Board Exam is a Mental State

Few days from now, the June 2017 Architect Licensure Exam (ALE) will take place. Many will have the chance to make one’s name a lil’ bit longer. But only some will actually add “Ar.” to their names *goosebumps*!

Now is the best time to share my pre-ALE  setbacks and how I survived that “Board Exam Madness” or that maka-buang-werla-na-kaayo-teh-patya-na-lang-ko-beh! times. And The Four Things I Did To Breakthrough and The Two Things I Wish I Did Not Do.

Where was I and what was I doing few days from my ALE? I’ll tell you. But first, let me give you a background of my pre-ALE experience through a simple, silly yet true-to-life timeline:


(Yes, all that in 5 months! Crazy, IKR! If you’re wondering where did my 3,840 hours or Two-year equivalent apprenticeship go: I started it as early as 3rd year college and finished before graduation.)

Early February on that year, I turned 22 and on that birthday week, I presented, defended and (finally) won my thesis. It was some time in March when it was officially a “Thesis it!” –I passed. I was one of the “lucky” Day One Thesis Presenters (if you were too, you surely feel the exact weight of my sarcasm.) So after my thesis, despite still having college errands I still had some time I did not want to spare. I started thinking: what must have been the reason behind (or opportunity lying) for having such fate? Then a daring idea popped: Why don’t I catch-up with that on going ALE Review Classes? And so I did! It was mid April when I finally got out of college and was free.

Graduating gave me all the more reason for that April to be my ultimate summer love. Instead of studying I basically loitered around and chillaxed the entire month until May. It was some time in May though, when I started to feel the mental turbulence and emotional disturbance setting in. The useless cramming started and all negative thoughts started to punch me on the face and put a total end on my summer love vibes.


The Two Things I Wish I Did Not Do:

Cramming was obviously, one of the two things I wished I never did. The other is not aiming for a Top-notch.

1. Cramming. I regret cramming so badly; for not only it proved to be counterproductive and totally useless, but mainly because I realized cramming is a crime against myself. We rob our future selves whenever we cram. We take away greatness from ourselves. And once you truly realized that, nothing could be more annoying.

2. Not aiming for a Top-notch. It’s a little bit lesser of a regret than cramming but still a valid one, because I realized that I could have nailed it. And if only I set that goal I may have avoided the cramming attitude in the first place.

The lesson in both setbacks are:
Never move without aim –always set a goal and always mean to hit it. Don’t be tolerant just as the passing time is not.


It was too late for me when I realized these things though. Because the next thing I knew, I found myself half hating and half loving Metro Manila. It was June and I was already there. Time ticked too fast and the days run off too quickly.

The Board Exam Madness has gone worse. But I had roughly a week to cope. There’s no way. All negative thoughts penetrated my head and poisoned my heart. (I was just pretty good at hiding it.) I started to panic and cram all the more until I had that moment.

In one of those seemingly endless battle rounds with RA 9266, National Building Code, History of-the-entire-freakin Architecture, D.K. Ching’s A Visual Dictionary of Architecture (the one book that actually makes you bit lighter because at one point you’re not really reading anymore, but you’re already coloring like a happy preschooler) and etc. I realized that there’s no point in all these. I realized that it’s not logically possible for me to cope anymore and if I pushed it harder I might also pushed off the remaining clarity and calm in my head. So I stopped. I went out and walked around Manila City. (Yes, I loitered some more!) Exactly three days from ALE when I completely abandoned the thought of reviewing. It worked for me but I’m not saying you should too, just make sure though you give yourself a breather especially when the exam is near.

It was not the loitering around nor the refusal to review that made me breakthrough, it was understanding and fully accepting my circumstance that I survived it.


The Four Things I Did To Breakthrough:

If you are in the same situation now, understand and fully accept your circumstance.

1. Know it is never easy and you’ll never be “ready”.
No matter how smart you are or prepared you think you are, it’s still gonna be hard and you’ll never be really ready. Don’t simply count on that thought: “I did my best and it’s enough. I am ready.” Of course, you should do your best! But what’s your best? And how did you know it was enough? Who measured it? And what’s your basis of being ready? Reading it all? Answering every past exam question you could gather? The study notes wallpaper in your room? Nope! If that’s the basis, you’re not ready.

2. Take it as it is and just go with it.
What makes Board Exams harder is its unpredictability. There’s so much variables in it just like our day to day life. And like life, the only way to handle it is to take it as it is and just go with it head on, of course!

3. Accept it, you won’t cover it all and it’s fine.
One of the many causes of your panic attacks are probably the fact that you realized you haven’t read this book cover-to-cover, or that you haven’t memorized all the IRRs, or that parts of the elevator you still don’t know, and who was the 1995 Pritzker Laureate? and a thousand more topics! But pause and just think about it: you were not even able to cover it all in the entire five years (or more) in architecture school, what more could five months or five weeks or five days do? You won’t cover it all! And seriously, you don’t have to.

4. Do it, because you got it!
I already told you about my impulsive decision of chasing ALE reviews and how I crammed it. But at one point, I accepted it’s all behind me and in few days I’m gonna take the Exam anyway. The thing that got me through among others is having the right kind of confidence, not in my abilities but in the truths standing strong right on the foot of my circumstances. I told myself (and you should too):

“The Exam I’ll be taking is a big deal and there may be questions I don’t know the answers to. But these questions will be from the very program I studied (and suffered) for five (or more) years! It will not be about Quantum Physics or Medical Science. It will be my program –Architecture! Ah! I got this!”

Yes, you got it! There’s a very fair chance. So just do it and sharpened those pencils!


If like me, you screwed up, consider the setbacks but don’t stay there. Don’t push it but don’t give up on it too. All these four points helped me breakthrough. I should know because after all, I passed the Board Exam with my sanity still intact. I still had to pay the consequence of my irresponsibility though, I did not reach the Top (and in hindsight, I regret it.) I barely passed. But in that setback I also won the best consolation prize; for not being a good student (far from a model example) I could now be a good teacher because I was once the bad, hard experience.


All of the above points are especially for those who screwed their ALE Review. It’s few days from your Exam, but realize the harder test has already started –that one happening in your mind right now. Take and pass it first, believe me, the ALE will be so much easier. For those who are still to take the Exam sooner or later, take whatever you can take from here but my only advice to you is: Don’t follow my example. Do the things I failed to do: Don’t cram. and set higher goals.


Under construction on S//S:

Yes! Finally, you’re an Architect! You passed the Board Exam! So now, what?


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