Big, Bold, Cyan FAIL

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After passing my first 6 ARE tests, I hesitantly opened the results of my final test only to be greeted by the word FAIL in the largest, boldest, san serif font possible.

I think they should initiate a font size change dependent upon the test results. Size 362pt bold font for PASS and a small 8pt serif font in lowercase for FAIL. I understand that they probably want you to easily find the results of your test; however, they shouldn’t want the guy across the room who unassumingly glances at your computer screen to know that you are in fact a failure.

However, I wonder if NCARB has done any studies on the psychological value of color. The friendly cyan color of the font eases the vexation from the results just enough to wait until after work before taking shots.

NCARB is not in the practice of “teaching” they claim. Thus, the ARE tests are purely a test of your current knowledge, and they do not care to have you know which questions you missed. I was fine with this, until I actually failed my first test. I took the Structural Systems (SS) test and was told by others who had passed that it is not nearly as bad as the practice guides, and is mostly vocabulary. Furthermore, the vignette is the easiest one, because they know the multiple choice questions are so difficult.

Fast forward to the actual exam, and it was even harder than the practice guide exams, but the vignette was as described, super easy.

Thus, the results of my test were even more heartbreaking than even anticipated. I passed all multiple choice divisions with a 1. But received a 3 on the vignette. Yes, on the easiest vignette my “performance at this level is FAR from meeting the expectations for a candidate who is minimally qualified.” They should just say you are fucking dumb, did not have a clue, and should never become an architect.

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To motivate me to continue finishing all 7 ARE’s I thought (briefly) about posting my results on my desk, but the big, bold, cyan FAIL would reveal to all passerby that I am in fact a loser.1

NCARB has made a few strides in relating to the human psyche. They now show you your deficiencies in certain divisions to at least aid you in studying the next time. However, if you pass all divisions of the multiple choice, but only fail the vignette, it really sucks that you have to study and retake all of the multiple choice questions again, just to redo the vignette.

In this regard, they did make strides in reducing the timeline of retaking a failed test from 6 months decreased to 8 weeks. Unfortunately, I think the same psychoanalysts who determined the ideal font color, were also tasked to determine the minimum number of days required to forget all study knowledge; and thus, requires one to completely dedicate another 4 weeks of studying. 

So cheers!2 To another month of no social life locked away in my room. 


1 I mean, I am not a masochist.
2 With another shot glass raised.


  1. That sucks! I was most nervous about the structures exam and I must have studied twice as long for it as any of the other tests.

    The good news is that you only failed the vignette.

    • brady ernst

      Thanks Terri,
      I agree. I think I studied twice as hard for the structures test as well. Unfortunately, I must’ve slacked on the studying for the vignette, even though I still don’t know how I failed it.

  2. Jennifer Richter

    Did you ever figure out why you failed the vignette? Same thing happened to me and I have no idea what happened. i went with the no shear walls approach.

    • brady ernst

      Yeah. I really thought about appealing it, because I knew my solution was fine… but it was easier to study and retake.
      I also went without bearing walls (because then you have to add lintels(

      The only reason I could conclude was that I spanned my clerestory the entire length and didn’t carry my column through it. But then the beam above the clerestory was close to 40′ long.

      On the retake I noted that description #4 states that columns can extend through walls, including the clerestory wall. However, that vignette had the clerestory within a shorter span anyways, and I didn’t have to worry about it.

      Best of luck.

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