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The Road to ARE 5.0

By Derrick Porter, Assoc. AIA

an Emerging Professionals column

The Architect Registration Examination ARE undergoes a metamorphosis of sorts every few years. Those currently in school, or who have not begun their testing, may see the following as a reference for what to expect when ARE 5.0 becomes available. For those, like myself, currently working on their testing under the current ARE 4.0 sections, this will give you a game plan to follow in order to make the transition seamless.

Before I get into the particulars, here’s a little history as to why ARE 5.0 is coming into existence and the steps up to this point to put it together. It began in September of 2013 when over 40 architects gathered in Portland, Oregon to become the Test Specification Task Force. They were tasked with developing the new content areas and assessment objectives for the new divisions. They worked to determine the knowledge and skills that would be measured in each division along with the development of the transition plan for candidates in the process of taking the ARE. Through the continuing effort of the Research and Development Subcommittee and the Graphics Grading Subcommittee, NCARB has developed a testing structure that coincides with changing technology and a different approach to the exam. Not only have they developed new sections but, to the happiness of future exam takers, have eliminated the archaic CAD graphics portion. Instead they have integrated graphic testing alongside multiple choice and are taking a look at using case studies.


Now let’s get into the particulars. The new sections are as follows: Practice Management, Project Management, Programming & Analysis, Project Planning & Design, Project Development & Documentation, and Construction & Evaluation. Understandably the naming of the sections tends to make them blur together. It is not nearly as straight forward as Building Systems or Site Planning & Design but what is key to understand is they blend a number of aspects of what we are used to in order to better evaluate the candidate in a more cohesive manner. On the NCARB website you can take a look at the 15-page Test Specification to get a better understanding of what these sections contain. What I am providing is more of a road map of what to take now, so you either don’t have to worry about their meaning, or only need to dive into a few of them if that time does come.

So you may be asking yourself, should I wait for ARE 5.0 or continue/begin ARE 4.0”? To answer this you have to ask yourself a few questions. Has your rolling clock begun, i.e. if it has, how much time do you have left before tests begin to drop off? What divisions in 4.0 have you already passed? And finally, if you are eligible to begin testing under 4.0, are you willing to wait for 5.0 to launch? First off, if you answered the third question as ‘Yes,’ I highly encourage you to get started in 4.0 and the following will explain why. ARE 4.0 will continue to be available after 5.0 launches in late 2016. In addition, 4.0 will continue to be offered until 18 months after 5.0 inception and be retired in June 2018. That means even if you have not begun 4.0 you technically have almost four years to finish it and enjoy the massive amount of study tools already available to you. Now in 2016 when 5.0 begins, candidates who have begun 4.0 can begin to transition to 5.0 if the 18 months are not enough time to finish. This is where the transition plan mentioned before comes in handy. The ARE 5.0 Credit Model is a matrix that identifies the relationships between the seven divisions of 4.0 and the six divisions of 5.0. Essentially it breaks down what to pass in order to receive credit for a 5.0 exam. This is where being strategic can make the transition as streamlined as possible. NCARB has a three- step approach to successfully transition which I will describe here for you. First, take Construction Documents & Services (CDS), this will knock out Construction & Evaluation, and it is also a key component in four out of the six ARE 5.0 sections. Next, take Programming, Planning, and Practice (PPP) combined with CDS this will take care of two more sections, Practice Management and Project Management. Then take Site Planning & Design (SPD) combined with PPP you will finish Programming & Analysis. If you are able to finish these three 4.0 sections, you only would have three sections of 5.0 to complete to get your license.

As you can see, the transition to ARE 5.0 can be accomplished but it has to be handled on a case by case basis. As I mentioned, I highly encourage candidates for licensure to begin 4.0 and not wait. Don’t delay your goal of becoming licensed. And for those who will become candidates between now and 2016, do what is comfortable for you. There are a lot of resources currently available for ARE 4.0 sections, including our Prep Seminars that are offered at AIA East Bay. Study materials for 5.0 will become available eventually, but why wait?

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