on Passing. Finally.

I don’t know why I was expecting to see the crisp white NCARB envelope as I flipped through the stack of statements and magazines, perhaps it’s some sort of ARE sixth sense that one develops over the course of the process.  That or, after all of the exams, I’ve finally learned how to listen to my gut.  And just as I had expected, there the unmistakeable blue striped envelope sat at the bottom of the stack.

For the first time in all of the result openings, I hesitated.

Walking out of the exam I had felt that I did a decent job, better than the first attempt, but still not sure if it was good enough.  As the week went on I scribbled notes to myself on concepts to remember to focus on should I be faced with a third round of studying.  As I waited for the results, exam specifics blended into an overall sense of uncertainty, followed by an overwhelming wave of peace.  The worst that could happen would be that I would fail again, and then try even harder.  As I looked at the envelope these two weeks of emotions all surged through my system once more in rapid succession.  First the fear, then the peace.

My finger slid through the fold of the envelope.  I peeked inside.


About a year ago, as I prepared for the structures exam, I caught myself daydreaming about the feeling of euphoria one must experience when getting their final pass letter.  Are there tears of joy?  Squeals of excitement?  Does the weight of the ARE albatross hanging around one’s neck suddenly disappear?  Whatever the feeling it must be glorious.  As my moment arrived it was a strange amalgamation of those things, a deep exhale of relief while blinking back a tear.  Upon reaching the light at the end of the tunnel one is enveloped in a warm sun lit glow of a perfect summer’s day.  It’s the most intimate and yet all encompassing feeling.  It’s not big or flashy, it’s simply tranquil.

There really is no fanfare at this point, I’m proud for accomplishing the seven exam feat and excited to finish up my IDP and state board requirements to finally get the license in hand.  Then we’ll party.  But until that day arrives I’m grateful for the success of passing, amazed at the amount I’ve grown as an [almost] architect, and  humbled by all of you who have joined me along the way.  I started writing this blog to keep track of a personal quest and never expected to reach the end of the journey with so many new colleagues and friends.   I’ve been touched by your stories and encouraged by your words.  To me, it’s incredible how an examination that is so highly individualized manages to bring us all together.

It’s been an honor to share my AREndurance with you and I thank you for sharing yours with me.


actually, more like the beginning

actually, more like the beginning.

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59 thoughts on “on Passing. Finally.

  1. Frankie says:

    Congrats! Thank you for the blogg and wish you the best!

    • jennypdx says:

      Thanks Frankie, my pleasure. Same to you!

    • meez@me.com says:

      Hi – my name is meez – what has happened to the are forum? It seems to be offline!

      • jennypdx says:

        Hi Meez! Sorry I didn’t get back to you quicker. I don’t have a direct contact with areforum, but in the few years I’ve been using it have noticed that it’s gone down for a few days from time to time. Did you know that there’s an alternate forum that many of us use, especially when areforum can’t be accessed? It’s called ARE Coach. Check it out!

  2. Congratulations Jenny!!! You have been an inspiration for me. Good luck in your future as an architect!!!

  3. archetect says:

    Your journey has helped many, including myself when I first found it. Alas, I cannot say I am anywhere near this great feat of yours, but dream of the day that I can say….DAMMIT IM DONE!
    Much like you described, I am sure it will be a day where it will be just a good feeling of not having to worry about these exams any longer, but till them…..I keep moving.
    It’s wonderful that you are done. I am sure you are very excited to see what follows, and proudly say you are now AN ARCHITECT!!!
    (btw, does Oregon have anything by way of supplemental for the licensure – like california?)
    Many congrats, and a big hug! You deserve it Jenny! Cheers.

  4. i2defy says:

    You deserve a real big successful career in the future. Please don’t end your quest here (like you say ‘it is just the beginning). Please keep us informed with your endeavors in the future. You kind of became a permanent fixture of the AREforum for all of us. Your notes will float forever. I love the new and updated BS notes. They alone seem like the base for all ARE study. Good luck in the future!

  5. Matt says:

    Congrats to you Jenny! Best of luck to you as you finish up IDP.

  6. Jennifer says:

    Congrats, You’ve been a great inspiration for all of us! Please don’t stop writing!

  7. Luis says:

    Congratulations Jenny!
    Enjoy the moment…
    I have been following you for a while and enjoyed your blog a lot. Coincidentally my last exam in two weeks from now is BS and just downloaded your study guide and must say that is awesome.
    Thanks so much for sharing.

  8. Cam says:

    Well, don’t worry I shed a tear for you, a tear of joy! SQUEAL!!!! I am so excited for you, it feels almost as if I just crossed this major hurdle with you.
    You deserve it, you worked so hard at it and in the process you encouraged and cheered on all of us. I think you and your blog were a major reason I decided to get back in the game and push at it, well you and the boyfriend (now husband =) Hehehehe)
    So now to finish the race. I hope to be joining you by the end of the year, keep on getting it!

    • jennypdx says:

      Thanks Cam! You’ve been here for all the ups and downs, and I’m so glad to have had your kind words along the way. Good luck to you and congrats on the marriage, all the best to you both!!

      • Cam says:

        Thanks for the support on the marriage Jenny, it was very impromptu, well for me at least hahaha

        I am still so elated from your passing this last one. Can’t wait to see how the blog evolves

  9. Keith Peacock says:


    CONGRATS !!!!!! I thank you for all of your notes and posts. I received my final pass letter back in February this year. What a feeling to finally be DONE>

  10. Edin Coralic says:

    Congratulations Jenny- You have helped many many many people, including myself, with your blog and your study guides- you deserved it!!! Now you need to Celebrate!!!!!

  11. Stacy says:

    Congrats Jenny! That is awesome. I would interested in still hearing from you about the next step in getting your license. I hope it is an easier process than what I am experiencing so far.

    I passed my last exam a couple of months ago and had completed IDP and my state requirements, but it has been a hassle with NCARB & my state licensing office to actually get my license. I still don’t have it yet. NCARB seems to take their time sending over the records and when I talked to the lady from NCARB she seemed disinterested and even yawned over the phone. Just wonder if others have problems.

    • jennypdx says:

      Wow, what a rough way to end the process Stacy. Hopefully you get it soon,it’s always a mystery as to where things get held up in the licensing process. I plan to write a bit more, so I’ll keep you posted. Cheers!

  12. archig8r says:

    WOOT! Congrats!!!! So happy for you!

  13. jyoungarch says:

    CONGRATULATIONS!!!!! Sooo happy for you! You really have no idea how lucky and blessed you are to have accomplished this in little over a year. I’ve been at it since 2009 and I am begging it will all be over this September! I understand your restraint from partying until the IDP is over, but at the very least, do a little bootie shake, down a couple pints, and truly allow yourself to breathe in some excitement!!! This is a HUGE deal! Again, so excited for you, Jenny! You have been a great motivator and inspiration to many of us!

    • jennypdx says:

      Thanks very much jyoung, I’m truly counting my blessings, in hindsight it’s been a whirlwind. You’re so close to being done yourself, and hope you’ll let me know how the final push goes this fall. In the meantime, I’ll try and celebrate a bit. Don’t have to tell me twice to enjoy a pint 🙂

  14. Callie says:

    Congrats Jenny! Your blog has certainly been inspiring. You will do very well in your career!

  15. Marji Lucero says:

    Congratulations!!!! Wow, what a feeling of relief you must have right now. I am certain that you will have a very successful career. Thank you for all of your study guides and, really, your mentorship, because you have been so successful with your test taking, even if you had to re-take one exam. Good Luck! Good Life! Good Career!

    • jennypdx says:

      Hi Marji, thank you. It’s been a thrill to share the journey with everyone and I’m so glad that it’s helped others along the way. Wishing all the same successes to you, too! 🙂

  16. Kevin says:


    I’ve been following you for about half a year now and this is my first (last?) comment. Really, congratulations. You really deserved it. I think the biggest victory in all of this isn’t the fact that you’re done but that you persevered. One day at a time and you got through it. God bless in whatever is to follow. (even starting tomorrow!)

    • jennypdx says:

      Hi Kevin, thanks for taking the time to follow and drop me a note! I sincerely appreciate the kind words, all the best to you too… hope to keep writing here, so keep in touch!

  17. BadDesignHurts says:

    WOOHOO! That’s so great! I have PPP on June 24, and if I pass, I’ll be “over the hump”….four down, three to go. I also imagine what it will feel like to be done (and where I’ll go on vacation to celebrate and relax), but I’ll probably react just like you did….with a giant deep breath! Congratulations! I hope your office gives you a raise!

    • jennypdx says:

      Good luck on PPP, the feeling of getting over the half way mark is indeed a wonderful one. Gives you a serious boost of energy to get through the last three. I like the idea of celebrating completion with a vacation, you’re definitely onto something there. Thanks for the kind words, best wishes on the rest of your exams!

  18. Stephanie Rinehart says:

    Congratulations Jenny!! I am retaking Building Systems on the 24th, and it is my last test….again. Your passing has given me a little more confidence. Besides your revised notes do you have any tips for me?

    • jennypdx says:

      Hey Stephanie, thanks!! If I can pass it the second time, I have no doubt that you’ll do the same. One of the things that really helped me was spending a little extra time with the MEP diagrams in graphic standards and MEEB books. I found that having a solid mental image of systems in my head really helped. You might try that as well. Good luck, let me know how it goes.

  19. Brian says:

    Congratulations Jenny! Thank you for sharing your journey with us.
    As individualized as the ARE experience was, it was always reassuring to hear stories just like yours to make you feel that you weren’t alone in this.
    Since finding out last month, I have had trouble putting into words the feelings that accompanied my completion of the ARE; I think you described it perfectly:

    “It’s the most intimate and yet all-encompassing feeling. It’s not big or flashy, it’s simply tranquil.”

    Although your days of test taking are now a thing of the past, your guidance will continue to live on through your forum posts, notes, and blog.
    Many thanks to you again for what you have done for me and the fellow ARE community and just think, now you will have some time to put birds on things!

    Keep the posts coming!

  20. Dom says:

    Congratulation!!! All the best to you

    Keep in touch


  21. kam says:

    Congratulations!!! Jenny! I am so glad you did it finally!! You have been so helpful to all of us and we all wanted you to succeed and you did it finally. And I want to say “thank you” again for helping me through my exams.

    • jennypdx says:

      thanks for the kind words Kam, I’m been humbled by the amount of support from everyone through the process. glad I could help pay it back to you 🙂

  22. ROGER says:


  23. Emily says:

    MANY CONGRATS!! I’ve enjoyed sharing this journey with you via your blog!

  24. Madonna says:


    Your study guides have been helpful and I can’t wait to be finished with these exams!

  25. matte says:

    congratulations!! your study guides have been a huge help. best of luck in your future!

  26. Rob says:

    Congrats. Hopefully in the next year I will know this feeling, however short lived knowing I still have one more exam to go after the ARE. Have to love California

  27. Gina says:

    Congrats on passing all of the exams!! I just discovered your blog as I’m about to register for my first exam and have been gathering as much info as possible. You’ve created such a great reference for your fellow interns, as well as much-needed inspiration for those of us just getting started w/ the exams. I was wondering if you have study materials left over that you want to sell? In particular I’m looking for the Archiflash cards, and the company only sells those with the computer software which I’m not really interested in and I’m hoping to find someone who has just the cards. If you or anyone else has cards to sell I’d be very interested. Again congrats on your success and thank you for the wonderful blog!

    • jennypdx says:

      Hi Gina, thanks for the note and the congrats! Your pass letters will come flying in before you know it, and then you can enjoy the sweet, sweet, feel of AREsuccess. Hopefully you’ll find that they’re not too bad once you get into the swing of things. I’ll shoot you an email about the Archiflash cards…I do have a set. Glad you enjoy the blog, good luck on your exams!

  28. Congratulations and THANK YOU!! I just discovered your blog and it was a huge help in preparing for the PPP exam I took this morning. 2 down 5 to go! Judging from the work I’ve seen on your blog I think it’s safe to say that you will be a huge asset to the design community for your entire career. Good luck!

    • jennypdx says:

      I’m so happy to hear you found the blog and study guides Kevin, thanks for reading and for the very kind words. Hope you get that PPPass soon, big congrats on your achievements so far, good luck knocking the rest out of the park!

  29. Douglas Noble says:

    Outstanding work Jenny!

    Thank you for all you do to help the next generation get licensed.

  30. […] since I read the glorious Jenny Cestnik’s final post, I have always dreamed of this day coming. I think she describes it much better, so I would like […]

  31. Nick says:


    Just wanted to give you a formal congrats/thanks on passing your tests and the help you’ve provided to others following the same path. I recently passed my first test, albeit with a few road bumps, and can safely say your notes really helped me gain the confidence of understanding the information I’ve studied. I’ve forwarded a number of my colleagues/friends to your blog in hopes that they too can be aided by your posts. Thanks again and congrats!

  32. Chris H says:


    I wanted to thank you for the study guides you put together for the exams. I found your blog while preparing for my first exam a year ago and I am happy to say that I have received my final pass notice! Your study guides were instrumental in my success with the ARE and passing them all on the first try.

    Once again, thank you for everything that you’ve done to help so many of us pass these tests.

    All the best,


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