The Architect Registration Examination (ARE) is a professional licensure examination. It has been adopted by all 50 United States as well as the U.S. territories. The ARE is administered by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) to help protect public health, safety, and welfare in various aspects of architecture. Currently, the ARE is made up of seven exam divisions.

To call yourself an architect, you need a degree in architecture, validated work experience, and you need to pass all seven ARE divisions.

What Does This Mean to You?

It may mean that though you studied architecture, and are currently working in the field of architecture, you’re working as a designer—not an architect. If you’re interested in furthering your career as an architect, here are four steps that will help you get started:

  1. understand your state board’s eligibility requirements (click here)
  2. research the ARE divisions and determine the best order for you to take them (keep reading)
  3. allocate study time and budget for exam review materials (click here to save 15% )
  4. commit to passing each division—the first time
ARE 5.0 is coming. Why start now?> 
 <p class= In 2016, NCARB announced a change to the ARE exam format. The goal is to align the ARE with current practice management, project management, and project design activities in the architecture profession. You can also visit the NCARB web page to learn more about the upcoming transition to ARE 5.0. The new exam will be launched late 2016, but you will have until June 2018 to pass the seven ARE 4.0 divisions if you start with the current exam.

Now is a great time to plan and start studying so that you can pass all seven divisions before the exam changes. This is important because you can still find study tips from architects who have already taken and passed the ARE. Don’t worry about running out of time yet—if you start studying now (March 2015), you will have the recommended three months to study for each division before they are no longer available.

Click here to download a side-by-side chart showing topics covered by the seven ARE 4.0 divisions.

Studying for the seven ARE divisions

There are no requirements from NCARB regarding the order in which examinees must take the seven divisions. Examinees often choose to assess division subject matter and schedule the exams in order from easiest to most difficult (as ranked by their own experience and knowledge). Others choose to group the divisions by subject matter to maximize study time.

Some examinees have observed that a few ARE divisions incorporate related content in the topics covered. For example, Construction Document & Services (CDS), Programming, Planning & Practice (PPP), and Site Planning & Design (SPD) all cover topics relating to professional practice and administration, e.g. contract documents.

Like PPP and CDS, both Building Systems (BS) and Building Design & Construction Systems (BDCS) cover codes and regulations. Both also have a vignette component. Some examinees feel Structural Systems (SS) has more calculation and analysis than BDCS, but both cover some design and construction topics.

Last but certainly not least, the Schematic Design (SD) consists of two graphic vignettes. One vignette relates to building layout and the other to interior layout.

Get Started Today

To learn more about how to register for the ARE, click here.

Professional Publications, Inc. (PPI) publishes a comprehensive exam review series for the ARE, authored David Kent Ballast, FAIA. Click here to learn more about this best-selling author and how his books can help you prepare to pass.

PPI is committed to helping architects and engineers pass their licensing exams. Visit to learn how you can get started today.