Hey, I’m Jenny.  Welcome!

AREndurance is the unfolding story of my adventure through the rigors of preparing for and taking the Architect Registration Examination. I’m an intern architect and northwest USA native, and have had my heart set on becoming an architect since the age of seven. It’s my goal to have my license at age 27 in 2012/2013. So far I’ve taken and passed:

Construction Documents + Services
Programming, Planning, + Practice
Site Planning + Design
Structural Systems
Schematic Design
Building Design + Construction Systems
Building Systems

Update June 2013:

Well, that’s it….all seven attempted and passed! *BIG sigh of relief*
It’s been a whirlwind of an experience, and one that I realize is truly just beginning as I enter this new phase of my career.  As I look back on the ARE process I realize that the exams have made me a more thoughtful designer, and more holistic in my approach to architecture.  While my ARE journey is complete, I know the excitement of learning is far from over.

Thanks to you who have been along for the ride, I couldn’t have done it without your support.  For those of you just starting out, or to those stumbling upon this blog farther along, I welcome you to start from the beginning here, and drop me a note on anything that strikes a chord.  It’s no secret that the ARE is an incredibly personal process, but I think you’ll be surprised to find that really, we’re all in it together.

Thanks for reading, good luck, and cheers!


85 thoughts on “about

  1. Robbie says:

    Hello Jenny,

    Did you go to WSU? I am asking because you mentioned Ken Carper, and we are on a very similar path for exams. It seems like I am a month behind you. Your notes are great.

    • jennypdx says:

      Thanks Robbie, good luck to you with your studies! And yes, good catch, I was toiling away in Carpenter Hall between ’03-’06 before I finished up in Spokane in ’07. Go Cougs! 🙂

  2. architecture365 says:


    Great website. Kudos on helping those out taking the ARE. Keep up the good work,

    Dustin (dwg)

    • jennypdx says:

      Thanks Dustin! I sincerely appreciate all the resources and tips you’ve provided as well!

      • Chet says:

        Great stuff… is your list above the preferred order to test in?
        Just getting started.

      • jennypdx says:

        Hi Chet, thanks! The order listed is the order I took them in. It worked for me, and I’d recommend that you look over all of the exam guides from NCARB to get a feel for what might work best for you. It’s really a decisions that’s best to make based on how familiar you are with the content areas. Personally if I had to do it over again (and thank God I don’t) my order would be: CDS/SPD/PPP/SS/SD/BS/BDCS.

        Just a couple of thoughts for you as you get started… It’s wise to take CDS/SPD/PPP in sequence as CDS and SPD material is also covered in PPP. SS/BS are pretty isolated exams and don’t draw upon other exam content much, but their content will show up in BDCS. Basically topics from every exam will be found in BDCS and a lot of people save it for last. SD doesn’t really relate to anything and is the “easy one” because it’s only vignettes. I took it after SS to give myself a bit of a break, but many take it first to get used to the software, or last in order to end on an almost guaranteed pass.

        Hope that gives you a little insight. Best of luck in the exam process, once you get into the swing of things with a study schedule and system that works for you I think you’ll find that it’s not too bad. Thanks for reading and cheers!

  3. Scott A. Hendrix says:


    Great website! Informative, and amusing. I’ve forwarded links to your study guides to friends from school and work associates; everyone is floored at the work you’ve put forth. Thank you so much for offering your resources. The amount of info we cover in preparation for these exams can be overwhelming. I’ve got CDS (Pass!!) under my belt, as well as BDCS (…ugh…r-i-d-i-c-u-l-o-u-s), and taking PPP tomorrow.

    Your notes were a great refresher to some info I’m sure I would have passed over. I hope I can contribute as significantly in the near future. I look forward to keeping up with you through the process. Best of luck!

    • jennypdx says:

      Thanks for the kind words Scott! I’m so glad to hear the study guides have been helpful to you and your friends. Best of luck on PPP today! I’m considering taking BDCS after SS, let me know if you ever post any thoughts or tips on it! Cheers!

      • Anjana says:

        You inspire us all Jenny, and with AREForum down, we’re all coming here, it looks like. Be careful how much time you spend here, it will just substitute (and maybe subsume) your AREForum time!

  4. Came across this while looking for info on areforum’s outage. Great that you’re documenting your adventure. I’ve found it the most frustrating thing in my life, having passed 7 of 9 before the switch to v4.0 and then having only 1 be credited. I’ve taken about 16 exams at this point and still have 3 more. BDCS on Wed., SS on 6/7 and a re-take of SPD. g’luck with all.

  5. Giovanna Iorio says:

    Hi Jenny – Thanks for the blog. It keeps me motivated when I study! FYI if you were not aware of this, he is a link that teaches you how to install NCARB practice program for mac machine. The step by step video is very helpful. Cheers! Giovanna


    • jennypdx says:

      Oh sweet, I haven’t seen that link before. Thanks for the info, Giovanna! Happy to hear the blog keeps you going, thanks for reading. Cheers and good luck on your exams!

    • Anjana says:

      Giovanna, Thank you so much. I think I will leave the 20 minute work to the helpful husband who can support my ARE marathon with this useful trick. I run Parallels right now, but I think this would be easier on my RAM.

  6. Giovanna Iorio says:

    Sorry – *here

  7. Anjana says:

    BTW, Sometime ago I read your reply to someone who had commented on how they’d failed a bunch of them. You were encouraging and helpful. While your study strategies are exemplary, and your recording your process through this blog is phenomenal, I think what makes your site so magnetic is the underlying personality that shines through – someone with a good heart, respect for fellow human beings and the compassion to hold other people’s hands despite having your own full. You will no doubt make an excellent architect when this is all done. Be aware of your amazing power to make, create and sustain communities, so that you can find the right place to use it in your practice.

  8. ChrisILArch says:

    Thanks Jenny- your notes are pure awesomeness!

  9. William says:

    Jenny – The PPP study guide you assembled is nothing short of brillant. Thank you so much for sharing.

  10. pigeon says:

    just stumbled across your site from the areforum – amazing notes!!!! wish i found them about 6 exams ago (have one left – SS). best of luck finishing yours.

  11. amyd says:

    Jenny, I am so glad I stumbled acoss a post you had on the forum and I followed the link to your blog. This is wonderful!!! Thank you so much for sharing.

  12. Emily says:

    Hi there Jenny,

    I am preparing for SD and found your guide super helpful! I am also waiting for authorization from the areforum site, but haven’t been authorized yet (registered Sunday?)… Anyhoo, do you think I could email a couple of my IL/BL vignettes to you to get your take? If not, no worries. Just trying to get some feedback before my exam on Thursday :0


  13. Janice says:

    Greetings from the East Coast (Washington DC), Jenny! Just wanted to say that I recently happened upon your blog and I love it! I had to do a double take, actually- it’s like I’m looking at my own journey when I read your posts.

    I am also looking to be licensed before I turn 27 (my birthday is in October)… and I’ve taken 5 tests as well! Just thought I’d drop a line and wish you good luck on your remaining two tests. Keep us posted on how the rest go. We can do it- we’re almost there!


    • jennypdx says:

      Great to hear from you Janice! Thanks for reading, it’s always cool to meet other interns who are in the same boat. Congrats on making it through five exams, and good luck to you as well! Cheers!

  14. Alvy Chu says:

    hi jenny, im so glad to have come across your blog! wishing you the best of luck 🙂

  15. […] Every opinion is slightly different… from fellow bloggers The Artichoke’s Guide and AREndurance, to a neverending stream of posts on […]

  16. kam says:

    Hi Jenny! Your blog has inspired me to keep trying to get the license. Thanks! I am wondering if it is ok to ask you questions about trees on SPD. I believe passed, congrats. Some sources online said “Use only Deciduous Trees for shade” and “Noon day shade concerns only summer and Deciduous Trees should be used on that”. Could I ask you for a 2nd opinion? Thank you so much!

    • jennypdx says:

      Hi Kam, I’m glad to hear you’ve been inspired 🙂 I’m be happy to be of some help! When it comes to trees on SPD, my understanding is that: Conifer trees = block wind AND views, and Deciduous tress = create shade.

      You’re correct in thinking that noon day shade only refers to summer and that deciduous tress should be used. Remember that they only shade an area equal to their height. So a tree that is 50 feet tall would only shade 50 feet in the direction the shadow is cast (the north side of the tree in our practice vignettes). Does that makes sense? Let me know if you have any other questions!

      • kam says:

        Hi Jenny! Thanks for the reply. You do inspire me since trying to find out these “rules of games” for vignettes is so discouraging.

        About those trees, I still don’t quite understand the “noon day sun” shade requirement if they don’t specify only in summer or year-long. (I am hoping the real test would be clear about that if it asks). “Noon day sun” happens every day. Some people on the forum said use ONLY Deciduous trees if shading is required. Would you think it is wrong if conifers are used?

        I am worried that the real question doesn’t specify what season and I will be sitting there not knowing what to do 😦 How sad!

        But if the questions calls for “shading all year long” I will probably use conifers and set the plaza within 50′ north of the tree trunk without having the plaza within the drip line. You think that sounds ok?

        Thanks so much Jenny!

      • jennypdx says:

        Hi Kam,

        If you see the word “shade” then think “deciduous trees”. Keep it that simple. At no time should conifer trees be used for shading.

        The reason for that has to do with what NCARB assumes we assume about seasons and sun in general. That is, during the summer at noon the sun shines on the southern facade of a building heating it up, which is often undesired (rooms get too hot, air conditioners have to work harder, etc.). Planting deciduous trees blocks the summer sun because they are full of leaves. During the winter, the same sun at noon will still shine on the southern facade of a building but heating it up isn’t such a bad thing…in fact it’s often desired in passive heating design! Those deciduous trees that were planted lose all their leaves in the winter and the sun can shine through and hit the building helping heat it. The same goes for plazas. You’d want them to be shaded during the warm summer months, but let that sun shine in and warm it up during the winter! 🙂

        Most likely NCARB won’t specify the season and wording will be much like the practice vignettes. So just assume that summer sun is bad, winter sun is good, and deciduous trees are the way to go.

        Does that help?


  17. Tom says:

    Hi Jenny-

    I discovered your website a month ago when I finally decided to stop making excuses and start taking my exams. I started studying for Structural, got overwhelmed, and decided I would start with Schematic Design first. I followed your notes (you’re so awesome for sharing) and advice for joining the are forum… however, I still don’t have access to the forum and haven’t been able to utilize it as a resource. Did you have this experience when you joined? I can’t even view peoples’ posts or post my solutions for critique… lame! My test is Tuesday (10/23) and I’m not feeling super confident without being able to get feedback.

    Good for you for sticking to your goal and kicking butt. I wanted to be licensed by 28 (I’ll be 29 in December and I have yet to take a test).

    • jennypdx says:

      Hey Tom, thanks for reading! I seem to recall having to wait a few days to get my areforum approval, but don’t think it was longer than a week at most. It might be worth a quick follow up email to see what’s happening. I don’t think you’re the only one who has had some trouble getting authorized. In the meantime, there’s an areforum alternate that you might try posting your practice vignettes to. It’s called ARECoach. Hope that helps, good luck!

  18. kam says:

    It really helps Jenny! You ARE amazing! Thanks.

  19. Brian says:

    Hi Jenny,

    Long time reader, first time writer.

    I would like to start off with a great big THANK YOU! Your blog and notes are providing an invaluable service to the ARE community.
    Not only are your notes an essential study aid, but your enthusiasm is contagious!
    With 3 tests down and the last 4 spread over the next 6 months I’ve found myself getting more people motivated about taking their exams; your notes are quite the buzz here at the office (“Did you hear, Jenny just posted her BDCS notes!”).

    I visited a buddy of mine in Portland a few years back; the trip had me wanting to relocate. In the mean time I will continue living vicariously through Portlandia on Netflix, shipped Stumptown coffee, and your blog.

    Good luck on your final exam!

    • jennypdx says:

      Hey Brian! Thanks so much for reading and for dropping me a line! It’s always a delight to get a chance to connect with other interns around the country. I’m so happy to hear that the notes have been useful, and I’m totally flattered to hear about the buzz at your office. Seriously, I’m blushing, thank you. Congrats on passing three exams so far, I hope your success continues with the rest! Sounds like you’re getting quite a good fix of Rose City… have you started putting birds on things? 🙂 Cheers!

  20. diana says:

    Hi Jenny! I also got knocked down by one of my exams (for me it was that tricky Contracts one that I didn’t really give enough respect), but I’m just trying to keep moving forward and get through the rest of them. I’ve got four more, one more in just a few weeks. It was a big bummer to see the “fail” on my screen, but I’ve received a lot of encouragement from friends and family. Failure sucks, but you’re right – it is just an inherent part of architecture. The way I see it, we’ll just be extremely prepared in six months. Congratulations on passing all the other divisions – that’s an impressive accomplishment in itself. Thanks for all the help. Good luck!

  21. Dylan says:

    Hi Jenny,

    I’m wondering if you could do me a huge favor and review my site design vignettes? I signed up on the forum about 2 months ago, and still cannot post or upload there.

    Thanks for everything you’ve done with this, your blog was what really motivated me to start taking these.


  22. Hi Jenny,
    testing for structures Monday and doing my final push. Do you know if the forum is down? haven’t been on in awhile and gettin a 403 forbidden message. also, any last minute advice on the structures exam? thanks

    • jennypdx says:

      Looks like it’s working for me today. Maybe there was a glitch yesterday? I found working through as many multiple choice questions as possible to be the most beneficial thing I did during the last few days. I went through every answer (right or wrong) and made sure I understand why the correct answers were correct. Good luck with your final push!!

  23. thanks Jenny, do you know how to get alternative vignettes and how to upload them onto the ncarb software?

  24. Todd L. Ommen says:

    Thanks for all of the valuable information! Can you direct me to alternate PPP vignettes? How do you upload it/tem to NCARB practice software?

    • jennypdx says:

      Hi Todd, I actually didn’t use the alt vignettes myself, but my suspicion is that they’re on the arefoum FTP site. You might dig around there and do a search of the PPP threads for further instruction. Sorry I can’t be of more help!

  25. You are so famous, now there appears to be two of you – check it out: http://www.areforum.org/forums/showthread.php?305348-Just-tested

  26. I really like it whenever people get together and
    share thoughts. Great website, keep it up!

  27. Candy says:

    Hi Jenny!
    Just wanna let you know I’ve enjoyed reading your blog… and you’ve inspired me to start my own! I’m so jealous you already have six down, I only have one 😛
    Keep writing and good luck with everything! 🙂

    • jennypdx says:

      Hi Candy, thanks for reading! 🙂 So happy to hear that you’ve started writing your own blog, you’ll be amazed how much it helps you think through the process. Best of luck on the rest of your exams, they’ll be over before you know it!

  28. Hope says:

    Hi Jenny! Just wanted to let you know that you rock and your study guides have been a lifesaver! I’m 4 exams in! I’m also WSU grad and was there from ’02-’07 ending with a masters degree in Architecture. I wish I had kept my notes from Carper’s class!! I think I remember seeing you up in Spokane. Anyways, best of luck in your future career, I’m sure you will be a great asset to any firm that has you.

    • jennypdx says:

      Hi Hope! Great to hear from you, I remember you and the rest of the Spokane crew, you guys set the bar high for my class! Thanks for all the kind words, and best of luck to you too. Congrats on being over half way done with the exams…you’re almost there! Cheers!

  29. ckosio says:

    I hope you will keep this website running for us as an inspiration and for the study guides.
    You study really helps a lot!

  30. Roger says:

    Hey Jenny. Congratulations. Do you happen to have any of your study materials for sale?

    • jennypdx says:

      Hey Roger, thanks! I haven’t decided how to distribute my study material yet, but if I do decide to sell any of it I’ll be sure to post here!

  31. Norfilly says:

    Congratulations Jenny!

  32. Douglas Noble says:


  33. AMS says:

    Hey Jenny,

    Thank you so much for creating this website and sharing not only the study material, but your experiences. And congratulations on completing the ARE!

    I’ve found your notes to be very helpful. And hopefully after October I won’t need them anymore.

    • jennypdx says:

      Hi AMS, I’m sorry it took me so long to respond to your kind words. Thank you!! I’m so glad to hear you’ve found the study materials and experiences and hope they continue to help you along your journey. Best of luck finishing your exams next month!

      • AMS says:

        No problem! And you are more than welcome, because your site ROCKS, lol. Unfortunately I’m not going to make the October deadline, but I’m still determined to complete this process. It will just take a little longer.

  34. lili says:

    Hi Jenny,
    Do you know if areforum.org will be out forever?
    Do you know others webs that can help to study for ARE?
    Thank you,

    • jennypdx says:

      Hi Lili, I’m not affiliated with arefourm, so I can’t tell you how long it will be out and if it will be back. Fortunately there is a great alternate forum that you can use, it’s called ARE Coach, and was set up by an arefourm member a while back when the stie was experiencing intermittent blackouts. Here’s the link to it for you. That might be a good place for you to start. Otherwise, there’s a lot of information out there on the web, either specifically search for topics you’re struggling with (there are surprisingly a lot of helpful construction youtube videos!). Hope that helps, good luck!!

  35. Cathy Otis says:

    I am super glad I found your blog. What a blessing!! Thank you Jenny!

  36. amir says:

    Thank you
    so much, Jenny!

  37. amie j says:

    Jenny Congrats on the full pass! Hey I was wondering do you know if placing a diffuser 3 feet from another diffuser in one room on the vignette is an automatic fail? I just took the test and that is a mistake I know I made in one spot! Thanks for the awesome study guide too btw!

  38. Michael says:

    Jenny, so glad to find your post. I am frustrated with my progress on the exam should I say. I have to retake BS, SS and BDCS and I am looking for a guidance for the BS as I am taking it again in 2 month. This is my plan: read Caplan, study MEEB and Architecture Graphic Standard for the diagram only and review your notes, do mock exam before I take my exam. Do you have any suggestion on my plan? Please comment because I am lost! Thanks.

  39. Logan Smith says:

    I see that you are a fellow Portlander, so considering how helpful your reviews are turning out to be for me, I owe you a beer or ten. Maybe I’ll see you around some event or other and you can cash in. Thanks for sharing your hard work.

    • jennypdx says:

      Haha, awesome! Only in Portland is beer basically legal tender. No need to cash in, I’m glad to hear they’re helping you out. Hope you’ve had a successful run on the exams so far! I try to hit up lectures and emerging professional events around town, I’ll keep an eye out for your name and say hi if I see you!

  40. NATE SCOTT says:

    I have SS and BS remaining to become licensed. I have not taken the exam in a while. What would you suggest I take first? My rolling clock is set to expire on July 1, 2014. Please advise.

    • jennypdx says:

      Hi Nate, you’re so close! In my experience SS was a fairly isolated exam, meaning that I didn’t notice much overlap with other exams when I was preparing. I also found it to be the most academic, and spending time going through the Q&A kaplan book was helpful in really understanding equations and concepts. BS was the most difficult exam for me (I bombed it the first time!), I found a few connections to SS, and a few more to BDCS. Again, I noticed that overall it was fairly isolated content from the rest of the ARE.

      It’s hard to suggest which one to take first. You might download the NCARB exam guides for each and go through the content areas and sample problems to see which one you have a better initial grasp of and go for that. Or flip a coin. I don’t think starting with one over the other really matters, they’re fairly equal. Personally I took SS then BS and it worked for me, but ultimately it’s a call you have to make for yourself.

      Hope that helps, good luck. You have plenty of time!

  41. NATE SCOTT says:

    Thanks for getting back with me. I also wanted to know if you thought one month per is enough prep time?


  42. keithMKE says:


    I started reading your blog in March when I began the exams. Now, halfway through, I wanted to say thank you, for being one of many people that encouraged me and showed me that the ARE isn’t as frightening once you begin.

    Also, where is the JennyPDX “life of a practicing architect” blog? Does life really end with licensure?


    • jennypdx says:

      Hi Keith, thanks for taking the time to drop me a note. I’m honored and humbled to have played a small role in your ARE success to date. Best of luck finishing up the process, and congrats on everything so far, at the end of the day, it’s all you!


      PS. I’m kicking around a professional blog concept, I’ll keep you posted 🙂

  43. Michael says:

    Jenny, after failing miserably on BDCS and SS last year in the borderline of giving up, I read your BDCS and SS notes and recently pass both exam! I am taking my last one which is BS in late January. I will be sure to study your notes and hopefully be done with my 4 years NCARB journey and finally be licensed! Couldn’t have done it without your help! Thank you so very much!

  44. Hi Jenny, had a question. I have BS, BDCS and a retake of structures (original test of quite some time ago). I’m gearing up to complete the AREs and wanted your opinion on in what order I should complete them? Do I go with retake of SS first or BDCS, SS then BS? or something different. I major deficiencies in the lateral section of the MC and vignette. I was leaning towards SS retake first before I heard the change in amount of time you had to wait to retake, help! Thanks

  45. Carolyn says:

    Hi Jenny,

    I just found out I passed my last ARE and I wanted to thank you for your incredibly comprehensive and detailed study guides. I actually printed each division and bound it at work so I could easily flip through them. For every test, your guides were where I started my studying for an overview of the material, and where I ended my studying, as a thorough review. For a few of the tests, I honestly didn’t read anything else — just used your guides and took the available practice tests. I wanted to let you know what a powerful impact you had on my studying — and my success in finally passing these exams. Thank you for sharing your study materials, struggles, encouraging thoughts, and ultimate success with the architecture community.


  46. Enjoyed reading this, very good stuff, regards . “Nothing happens to any thing which that thing is not made by nature to bear.” by Marcus Aurelius Antoninus.

  47. Are4-5 says:

    Hi there I had a very odd question. I noticed you were using the Nalsa flashcards. I’ve just embarked on my ARE journey and unfortunately have misplaced my SPD set of cards. Would you be any chance be willing to sell your set if you still have it? I’d greatly appreciate it. Thank you

  48. KellyARCH says:

    I am just over half way through all of my exams – and I wanted to thank you for your comprehensive study guides. They are dynamite!!!!

  49. matt smith says:

    I have used all of your guides and am down to my last 2. a 5 month process so far. I am 22 years overdue on doing this, which I try not to think about. Emotionally trying. Thank you.

  50. Francis Aquiler Putulin says:

    The notes for Schematic Design really helped me in preparing for that NCARB Exam, especially the organizational charts. I passed this particular exam and I just wanted to say thank you for the helpful information.

  51. Wei says:

    Dear Jenny,

    Another 4 years after you passing ARE…

    I am writing to ask for your assistance in helping me pass my last subject in the 4.0 ARE.

    As you know the 4.0 ARE is ending on June 30th and I plan to make my last attempt in May 2018. I have already taken it 6 times in the past two years and do not know why I haven’t passed, hence I really need to pass this time.

    I know your time is valuable and I may have a lot of questions in the future. I would like to compensate you for your work and assistance. I value your insight and experience from coaching others throughout the years.

    Please let me know if you’re interested and what the cost might be to help me at your earliest convenience.


  52. […] free online resources. I recommend Jenny’s Notes, Caroline’s Notes, and the Schiff Hardin […]

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