An Inside Look at the NCARB ARE Examination Process with Ryan Misner

In this episode of the Young Architect Podcast, Michael spoke with the Assistant Director of Examination Research at National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB), Ryan Misner, about how he came to be involved in NCARB, the process of designing the ARE 5.0, the latest developments at NCARB, and what he and his team are doing to help aspiring architects do their very best on the AREs.

Misner Feature 1 An Inside Look at the NCARB ARE Examination Process with Ryan Misner Podcast

Architect Ryan Misner | Assistant Director of Examination Research at NCARB

Ryan Misner never had an a-ha moment of becoming an architect, but because of his surroundings and the people in his life, he naturally shifted to this industry. Originally from Indiana, he received his B.Arch from the College of Architecture and Planning at Ball State University and later a Master's Degree in Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Florida.

Before Ryan became the Assistant Director of Examination Research at NCARB, he worked for a mid-size firm where he had an incredible experience, but soon came to realize that maybe it wasn’t the best fit for him.

Since joining NCARB, he has played a key part in the development of the ARE 5.0 as well as the architecture student community. He also continues to ensure that the AREs are to the highest standard of testing the ability of those who aim to receive their license.

When he’s not at the NCARB office, he’s reaching out to architecture students to let them know about NCARB and how the organization can help set them up for success.

As you listen, you’ll find out what goes in to creating the ARE questions, what to do if something goes wrong on your ARE test day, future plans of NCARB for the AREs, and the benefits of joining the following NCARB study groups and communities to help you prepare for your exams:

What You’ll Hear on This Episode

  • How test prep publishers are helping people prepare for the ARE 4.0 and 5.0 exams.
  • What inspired him to get into architecture and pursue this career path.
  • Why he decided to stay with architecture, but not work in a firm setting.
  • How he came to work at NCARB and why he loves working there.
  • The challenges he’s faced in helping to create and develop the ARE questions for NCARB.
  • How he’s helped with the NCARB outreach program to college campuses and AIAS chapters.
  • NCARB’s process for creating ARE test questions.
  • The requirements for getting involved with NCARB as a volunteer exam writer.
  • What a Pre-Test question on an ARE test is and how NCARB determines whether or not it’s qualified to be an official test question.
  • His experience taking the ARE tests before becoming part of NCARB.
  • The rules and goals he set for himself to prepare and take the AREs.
  • What’s in store for the future of NCARB and their next plans after ARE 5.0.
  • The reality that ARE 4.0 will be retired by June 2018.
  • What possible changes might be in store for the ARE 5.0 and what will probably stay the same.
  • International exams and how NCARB is able to deliver them to some test centers such as those located in the UK and Hong Kong.
  • What you should do if a problem happens during the ARE test i.e. your computer screen freezes or an error message pops up.
  • What’s going on with the NCARB Communities, how to use them to help you study for the AREs, and all of their other benefits.
  • The NCARB Live online events through YouTube and what you can get out of it.

Top 3 Takeaways from This Episode

  1. If something happens to your screen during the exam, don’t try to correct it yourself. Let the people at the test center know about it because they have to follow a certain protocol for different situations. Once you’ve left the test center, call NCARB to talk to their customer service about your experience to ensure they’re fully aware of what happened to you during the exam.
  2. Before you even begin studying for the AREs, have a plan. Make your plan flexible so that you have some wiggle room, but keep your boundaries. Life will always happen: work, family, relationships etc., but you need to find time for yourself to study and be able to get prepared for the exams.
  3. You are not alone in this journey of taking the AREs and there are many awesome sources out there to help you succeed. Join the NCARB community to ask questions, share your practice test answers for feedback, and get the assistance you need to help you get your license.

Ryan Misner’s Advice for Aspiring Architects

“Just make a plan and stick to it; especially when it comes to preparing for the AREs. My plan as far as the order that I took them in and how much I studied for each one was right for me, but that doesn’t mean that it’s going to be the right plan for you. Your experience and what you’re comfortable with is probably different than where I was in my life.

So, first and foremost, really take the time to put together a plan for you. Determine the order of the exams you want to take; determine how much time you want to study for each of your exams; and finally, commit to that plan. Be flexible and be willing to study for a couple extra more weeks, but don’t be so flexible that you put off your study time. Make a plan and stick to it as much as possible because when you don’t, that’s when life gets in the way.”

Favorite Quotes

“My job is about putting together an exam for people to test their knowledge and skills; I understand that. However, what I really care about is them being successful. I care about the candidates having access to the information that they need. I have limitations since I’m the deliverer of the exam, but I will certainly help the candidates as much as possible. At the end of the day, my team and I just want to help candidates set themselves up for success.” – Ryan Misner on what he really loves about his job at NCARB.

“A lot of the problems that we face with the ARE 5.0 are technology-based. So, my team and I are going to try to help the exams became as predictable, fair, and consistent for every single candidate. Sometimes problems happen like the internet goes down and we’re aware completely aware of it if something happens. There are certain protocols that each center is equipped with if something happens.” – Ryan Misner on how NCARB is helping to improve technology-based problems that happen during the AREs. 

“Find a mentor. Work with someone who’s willing to take the time to invest in you. Select someone that you feel comfortable with going to and asking questions. They should provide you with good guidance about how to get to where you want to go. They should be part of your support team and be willing to rally behind you and help you hold yourself accountable.” – Ryan Misner on how to select a mentor.

Resources Mentioned in the Show




Michael Riscica

Michael Riscica is a Licensed Architect, Founder and Head Coach of the ARE Boot Camp Coaching Program & Online Study Group.

Hi I’m Michael Riscica.

My goal is to help as many people as I can PASS their exams and succeed in their architecture careers.

This is accomplished with the following offerings:

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