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Dear L.A.R.E.y: What to Do When Things Go Wrong

Studying for the licensing exam? L.A.R.E.y has the answers. Brought to you by the ASLA LARE Prep Committee, including seasoned professionals, LARE Prep instructors, and recent and current test-takers, L.A.R.E.y’s answers will reflect the committee’s collective insights and experience. Please note that ASLA only endorses resources and materials provided by ASLA and CLARB.

Dear L.A.R.E.y, I am considering taking two exams during one testing period, is that crazy or do you have any recommendations for doing so? – Amy from Oregon


There are definitely different answers for different people—especially depending on your current work schedule and project load. That said, since you are asking me this question, I already think you are self-selecting to be one of the people who can do it, as it’s not that crazy!

Personally, I have taken two exams in one testing period once, and also two exams on a single day once. The former I would recommend, but the latter was an extremely long day which resulted in me passing Section 3 but failing Section 4. Plus, with a two- (or three-) week testing window, you shouldn’t have to do two in a day!

My recommendation for taking (and passing) two exams in a testing period is to pair exams together that have some overlapping material. In my opinion, the best pairings are Sections 2 & 3 together and Sections 1 & 4 together. If you are going to go this route, you have to know it is critical to register for both exams early so you get the time slots that you want, but also since you need to commit the same time studying for each Section as if you were taking them alone.

Let’s use Sections 2 & 3 as an example during the next full testing period of August 1–22, 2020. With two tests in the span of three weeks, it’s important to give yourself time in between the tests so you can focus on each test material specifically. In this example, I would schedule Section 2 within the first few days of the testing period and Section 3 within the last week of the testing period.

Then, start studying for both Sections 2 & 3 once you register: reading the recommended books, using flashcards and taking practice tests for both. About 1–2 weeks before your first test, focus exclusively on that Section (in this case Section 2). Once sitting for that exam, give yourself a day or two to rest, and then focus the remaining 1–1.5 weeks on only Section 3.

I’m sure this isn’t for everyone, but if you commit to thorough studying, schedule exams in a testing period that have overlapping material, and give yourself enough time to focus on each exam independently, I believe you can be successful!

Best of Luck!

Dear LAREy, I often think something is going to go terribly wrong on test day. Can you tell me one time it has, and what I can do to avoid it happening to me? - Jim from Missouri

One of the most memorable stories we can learn from was from an exam candidate in Seattle.

Candidates must register to sit for the exam with CLARB, and after getting confirmation, register for the specific date, time, and test center with Prometric. This candidate, who we can call “Larry” (not to be confused with me, the all-knowing L.A.R.E.y) had previously passed Sections 1–3 and only had Section 4 remaining. He registered with CLARB and looked at testing appointments, marking down when he thought he would want to take it. Then he began to study.

After studying hard for two months, his test date arrived, and he showed up to his local test center in Seattle. Unfortunately, Larry never actually booked that test time he put on his calendar! In addition, there were no openings at that test center or any test centers in the immediate area for the rest of the testing period. Contacting Prometric, he learned that his only chance to take Section 4 during this testing window would be to drive three hours north, crossing into Canada to take it in Vancouver the following morning.

Larry faced a serious issue. He had just studied for this exam for months and he would have to be going through the stress of his mistake, the drive, and the border crossing before even sitting for the test. However, the alternative was to wait another four months for the next test administration. Larry took the appointment, made the drive, and thankfully passed the Section!

So, what can we learn from Larry?

1. Always be sure to check for your confirmation emails for registration and for your appointment. I suggest logging in a few days prior to the day of the exam to check addresses, appointment times, and that you have the right date.

2. Start studying early and really learn the material. When facing this situation, Larry knew he had worked hard up to this point, and since he was not relying on cramming during the final days before his exam, he felt confident he had built enough wiggle room into his schedule.

3. When things get crazy, try to get calm. Larry knew that worrying about the situation would not help and that he could not change the past. He did everything he could to relax on the drive, get some good sleep, and eat a good, light meal before the exam.

No matter what you face in your exam (sleeping later than you’d like, hitting traffic en route to the test center, etc.), if you stay calm and work through the problem, it will all work out in the end!

Stay focused,

Dear LAREy, my company has a bunch of study materials on their server for the exams, but I don’t know where to start. Which materials are best to focus on? – Edwin from Georgia

Edwin, take a trip with me back in my time machine to 2011. At that time, CLARB modified the exam format changing it from five sections to four. Why are we going this far back? Because it is likely that your server still has materials from that time on it. Stop and step away from the study materials! They will likely do more harm than good and not be representative of what material is actually on the test as content is continually updated. For best results, read the books on the recommended reading list, taking notes and making flashcards and using up-to-date practice exams.

All the best,

Watch for new installments of Dear L.A.R.E.y in future LAND issues. Would you like to ask L.A.R.E.y a question? Send your questions to

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