The Architect Registration Examination (ARE) is the professional licensure examination adopted by all 50 states of the United States, the District of Columbia, and three U.S. territories (Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands) to assess candidates for their knowledge, skills, and ability to provide the various services required in the practice of architecture. The exam is also accepted by 11 provincial and territorial architectural associations for architectural registration in Canada.
The ARE is developed and maintained by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) with input from the Canadian Architectural Licensing Authorities (CALA). The computer-based exam consists of seven divisions including multiple-choice and/or graphic vignette questions administered in test centers operated by NCARB’s testing consultant Prometric.
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 problems 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. 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 and 2007 that led to improvements to the ARE. These improvements have been rolled out in phases in ARE 3.0, ARE 3.1, and ARE 4.0. NCARB’s next practice analysis is scheduled for 2012. ARE 5.0 is being released in the summer of 2016, which will reduce the number of examinations form 7 to 6.
Eligibility for the ARE is governed by the prospective architects’ state or provincial registration board. Most U.S. jurisdictions require completion of a professional degree from the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) (B.Arch or M.Arch) and/or completing the Intern Development Program (IDP). Each jurisdiction is different, so candidates need to contact their jurisdiction’s registration board to find out their specific eligibility requirements.
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.
ARE 4.0 was introduced in July 2008, and consists of seven divisions. Six of the divisions include multiple-choice questions, fill-in, and graphic vignettes and one division only contains graphic vignettes.
The ARE 4.0 was introduced in July 2008, and consists of 555 multiple-choice questions and 11 vignettes in 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)
The previous version of the exam, ARE 3.1, consisted of nine divisions that were broken up by multiple-choice and graphic vignette divisions.
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.