together and help regardless of licensure status; our group has grown quite a bit since the summer and I still participate in chats or zoom study sessions and Facebook posts.

Tickets to the conference may be sold out for this session (YAWS22), but I recommend going and joining Andy's lounge and participating in the networking/social sessions; you never know the people you will meet, the friends you make or the study group that will help you get a pass.

At the very least, if you haven't joined Mike's Young Architect Boot Camp, you should definitely consider it. It may be costly at first, but not as much as without it. When you join, you get access to more resources than you can imagine. Multiple daily study groups with people across the country with different knowledge and experiences is something you can't beat.

Mike does hand out gold medals for completing your license through Young Architect, but it was never about the medal, it was about my own journey crossing the finish line and the paper issued by the State.

Filed Under: tbda

Tags: NCARB, Young Architect