Take Five

Clarification from the AIA-Appointed Architect Licensing Adviser of PA...

By Sean Sheffler, AIA Posted on August 25, 2015

Anyone that knows me has probably noticed that I spend a lot of time talking to a lot of young professionals. And it surprises me that, even with the massive effort NCARB has undertaken to educate the community about the pending changes in the exam process (including publishing the Test Specification), there’s still a great deal of confusion and misunderstanding about what’s actually going on. So let’s all take a collective breather –take five, if you will – and review some of the more important facts about ARE 5.0…

1. The new version of the exam is still over a year away.  ARE 5.0 is not set to launch until late 2016, well over a year from now.  Anyone that is currently testing under version 4.0, or anyone who is thinking that they’re just about ready to get started, still has plenty of time to finish testing beforehand.  There’s absolutely no need to feel rushed just because a new version of the test is on its way.

2. Even after ARE 5.0 launches, ARE 4.0 will still be around for another 18 months.  ARE 4.0 won’t be retired until June 2018.  This means that both versions of the exam will be available for that period of time, which NCARB is calling “dual delivery.”  Again, plenty of time for you Four-Oh-ers to finish testing… but one has to wonder if Prometric’s testing centers might find themselves just a little more crowded with two versions of the ARE being administered…  That might be more than enough incentive to get the test out of the way.

3. Content for ARE 5.0 is still being developed.  At this time, we know that there will be six divisions instead of seven, that content will be more equally spread out between those six (translation: there’s no dedicated structures exam, but you can expect to find structural-related content on all six divisions), and that the much-maligned graphic vignettes are being retired in favor of more sophisticated graphic-based problems that might require the user to, say, drag and drop a piece of through-wall flashing to the correct area of a wall section.  Other item types include a case study that candidates will need to read, then answer a series of related questions afterward.  Needless to say, this test will be a completely different animal than 4.0.  Exam guides and other review materials will begin to be made available until early 2016, and I’m sure that NCARB will continue to keep us updated along the way.

4. Candidates will have the ability to self-transition.  Not sure which version of the exam is right for you?  NCARB has developed a “Credit Model,” offering candidates the ability to test using a hybrid of divisions from both versions – complete the triple cocktail of CDS-SPD-PPP under 4.0 and receive credit for four divisions of ARE 5.0, leaving only two exams left to take.  Candidates will be able to finish the exam in a grand total of five sittings, saving both money and time.  (This kind of freedom didn’t exist during the transition to 4.0, and it’s an incredibly empowering thing for candidates.)

5. Eligibility will be key.  So, yes, ARE 4.0 will still be around until 2018, and, yes, that Credit Model is brilliant.  That doesn’t mean you should rest on your laurels.  Once ARE 5.0 launches, candidates will no longer be able to gain eligibility to test under ARE 4.0.  What does that mean?  It means that if you’re thinking that you’re ready to begin testing in the next year, get your authorization to test as soon as possible!  Rather than limiting yourself to only version 5.0, give yourself as many tactical advantages as possible over the exam by allowing yourself the ability to test in both versions.

The most important thing to remember is that, even though ARE 5.0 is on the horizon, ARE 4.0 is still the current version of the exam. To that end, NCARB has continued to develop and launch even more resources dedicated to helping candidates complete ARE 4.0, including their excellent Google+ Community, a series of YouTube videos for each division of the test, and an updated batch of Exam Guides, with new multiple choice sample questions. And don’t forget – the Young Architects Forum is here to help! YAF will be kicking off their annual ARE 4.0 Review Series on September 21 with our Intro to the ARE, before we launch into the monthly division-specific review sessions running from October to May. After all, the best way to avoid any potential confusion about ARE 5.0… is to just knuckle down and get 4.0 out of the way! Talk to any member of the YAF Steering Committee for more information about the resources that YAF has to offer, and feel free to drop me a line if you have questions about IDP, ARE, or anything in between.

Sean Sheffler, AIA, is a project manager at LGA Partners, and the AIA-appointed Architect Licensing Adviser for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Contact him at or via Twitter @IDP_PA

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