on failure.

Too soon to add this to my Christmas list?

To summarize: I failed BS. I bombed it with major deficiencies in all areas except the vignette, actually. Dang.

Not wanting to waste both my time and yours, I figured a little break to collect my thoughts and avoid a pity party would be a good idea. I also had a really nice Thanksgiving/Christmas kickoff weekend, which seriously helped my spirits. Yes, I’m still bummed, but I’m also relieved to know my fate and (finally) motivated to come up with a game plan for success six months from now.

The way I see it, when it comes to failure we are (arguably) fortunate to have so many motivators available to help get us back on track. Blogs on making things happen, encouragement from family/friends, a “get motivated” subreddit, Cool Runnings. We’re part of an industry/profession/culture where disappointment is as common, if not more-so, than success. Bad critiques, rejected proposals, cancelled projects…We’re trained and hardened to take lousy moments for what they’re worth and move on.

And yet tearing open that familiar white NCARB envelope with the blue trim, expecting the worst while hoping for the best, and seeing that four letter F word silences all of those motivators with a deafening blow. A fail is not what you want to see printed. In print, failure is real. It changes your mentality, and amidst all the other emotions and thoughts floating around your mind only one thing is certain:

Failing sucks.

It sucks when you’re so damn close to being finished with the whole ARE process. Or when you’re daydreaming of all the books you can fill the space on your bookshelf where your study materials sat for years. Or when you have to tell your family and friends as optimistically as you can that you didn’t do your best this time. It sucks because you know no one else thinks any less of you, but you still feel about as sharp as a bowl full of jello.

But failure is also a surefire way to get yourself motivated. To stop harping on your lack of perfection…and to quit getting teary eyed every time you see a light socket or an air handler unit. (True story.)Ā  It motivates you to realize that not everything turns out the way you wanted it to the first time, but with perseverance it will eventually. Life hardly ever goes the way we planed, but sometime the path it takes is even better than we had hopped. The road to becoming a licensed architect is a long one and there are bound to be a few bumps along the way. God knows there were plenty during studio in school.

I’ve decided to not worry about my retake over the holidays (why spoil my favorite time of the year?) and be thankful for my successes instead. I’m still so thrilled to have passed six so far, and know the final pass will come soon enough. In January I’ll start back up researching the resources I missed and figure out when I can sign up for my retake. I have to wait around until May, but that will give me plenty of time to review what I already know and learn as many details as I can as a slower pace. I still have that pesky IDP to finish too, so it’s not like I won’t have the exams on my mind anyway. I know it will all get done in due time…but dang if I’m not a little anxious to see the day.

I guess we don’t call it AREndurance for nothing.

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27 thoughts on “on failure.

  1. Luis says:

    Wow, good writing! It motivates me to continue fighting as I am sure you will!
    Thanks for sharing so much and think that when you finally PASS it, it will feel much better.

  2. i2defy says:

    We would never know what success means if we never had failure in our lives. You are young, ambitious and hard working. You will go a long way, and there would be bumps along the path once in a while. Keep at it…

  3. Agnes says:

    Almost there Jenny. At least you got your fail towards the end not like a lot of us who got it early in the journey. I think we started almost the same time and you’re almost done. Im still on my third and had to retake my second :(. I hope this makes you feel better as i always feel better after reading all your blogs. Thank you so much for the study guides you’ve been sharing with us. You’re awesome.

  4. Ashley says:


    I have been following your blog since I discovered it on the ARE forum earlier this year. AND I don’t do blogs, I’m probably the only person on the planet who doesn’t – but its true. I have been impressed with your study guides and your success with the exams. I am sorry you didn’t get BS on the first try. BUT I was happy to read your thoughtful review of the FAIL. I am 29 and said I would be licensed by 30 (I took a few years “off” to work for the City of New Orleans). I started the exam process back in March of 2011. I have had my share of re-takes, but I am persevering. Anyway, I wanted to thank you for sharing your thoughts, study guides, and helpful links. Now I should get back to studying for SS – second time 12/19. I’ll check back with you in the spring. Until then Happy Holidays to you and yours.

  5. NB says:

    Today I came here only to check your final result and felt very sorry. I had gone through this about 8 months back but passed BS second time and I’m sure you too will. However, I’m surprised with major deficiencies in all. It is unbelievable and you may consider challenging NCARB for some technical ERROR.
    Keep the tempo high and thanks for sharing your precious study guides.

  6. valeriamesples says:

    Jenny – I really think you should considering becoming a professional writer too. Your writing is excellent. I have failed so many times with these exams and I have to agree with you that perseverance is what takes you to the end. You will do it next time!!! Enjoy your holidays.

  7. Angela says:

    We learn from success and from failure. Architecture is what you do but not who you are. Enjoy your holidays, rest and re take it when you feel you are ready.
    Thanks for your blog it is a very good source of motivation.

  8. Matt says:

    Keep your head up … failure is apart of life’s journey … This is just a bump in the road!

  9. Gonzalo says:

    That sucks!
    You wouldn’t believe how many people you have rooting for you! (everybody who downloads your awesome notes)
    I thought you would nail it as you nailed all the previous ones. Especially seeing your notes and how thorough you are…
    Anyway, enjoy your holidays without touching a book.


  10. markannen says:

    Like NB I came to check your result. It sucks that this was your last test. Take a break than nail it next time! You have given so much to the testing group with your blog and study guides. Know that a lot of people are sending good Karma.

  11. Stephanie says:

    I failed it too. Just found out today. Sucks. I am with you. It was my last test also, and I passed the other 6 on the first try, and I already completed my IDP. This test was the last thing. We can take a couple months off, recoop, and pass it in the spring!

  12. Cam says:

    Take a little time for yourself. Don’t even read the letters anymore for rest of the year you need to enjoy “the most wonderful time of the year”, hide it in a drawer somewhere. You need a little distance from it. I know for me I can only look at mine now for PPP and think, so I passed a pretty tough vignette, I just failed in the history stuff for MC. I could not say or even think that last year. Throw that stupid MEEB across the room, watch Coolrunnings again (I’m Jamaican, did I ever tell you that? =) and in a few months you will knock this one out!

    It’s hard for us architects to accept failure, we don’t like to think of ourselves as fallible, we are invincible after all hahaha You’ve got a great head on your shoulders. You’ve inspired and helped so many of us, including myself. You have left a lasting impact on humanity already and you’re not even an architect yet! Remember that in the tough times.

    Don’t feel bad about crying and the pity party, you need it and you are entitled to do it. You also you need to release all these emotions so you can come back stronger and in 6 months time go HA! FIST PUMP! IN YA FACE!! =D

    Keep positive, that’s what my boyfriend always says. Please keep writing these posts, we need them after looking at areforum, some days a lot more than others =)

    Merry Christmas! =)

  13. idp_pa_coord says:

    Jen: I’ve really enjoyed reading about your exam experiences (brings back more than a few memories), but I think that this was your best post yet. I really appreciate the fact that you’ve, quite candidly, turned the negative into a positive, and find this post to be incredibly motivating for any exam candidate — I plan on recommending it to our current crop of test-takers here in my corner of the world. It doesn’t matter if you finish today or six months from today — you’ve proven that you have things about you that the exam can’t test. Your considerable amount of aplomb will take you far in your career. Good luck, best wishes, and thanks so much for writing. Best, Sean

  14. abouTIME says:

    How about I trade you my BS (pass) + BCDS (fail) for your BCDS (pass) and BS (fail) = that way we’ll both be done! I’ve been following your blog and posts and completely agree with the comments above. With your due diligence, efforts and positive attitude you’ll go quite far in this profession. Enjoy the studying break and knock it out of the park on the next try ā€“ Iā€™m hoping to do the same for BCDS.

  15. William says:

    Jenny – cheer up! You have been nothing short of inspiration for many folks taking their ARE. I have failed a many before I started my recent roll. Take this period as a well deserved R&R. Cheers!

  16. Jaclyn says:

    Jenny – I feel your pain. I too found out that I failed my last exam. Mine was BDCS. I passed all sections except I had major defficiencies in the stair vignette. I have no idea how as I checked it over and over. It has been a few weeks since I got my letter, so I am coming to terms with it. You will as well. Keep your chin up and I’ll share with you what my 8 year old daughter shared with me: “but mommy, don’t be sad or upset. You passed the first 6 AND you passed all the parts but the one. You just have to retake one, it’s ok. You tried you hardest and that is what matters.” All while she hugged me and told me she loved me.

    Taken from the mouth of an 8 year old to put things in persepctive. I’m sorry you are facing the same scenario. This is where the 6 mo rule is horrible! Hang in there, you will get to the end, it is within your reach.

  17. carreola says:

    Don’t worry you will get them on the next one. Thanks for sharing.

  18. Nicole says:

    Sorry to hear about your bump in the road Jenny. I too have been following you along your journey and am also so close to being done. I agree that you’re notes have been invaluable to those of us trudging along. One advice that I have is to review alkikat’s BS notes. They were the most concise and really summarized verbally and graphically what the concepts you needed to know. I know you will kick this test’s butt in 6 months, but for now enjoy your holiday and finish up idp!

  19. David says:

    This isn’t failure. You have simply hit your yield point and are about to enter strain hardening mode…that’ll surely give you that little little extra kick that you need to put this whole thing behind you.

  20. Sarah says:

    Jenny, Thanks for your thoughts and this blog. I am in the same boat – passed all but my very last test. Now I’m cracking open the BDCS book again and it sucks to study again!! But, at least there’s only one repeat. Good luck the second time around and enjoy the forced break!!!

  21. beardo says:

    Ouch……..To be honest I’m sort of comforted that I’m not the only one with tears in my beer because I failed my very last one (BDCS vignette for me). Chin up friend, the light is at the end of the tunnel. idp_pa_coord said it best, your thoughtfulness and effort has helped and encouraged so many people…. you’ve transcended the BS of BS. Cheers.

  22. Eddy Joaquim says:

    I too passed 6 of 7 ARE’s only to fail on the vignette of BS. Frustrating, because I still have no idea why. Just a matter of time before I vanquish thee! Cheer up, at least you don’t have to do the California Supplemental Exam like I do to get my license. šŸ™‚

  23. Riddhi says:

    Know exactly how you feel! I failed Structures (we tested the same day). While waiting to retake it, am more motivated to pass the remaining two exams I have. Enjoy the time to relax and de-ARE fro a while and I’m sure you will ace BS.

  24. Kat says:

    Jenny – I have been following your blog, studying with your guides, and took most of the tests at the same time as you did. Passed most of the tests, failed the Stair vignette of BDCS, but passed BS. For BS, I took Michael Ermann’s workshop (www.arebuildingsystems.com) and it was super helpful. He is in the east coast but holding an exam prep in Southern California at the end of May.
    I feel that your posts and your blog have been very helpful and I wanted to give you some help in return. Hope to hear you took the test again and passed it.

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