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The Ultimate Guide to the NCARB ARE 5.0

What’s in the ARE and how do you prepare to take it? Here's an in-depth look at everything you need to know for taking (and passing!) the ARE 5.0.

If you’re a budding architect looking to accelerate your career at your current firm, you should consider licensure as the next milestone on your path to success. As with most specialized professions, there are a few steps you’ll need to take to become fully licensed in the architecture field.

A requirement for licensure is passing the architect registration examination (ARE)  developed by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). Typically, you’ll have already earned your architecture degree from an NAAB-accredited program and have gained and documented the required experience before tackling the exam. 

But what’s in the ARE and how do you prepare to take it? Here, we’ll take an in-depth look at everything you need to know for taking (and passing!) the ARE 5.0 with this quick NCARB exam guide. 

What Is the ARE 5.0?

According to NCARB’s Handbook, the ARE 5.0 “assesses a candidate's knowledge and skills to provide various services required in the practice of architecture”. They emphasize the purpose of the exam is not to test for competency in all aspects of architecture, but to show that the architect can competently handle a project from start to finish while prioritizing the safety and welfare of the public. 

What’s in the ARE 5.0?


The ARE 5.0 is separated into six divisions: 

  • Practice Management (PCM)- This division includes topics such as professional ethics, fiduciary responsibilities and other topics related to managing an architect practice.
  • Project Management (PjM)- This division focuses on topics related to managing architect projects including organizing principles, contract management and more.
  • Programming & Analysis (PA)- This division covers issues related to programming and more related to evaluating a project’s requirements, constraints and opportunities. 
  • PPD Project Planning & Design (PPD)- This division focuses on the preliminary design and analysis of environmental, cultural and other governing codes and regulations. 
  • Project Development & Documentation (PDD)- This division includes integration and documentation of building systems and more within a project.
  • Construction & Evaluation (CE)- This division is centered around a project’s construction contract administration and post-occupancy evaluation.

Each division has multiple sections with different objectives. There are five different item types you will see within the six divisions.

The ARE 5.0 Item Types Are:


  • Multiple choice
  • Check-all-that-apply
  • Quantitative-fill-in-the-blank
  • Hotspot
  • Drag-and-place

Some items within the exam will be at the Understand/Apply Level (U/A Level) and others will be at the Analyze/Evaluate (A/E Level). These levels tell you the necessary cognitive level of the test item so you are aware of the expectations.

What Are the Requirements To Take the ARE 5.0?

Although in most cases you’ll need to have completed your architect education program or degree, the eligibility requirements for taking the ARE depend on your jurisdiction.

To check the licensing requirements of your jurisdiction, including which states have exam application processing fees, you can use NCARB’s Licensing Requirements Tool. Once you meet the requirements, you can request testing eligibility through your NCARB Record by your jurisdiction’s licensing board. 

Although not required, you will want ARE 5.0 prep materials so you can have a study plan and be fully prepared come test day. Since the ARE is different from other tests you have taken, it’s important to utilize study materials and map out your study goals ahead of time.   

How Do You Schedule the Exam?

Once you’re eligible to take the exam, you can schedule your exam appointments and sit for the divisions either in-person or online. A separate appointment and fee must be paid for each division of the ARE. However, you can take the divisions in any order and the rolling clock gives you five years to take and pass all six divisions, starting from the day you passed the first division you tested for.

Once you have chosen what order to take the divisions, you can find the right study materials and develop your study plan. After you have taken a division, your test results will be available within a week of your test date and viewable in your NCARB Record. 

What Happens if You Fail?

If you did not receive a passing score on a division, you can retake that division starting 60 days after your previous testing date. However, you can only retake the same division three times within a twelve month period

To avoid having to retake divisions of the ARE 5.0, carefully consider your learning options and study materials — such as ARE 5.0 practice exams — so you can pass each division on the first attempt. Resources such as the ARE Community can also help you prepare for the exam. 

Find out how you can guarantee passing the ARE with our Expert Membership.

Ready To Get Licensed? 

If you’re ready for your career to take off in the architecture field, it’s time to pass the ARE. As the first NCARB-approved test prep provider for all six divisions of the ARE 5.0, Black Spectacles has resources to help you every step on your way to test day. 

Up-to-date study materials can be difficult to find, but a Black Spectacles Test Prep Membership gives you access to:

  • Video Lectures
  • Virtual Workshops
  • Lecture Slides
  • Practice Exams
  • Quizzes (NEW!)
  • And more!

Discover how Black Spectacles can help you study for and pass the ARE 5.0.


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