ARE Resources: Schematic Design

Preparation is essential to passing the ARE. Understanding what content is assessed on the exam, and knowing how to use the vignette software, will make you more confident on test day. We’ve developed several resources to help you begin your preparation for Schematic Design (SD). Each resource is listed below, with a sneak peek at what you’ll find inside. Best of luck with your endeavors!

SD Exam Guide: The Big Picture

Download the Schematic Design Exam Guide [PDF]

This division does not include any multiple-choice questions—just two vignettes. Review the sample passing and failing solutions for both to get a better understanding of the required level of detail and accuracy. The key to solving these is in the name of the division: Schematic Design. There are many ways to correctly solve these vignettes, but you just need to provide one schematic solution for each vignette that meets the program and code requirements. Don’t overthink it.

SD Practice Program: Practice, Practice, Practice

Download the SD Practice Program [EXE]

  • The Interior Layout vignette requires you to place elements that you won’t need to place on any other vignette: furniture. Many pieces are similar, but with important differences. Be sure you know which piece of furniture is which, as well as how to place and adjust them, so on test day you can focus on solving the vignette and not learning the software. This is the most time sensitive vignette so be sure to master the software to speed your progress.
  • You’ll have four hours to complete the Building Layout vignette, more than any other vignette. Will it really take that long? Not likely, but the extra time allows you the opportunity to refine as you go. Be sure you’re comfortable using the vignette software, but also be sure you know how to efficiently plan a building. Practice making a table, bubble diagram, or sketches on your scratch paper before you start drawing in the computer.

SD Prep Videos: Pulling It All Together

  • What’s the most critical part of your Interior Layout vignette? Drawing all the required rooms. If you exclude any rooms, your solution can’t be scored.
  • What are the most critical parts of your Building Layout vignette? Including two levels in your solution, as defined in the software. All spaces listed in the program must be drawn. And the stairs and elevators must stack between floors. If you miss any of these requirements, your solution can’t be scored.

ARE Community: Join the Conversation

Lots of people are studying, so why not study together? Ask questions, post comments, and learn from each other on the ARE 4.0 Community. Plus, you can rest easy knowing that the accuracy of comments will be vetted by NCARB staff. We’re there to help you, so join us!

About the Author

I joined NCARB in 2014 as a manager in examination development. My work focuses on the development of ARE 5.0 and continued support of ARE 4.0, as well as outreach events. Prior to joining NCARB, I worked as a project architect and project manager in several architecture firms in Washington, DC. My work spanned multiple project types, including institutional, mixed-use, residential, and affordable housing across all phases of design and construction. Originally from the DC area, I left town temporarily to get my architecture degree at Tulane University—Roll Wave Roll!