ARE 5.0 Transition Explained

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NCARB ARE 5.0 Transition Explained 

This post is part of a series on NCARB’s Architecture Registration Exam. Having recently completed this long process, the series examines my journey and the various things I learned along the way. Click here to see all the posts of my Architecture Registration Exam Series.

“The only thing that is constant, is change.”
– Heraclitus

The Architect Registration Exam is going through a huge change. In 2013 the NCARB Board of directors approved the development of ARE 5.0, the new and updated version of ARE 4.0. With this new exam upcoming candidates can expect changes to the structure of the exam as well as the exam’s testing method.

What’s changing?

The new version will apply changes that testing candidates should be aware of. One of the primary and most obvious changes is the reduction of divisions. The existing ARE 4.0 consists of 7 divisions:

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

The new ARE 5.0 will consist of 6 divisions which will include:

  • Practice Management
  • Project Management
  • Programming & Analysis
  • Project Planning & Design
  • Project Development & Documentation
  • Construction & Evaluation

The method of ARE 5.0 testing is still being determined. The NCARB is investigating new technology that will allow for new performance item questions as well as other exam improvements. Additionally, the current graphic vignettes will most likely be changed by this new technology.

The ARE 5.0 is expected to incorporate graphics throughout the exam but add performance item types like identifying hot spots. The exam is not expected to be simpler or more difficult, it will employ different methods of asking questions.

Why are they doing this to me?

The ARE is continually being evaluated to ensure that the exam remains relevant to current practice. With this evaluation, NCARB considers new testing methods as they become available. Technology has allowed for recent break throughs in graphic testing methods which may be used on ARE 5.0, although nothing has been announced yet. Improved testing methods will allow for a better determination of a candidate’s competency which is the ultimate goal of the ARE. The ARE is designed to test a candidate’s competency to ensure the health, safety, and wellbeing of the public. NCARB is expecting that better testing technology will evaluate candidates at higher levels of cognition and analytical thinking; similarly to the regular practice of architecture.

Additionally, the ARE upgrade was strongly recommended based on the results of the 2012 NCARB Practice Analysis of Architecture. The new division structure will better align with the more common activities of professional architecture. The new exam version is being developed with the input of architects across the country with varying backgrounds to ensure that the exam reflects the broad aspects of current practice.

When is this happening?

ARE 5.0 is not expected to launch until 2016. There has been a timeline of events leading up to the roll out of this new version.

NCARB voted in February 2013 to develop ARE 5.0 but the division structure and test specification was not announced until December 2013.

NCARB announced the ARE 5.0 transition plan in May 2014 and intends to release interactive tools to help candidates manage this transition in 2015.

In early 2016 ARE 5.0 study materials will be released and the launch of ARE 5.0 is expected in late 2016.

June 30, 2018 ARE 4.0 will be retired. Hurry up and finish those tests!

What do I need to do?

Step 1. Chill out! It is too early to really understand the details of how the exam will change.

Step 2. Keep studying.

It is important that you finish the CDS, PPP and SPD. Focusing study efforts on and passing CDS, PPP, and SPD is the strategy recommended by NCARB for candidates who think they may transition to ARE 5.0. If you pass these three divisions, you will only need to take two division in ARE 5.0; Project Planning & Design and Project Development & Documentation. Following this track could lead to the completion of the ARE in 5 divisions.

Dual delivery of ARE 4.0 and ARE 5.0 will last 18 months. This means that both exams will be offered at the same time. Candidates starting in ARE 4.0 will have 18 months after the launch of ARE 5.0 to finish ARE 4.0 before they are forced to transition to ARE 5.0. Yes, that is a mouthful. Essentially, if you do not complete ARE 4.0 in the 18 months after 5.0 is launched, you will have to complete 5.0. Candidates have the opportunity to test in ARE 5.0 after its launch, if they choose. However if they transition to 5.0 they must finish in 5.0.

Pay attention to updates put out by the NCARB about the launch of ARE 5.0. There will be plenty of information available as the exam is further developed. Don’t allow the roll out of ARE 5.0 to intimidate you. Keep studying and make it a goal to not become a victim to the 5.0 transition.


Read the full series
This post is part of a series on NCARB’s Architect Registration Exam. Having recently completed this long process, the series examines my journey and the various things I learned along the way. Click here to see all the posts of my Architect Registration Exam Series.


About the author

Michael Riscica

Michael Riscica is a Licensed Architect who lives in beautiful Portland, Oregon, with his Labrador Retriever. He is passionate about helping Young Architects change the world. In his free time, Michael likes to take very long bicycle rides across America. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Linked In.