What to Expect at the Test Center

As we get closer to the launch of ARE 5.0, NCARB has begun the final stages of exam development and systems testing. To help out (and get a sneak peak of the new question types), more than 40 NCARB employees volunteered to take a mock division—including yours truly.

I hadn’t been to a Prometric test center since 2008, so I was excited to experience the check-in process first hand. For those of you about to take your first exam, here’s a step-by-step guide to taking the ARE—plus a few tips.

Step 1: Arrive Early

Plan to arrive at least 30 minutes before your appointment. This will give you plenty of time to park, check-in for your appointment, and store any personal belongings in one of the provided lockers. You’ll keep your ID and locker key, but everything else stays behind—including your trusted Fine Tip Sharpie.

Step 2: Present a Valid ID

Before you can enter the testing room, you’ll be greeted by a Prometric Test Center Administrator (TCA), who will scan your ID and ask you to sign a log book. The name on your ID must match your NCARB Record. So if you’ve recently changed your name, be sure to notify our Customer Service department at least one week before your exam. Check out page the ARE Guidelines [PDF] for a complete list of accepted IDs.

Step 3: Scan Your Fingertips (and Say Cheese)

Next, you’ll have your photo taken and provide fingertip scans from both hands. This allows Prometric to match your name, photo, and fingerprints during future visits. Finally, you’ll be asked to turn your pockets inside-out, and you’ll be scanned with a handheld metal detector.

Step 4: Get Started

At this point, the TCA will explain the test center’s rules, and provide you with scratch paper and pencils. You’ll be led into the testing room and to an assigned workstation. This is your chance to get comfortable and familiarize yourself with the computer interface. For each division, you’ll have access to an on-screen calculator, applicable references, and a clock that displays your remaining time.

If you have any questions or need extra paper during the test, simply raise your hand and a TCA will come to you. Keep in mind, used scratch paper will be collected before you’re given additional sheets. Be sure to notify the TCA immediately if you experience any problems with your computer or an error message pops up. Please don’t clear any error messages, as the TCA will need to see the message to confirm your technical difficulty.

Every division includes a scheduled break, so you’ll show your ID, scan your fingertips, and sign the log book upon re-entering. Additional restroom breaks are permitted, but the time on your exam will continue to count down.

Step 5: Check Out

Remember, each question is worth one point, and blank responses are considered incorrect. So the best strategy is to always select your best guess. Once you’ve reviewed your answers, the screen will ask if you’re ready to exit the exam. You’ll also complete a brief survey about the testing experience. Upon exiting the testing room, any used scratched paper and pencils will be collected, and you’ll be asked to sign the log book a final time.

Candidates typically receive their online score reports within two weeks, although many have received them in under a week. Score reports are usually uploaded on Thursdays, so that’s a good time to check.

For additional test taking tips, check out our ARE 4.0 and ARE 5.0 posts.

About the Author

Before joining the NCARB team, I worked in journalism, marketing, and public relations. After making my way to DC for graduate school, I pursued a career that merged my two passions—writing and interior design. That’s when I landed freelance positions at the Washingtonian and Rue Magazine, interviewing some of today’s biggest designers, including Robert and Cortney Novogratz, David Stark, and Waldo Fernandez. Today, I manage press NCARB's outreach and editorial content, sharing industry news with licensure candidates and architects across the country. Find me on Twitter at @samanthabmiller