ARE: Architect Registration Examination



The Architect Registration Examination (ARE) is a test that evaluates a candidate's competency for the practice of architecture. The National Council of Architectural Registration Board (NCARB) administers and maintains the ARE exam at  Prometric test centers located throughout the United States and Canada. Individuals interested in taking the ARE exams should schedule an appointment at least a few weeks in advance. The test consists of seven divisions that typically require four to six hours to complete. ARE review manual, ARE study guide and ARE practice exams are all important test prep resources available for candidates to prepare well.

Why take the ARE?

The ARE is important because all 50  states, the District of Columbia, three U.S. territories (Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands) and  11 provincial and  architectural associations in Canada assess candidates for their knowledge, skills, and ability to provide services in the field of architecture based on their performance on ARE.  In addition, individuals, who wish to become licensed professionals and provide architectural services must complete the ARE examination to obtain architecture licensure.


Prior to registering for the ARE exam, candidates must acquire a degree in architecture and complete a period of internship or practical training under a licensed architect. Options of degrees include a bachelor of architecture, master of architecture, and/ or doctorate in architecture. The program or school must be accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB). Internships at architectural firms are a good option for training. Depending on the state, continuing education and some college credits may be required as well. This can be achieved through university classes, self-study courses, conferences, or workshops. Eligibility varies from state-to-state however, applicants should check with their registration board for more details.

Test Structure

The ARE test consists of seven divisions including multiple-choice and/or graphic vignette questions that typically require four to six hours to complete. The assessment also includes actual hands-on tasks which a real life architect may encounter. Test centers are open six days a week for 50 weeks a year and candidates can take the test divisions in any order they desire.

The seven sections include:

  1. Programming, Planning and Practice: evaluates a candidate’s skill in architectural programming with regards to economic, social, and environmental issues. The candidate must provide an analysis of specialty codes, building codes, and zoning. The candidate must also be able to exhibit skills in managing and scheduling design progress. In addition, applicants must be in a position to assess financing, budget, and client needs.

  2. Structural Systems: focuses on the general principle of construction and design of buildings.  An analysis of seismic, lateral, and wind forces is important for this section. Further, applicants are instructed to design their plan for a building which includes a multi-level roof. Candidates are required to provide their best schematic framing plan in this part of the exam.

  3. Building Systems: assesses the electrical, mechanical, and specialty skills of applicants involved in construction and design of buildings. Candidates are required to include regulatory requirements such as specialty and  building codes to design electrical and mechanical systems. For the hands-on segment, applicants must submit a complete ceiling plan which integrates lighting, safety, mechanical, and structural systems.

  4. Construction Documents and Services: includes a candidate's understanding and knowledge of amendments to contract documents and services. This section requires the task of delineating a building section with the integration of mechanical, lighting and structural systems.

  5. Schematic Design: this section evaluates a candidate's knowledge in interior space planning and schematic design for buildings.  Applicants are required to provide a schematic design plan for a building that is two stories high. Program, code, site, and environmental requirements must be addressed when completing the plan.

  6. Site Planning and Design: assesses an applicant's skill in project management, design and site planning. Candidates are required to submit a plan for a site using the general principles of site planning. Some details in the plan must include pedestrian and vehicular circulation, parking, and building placement.

  7. Building Design and Construction Systems: focuses on the concept of construction and building design, while regarding economic, environmental, and social issues. Candidates must design a stair, accessibility/ramp, and roof plan.

Tips to Prepare for ARE

Take Practice Tests: NCARB provides practice programs for each ARE division. These practice tests consist of sample vignettes for the candidate to work out.The programs are available for download free of charge.  Applicants should definitely download the ARE 4.0 guidelines, a free publication that provides an overview of the divisions.

Team Study: Candidates should team up with one or more partners who are also preparing for the exam. By collaborating, each member of the team may be able to help in providing  additional input and suggestions.

Maintain Notes: Applicants should try and keep important notes and other study materials for each division so that it is easy to remember points and adequately cover all topic areas.

Take Special Courses: Candidates should invest in taking up specific courses and focus in improving their weak areas within the seven divisions.


NCARB normally takes about four to six weeks to process results for all divisions and sends scores to the candidate’s board of architecture. For those who use NCARB’s Direct Registration program, NCARB processes and releases the results. The test centers do not provide test scores. Candidates who do not pass an exam division must wait for six months before retaking that division. In some cases, candidates may be able to have their board of architecture review the exam. If the board of architecture changes the score from fail to pass, the board and not NCARB recognizes this new score.


Candidates can register directly by visiting the NCARB's website and following the registration guidelines.


For each division of the Architect Registration Examination 4.0, the candidate must pay a non-refundable US $210 fee. Those taking the exam in Canada must add a six percent government sales tax to each exam fee. If the candidate needs to reschedule the exam, they must pay a $35 rescheduling fee for each exam division. Candidates who cancel or who do not show up for an exam will loose their division fee.

International Students

International students interested to take up the ARE preferably should graduate from a program recognized by the NAAB. International students that graduate from a non-NAAB approved program, should contact the Evaluation Services for Architects (ESSA) to determine their eligibility. Graduates will typically need to complete an Intern Development Program (IDP) that normally consists of one to five years of supervised architectural work before taking the ARE. The candidate's IDP mentor along with a sponsor from a separate architectural office typically work in shaping and developing the candidate’s architecture portfolio. The candidate then uses this portfolio to apply for the ARE exam.