Top ARE Questions Answered: Part II

Completing the Architect Registration Examination® (ARE®) is a crucial step on the path to licensure, and we understand it’s frustrating to delay your progress. NCARB continues to navigate the unprecedented nature of COVID-19 to plan out next steps, and we want to ensure you have all the information you need for a comprehensive understanding of our most up-to-date policies and efforts.

Below, you’ll find in-depth responses to our most popular questions related to the ARE and the pandemic—including ones we didn’t get to during our last NCARB Live webinar.

Please note, this is the second half of a two-part Q&A series. Below, you’ll find information about appointment scheduling, test center protocols, remote proctoring, and low pass rates. Learn more about the rolling clock, seat credits, your NCARB Record, fees, and candidate support by reading through Part I.

Scheduling

How far out can I schedule an exam appointment?
Candidates can schedule exam appointments as far out as Prometric provides open appointment availability. Prometric typically extends North American appointment availability six months out, and three months out for international locations.

Can NCARB make Prometric open appointment availability?
No. NCARB does not have control over Prometric’s management of their test center network, including determining the hours of operation at each test location. At present, Prometric provides the largest network of professional test centers in North America.

My testing appointments are now scheduled out of the order I intended to take them because of recent cancelations. Am I able to change the division I have scheduled without possibly losing that testing appointment time?
No. When an appointment is scheduled, the system links that division’s eligibility to that specific appointment date, time, and location. The scheduling software cannot switch eligibility information for an appointment that is already confirmed.

If you choose to reschedule one division to free up time for another division, there is no guarantee that the appointment time will be available when you attempt to schedule the other division, as all exam appointments are filled on a first-come, first-served basis.

Has NCARB considered adjusting or removing the current 60-day rescheduling timeline for those who have failed exams?
No. The minimum 60-day wait to retest on a failed division, as well as the limit to retest only three times per twelve-month period on the same division, is set in place to control the exposure rate of the questions on the ARE. Controlling exposure rates is a critical factor in maintaining the validity of the pass/fail decision of every ARE division. NCARB will not jeopardize the confidence state licensing boards have in the ARE by changing this policy.   

Test Center

What role does Prometric have in test center management, scheduling and reopening?
It is important to understand that Prometric and their network of test centers are a separate organization from NCARB. NCARB determines the structure of the ARE and develops the content for the exam. Prometric is the largest provider of secure test centers in North America and is contracted by NCARB to securely deliver the ARE. Prometric is independently responsible for providing first-come, first-serve access to scheduling and for setting the policies that ensure a safe environment for candidates and manages the operation of their test centers.

How will Prometric ensure that candidates will not be exposed to the Coronavirus while at the test center?
Prometric is not able to ensure that no candidate will be exposed to the Coronavirus while at a test center during these times. If you are not comfortable testing because of health concerns, please reschedule your testing appointment for a later date at which time you may feel more comfortable to test.

What precautions is Prometric implementing to mitigate the spread of Coronavirus while at the test center?
Safety practices will be enacted throughout the testing process—including observing social distancing at six feet per governmental regulations. This also includes limiting the number of people allowed in the waiting room at any time to ensure social distancing is maintained. Additionally, all Prometric staff will always wear a mask.

Prometric staff will be cleaning each workstation between candidate appointments, as well as  physically operate lockers on the candidates’ behalves to avoid candidates having to be in contact with keys or lockers.

All candidates must bring and wear a mask or cloth face covering during the entirety of their time at the test center. Candidates will not be permitted to test if they:

  • Have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past 14 days,
  • Have been exposed to someone diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past 14 days,
  • Are experiencing flu or cold-like symptoms, OR
  • Have returned from travel to a highly infected area in the last 14 days.

Can I bring my own gloves or additional personal protective equipment to the test center?
Yes. Candidates will be allowed to test using their own personal protective equipment. Prometric staff will visually inspect all personal protective equipment to ensure exam security.  

Will fingertip scanning still be required at the test center going forward?
Prometric staff will implement cleaning procedures and safe distancing practices at all test centers. If the test center is not able to ensure cleaning and safe distancing procedures throughout the check-in and check-out process, certain biometric security procedures may be waived for that appointment. If Prometric chooses to waive a procedure to ensure safe distancing guidelines, it will not impact a candidate’s ability to test.

Why doesn’t the Prometric test center closest to where I live offer the ARE?
Prometric supports multiple levels of test centers with varying technologies and security features. The ARE is only administered in Prometric’s highest level test centers where they are able to ensure consistent access to large screen monitors, high-speed internet, as well as required security measures.

Has NCARB considered expanding testing into every Prometric test center?
No. Prometric’s lower level test centers do not guarantee the necessary technology in place to support the ARE, nor do they support the required security.

Has NCARB considered expanding testing into non-Prometric testing centers?
Yes. NCARB is currently in the process of evaluating multiple test administration providers that can support both a physical test center network, as well as remote proctoring delivery.

Remote Proctoring

Will NCARB begin to offer the ARE through remote proctoring, allowing me to test at home? If so, when?
ARE 5.0 is not able to be delivered securely through remote proctoring due to its current software navigation, flexibility, and large test time requirements. NCARB is actively working to restructure the delivery of the six divisions of ARE and working to select a remote proctoring vendor to allow the next iteration of the exam to be securely delivered at test centers and via remote proctoring.

Specifics around what conditions must be in place to allow a remote proctored exam are in development as NCARB evaluates various technology platforms that could ensure secure delivery in private areas of an office or home environment. Exam delivery and format decisions are anticipated to be determined in July 2020. At this point, a future launch timeframe for remote proctoring delivery will be established.

Reported Issues

What is NCARB doing to resolve reported ARE 5.0 software issues reported by test-takers?
NCARB is actively working with the exam driver vendor to continue to enhance the capability of the exam delivery software, including delivery enhancements to decrease the load time of questions and additional resources.

That said, it is important that all delivery issues experienced at test centers are reported for NCARB to be able to catalog and report them back to our test delivery vendor. Delivery issues should be reported to the Prometric test center administrator as soon as it happens, as well as noted to NCARB’s customer service team once the exam is over.

Pass Rates

With the pass rate for PPD at less than 50 percent, how is NCARB addressing ARE 5.0’s low pass rates?
NCARB is continuing to investigate possible causes as to why the Project Planning & Design (PPD) and Project Development & Documentation (PDD) division pass rates have dropped over the past several years. NCARB established the passing standard (the amount of questions that need to be answered correctly in order to pass, based on the difficulty of the set of questions delivered) when the exam launched in November 2016 based on a rigorous process using hundreds of architects after the launch of ARE 5.0.

The percentage of candidates who pass a division attempt each year reflects the candidates who have tested. The continued decrease in pass rates is concerning and may indicate that candidates are less prepared to demonstrate competence than candidates from years prior. This may be due to the quality of education or experience being gained by candidates prior to testing, as well as misunderstanding the expected level of knowledge across the various content areas. NCARB is also evaluating whether candidates who are initially unsuccessful are retesting more frequently without improved performance, which may also contribute to the decreasing pass rates.

Will NCARB adjust the passing standard of ARE 5.0 divisions so the pass rates for some divisions can increase?
No. The purpose of ARE 5.0—to measure the ability of a person to competently practice architecture independently—has not changed and neither has the standard for competence. The passing standard for each division was established after ARE 5.0 was launched using a combined Modified Angoff process in association with the Hofstee Method to ensure a legally defensible and psychometrically justifiable outcome. The current passing standard for the ARE will remain in place until the purpose of the exam or the understood standard for competence changes.

Read Part I