Version 5.0 of the Architect’s Registration Exam (ARE) is being introduced at the end of 2016.  After 20 years in service, the current version (ARE 4.0) will be retired after June 2018.  While this is exciting news, it could also upset your carefully planned timeline to studying and passing.

While the new version goes into effect at the end of 2016 (as of the writing, the exact date was still undetermined), you still have plenty of time to take the existing version.


ARE 5.0 will include only six divisions, compared to the current 7 and do away with the standalone vignette problems.  Instead of the 11 big vignettes currently offered, the new format incorporates graphics throughout the exam.  The questions will show you a graphic problem and ask you to solve it similar to “what an architect does as part of regular practice” each day.  Unfortunately, no one has seen the new version yet.

[NOTE:  Architect Exam Prep will be releasing updated versions of our study guides for all 6 new divisions at the end of 2016 to coincide with the ARE 5.0 release.]

NCARB says the reason for the change is “an effort to align the ARE with the more commonly defined professional architect activities of practice management, project management, and project design.”  In short, the next version more closely resembles what you do every day.


Aside from no longer having full vignettes, the new version uses a case study approach involving architectural scenarios.  It sounds very similar to the California Supplemental Exam where candidates were given a set of plans and all of the questions related to that drawing set.

ARE 5.0 will not be easier or harder than ARE 4.0. But it is going to be different. The number of questions is still unknown for now (it might have more, but no vignettes to complete.)

The existing ARE 4.0 consists of 7 divisions:

  • Construction Documents & Services
  • Programming, Planning & Practice
  • Site Planning & Design
  • Building Design & Construction Systems
  • Structural Systems
  • Building Systems
  • Schematic Design

The new ARE 5.0 will consist of only 6 divisions:

  • Practice Management
  • Project Management
  • Programming & Analysis
  • Project Planning & Design
  • Project Development & Documentation
  • Construction & Evaluation

You can see from the new titles how each division is more focused on professional practice.


WIth change comes uncertainty, especially with a new version of the exam that no one has yet to take.  That’s why NCARB will let you choose when (or even if) you want to switch over to the new version of the exams.  Luckily, you have three different options to choose from:

1.  Stay under version 4.0.  That’s right, don’t change anything.  Stick with the plan and take the exams.  The rolling clock rules still apply, and you’ll have until June 30, 2018 to complete your exams. After June 2018, all remaining ARE 4.0 candidates will be transitioned to ARE 5.0 (whether you like it or not!).   This is a great plan, even though you’ll be taking 7 existing exams instead of 6 new ones.

2.  Wait it out.  If you like being a trailblazer and enjoy new things, then you can wait to take the ARE 5.0.  Unfortunately, no exact date has been set, and “the end of 2016” could turn into “early 2017.”  This is a dangerous plan, full of unknowns.  Plus, don’t you want to pass the ARE as soon as possible?

3.  7 exams for the price of 5.  Since the ARE 5.0 is completely new and rewritten, you can take a portion of your exams under ARE 4.0, and finish under ARE 5.0.  The new credit model shows how the exams correlate, and NCARB even sanctions this approach.

Here’s how it works.  First, focus on passing these three critical divisions in ARE 4.0:

  • Construction Documents & Services
  • Programming Planning & Practice
  • Site Planning & Design

These three exams equate to four of the ARE 5.0 exams:

  • Practice Management
  • Project Management
  • Programming & Analysis
  • Construction & Evaluation

So, if you pass these three divisions in ARE 4.0, you will only need to take the two remaining divisions in ARE 5.0:

  • Project Development & Documentation
  • Project Planning & Design

That means you could finish the ARE in only five divisions!


You might be thinking, “That sounds confusing!  Why would anyone do that?!”

Well, it’s actually a great idea with numerous benefits:

1.  PRICE:  The exams are expensive.  So if you can skip one, you can save yourself at least $210 (and skipping two saves you $420).

2.  TIME:  By passing only 5 divisions, you’ll finish faster.

3.   LESS RISK:  By the time you complete the three exams under ARE 4.0, more information on the new version will be available and you can decide if you want to switch.  Remember, you decide when to switch from 4.0 to 5.0, but you can never switch back.

Before you can decide on how you should test going forward, review your Rolling Clock dates. ARE 4.0 division expiration dates based on the Rolling Clock will remain in effect.

The average candidate finishes the ARE in two years — meaning most candidates currently testing will be done with ARE 4.0 before ARE 5.0 takes over in June 2018.

Whatever study plan you choose, be sure to start.  Don’t let this upcoming change slow down your dream of becoming a licensed architect!


ARE 5.0 Home Page

ARE 5.0 Test Specification

ARE 5.0 Transition Plan

Timeline to ARE 5.0

ARE 5.0 FAQs

Transition Plan

Credit Model

ARE 5.0 Transition Calculator