ARE 4.0 vs. ARE 5.0 – Should I stay or should I go?

If you’ve been following our blogs and podcasts recently, we’ve been talking about ARE 5.0 quite a bit.  This change will be the first major overhaul of the ARE since 2008 so it’s important to be aware of the changes and find out the best way to make this change work to your advantage.

Beautiful woman with questioning expression and question marks above her head

So the first question you may have is, do I stick with 4.0 or switch to 5.0?  What if I’ve already passed some exams?  What if my exams expired?  What if I’m just getting started?  While the final answer can only truly be determined by you and what will work for your goals and schedule, it’s wise to be equipped with information so you can make sure you make the best choice for you.

If you’ve already started…

Since 5.0 won’t officially launch until later this year, if you’ve already started in 4.0 you might as well continue on and use the next several months to try to get in a few more exams.  Remember, 4.0 will be offered for the next two years before it is retired for good, so you likely have plenty of time to finish in this series if you don’t want to transfer.  Much like when a new iPhone is released, there will be several variables in the new 5.0 format that are unknown at this point, and it may be best to give the exam some time to flush out the bugs.

Also important to keep in mind is the rolling clock.  If you have exams that are at risk of dropping off, it’s in your best interest to keep pushing forward to finish as soon as possible.  As far as we know, the rolling clock is not going away once 5.0 is launched so this will be a factor to deal with no matter which version you stick to.

Another thing to keep in mind is which exams you have already taken.  NCARB has published a transition plan on their website that shows how 4.0 will be credited in 5.0.  Take a look at this chart and see how your current exams stack up.  If you have recently started your exam journey, you can strategize your approach if you think you may want to transition to 5.0.  In fact, we outline how to get done in 5 exams instead of the current 7 in 4.0 or the new 6 in 5.0 if you play your cards right.  You can read that blog post here.

If you started but your exams expired…

First let me say, I’m sorry you’re up against having to retake passed exams.  It’s frustrating and stressful, but finding the motivation to get up and tackle them again will be completely worth it in the end.  If you feel like you’re ready now, go for it!  Capitalize on the fire to get through these exams and get your license.  Even if you have to retake exams there is no reason you would have to wait for 5.0.  If you have taken some exams in the 4.0 format you may prefer to stick with it since you are already familiar with the structure and know what to expect.  And transitioning to 5.0 will always be an option should you choose (just keep in mind once you transfer you can’t go back to 4.0).

If you have not yet begun…

There is still plenty of time to start fresh in 4.0 and finish without transitioning to 5.0 over the next 2 years if you plan accordingly.  If you think it will take you longer than that and you really don’t want to have to deal with the switch, then it may make sense to start when 5.0 is launched later this year.  However, if you’re not afraid to try something new and don’t mind the idea of transitioning, you could start in 4.0 now and take the three core exams (CDS, SPD & PPP) that will give you credit for four exams in 5.0.  Then after you transition, you would only have two exams remaining to be completely done.

Just the other day I was having this very conversation with a colleague and while I could offer some insight into the perks of starting now and taking advantage of the transition, ultimately I realized it comes down to a personal choice.  This is your career and you will have to determine what path is the best choice for you.  Now that you’ve been equipped with a little more knowledge on what your choices are, put together a plan, set your goals and just keep swimming.  As they say, there is no time like the present.

By |2019-01-21T18:38:58+00:00March 15th, 2016|Categories: 5.0|9 Comments

About the Author:

David Doucette
David Doucette, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP is founder of Architect Exam Prep and and has been helping candidates successfully prepare for and pass the California Supplemental Exam (CSE) for the last four years. He also hosts a podcast dedicated to preparing for the California Supplemental Exam as well as CSE Video Tips at


  1. Eric
    Eric March 23, 2016 at 2:23 pm

    I am so excited to see 5.0 roll out this year.

  2. Avatar
    robert June 9, 2016 at 6:18 pm

    I am deaf and candidate to take ARE exams for this year. Does ARE 5.0 have any webinars or tutorial sessions with captioned as translating service for the deaf?

  3. David
    David July 25, 2016 at 6:40 am

    hi robert,

    I am not sure if NCARB has prepared anything yet. i just checked their website and didn’t see anything specifically addressing captioned/translating services.

    Thanks, david

  4. Avatar
    SANG HEE LEE February 14, 2017 at 5:57 pm

    I transitioned from ARE4.0 to ARE5.0 by MISTAKE.
    I just tried to use transition calculator but I push the transition button. This fault is the
    most biggest disaster in my life. I started ARE4.0 from 2014 and failed
    more than ten times spending huge money for passing ARE4.0 If I can’t go back to ARE4.0, I have to stop to take exam. I passed two exams in ARE4.0.
    If I have to take ARE5.0, I have to take all of 6 exams.How can I go back to ARE4.0 Please let me know how to go back to ARE4.0

  5. David
    David February 14, 2017 at 8:10 pm

    Hi Sang,

    Oh man, that’s a bummer. I recommend calling NCARB first thing in the morning and talk to someone. Be polite, but persistent and make sure you talk the person you need to.

    Good Luck!


  6. Avatar
    Dena Courtney March 5, 2017 at 6:31 am

    Are your study materials different for the 4.0 exam versus the 5.0 exam? And if they are, how are they different?

  7. David
    David March 9, 2017 at 8:23 am

    Hi Dena,

    We are following the NCARB Exam Guide Outlines with 5.0 (same as we did with 4.0). Much of the content of 5.0 is reorganized content from 4.0. However, Project Management and Practice Management are the two divisions that have very little 4.0 content in them. Hope that helps!

    Thanks, David

  8. Avatar
    Patrick April 28, 2017 at 8:51 am

    I have BS scheduled in 4.0 but think I want to transfer to 5.0 so it doesn’t make a lot of sense to take it. Can i cancel it? If I can’t cancel and fail it, does the 60 day wait transfer to 5.0 therefore affecting when i can take the 5.0 tests? I have looked all over, thank you for any help.

  9. David
    David May 16, 2017 at 11:47 am

    Hi Patrick,

    Those are all questions for NCARB. I recommend giving them a call to clarify.

    Thanks, David

Comments are closed.

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