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What is the ARE 5.0?

The Architect Registration Examination (ARE) is a mandatory exam for becoming a licensed Architect in the United States. This article will explain the different aspects of the ARE in detail.

The Architect Registration Examination (or ARE for short) is a computerized 6-division exam which serves as the registration examination for candidates seeking to become licensed architects  in the United States. This examination is adopted by all the 55 jurisdictions which means that passing this exam is mandatory for becoming an architect in the United States.

If you’re already studying for the ARE or planning on starting your journey soon, take a look at Remy & Ray’s Guide to the ARE. It is the most fun & interactive way to study for the ARE.

History

Until 1997, the ARE was a paper-and-pencil exam conducted once a year in major cities across the United States. 

Old-school ARE test-takers. Source: NCARB

In 1997 NCARB launched the computer-based exam known as the “ARE 3.0”. This was a historic step forward and after several updates, the “ARE 5.0” was launched in 2016 is the test currently offered.

You can learn more about the rich history of the Architecture Examination here.

Overview

The Architect Registration Examination consists of 6 divisions that focus on different stages of a project and the expertise needed by the architect to be successful in each stage. These 6 divisions, along with an overview of what is accessed and focused on, are as follows:

Divisions What the division will access What the division focuses on
Practice Management (PcM) Assess objectives related to the management of architectural practice, including professional ethics, fiduciary responsibilities and regulations. Focuses on issues related to pre-contract tasks including negotiation, HR management, and consultant development.
Project Management (PjM) Assess objectives related to the management of architectural projects, including organizing principles, contract management, and consultant management. Focuses on issues related to office standards, development of project teams, and overall project control of client, fee, and risk management.
Programming & Analysis (PA) Assesses objectives related to the evaluation of project requirements, constraints, and opportunities. Focuses on issues related to programming, site analysis, and zoning & code requirements.
Project Planning & Design (PPD) Assesses objectives related to preliminary design of sites and buildings. Focuses on issues related to the generation or evaluation of design alternatives that synthesize environmental, cultural, behavioral, technical and economic issues.
Project Development & Documentation (PDD) Assess objectives related to the integration and documentation of building systems, material selection, and material assemblies into a project. Focuses on issues related to the development of design concepts, evaluation of materials and technologies, selection of appropriate construction techniques, and appropriate construction documentation.
Construction & Évaluation (CE) Assess objectives related to construction contract administration and post-occupancy evaluation of projects. Focuses on issues related to bidding and negotiation processes, support of the construction process, and evaluation of completed projects.

Source: NCARB

ARE 5.0 Exam Format

Each of the six divisions are broken down into multiple sections, each with its own objectives on which candidates are assessed. Some objectives only require an understanding of a concept, while other objectives require more complex analysis and evaluation.

All six divisions are organized in the same way, varying only in the number of questions and duration. The content portion of each division includes discrete questions and case study questions. Individual questions are located at the beginning of the content portion of each exam, and case studies are located at the end. You don’t need to answer them in any specific order.

Taking Breaks

Optional break time is offered during each exam division. This time can be used for a few short breaks or one long break. You can begin a break at any time. Important

After returning from a break, you will not be allowed to go back to any of the items already viewed, regardless of whether they have been answered or not.

Tip: You can take the ARE Demonstration Exam in order to familiarize yourself with the structure and delivery format of the ARE.

Type of Questions in the ARE

Each division of the ARE 5.0 utilizes five different item types throughout the exam's discrete and case study items i.e:

  • Multiple Choice.
  • Check-all-that-apply.
  • Quantitative-fill-in-the-blank.
  • Hotspot.
  • Drag-and-place.

Philosophy of Testing

ARE 5.0 avoids the use of “Remember,” which is the lowest cognitive level, or “Create,” which is the highest cognitive level, as they are not appropriate for the assessment of a newly licensed architect. Rather this exam focuses on:

Understand/Apply: Deduction of meaning from information, demonstration of comprehension of concepts or processes, application of processes or procedures in familiar or unfamiliar situations:

  • Requires conceptual understanding to answer.
  • Focuses on standard, straight-forward application of knowledge.
  • May require the employment of a mathematical formula.

Analyze/Evaluate: Reduction of overall concept into component parts, determination of how parts relate to one another and to the overall structure, arrival at judgments based on given criteria.

  • Requires integration of new information with existing information.
  • May require the prioritization of information.
  • Often focuses on non-standard situations.

Eligibility

There are two major requirements for taking the ARE:

  • Establishing an NCARB Record.
  • Meeting the ARE eligibility requirements of your relevant board of architecture.

To take the ARE, you need to request eligibility from your relevant board of architecture. If you fulfill the criteria of the architecture board in your jurisdiction, you will receive an automated email notification.

It is important to note that eligibility granted is not valid for life. Your eligibility to test may expire if no attempt of ARE has been made within a FIVE-YEAR period. In such circumstances, a new eligibility will have to be established. 

Note: Each jurisdiction may have its own eligibility criteria and its rules, therefore you must be aware of the rules and policies of your relevant jurisdiction.

Rolling Clock System

It is very important to be familiar with the NCARB’s Rolling Clock policy. As already discussed, the ARE consists of 6 divisions. Any division of the ARE that you pass is valid for an initial period of FIVE YEARS. This means you must pass all the remaining divisions within 5 years. Extensions to this time period may be granted under certain circumstances. Click to learn more about the Rolling Clock Extension Process.

Note: Each jurisdiction may have its own retake limit/exam validity time frame, therefore you must be aware of the rules and policies of your relevant jurisdiction.

Scheduling/Taking the ARE

You may take any division of the ARE at any time (once the eligibility criteria is satisfied) and in any sequence you choose. The division(s) which you are eligible to take are indicated in your NCARB Record. 

Walk-in appointments are not allowed, and you must schedule your appointment a minimum of Three business days in advance of the test. Reservations are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis and restricted by seat availability for Prometric test center and by proctor availability for online examination.

In-person appointments: The ARE is offered at Prometric test centers throughout the U.S. and Canada, as well as several international locations.

Online appointments: With online proctoring, you can take the test  24 hours a day, 365 days a year, in most places around the world.

Important: NCARB will be switching to a new test administration vendor, PSI, in early 2022. They will offer both in-person and online exam appointments. NCARB will provide more information about this change later in 2021.

Source: NCARB

Exam Durations

Below is a handy little table which summarizes the number of items and test durations for each division.

DIVISION NUMBER OF ITEMS TEST DURATION ALLOWED BREAK TIME TOTAL TIME
Practice Management 65 2 hr 40 min 30 min 3 hr 20 min
Project Management 75 3 hr 30 min 3 hr 40 min
Programming & Analysis 75 3 hr 30 min 3 hr 40 min
Project Planning & Design 100 4 hr 5 min 45 min 5 hr
Project Development & Documentation 100 4 hr 5 min 45 min 5 hr
Construction & Evaluation 75 3 hr 30 min 3 hr 40 min
TOTAL TIME: 19 hr 50 min 24 hr 20 min

Accommodations

NCARB and Prometric offer accommodations for individuals who are pregnant or breastfeeding, or may have a documented disability or any temporary condition that requires accommodations. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is used as a guide by NCARB when evaluating requests.

In order to receive accommodations during tests, candidates must request directly to their relevant board of architecture. Once approved, candidates will receive notification and instructions on how to make an appointment. 

Note: You can learn more about testing accommodations here.

Exam Fees

Exam fees must be paid first after which you can schedule your exam(s) from your NCARB Record. The details of exam fees is as follows:

• Individual divisions: $235.

• Retakes: $235.

This means that if all 6 divisions are passed in the first attempt, the total exam fee would amount to $1,410. 

Note: To learn more about other NCARB fees, please click here.

Online Proctored Exams

Along with physical examination, NCARB and Prometric have established the extremely useful online proctored system for examination. Under this system, candidates who meet the requirements can attempt the exams from the comfort of their homes. This has been particularly useful during the Covid pandemic. 

Note: You can read more about this system here and here. 

Retaking an Exam

If you fail a specific division of the ARE, you can retake that division as soon as 60 days after the previous attempt of that division. A candidate may only take the same division of the ARE three (3) times within any 12-month time frame. 

Scoring System

All divisions of the ARE are graded by computer on a pass/fail basis. Results for all divisions are typically processed within one week of the test and can be checked via your NCARB Record. If you fail an exam, your score card will contain descriptive feedback, identifying areas of relative strength and weakness.

Different candidates will give different versions or forms of a division (to minimize the chances of cheating). Naturally, this can lead to a slight variation in the difficulty of the same exam for different candidates. Keeping this in mind, NCARB has established a cut score system. As a result, the following criteria has been established by NCARB for passing different divisions of the ARE.


Division Passing criteria
Project Development & Documentation You need to answer between 57 – 62 percent of scored items correctly on these divisions to pass.
Construction & Evaluation You need to answer between 57 – 62 percent of scored items correctly on these divisions to pass.
Practice Management You need to answer between 62 – 68 percent of scored items correctly on these divisions to pass.
Project Management You need to answer between 62 – 68 percent of scored items correctly on these divisions to pass.
Programming & Analysis You need to answer between 65 – 71 percent of scored items correctly on these divisions to pass.
Project Planning & Design You need to answer between 65 – 71 percent of scored items correctly on these divisions to pass.

Note: To learn more about test scores, please click here.

Score Verification/Review and Challenge

In case of an unsuccessful attempt, candidates can request a score verification up to 60 days from the date of the exams. This process will verify that the score and descriptive feedback reported, accurately represented your performance on the division. The fee for a score verification is $100.

A review process is also available and can only be initiated if the board of architecture permits reviews.  NCARBs fee for a review is $300 (however the board may charge additional fees) and the review application must be submitted within four months of the exams. Under this system, incorrect answers can be reviewed and challenged.

Note: You can learn more about these options here.

Fun Facts and Little Tidbits:

  • The ARE is only available in English.
  • The ARE includes measurements in inch-pound units only
  • If you experience three or more technical issues during the same administration, Prometric will give you the option to continue testing or end your exam administration and be rescheduled at no additional cost.
  • Most types of jewelry are prohibited, with the exception of wedding or engagement rings.
  • In online proctored examination, if your test session is delayed by more than 30 minutes after scheduled time, you will be given the choice of continuing to wait or rescheduling your appointment.
  • Calculators are not allowed as all divisions of the ARE include an on-screen scientific calculator for use.
  • Small lockers are provided at test centers for candidate use to secure purses, wallets, keys etc.
  • If it is found that the score or descriptive feedback reported to the candidate was not accurate, the score verification fee will be refunded.
  • The ARE are accepted by 11 architectural associations in Canada.

Conclusion

In 2020, 13,464 candidates attempted the ARE and the passing rate was roughly 50% for each division. Considering that these candidates had already completed their undergraduates and had undergone extensive training under the Architectural Experience Program (AXP), is a testament to the quality of testing in the ARE. 

The ARE is without a doubt a difficult and taxing process but it has to be considering the very high level of competence, public’s health, safety, and welfare which are expected from Licensed Architects.

If you’re already studying for the ARE or planning on starting your journey soon, take a look at Remy & Ray’s Guide to the ARE. It is the most fun & interactive way to study for the ARE.

What is the ARE 5.0?What is the ARE 5.0?What is the ARE 5.0?What is the ARE 5.0?
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