Confidentiality and the Architectural Registration Exam

Confidentiality and the Architectural Registration Exam

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.

Confidentiality on the Architect Exam

NCARB doesnt mess around with the security of the Architectural Registration Exam. Time and time again, as you take the exams, you are constantly reminded from NCARB about the confidentiality of the ARE. Disclosing any information that you see on the exam is strictly prohibited. 

The questions on the Architect Registration Exam are designed to test the competency of protecting the health, safety, and welfare of the public. By disclosing the content of the exam, NCARB views it as you jeopardizing the health, safety, and welfare of the public and the entire reputation of the profession itself. For many states, the ARE is the very last stop to having an Architect stamp.

The 2009 Cheating Incident

All hell broke loose in 2009.  I had just started studying for my first exam. Apparently people were disclosing detailed information that they were seeing on the exam on The ARE Forum.   The ARE forum is a website where ARE candidates would go to chat about studying, help each other with vignettes or discuss the profession.

NCARB took serious action against 8 ARE candidates for violating the confidentiality agreements and canceled several of their test scores and gave them all 3-4 year suspensions from taking any ARE's.

Enough content on the exams was given away that several sections were unavailable because they needed to be redeveloped. NCARB uses an extremely lengthy process of developing questions for the exam and claims that they lost approximately $1.1 million on administration and legal costs from this incident. To recover, they passed the costs onto all the ARE candidates by raising each test from $170 to $210. Due to this incident, the ARE Forum received a lot of bad publicity just because of a couple of bad seeds.

How To Discuss the ARE…

There is nothing wrong with using an ARE Forum to study – you just need to be clear about what is helping vs cheating. NCARB sees the difference between helping and cheating as follows:

NCARB defines Helping as:

  1. Sharing what study guides are used
  2. Discussing concepts highlighted info in study materials
  3. Reviewing graphic solutions and noting obvious errors
  4. Supporting each other and celebrating each others successes.

NCARB defines Cheating as:

  1. Identifying terms or concepts contained on the exam
  2. Sharing answers to questions you had seen on the exam
  3. Referring others to “check out” information you saw on the exam
  4. Identifying program items from the vignettes
  5. Asking others to post information that has been removed from the ARE Forum due to being illegal.

I don’t disagree with NCARB’s stance on the issue and the rules that they have set in place.  Having studied for all 7 exams, there is a ton of latitude in discussing the exam without breaking any of the rules. You just have to be careful of what and how you say it.

The crazy thing is that even after the 2009 incident, I would still sometimes see people posting questionable information on the forum. Please be careful sharing information on the internet, in person or anywhere especially after you have taken the exam. If what you need to write or say is questionable then don't do it.

I would love to hear what you think about NCARB’s and their confidentiality concerns.

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.

If you are interested in learning more about the Architecture Registration Exam:


Michael Riscica

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

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