We all know that the road to becoming a licensed architect is a difficult one. The first step is earning your degree, then completing a whopping 3,740 hours of professional experience, then studying for and passing seven exams. Only then do you earn yourself the stamp of approval (literally!) and can proudly say, “I am officially an architect.”
Zach Sumada is BRR’s newest team member to become licensed. He completed his exams in December of 2016 by an impressive feat – taking three tests in one week, and passing all three.
We caught up with Zach to learn more about his process to becoming licensed.
1. What was the hardest part of the process?
Hands down the hardest part of the process is setting aside time to study. There are thousands of pages of study material, and there are always things you would rather be doing. I got to the point where I would rather have been doing laundry, cleaning and doing dishes than preparing for those exams.
2. What did you do to “get in the zone”?
Everyone is a little different, but for me I had a dedicated study desk – no TV in the background and my phone in the other room on silent. Another strategy I used was leaving the house to study. I would take my laptop and headphones with me to Starbucks, where I would watch the Black Spectacles videos. This worked for me because I couldn’t get distracted with things around the house and my headphones blocked out the ambient noise.
3. What strategies were successful for you?
For the first four exams, I found the most effective strategy was simple: schedule the exam. It offered that motivation – a timer in the back of your head that constantly reminded you to stay focused. For the exams themselves, I focused on the Ballast readings first, then read through the study guides and took practice exams over and over. The Ballast practice exams were absolutely essential for me.
For the final three exams I did something similar. I printed off an October-November calendar and scheduled out what I needed to accomplish each week to get through all the material, then scheduled my exams for six weeks out. I studied 2-3 hours per night, taking Friday and Saturday off. The key to the whole process is maintaining your sanity, and for me that involved not studying on Fridays and Saturdays, so I could set aside time to hang out with friends, go out to dinner and just relax. You have to retain so much information that giving yourself a break is essential.
4. How did you celebrate?
I celebrated by booking a vacation to Jackson Hole. I also went out for dinner/drinks with the friends and family that had been so supportive throughout this long process, but I had been neglecting due to studying.
5. Who was the first person you called?
The first person I told was the person who convinced me to take three exams in a week, my colleague, Mark Scherrer. He convinced me that I wasn’t crazy and that this idea could actually work.
6. Any advice for those who are currently taking their AREs?
My advice for those taking exams now is don’t take a break between them. Stay focused and keep your routine. Trust me, no one looks back on this process and wishes it took them longer to complete. My biggest regret is letting these exams drag on for five years after college rather than just buckling down and doing it. Additionally, for those that are up for it, I recommend taking multiple exams in the same week. I found that a lot of the material overlapped across exams, which made studying a lot easier, not to mention the reward of getting multiple “Pass” letters on a Thursday morning is fantastic.