So You Want to be a Licensed Architect: The ARE Exams
February 4, 2021
Once you have your education and experience started or completed, you’re ready for the next step: taking the Architecture Registration Exams (ARE). When I first graduated from college and entered the workforce, I felt that the ARE’s were this big, intimidating monster that I didn’t want to think about or look at. I think this came from only knowing design from my design studio classes in college.
Now don’t get me wrong, my design courses at school were great, and I had professors encourage me to think through a design and how it can be built and used in the real world. But I never really learned the detailed nuts and bolts of the building systems, only the basics. That is what scared me! The never-ending process of learning EVERYTHING because if you cannot get it right, it could lead to faulty buildings and individuals’ unprotected welfare.
However, once I started working at NKB, things began to come together. By thinking through design solutions with the team, working with all disciplines involved in a project, and getting into the nuts and bolts, something clicked. This was not an immediate switch by any means, and it took a year or two to build up the courage, but finally, I befriended the monster and worked out my licensure fears.
So what now?
As mentioned in my”Experience” blog, I started my licensure process by researching the National Council of the Architectural Registration Board’s (NCARB) website. Here are a few starting steps.
1. Understand your eligibility. Your state needs to evaluate your education and experience to determine if you meet their list of requirements. Start by going to your state’s website to understand their professional license requirements.
2. Understand the exam policies. These policies include the rolling clock, exam security, test center rules, and fees.
The rolling clock is a 5-year expiration window on any exams you pass. If you pass one exam and can’t pass the others within that 5-year window, you will need to retake the exam you did pass. The best way to beat the rolling clock – pass all exams within the five-year period! It may seem like an easy feat, but life happens, and those years will go by fast.
How many exams are there?
NCARB’s current exam process is the ARE 5.0 which has six exam divisions. Each division covers a different aspect of current architectural practice. I’ll break out each exam division in upcoming blogs.
How do I sign up?
Once the state has approved your eligibility, you can sign up for an exam through your NCARB account. You’ll be required to pay the examination fee, and you’ll be given a seat credit. Once a seat credit is granted, you can choose to schedule an in-person or online exam. An online exam is a new option being offered as of December 2020. Once you’ve selected the version of the exam you will be transferred to Prometric’s website to view the location availability and schedule the exam time slot.
Where can I take the exam?
Exams can be taken online or in-person at one of the Prometric centers around the country. You can search by city or zip code on their website, and a list of locations will pop up. Due to COVID some testing centers are closed or have changed their test-taking policies. If you do choose to take the test in-person I recommend reviewing NCARB and Prometrics websites to fully understand the test-taking policies during the COVID Pandemic.
NCARB has very specific guidelines for taking an exam online since it is being taken in a remote location with no exam proctor. Make sure you have a computer that can run the ProProctor testing software, that you have all the equipment NCARB requires for the exam, that you meet the environmental requirements that outline the privacy and noise levels of your remote testing location, understand what Items are prohibited in the room while you are testing, and double-check that you have a strong internet connection! I was lucky enough to finish my exams before the online exam option came into play. There are many pros and cons to online exams. I suggest reviewing NCARB’s website to fully understand how to proceed with this option.
In the summer of 2021, NCARB plans to switch to a new testing administration vendor, PSI, for both in-person and online testing.
By no means is this a complete capture of the ARE process. NCARB’s website covers many more specific topics, including exam handbooks, guidelines, and community discussion boards. I highly encourage anyone starting their exam process to explore all the resources NCARB has available.