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]


3 thoughts on “ARE 4.0 – 5.0 Transition

  1. Pingback: ARE 5.0 Content | ARE we there yet?

  2. Candy,
    What a great story you have written to get the gist of this whole process. I am really happy that you are trying to help the future ARE 5.0 candidates with your knowledge. I passed all my exams last year and Leo my best to help others. I would certainly point future seekers towards your blog now. Way to go!!

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