What is the Architect Registration Exam? NCARB’s ARE 5.0

What is the Architect Registration Exam (ARE)?

The Architect Registration Exam (ARE 5.0) is administered by the National Council of Architecture Registration Board (NCARB), It tests a Candidate’s ability to practice Architecture in the United States. Passing the ARE consists of completing 6 different exams.

Taking the ARE is a self-guided process. Everyone studies on their own and schedules their own test dates when they feel they are ready to take the exam.

Completing the ARE is only ⅓ of the process, it takes to become an Architect. 

The other ⅔’s consist of an Education requirement and fulfilling the Architectural Experience Program, which consists of working on real projects under the direct supervision of a Licensed Architect. 

Completing requirements for Education, Experience and Exams make up the 3-part process needed  to become an Architect. 


Keep reading if you want to learn:


What Are The Six ARE 5.0 Exams?

To understand the scope of each exam, it helps to think about the Architect Exams as being broken down into a hypothetical timeline of a construction project. 

The first exam begins with starting an architecture business and the last exam ends with completing a construction project. Each exam focuses on different moments of time during that time frame. 

Below is a short description of six ARE 5.0 exams and what they cover:

Practice Management (PcM) –  Starting and running an architecture business.  

Project Management (PjM) – Managing the costs, schedule, consultants and contracts.  

Programming and Analysis (PA) – Understanding the problem the design will solve. 

Project Planning and Design (PPD) – The schematic design phase of the project.

Project Development and Documentation (PDD) – The construction documents phase of the project. 

Construction Evaluation (CE) – Bidding, Construction and Project closeout. 

Often it helps to understand the AREs by grouping them into 2 different categories of exams.

The Professional Practice Exams consist of:

  • Practice Management (PcM) 
  • Project Management (PjM)
  • Construction Évaluation (CE)

The Technical Exams consist of:

  • Programming and Analysis (PA)
  • Project Planning and Design (PPD)
  • Project Development and Documentation (PDD)

The exams within these categories all have a ton of overlapping topics and information, which ultimately helps with setting up a logical study strategy. 

What is the Best Testing Order?

You can take the Architect Exams in any order. 

Yet the most popular ARE testing order is to complete the Professional Practice Exams BEFORE the Technical Exams. 

This is mainly because the Technical Exams assume Candidates have a fundamental understanding of roles, relationships, responsibilities and AIA Contracts prior to taking the Technical exams. These topics are covered in detail in each Pro-Practice Exam. 

Also the PcM, PjM and CE exams are smaller in scope and are more manageable for someone at the beginning of their ARE journey. 


Is the Architect Exam Hard?

Yes. It is a very challenging and complicated exam process. People are failing the ARE Exam every single day.

If the ARE was easy, EVERYONE would be a Registered Architect and it wouldn't mean anything. But it's not. It's a ton of work and becoming an Architect is a huge accomplishment. 

Rather than focusing on how HARD the ARE is…

It's important to understand that the experience of studying for and passing these 6 difficult exams, will ALWAYS make you a better Architect in the long run. 

I personally found massive success passing my exams when… I stopped focusing on  “studying to pass a silly test” like it was an annoying chore and started “studying to become a GREAT Architect”

I focused on acquiring this knowledge and using it it on my projects and with my clients, instead of trying to memorize information to pass a silly exam. 

This simple mindset shift helped me to start passing my exams as a by-product of working towards excellence and becoming a great Architect. 

Passing the ARE was the most valuable and important project I ever worked on as an Architect. Yes, it was very hard, but I found the return on my investment from completing the ARE to be 100% worth everything I put into it.

And you will too!   


What is the Architect Registration Exam Pass Rate?

30 years ago the ARE pass rates were higher and the test was a fraction of the size it is today. 

Since then, the ARE has gotten bigger and more difficult. Because of this the pass rate of the ARE has been in steady decline. Currently the passing rate average is about 50%. Most people fail the ARE several times before it is completed (I failed 4 times.) 

Most ARE Candidates usually think of failing as, “giving up because you didn't pass a test.”

It's important to understand that you can't fail a test you get to retake. In the ARE Boot Camp, we refer to a failed test as “an expensive practice exam”. 


How long does it take to complete the ARE?

Each passed exam has a 5 year expiration date. That means you have 5 years from the day you pass your first exam, until the day you pass your last exam.

Completing the ARE is currently taking 2.5 years on average.  Only a small percentage of people complete the ARE in under 1 year.

This is because life always happens along the way. Contrary to popular belief, you and I are human beings, not Architecture Machines. 

Juggling careers, families and all of life's other responsibilities while trying to make progress on the ARE is why it takes so long. The ARE is a huge time commitment. 

I’ve learned that most people’s personal lives will  dictate how long it takes them to complete their AREs. 


How do I get started studying for the ARE?

You'll need to get authorization to take the ARE from both NCARB and your State Licensing board. Sometimes this process is not straightforward, which is why I don’t recommend spending too much time or money on studying for the ARE, until you have been authorized to start scheduling exams. 

Next, I would read the National Council of Architecture Registration Boards ARE Guidelines cover to cover to understand what NCARB wants you to know about the ARE. 

Sign up for the How To Pass The ARE – Live Webinar with Q&A I do a live webinar every few weeks for people who are in the beginning of their Architect Exam Journeys. This webinar is a low cost, high value event that will save time and help you get started. 

Still need help?, If you're looking for more guidance, check out The ARE Boot Camp Coaching Program. I started this program in 2015 to help people at the beginning of their exams. It helps them get up to speed quickly and teaches them how to effectively navigate the ARE. The ARE Boot Camp has helped thousands of people find success with passing the ARE and becoming Licensed Architects. 


The Bottom Line

I hope that the information above provides you with a clearer picture of what the Architect Registration Exam is. 

Passing the ARE can be a challenging journey, however if you can focus on using it as an opportunity for training to become the best Architect you can be, it can be very enjoyable and will have a massive positive impact on the rest of your life. 


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:

Free FB group that is 12k+ members strong
Low-cost, high-value upcoming webinar
Affordable and Quality ARE Study materials
Professional Development and Powerful Networking
Premium 10-week ARE study program