I’m sure you have likely heard by now that NCARB will be rolling out a brand new ARE 5.0 sometime later this year (if you haven’t heard this news, stick around, it will be a hot topic this month!).

I remember back when NCARB transitioned from ARE 3.1 to ARE 4.0 in 2008-2009.  For a newbie fresh out of school, it was a little scary.  Which format do I take?  When do I start?  How do I navigate the changes?  This post will give you an overview of what 5.0 is slated to look like, and for the rest of the month we’ll be exploring other aspects of what this change means for you.

The Big Picture

The first thing you’ll notice about ARE 5.0 is that it has been reduced from 7 exams down to 6.  You might be thinking “Sweet!  Less exams!”  Before you get too carried away, what we understand so far is that these new exams won’t be any easier than the existing 7 (though they are also not supposed to be any more difficult either).  They are, however, completely restructured from the current 4.0 set.  You’ll notice there is a big emphasis on project management and practice and less on building and structural systems.  Here are the new 6 exams in no particular order:

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

The intention here was to align the examination process more closely to what architects actually do in the profession and less on the overall scope of everything that goes into a building.  It is still important to understand building systems in order to properly design for them, however you as the architect will be playing the role of coordinator when it comes to working out the systems much more so than actually doing any calculations.


What???!!!  You mean I’m testing to be an architect and I don’t have to draw anything??  Well, not quite, according to the description of 5.0.  Yes, vignettes are out so there won’t be a strictly graphic portion of the exam any more.  However, you will still have to display some knowledge of working drawings by way of answering questions via a new “performance item types” style of question.  Basically this means there will be graphic style questions throughout the exam where you will be required to solve some graphic through drafting.  NCARB has not yet fully released what this will look like or how these questions will be structured, so stay tuned, we will update you as soon as we hear something.

But I’m testing now!

Fear not current ARE 4.0 candidates!  NCARB will not be retiring 4.0 until the June of 2018, which would give you almost a one and a half years to finish out your exams if you are currently testing.  This overlap is much more generous compared to the ARE 4.0 transition, which if I recall correctly was about a year or less.  It seems like the goal was to try to give current candidates enough time to finish out 4.0 instead of having to transition to 5.0 and potentially lose credits for exams, especially if you are only a few exams away from being finished.  There are other strategies to play this transition to your advantage if you are able… Check back in next week when I talk about how to make this transition work in your favor.