Acing the NCARB

By: Kyle McAlonan, Assoc. AIA

Over 60% of STG’s architecture staff is registered!

As STG Design’s newest and youngest Architect (paperwork pending), I was asked to share advice on the grueling process that is passing the series of tests issued by National Council of Architectural Registration Boards to become a Registered Architect.

I spent many early mornings and late nights over 14 months studying for these seven tests (I only had to retake two!). Here are some tactics that helped me conquer these tests:

  • Make studying a priority for yourself because nobody else will make it a priority for you. It can be tough balancing a job, personal life and studying but the sacrifice is worth it.
  • Map your specific goals for the tests and tell people, as many people as you can, so that the pressure forces you to hold yourself accountable.
  • Set a study schedule and let others know your schedule so that when they see you studying, they are less likely to bother you. Otherwise, if you were to study at your desk after working hours (like I often did), you will constantly be tempted with invitations to join happy hours or help with deadlines.
  • Schedule your next test before you take the previous one so that you feel mentally (and financially!) obligated to continue studying.
  • Don’t make excuses. The next test will not be easier. There will never be a better time than right now. Get it over with already!
  • Find the studying method that works best for you. As architects, we traditionally do not take many tests in school so it can be difficult to figure out the most beneficial studying method/s. Personally, I study best with repetition, or through reading, writing and listening to the information.
  • Know that you are not taking these tests alone; there are plenty of others taking the exact same tests with the exact same struggles. Find these people online, from your graduating class, from your local AIA chapter, from your office and connect with them, form study groups, discuss studying tactics, etc.
  • Don’t underestimate real world experience. There were many tests in which the material on the test did not seem to be derived from various study materials but rather on-the-job conversations that can happen between your principal, project manager, MEP engineer, civil engineer and the like.

If you are anything like me, you’ll want to be prepared for every situation. While the above are a few ways to help you become and feel prepared, I can promise you that the test has questions out of left field where you have no better chance than the educated guess you take. You cannot learn everything and that’s ok! No matter what, studying for the exams will make you a better Architect (once you finally do pass!).


Kyle McAlonan- bw.jpg
Kyle McAlonan, Assoc. AIA has Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Architecture from Texas Tech University and recently became a Registered Architect. In his two years at STG Design, Kyle has worked on a wide range of projects including: corporate campuses, government facilities, educational, industrial and multi-family. When not designing buildings, he likes to fish, run marathons, watch football, and travel, which is how he was first inspired by architecture.