ARE 4.0 – 5.0 Transition

test 2

Hello world!!! I cannot believe it has been almost three years since I passed my last exam. I hope you are all doing well!

Since NCARB launched ARE 5.0 in November last year, I have been meaning to update my graphics to show how the transition works. It is now six months into the transition, so I am a little late to the party, but today I am excited to finally share what I have put together! Here you go:

ARE 5.0 Transition

Visualizing ARE 5.0 [Part 1] [Part 2]

ARE 4.0 – 5.0 Transition
From November 2016 to Jun 30, 2018, candidates will have the choice of staying with ARE 4.0, going for ARE 5.0, or doing a combination of both. If you are still deciding between “ARExit” and “AREmain”, let’s review the differences between the two:

Things that did NOT change
The ARE is not looking for the best “Designer” per se. Instead, it accesses a candidate’s knowledge and skills to provide various services in the practice of architecture, with a focus on the services that affect the public’s health, safety, and welfare. It is a test of objective competency, not subjective excellence. That is consistent across ARE 4.0 and ARE 5.0.

In terms of difficulty, NCARB states that “ARE 5.0 will not be easier or harder than ARE 4.0”. This can mean that the content is going to be the same, just structured and presented differently, or that they are going to adjust the cut score to keep the overall passing rate close to that of ARE 4.0. Either way, do not pick either exam because one is going to be easier than the other – neither is easier or harder; they are just different.

Things that DID change
While the mission, content and difficulty stay the same, the format is going to change. The biggest difference is that there will be six divisions instead of seven, and there will no longer be vignettes in ARE 5.0. We will cover that in greater detail in the next article.
When we discuss the contents of these exams, it is hard to avoid jargon like “analysis”, “management”, and “development”. For the sake of comparison, let us boil an architect’s job down to a simplified, model narrative called “the life of a project”:

The Life of a Project ARE 4.0 ARE 5.0
Once upon a time, there was an architect.
He set up his business, rented an office, bought insurance, hired some people, managed his finances, and found a client. CDS PPP PcM
He negotiated, decided on a method of delivery and a form of payment, and signed a contract. CDS PPP PcM PjM
He started by looking at the budget and scope and worked out a schedule. CDS PPP PjM
He then did research on zoning regulations and historic preservation. PPP PA
After that he examined site conditions including the urban context, soil for foundation, topography, vehicular and pedestrian access, parking, trees, and, views. SPD PA
He also made sure to drain the site properly. SPD PA
He then developed a program with the client, identified the main goals and priorities of the project, PPP PA
drew up the schematic layout, SD PA PDD
and started looking at different structural systems. SS PPD PDD
Even though he was working with a structural engineer, he understood basic structural concepts like tension, compression, and shear. He could lay out a simple column-beam system. He also knew the properties of concrete, wood and steel. SS PPD PDD
And he knew how to prepare the building in case of earthquake or hurricane. SS PPD PDD
Once he had an idea of the form, layout and structure, he started developing details, materials, and finishes – from the bottom up and inside out – floors, stairs, walls, windows, ceilings, roofs, paints, tiles, millwork, everything. BDCS PPD PDD
He had to incorporate different building systems including mechanical, electrical and plumbing. BS PPD PDD
He also coordinated the RCP – lighting, diffusers and sprinklers etc. BS PPD PDD
While he was doing all these, he took into account building code regulations, accessibility requirements, sustainability, ALL
and budget concerns. CDS PPP PPD PDD
After the design took shape, he moved on to producing construction documents. CDS PjM PDD
He worked with his team to make sure the drawings and specifications have the right information. CDS PjM PDD
The project then went to bid, and a contractor was hired. CDS PjM CE
During construction, he visited the site once in a while. CDS PjM CE
He also answered questions and provided drawings when needed. CDS PjM CE
When the project was substantially complete, he makes a punch list, and eventually closes out the project. CDS PjM CE
He went back to evaluate and think about what he learned from the project, and how to get better. CDS CE
Then, the story starts all over again.

Our profession is constantly in flux, and the process of design is anything but linear, but assuming on the left are the basic responsibilities of an architect, then on the right is how ARE 4.0 and 5.0 divide them.

In a nutshell, ARE 4.0 is more discipline-based, while ARE 5.0 is more project-phase-based. There are two key takeaways:

  1. Perhaps because there is an increasing need for architects to have leadership and entrepreneurial skills in this modern economy, ARE 5.0 has dedicated an entire division to test candidates on how architects set up and run an office, called Practice Management (PcM).
  2. The keyword for ARE 5.0, especially in Project Planning & Design (PPD) and Project Development & Documentation (PDD), is “integration” – on top of having technical knowledge in different disciplines, it requires candidates to cross-reference and integrate that knowledge into different phases of a project.

Transition and credit model
The graphic on top of this post illustrates how NCARB has regrouped the seven tests in ARE 4.0 into the six in ARE 5.0, and denoted by an “ * ” symbol is the sweet spot where you can take three exams (CDS + PPP + SPD) in place of four (CE + PcM + PjM + PA). Those three, plus the remaining two of ARE 5.0 (PPD + PDD), makes the “power combo” (or “loophole”) of getting licensed in just five exams.

While going for the “power combo” is the most popular choice, bear in mind the following:

  1. The right half of the diagram shows how they have condensed three of the heaviest exams (BDCS + SS + BS), and more, into two (PPD + PDD). This can potentially mean that PPD and PDD, with 120 questions each, are going to be very very hard.
  2. If you have just started, it’s worth taking a quick look at the passing rates of the 4.0 exams. The passing rate of CDS in 2016 has been 58% – not great. Of course, EVEN if you fail, you will have time to retake it before Jun 30, 2018. It’s just that you have to plan it more carefully.

Meanwhile there are pros and cons to starting afresh with ARE 5.0 – pros include having one less division and no vignettes at all, and having full five years to complete all divisions; cons include not having a breadth of knowledge, information and discussions out there, and the many many unknowns. At the end of the day, you just have to take the time constraints into consideration, pick the narrative that you identify more with and see yourself do better in, develop a strategy that works best for you, and go for it. Don’t overthink, don’t procrastinate, and don’t be intimidated.

If you do decide to go straight to ARE 5.0, follow us to the next article where we review its content!

Visualizing ARE 5.0 [Part 1] [Part 2]

ARE 5.0 Content

ARE 5.0 Content

Visualizing ARE 5.0 [Part 1] [Part 2]

NCARB launched ARE 5.0 on November 1 last year, and it would eventually phase out ARE 4.0. Everyone is wondering what the best thing to do is, and the discussion on how the transition would happen continues. Given how much time, effort and money it takes to complete the exam, this concern is of course understandable. But poor ARE 5.0 has been living under the shadow of ARE 4.0 ever since it was announced. Let’s give it a fair chance shall we? Forget ARE 4.0. Pretend we were born yesterday and decided to go for the Architect Registration Exam, and can afford up to five years to do so. What does the exam look like?

Content and Overlaps
ARE 5.0 has six divisions: Practice Management (PcM), Project Management (PjM), Programming & Analysis (PA), Project Planning & Design (PPD), Project Development & Documentation (PDD), and Construction & Evaluation (CE). Don’t let these terminologies confuse you. The first one, PcM, is about how to set up and run an office, and the second one, PjM, is about how to manage time and resources over the course of a project. The other four tests (PA > PPD > PDD > CE) basically follow the standard phases that most of us are familiar with: Conceptual Design, Schematic Design, Design Development, Construction Documents, Bidding and Negotiation, and finally Construction Administration.

The graphic above summarizes the content of all six divisions and illustrates where they overlap. Very much like project phases, the objectives of the divisions might be defined in a clear-cut manner, but in reality they most often merge, blur and slide from one to another.  The left half of the diagram (PcM, PjM, CE) is more on the administrative side, while the right half (PA, PPD, PDD) is more on the technical side, but again, things you studied for one division will most probably appear in another. The diagram is meant to provide a big picture rather than accurate details, so refer to NCARB’s ARE 5.0 Handbook for the official syllabus.

Testing Order
Since the divisions more or less follow an architect’s duties in a project’s timeline, it seems logical to take them in that “chronological” order: PcM > PjM > PA > PPD > PDD > CE. In fact, that’s how they are ordered in all NCARB publications. Another approach would be to take all the administrative ones first, then move on to the technical ones: [PcM + PjM + CE] in any order > [PA + PPD + PPD] in any order.

Worth noting is that PPD and PDD have 120 questions each, so they are significantly (30-50%) more intense than the other four. They do have a lot in common so it is advisable to take them back to back, but depending on your schedule and stamina, you might want to consider sandwiching at least one exam in between.

Each test will have 80 to 120 questions. These questions are either Multiple Choice, Check All that Apply, Fill in the Blanks, or the three new question types that are more interactive: Case Studies, which requires you to cross reference multiple pieces of information; Hot Spots, which you answer by clicking a region in an exhibit; and Drag-in-Place, exercises in which you drag design elements or their labels into a drawing.

Since NCARB had made a conscious effort in making the test software user-friendly, learning how to navigate through the information given and input your answer shouldn’t be that big of a hurdle. That said, be sure to familiarize yourself with the format and interface by checking out the “ARE 5.0 Demo Exam”.

Reference and Study Materials
In the following months a few third party publishers will publish textbooks on the exams, which will organize and condense the content in NCARB’s long list of suggested reference for each division.  These books will definitely be helpful and become the go-to study materials, but since NCARB has no control over these third party publishers, make sure you always start with NCARB’s official ARE 5.0 Guidelines and ARE 5.0 Handbook, as well as the video series on youtube.

Visualizing ARE 5.0 [Part 1] [Part 2]

Thaddeus in NYC!

The legendary ARE Structural Systems tutor David Thaddeus is coming to NYC next week (5-7 June)!

The three-day, 30-hour intensive course will take place at Perkins Eastman’s office, near Union Square. (I can’t find how much it will cost though…)

I actually don’t know anyone who took the course myself – but words are if you schedule your test 2 weeks or so after you take that class, you have a very high chance of passing. Check it out:

Watch youtube videos at speed 2x

When one is tired of reading lengthy study materials, sometimes watching explanatory youtube videos is a good way to take a break, while still getting some studying done. The problem is, while some videos are informative, they are often at a very slow pace, some even more boring than plain text.

Recently my friend Ninad shared a simple trick with me to overcome this – he said to simply watch the videos at twice the speed. It works surprisingly well! Even the narration can still be understood. Use this one as an example:

youtube speed

Click on the little gear icon to speed up the video

For vidoes like these, ones that just give you a little bit of visual aid/ big picture rather than specific details, I think this is the way to go. Now you can be twice as efficient!