Architect Registration Examination
The Architect Registration Examination (ARE) is the professional licensure examination adopted by the 50 states of the United States, the District of Columbia, and three U.S. territories (Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands). The exam is also accepted by 11 provincial and territorial architectural associations for architectural registration in Canada. The ARE assesses candidates on the knowledge, skills, and abilities required for providing services in the practice of architecture.
The ARE is developed and maintained by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). NCARB currently offers two versions of the computer-based exam, ARE 4.0, which will retire on June 30, 2018, and ARE 5.0. Both versions are administered in Prometric test centers across the United States and Canada, as well as London, Abu Dhabi, and Hong Kong.
The earliest examinations were written and scored by each individual state board. Practicing architects, educators, and specialists in other disciplines were organized to prepare and score these tests. Since each state prepared its own test specifications, test questions, and passing standard, there was little uniformity among the boards on examination, no effective reciprocity system, and no equal protection for the public across the nation.
As NCARB grew, it organized delegates from its Member Boards into working groups during its Annual Meetings to address the problem of exam uniformity. Their efforts eventually led to agreement on a syllabus of written examination subjects. Subsequently, the length of each test and the dates of administration were agreed on, and this concurrence served to achieve the goal of greater consistency in examination questions and scoring.
By the late 1950s, standardized testing had made impressive progress. The NCARB examination committees studied the latest developments and converted sections of the syllabus to a multiple-choice format by the mid-1960s and made them available to all of NCARB Member Boards.
In 1979, NCARB conducted an extensive "task analysis and validation study" that led to the development of the forerunner of today's ARE. At that time, candidates were required to take all nine divisions over a four-day period and the exam was only offered once a year in major cities across the United States.
In the late 1980s, as the practice of architecture moved into the computer age, NCARB began to develop a computer-based exam. After a decade of research and development, the last paper-and-pencil test was issued in 1996, and the computer-based exam rolled out in 1997.
NCARB conducted comprehensive Practice Analysis studies in 2001, 2007, and 2012 that led to improvements of the ARE. These improvements have since been rolled out in ARE 3.0, ARE 3.1, ARE 4.0, and ARE 5.0, which launched November 1, 2016. ARE 4.0 will retire on June 30, 2018. 
Before an ARE division can be scheduled, candidates must be approved to test and receive eligibilities from their state board. The majority of states participate in the Direct Eligibility Program, which enables NCARB to manage a candidate’s eligibilities. Most states require completion of a professional degree from the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) (B.Arch or M.Arch), and some require candidates to record professional experience before testing. A full list of requirements for each state is available on the NCARB website.
In order to take the ARE, candidates must meet the requirements of the registration board he or she plans to receive an initial license from, establish an NCARB Record, and receive an Authorization to Test (ATT).
Each division of the ARE is taken separately at a Prometric test center. Divisions are scored by Prometric as either pass or fail and then sent to the jurisdiction that grants the candidate the authorization to test, which then notifies the candidate. A pass score is valid for five years, sometime less depending on the jurisdiction's rules. Prior to October 2014, a candidate who failed a division would not be eligible to retake that division for six months; NCARB shortened that time to 60 days for all tests taken since August.
Under the requirements of NCARB's Rolling Clock, a candidate must pass all divisions of the ARE within five years. Some jurisdictions require the exam be completed in less time.
The ARE assesses candidates’ knowledge, skills, and ability to practice architecture independently. It focuses on those services that most affect the health, safety, and welfare of the public. Because of this, the exams are rigorous and require demonstration of competency in each of the testing areas.
NCARB currently offers one version of the exam: ARE 5.0.
The ARE 3.0 was introduced in 1998 and its use was discontinued in 2003. It utilized a similar structure to 4.0. Graphic vignettes and multiple choice questions were on separate tests.
The ARR 3.1 was introduced in 2003. Use was discontinued in 2009.
- Pre-Design (105 MC questions)
- General Structures (85 MC questions)
- Lateral Forces (75 MC questions)
- Mechanical and Electrical Systems (105 MC questions)
- Building Design/Materials and Methods (105 MC questions)
- Construction Documents & Services (115 MC questions)
- Site Planning (Site zoning, site Grading, and Site Design vignettes)
- Building Planning (Interior layout and schematic design vignettes)
- Building Technology (Building section, structural layout, accessibility/ramp, mechanical and electrical plan, stair design and roof plan vignettes)
The ARE 4.0 was introduced in July 2008 and consists of seven divisions:
- Programming, Planning & Practice (85 multiple choice and fill-in questions, and one site zoning vignette)
- Site Planning & Design (65 multiple choice and fill-in questions, and two vignettes: site grading and site planning)
- Building Design & Construction Systems (85 multiple choice and fill-in questions, and three vignettes in accessibility, roof plan and stair design)
- Schematic Design (two vignettes in building layout and interior layout)
- Structural Systems (125 multiple choice and fill-in questions, and one structural layout vignette)
- Building Systems (95 multiple choice and fill-in questions, and one mechanical & electrical plan vignette)
- Construction Documentation & Services (100 multiple choice and fill-in questions, and one building section vignette)
- ARE 4.0 will be available through June 30, 2018.
ARE 5.0 was introduced in November 2016 and consists of six divisions. These divisions include multiple-choice questions, check-all-that-apply, fill-in-the-blank, hotspot, drag-and-place, and case study questions.
- Practice Management (80 items)
- Project Management (95 items)
- Programming & Analysis (95 items)
- Project Planning & Design (120 items)
- Project Development & Documentation (120 items)
- Construction & Evaluation (95 items)
All NCARB tests are held in strict security and confidence and are protected by U.S. copyright laws. Before beginning the test, candidates are required to accept NCARB's Confidentiality Agreement, which prohibits any disclosure of exam content.
Candidates found to have violated the Confidentiality Agreement are referred to NCARB's Committee on Professional Conduct. The Committee reviews each case and then recommends a disciplinary action. The cases are then forwarded to the NCARB Board of Directors for review and final disciplinary action. All disciplinary actions taken by the Board of Directors are final and become a part of each individual's permanent NCARB Record. Individual candidates may also be subject to additional disciplinary measures from their state board.
When exam content is disclosed, NCARB works with the test consultant, Prometric, to determine the impact on the exam. If NCARB finds that it is necessary to remove (or turn off) content, the ability to continuously deliver the ARE is seriously jeopardized.
All candidates preparing to take ARE 4.0 should download the ARE 4.0 Guidelines. This free publication contains an overview of the ARE 4.0 divisions, as well as information about the practice programs, the rolling clock, and maintaining exam eligibility. Additionally, NCARB offers free exam guides and practice programs for each of the seven divisions, available on its website.
All candidates preparing to take ARE 5.0 should download the ARE 5.0 Guidelines. This free publication contains an overview of the ARE 5.0 divisions. The ARE 5.0 Handbook, a free demo exam, short videos about the new question types, and a list of references for further study can be found at NCARB.org.
- Examination for Architects in Canada
- Architectural Experience Program (AXP)
- National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB)