What Score Do You Need to Pass the ARE?

With the launch of the updated Architect Registration Examination® (ARE®) 5.0 in December 2020, changes within each division warranted a new evaluation of the cut scores, and in early-February 2021, NCARB finished the adjustment process. With the cut scores set, score reports are back to being released within a couple business days of your exam appointment, and you can once again view provisional feedback at the end of your test.

But you might be wondering, did the adjusted cut scores make the exam any easier or harder? And how many questions do you need to answer correctly to pass? Let’s explore the overall outcome of the cut score adjustment process and the range of cut scores you’ll see across ARE divisions.

First, some things you should know about the ARE and cut scores:

  • A cut score is the minimum standard score you need to achieve in order to pass an ARE division.
  • The cut scores for ARE 5.0 are set using real candidate data, with advice and input from practicing architects and exam experts called psychometricians.
  • When you take an ARE 5.0 division, you’ll see one of several versions, or forms, of that division.
  • Each form contains a different set of questions for the sake of exam security, which can lead to slight variations in the difficulty of exam forms.
  • Because of these variations in the level of difficulty, the exact cut score that is applied to your exam also varies.
  • Setting different cut scores for each form ensures that you are held to same level of competency as all other candidates.

Learn more about the process for adjusting cut scores.

Outcomes of the Cut Score Adjustment
When setting the exam’s cut scores, NCARB is responsible for establishing valid, reliable, and fair standards of competency that ensure you’re able to protect the public’s health, safety, and welfare when practicing independently. It’s important to understand that NCARB does not raise or lower cut scores to ensure that a certain percentage of candidates pass or fail the exam. This is because all licensure candidates are expected to demonstrate the same level of competency to earn a license—regardless of how other candidates are performing on the exam.

When adjusting the cut scores for the updated exam, NCARB’s psychometrician experts, volunteer architects, and Board of Directors kept a number of things in mind, including:

  • Expected competency levels
  • The updated timing of each ARE 5.0 division
  • The updated number of items (or questions) for each ARE 5.0 division
  • Changes to the exam’s navigation and tools (including the digital whiteboard and updated break policy)
  • Candidate performance on items that were delivered both on the previous iteration of the exam and are still included today
  • Historic pass rates

Based on early results, pass rates rose slightly for five divisions and decreased slightly for one division. Overall, no significant change in examination difficulty was found. In addition, candidates appeared to use the additional time provided in the new format to spend more time on calculation and case study items, which resulted in increased performance on these items compared to historic performance.

How Many Questions Do I Need Correct to Pass?
Each division of the ARE measures different content knowledge areas. The difference in knowledge areas and the relative difficulty of the questions that make up that content area vary between divisions; therefore, expectations around how many questions you will need to answer correctly also changes from division to division.

  • Project Development & Documentation and Construction & Evaluation require the lowest percentage of scored items to be answered correctly to pass. You need to answer between 57 – 62 percent of scored items correctly on these divisions to pass.
  • Practice Management and Project Management require a slightly higher percentage of questions to be answered correctly to pass. You need to answer between 62 – 68 percent of scored items correctly on these divisions to pass.
  • Programming & Analysis and Project Planning & Design require the highest percentage of questions to be answered correctly to pass. You need to answer between 65 – 71 percent of scored items correctly on these divisions to pass.