What You Need to Know about ARE 5.0 Webinar

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We’ve all been waiting for NCARB to release specific details about 5.0.

Today, NCARB held a webinar and announced more information about the specific changes that will occur in 5.0. This is the first time that NCARB has answered questions and released further details about the status of this transition. Much of it was stuff I knew or heard before, but definitely not all of it!

Tomorrow, I’m leaving to go to Washington, DC, to meet with NCARB and learn how to create the best possible ARE 5.0 study materials.

Here is what they talked about in today’s webinar:

New Question Types

Two weeks ago, NCARB released three YouTube demo videos. These videos walk candidates through the new question types that are featured in 5.0:



Case Studies

The new question types test the candidates’ knowledge in ways that multiple choice questions cannot, and practicing the software will not be required prior to taking the exam.  NCARB wants to make sure that candidates understand exam specifics, so they’ve reportedly made hotspots and drag-and-place extraordinarily easy and self-explanatory.

I’m excited for the case studies. There still is alot to learn but so far, it seems like a positive contribution to the ARE. I applaud NCARB for making this change.

Less Time in the Testing Center

ARE 4.0 total testing time is 33.5 hours and ARE 5.0 total testing time will now be: 25.5 hours. That is one less day you have to take unpaid time off from work so you can take an ARE exam.

ARE Test times

In 5.0, there will be six divisions, rather than seven. Because there will be fewer divisions, candidates will spend less time taking the exams. NCARB’s kept saying their goal is to make each Candidate’s experience better in the testing center. Spending less time there sounds ideal to me.

No More Vignettes

Hallelujah, the archaic vignettes are going away in 5.0, but they will continue in 4.0, until it is retired.

The vignettes use the worst software ever created.  Unfortunately the vignettes only tested Candidates the ability to memorize the repetitive solution to an architectural video game and not their competency to make strategic decisions or practice architecture. 

Kudos for NCARB for letting go of 1994 and embracing 2016!

ARE 4.0 Study Materials Will Still Be Very Useful in ARE 5.0

NCARB  reinforced my big prediction about 5.0. All of the existing ARE 4.0 Study material will need to be rearranged into a different order, but there will be very few changes in the actual content.  4.0 materials will still be very useful for 5.0, and NCARB will provide information to help candidates map out how 4.0 study materials relate to 5.0.

5.0 Study Materials

The official NCARB ARE study guides will be out in July.

NCARB has invited all the ARE test-prep publishers to go DC next week, so we can learn how to create ARE 5.0 study materials. This is the first time that NCARB has actively communicated and been open to working with test-prep publishers. It sounds like they want the publishers can stop guessing about interpreting the exam’s content area, and they can find out in greater detail how NCARB structures the questions for each content area.

This is why I’m flying to DC tomorrow morning.

The Overall Cost of the Exam Is Decreasing

NCARB stressed that they do not make money from administering the exams.  They make money in other places, TO subsidize giving the ARE.

They are keeping the division prices the same for now, but there will be one less division.

They mentioned that the cost for NCARB to deliver exams is increasing. In June 2016, the cost per division will increase to $235. But even with that increase, the total will still be cheaper because there are fewer divisions.

7 ARE 4.0 Exams at $210 = $1470 (before June 2018)
6 ARE 5.0 Exams at $235 = $1410 (AFTER June 2018)

Here is what exam fees are during the transition:

6 ARE 5.0 Exams at $210 = $1260 (before June 2018)
5 ARE 4.0 & 5.0 exams at 10 = $1050 (before June 2018)


5.0 Test Results Will Be Even Faster

NCARB is currently working on a way to give you your score immediately after you finish your exam.  This is a big deal. I used to have to wait 3 weeks for a letter in the snail mail, to find out my score result.  There won’t be a full score report provided at that time, but one will be sent to you as little as two days later.

There is some controversy about the way score reports are currently set up in 5.0. According to some reports, the new score setups are exciting because they give candidates a more refined view, so they’ll have more granular information. That way, they’ll know where they didn’t do well, and they can better prepare for the future. However, other sources have reported that the score reports for 4.0 and 5.0 are actually very similar, which is a failing of 5.0.

In addition, the retake policy has been shortened from six months to sixty days. 

What’s a Passing Score for 5.0?

NCARB’s answer to this question was complicated.

They wont say what percentage will result in a passing score. It sounds like the ARE is being graded on a sliding scale. So the score is calculated according to the complexity of each question, not a specific percentage. NCARB collects the initial data and makes an informed, correct decision. In other words, each question carries its own weight, so you could pass a more difficult division with a lower percentage than an easier division.

I still need to get clarification around how they actually score the ARE. The whole thing sounds strange.

When Is 5.0 Going to Launch?

NCARB hasn’t set a specific launch date, as they’re still in the testing phase. Their official answer is “Late 2016.” The exam is ready, but they want to make sure the system is fully and correctly in place. That way, candidates won’t encounter any technical difficulties.

AREs Will Still Be in Prometric Testing Centers – 

Prometric provides airport like security each time you enter or exit the testing room. They will govern the transition from 4.0 to 5.0. Exam security is vital because if an exam is breeched, the loss of content results in the temporary loss of the whole exam.

Prometric’s security includes candidates providing a valid photo ID and a fingerprint swipe. The swipe creates a new fingerprint ID. Contrary to conspiracy theorists, it is not compared with other databases. You will also have to turn your pockets inside out to prove you’re not carrying a phone with you and have your eyeglasses checked for cameras.

Prometric is the exclusive testing site internationally. 5.0 will also be offered in London, Abu Dhabi, Hong Kong, and Canada.

Please be nice to the people that work at Prometric. Non-ARE test takers always give them a lot of grief about doing their jobs around exam security. ARE Candidates have to see them atleast 5 or 7 times.

What If You Want to Finish in 4.0?

You might want to stay in 4.0 because you’re doing well in it. NCARB is not doing away with 4.0 until June 30, 2018. That means you can still take 4.0 after 5.0 has launched. You’ll need to consider the best ways to study, especially responding to the vignettes. So if you want to finish in 4.0, connect with the ARE community, including other candidates with similar goals and NCARB reps.

In late 2016, candidates will be able to choose when they want to transition to 5.0. At that time, candidates will have two choices: keep testing in 4.0 or switch to 5.0. The eligibility requirements are the same for both options.

The three important divisions for 4.0 are CDS, PPP, and SPD. So take those first if you’re staying in 4.0.

Candidates have to pay attention to the rolling clock. If they already started in 4.0, it may make sense to stick with it until 5.0 launches.

One-Direction Switch

In 5.0, there’s not a specific order you have to take the divisions in. You can take any division you want first. However, if you start taking 5.0, you can’t switch back to 4.0. NCARB’s exact words today were: “Everyone will love ARE 5.0, so there’s no reason why you should want to switch back to 4.0.”


In my opinion NCARB (love em or hate em) is doing a good job at tackling many of the major issues around architectural licensing. They are making huge changes and we all know how people react to change. I still have hundreds of questions about ARE 5.0 and feel like there is much more to be revealed and learned. But generally speaking I think NCARB is doing a good job.

I need to stop writing this blogpost, pack a bag and get on an airplane. I will be at NCARB next week, and I will share what I learn in blog posts with Young Architect Nation.

Yours Truly,

Michael Riscica AIA
The ARE Reporter

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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.

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