Every architect can recount their stories of hours spent studying for the exam, their nervousness on test day, and the long wait for their final score. And although the Architect Registration Examination® (ARE®) changes, all of that stays the same … or does it? The wait for the score report used to take months, then it became weeks, then days, and now it’s just minutes. But regardless of the time, all candidates still want to know the same thing: how is the ARE scored?
Each item—regardless of item type—is worth one point and is scored as either correct or incorrect. There is no partial credit for completing just part of an item correctly. You’ll earn a point if you answer correctly, but you won’t lose a point if you answer incorrectly, so we recommend always taking your best guess at every item and not leaving any items blank.
As we discussed in a previous post on how the ARE is developed, every division includes some pretest items, which do not count toward your score. The number of pretest items per division ranges from 15-20, depending on the size of the division, and they’re randomly scattered throughout each exam. Since there is no way to know which item might be a pretest item, it’s best to answer all items as if they will count.
Case study items are worth one point each, the same as discrete items—learn more about case studies. Use this information to manage your time on the exam. Case study items take longer, because you’ll need to reference additional materials in order to answer them. But since you won’t get “extra” credit for them, you don’t want to use too much time on case studies at the expense of the discrete items.
Each division has a minimum score that must be met in order to pass, as discussed in a previous blog post. Your total score is determined by adding up the points earned for all correctly answered items.
If your score is equal to or greater than the minimum necessary, you’ll receive a passing score. If your score is less than the minimum required, you’ll receive a failing score. Your score is based on your performance across the entire division, not section by section. If you do poorly in one section, it’s possible to still pass by doing really well in other areas. But your best strategy is to attempt every item throughout the entire division.
After you finish your exam, you can receive provisional feedback in the test center. You’ll still receive your official score report in your NCARB Record, usually within one or two days. Learn more about provisional feedback.
If you fail your division, you’ll receive descriptive feedback about your performance on the exam. Content areas marked as level 3 or 4 indicate areas where you’ve missed a lot of items. These areas should be a focus of your review as you prepare to retest, as they’ll give you lots of room for improvement. But don’t ignore areas marked as level 1 or 2! While you might not need to study as intensively, you’ll want to be sure you’re still confident in the topics. Learn more about reading your ARE 5.0 score report.
Descriptive feedback is not provided on passing score reports because the ARE is a licensure exam, designed to assess whether a candidate is competent to practice architecture. The exam is not a teaching tool to assess specific competency areas or to be used beyond licensure. This also helps protect your privacy as a candidate, because employers or potential employers cannot use the exam results for hiring or salary decisions.
In a future blog post, we’ll look at why the ARE changes. Stay tuned!