ARE Resources: Site Planning & Design

Preparation is essential to passing the Architect Registration Examination® (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 prepare for Site Planning & Design (SPD). Each resource is listed below, with a sneak peek at what you’ll find inside. Best of luck with your endeavors!

SPD Exam Guide: The Big Picture

Download the Site Planning & Design Exam Guide [PDF] 

  • Think only civil engineers worry about what’s outside the building? Think again. The content areas in this division cover numerous aspects of site design—from initial planning to construction details—all of which are critical to architects.
  • The Site Grading and Site Design vignettes are more design-based than some of the other vignettes. There’s certainly more than one right answer to each. But you don’t need to provide the best solution, just one solution that solves the problem. Review the sample passing and failing solutions to learn what is and isn’t acceptable.

Practice Program: Practice, Practice, Practice

Download the SPD Practice Program [EXE]

The Site Grading vignette can be solved quickly, but solve it too quickly and you run the risk of making mistakes. Make sure you know how to create a level platform for the object you must place on the site, check the slope of the revised contours, and create berms and swales where appropriate.

The Site Design vignette requires you to draw a few elements that you won’t need to draw on any other vignette: parking spaces, driveways, and walkways. These are detailed but important parts of the vignette’s program requirements. Be sure you know how to draw them before test day, so you can focus on solving the vignette and not on learning the software.

SPD Prep Videos: Pulling It All Together


  • Where do site design and building design intersect? It’s not just at the building envelope. Review the sample questions in the videos for a better understanding of how site design decisions impact overall project design, cost, material, and code considerations.
  • What are the most critical parts of your Site Grading vignette solution? You must modify at least one contour line, and when you modify the contours, they must not overlap other contours. You must place the built object, and you must place it fully within the building limit lines.
  • What is the most critical part of your Site Design vignette solution? Placing all required built elements. How you draw them is scored through other features of the scoring engine, but if you forget a required element, your solution can’t be scored at all.

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!