Should I Wait For The ARE 5.0 Transition?

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Bored, stressed and exhausted people sitting on chairs waiting

Dear Young Architect,

I am considering beginning my ARE journey and am preparing myself by reading through others’ comments, exam experiences and starting to look at the ARE Study Guides.

However, with is the ARE 5.0 approaching. According to the NCARB, if you “mix” 4.0 and 5.0 together, you will only need five exams. Would it be easier to wait until 5.0 starts and not have to get stuck in the middle of the exams?

Do you have a suggestion about preparing the materials? Should I still have the current Review Manuals? Or wait for the new Study guides?

-Confused ARE Candidate


Thanks for the email!

The short answer is: No, start taking the ARE’s right now.

The long answer is: Start now and take these three exams first:

  1. Construction Documents and Services (CDS)
  2. Programming Planning and Practice (PPP)
  3. Site Planning and Design (SPD)

After you have these three exams under your belt, you will only have to take two more of the new 5.0 exams called: Project Planning & Design and Project Development & Documentation. You should be able to start taking the new ARE 5.0 Exams at the end of 2016, if everything goes smooth with the transition on NCARB’s end.

For the people in the middle of the transition, NCARB is compressing the:

  1. Schematic Design (SD)
  2. Structural Systems (SS)
  3. Building Design and Construction Systems (BDCS)
  4. Building Systems (BS)

…into the new Project Planning & Design and Project Development & Documentation exams.

One advantage to taking the CDS, PPP and SPD exams right now is that there has never been this much ARE study material ever.  Aside from just studying traditional textbooks there is currently plenty of Audio content, Videos and online software to help you prepare for the ARE 4.0.

The ARE tests from a very large body of knowledge. Whether it’s sliced up into seven exams or five exams in my opinion is irrelevant. It will take the publishers some time to catch up with creating the new ARE 5.0 content and all the multiple choice ARE 4.0 study materials will still be useful in preparing for the 5.0 exams.

I shared all the ARE Study materials in a 3 part blog post I wrote called the Ultimate List of ARE Study Materials. In Part 1 I recommend resources I used for all the exams. Part 2 I discuss what I used to study for each exam individually, and Part 3 is all about the vignettes.

If anything I would think you would be at an advantage starting with 4.0 then waiting. There are a lot of really good new study materials that I wished I had when I tested. Using that information, building momentum and already being in the thick of it will be much more valuable then waiting. There is no advantage to waiting.

Hope this helps.

Michael Riscica AIA
Architecture and Design
Portland, Oregon
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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 - November 12, 2015

    They will test design in other ways then using a software to draw a problem. It hasn’t quite been revealed yet.

Emily - October 18, 2016

Due to the exams I’ve already taken, I’m going to be left needing either 4.0 Structural Systems and Building Systems or 5.0 Project Planning & Design and Project Development & Documentation, with a total of 7 exams either way. Any idea which would be easier? It seems like there must be a lot less of the structural and mep content in 5.0 if they were combined with so many other subjects. I’m admittedly daunted by that content, but I can’t tell if it would be easier to take less of it in combination with other subjects (5.0) or just focus on one of them at a time (4.0). Do you know if 5.0 has reduced the depth of content on those subjects, or just the volume? Any insight?

    Michael Riscica - October 18, 2016

    Nothing has been reduced. The same content is being tested on both exams, just in a different order.

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