Lets Get Ready For Architect Registration Exam 5.0

Are you having trouble getting started or making progress on the Architect Exam?!?? Is the self-guided nature of the ARE not working for you?

Join our virtual study group. The ARE Boot Camp offers a syllabus, a schedule with deadlines, people to study with, and accountability. To help you study for the Architect Exam, the program is organized similarly to a design studio.

We recently started accepting applications for sessions that are beginning in January and February 2018 for both ARE 4.0 and 5.0.  It's time to get started with making progress on the Architect Registration Exam. 


News from Young Architect

Greetings! This is Michael Riscica. Before I start discussing NCARB and ARE 5.0, I need to talk about Young Architect.


After 3 months of traveling and bicycling 4,300 miles across America, I’m physically and (almost) mentally back to being a normal, everyday citizen. While I had more fun than you could ever imagine, there’s no place like home.

I blogged every single day and uploaded all my pictures. In the end, I published 55,000 words about cycling across America. Moving forward, I’m super-excited about ARE 5.0 coming out, and helping you navigate those murky waters.


I am in the process of updating, How to Pass The Architect Registration Exam to remove all the ARE 4.0 references and start discussing the 5.0 exams. I have several chapters about studying that I created for the ARE Boot Camp which I would like to include in the next version.  Anyone who has purchased this book, will get the update when it comes out in February 2017. In some ways the ARE 5.0 Transition is irrelevant, because this isnt a study book of information to memorize. This is a book to help get you started and teach you how to juggle your already busy life working 40 hours a week, while you study for the Architect Registration Exam.


The September ARE Boot Camp filled up last week. The next program will begin in the middle of November, and signups will begin in early October.

Running The ARE Boot Camp has turned out to be more fun than I ever thought it’d be. So I’m just going to keep running them back-to-back until they’re not fun anymore or you guys stop signing up. “If it’s not Baroque, then don’t fix it!” That’s what I like to say.


I’m creating The Young Architect Portland ARE Lecture Series for my ARE community here in Portland, OR. I’m still working out all the details for speakers and dates, but the first lecture this fall is titled “CDS, PPP and SPD: Let’s talk about strategy—wrapping them up and moving on to 5.0!”


My Crew from the Construct Show!

I got back yesterday from a quick trip to Austin, Texas where I attended the CSI Construct Show. Our friend CSI Cherise invited me to come speak at their Young Professionals Day event, and I gave a presentation called Getting Started with the Architect Exam. My presentation received a really positive response. Several people invited me to speak at their local AIA and CSI Chapters and at future events.

I might also make a trip to the East Coast sometime in January for a speaking tour. In the meantime, if you have a group of people that I should come speak to about the Architect Exam, let’s talk about how to make it happen.


My last news item is… Do you need a new book bag, t-shirt or a comfortable yoga pants that’ll facilitate studying, while also look damn good???
I started a little side project called Young Architect Gear, which includes clothes, products, and gifts for the design community. This project is brand-new. But every day, I’m adding new items into the store.

Whew…  OK, enough from our sponsors. Let’s talk about some important stuff.

Back to ARE School Folks

It’s been very quiet this summer for the ARE, which is partly why I traveled when I did. But Labor Day has come and gone, the kids are back in school, and lots of stuff is starting to happen with ARE 5.0.


The ARE 4.0 to 5.0 Transition Schedule

ARE 4.0 will be retired in June 2018. Since it takes an average of 2.5 years to complete the ARE process, it’s kind of too late to start and finish all 7 exams ARE 4.0.

As of right now, everyone pretty much falls into one of these three categories:

  1. Finish your remaining 4.0 exams before June 2018.
  2. Complete CDS, PPP, and SPD before June 2018.
  3. Start at the beginning with ARE 5.0, which will be launched this November.

Lots of people are still really confused about the difference between ARE 4.0 and 5.0. The best resource about this information is a blogpost called Understanding the Reorganization of ARE 5.0


The ARE 5.0 Handbook

NCARB surprised everyone this week by releasing the long-awaited ARE 5.0 Handbook to the public. I havent had a chance to go through it as thoroughly as I would like to just yet. Here are some initial comments I had:

  • At appears to be a more reader friendlier version of the ARE 5.0 test spec.
  • There 2 sample questions for each section in each exam. So thats around 8-10 practice questions per exam.
  • Answers are provided on practice questions.

I will be drilling down pretty deep and getting to know this document really well. I highly recommend everyone print out the Handbook and get super famialiar with using it.

Bored, stressed and exhausted people sitting on chairs waiting

The ARE Cut Score

Ryan at NCARB published a blogpost a few days ago. He explained that they need to figure out what the pass/fail threshold of the new exam will be.


For the first 600 people that take each exam in ARE 5.0, it’ll take NCARB 6-10 weeks to receive your test result. (In Project Manager language, that really means 11 weeks.)

::mic drop::

Luckily, there is a silver lining.

NCARB wants to give you a $100 gift card as a way of thanking you for the “opportunity to have your test data influence the cut score process and experience the new exam format.”

It is what it is.

You can also collect more than one gift card. Finally, there’s a real incentive for people who think it’s a good idea to take all of the ARE’s at the same time.

Someone told a joke in the ARE Facebook group: The worst part is that you can only use the gift cards to purchase the NCARB Monograph Series. BUT THAT’S NOT TRUE. IT’S ONLY A RUMOR.


I couldn’t find any evidence of NCARB doing this cut score evaluation last time, when they transitioned into from 3.1 into 4.0, which may explain why the 4.0 pass rate was low in the beginning.

What’s up with the ARE 5.0 Study Materials?!??

Everyone is still waiting on the ARE 5.0 Study materials across the board. Regarding my upcoming materials, I’m working on extensive blogposts about each exam, which all still need a lot more research and work. This week I reached out to all the ARE Publishers, and here’s what’s going on:


Architect Exam Prep is having a preorder discount on their ARE 5.0 materials, which haven’t been released yet. The Architect Exam Prep Release schedule is as follows:

Project Planning and Design – October 15, 2016
Project Development and Documentation – October 15, 2016
Practice Management – November 15, 2016
Project Management – November 15, 2016
Programming and Analysis – December 15, 2016
Construction Evaluation – December 15, 2016

I appreciate how their release schedule is very mindful of the transition schedule. I personally think Architect Exam Prep has a fantastic product, and I’m excited to see the 5.0 study materials. Here’s a link to their website and a link to the review I wrote about their ARE 4.0 CDS study materials.


I spoke with the good folks at PPI (the Ballast Publisher). They explained that the new Ballast Book will be out at the end of September, and they’re also having a presale for the 5.0 study materials.

I learned that they’re big fans of Young Architect. They gave me the code YARCH, which will give Young Architect readers an extra 5% off—if you buy the Ballast products from their website. Here’s a link to the review I wrote of the 4.0 ARE Review Manual.


Tony Gushnas at Designer Hacks told me he will have the Project Planning and Design and the Project Development and Documentation questions out in early 2017 and will release the remaining exams content incrementally until the fall. I am a big fan of Designer Hacks and we use it as part of the ARE Boot Camp. You can check out my review of his product here.


Did you know that Kaplan sold the ARE Prep division of their business to a company called Brightwood Architecture?

When I spoke to Brightwood, they explained that they’re hoping to have their 5.0 study guides out by the end of the year.

Brightwood also recently released new ARE 4.0 materials with the new Brightwood Logos on them. They appear to be the same materials they’ve had for a while, just with new covers. You don’t need the latest, most expensive books.

For the ARE Boot Camp, I used 2009 Kaplan books that I bought on Amazon. They work just great. And even better, they’re cheap as hell.  Here’s the review I wrote about the classic ARE 4.0 Kaplan Study Guides.



I had a lovely chat with my friends at Nalsa about everything that’s going on with 5.0. They’re completely redoing all their products for 5.0, they were still unsure of the timeline for the release when we spoke. I’m looking forward to seeing what they put out. Nalsa also recently published this blog post What’s The Deal With The ARE 5.0 Study Material?


I chatted with Lora Teagarden about the ARE Sketches, who told me that volume two will be out in the spring. She is focusing on content not testing category. She said the visual nature of the new multiple choice questions play right into the ARE Sketches.

I purchased her book at the AIA Convention and haven’t had a chance to write a review yet. This is another book we also use in the boot camp. I highly recommend it.


I wasn’t able to connect with Black Spectacles, but I heard through the grapevine that they will start rolling 5.0 content out in October.


The ARE Facebook Group

At the beginning of 2016, I took over being the Moderator of the NCARB – Architecture Registration Exam Facebook group. At that time, there were 800 members. Now there are 2,195 members.

I kicked out all the spammers, and I contribute to and monitor most of the discussions. I’ve been told it’s many people’s favorite forum for discussing topics about the exam. But lots of ARE Candidates still have no idea that this group even exists.

How are we supposed to study for 5.0 without study materials?

Great question…

At this point I would recommend printing the ARE 5.0 Handbook and the 5.0 Test Specification and start getting really familiar with all the objectives for the test you are studying for.

Then I would recommend using your 4.0 study materials and start looking where this information is located in the 4.0 materials. Remember the content of the exam is pretty much staying the same, its where and how that content falls is being reorganized.

I would also look at the Architecture Experience Program AXP (formerly called Intern Development Program IDP) Experience Areas and Tasks. The 5.0 reorganization is very aligned to the AXP.  This information is valuable with helping to guide your 5.0 studying, however its not perfect.

For each exam question NCARB has tons of backup, resources and references explaining why that question exists and why each option is right or wrong.

I would also recommend taking a look at some of the references at the bottom of the ARE 5.0 Handbook. Keep in mind those references are what they used to create the exam questions. That doesn’t always mean they make good study materials. Architectural Graphic Standards was hardly helpful to me with studying, but I can see how they would use it to create exam content. Architects Handbook of Professional Practice is a great book, but it can sometimes be way too detailed for the scope of studying, nevertheless overwhelming. This is how the private test prep industry came about.

NCARB will never endorse any of the private test prep companies like Architect Exam Prep or Ballast. It creates a conflict of interest for them.

That’s all for now, folks.

A lot is still going to happen between now and the end of the year, so stay tuned. I would highly recommend jumping on the Young Architect Semi Weekly Newsletter. Each week I email out the new blog posts and often share information that doesnt make it into the blog.

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.

    Michael Riscica - September 12, 2016

    Thank You! I will edit the post.

      Justin - September 13, 2016

      No problem. Love the site, keep up the great work.

Danielle - October 24, 2016

Thanks for all the great info! I wanted to ask your opinion about strategy for studying for Programming and Analysis ahead of practice material being released. I want to take P&A mid November.

I plan to do the 5 exam strategy with 4.0 CDS & PPP (both passed in the last couple of months), and then P&A, PP&D, & PD&D in 5.0.

Since P&A (per the transition calculator) includes material from PPP & SPD, do you think just studying 4.0 material for those two exams will adequately prepare me? I just passed PPP a couple weeks ago, so I’m hoping that I already know a good chunk of the material! Any additional subject areas I should focus on that aren’t included in PPP & SPD?

Thanks in advance!

    Michael Riscica - October 24, 2016

    I would encourage you to take CDS and then SPD. SPD has a ton of study materials out and a proven track record of people that have taken it. Don’t jump into 5.0 earlier then you have to.

      Danielle - October 24, 2016

      Thanks. I’ve already passed CDS & PPP, and I’ve been debating whether to do SPD or P&A in November. I was leaning towards P&A so that I could avoid the 2 SPD vignettes (which I heard are tough), and also have a shot at the $100 gift card :) I mainly studied with the Kaplan manual and gave myself 2 weeks for each CDS & PPP. I just need to decide which direction to go (my Kaplan 5.0 manual should be here next week). If you think SPD is still the best choice, then I’ll heed your advice.

        Michael Riscica - October 24, 2016

        Yeah do SPD, you will benefit from its history and track record.. Programming and analysis is going to be one of the last exams for study content to be released and for people to start talking about.

        The $100 gift card is just a distraction and not worth it in your situation. Good Luck.

          Danielle - October 25, 2016

          Ok, thanks so much for the feedback!

LauraLee - October 25, 2016

Since the material content is not going to be changing very much; its just reorganizing it… would you happen to be able to do a chart comparison of the NCARB 5.0 Handbook to say Kaplan’s CDS?

For example: if the 5.0 Handbook says to study Preconstruction Activities in Construction & Evaluation Exam, what chapters would we study in Kaplan’s CDS?

I have yet to see a comparison done like this. (I am studying for my first exam: 5.0, C&E)

    Michael Riscica - October 25, 2016

    Yes I’ll address it at somepoint. If your eligible to take CDS, I would recommend doing that instead of taking the 5.0 exams.

      LauraLee - October 25, 2016

      I have also read how people normally fail their first exam simply because they have not gotten use to the way questions are asked which lead me to question why go through the motion of learning the way questions are asked twice (in 4.0 and then when I will have to transition to 5.0)… Just my train of thought but what do I know :P

        Michael Riscica - October 25, 2016

        I think most people fail their first exam because they have no idea how to use all the information or make sense of it all. They also sometimes have unrealistic expectations of how much work it actually takes to do this work. My personal experience with completing the ARE is that it was 4 times as much work as NCARB had me think it would before I started.

        Here is a post I wrote about 10 reasons why you are at serious disadvantage taking your first exam.

          LauraLee - October 26, 2016

          Thank you.

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