Who Develops the ARE?

Most professions that deal with ensuring the public health, safety, and welfare have a professional licensure examination. It is one part of a multi-step process jurisdictions use to determine competency of an individual. For architects, that exam is the Architect Registration Examination® (ARE®), which has been around in one form or another since the mid-1960s.

Not surprisingly, emerging professionals have a lot of questions related to the ARE. For many of you, it may be the last requirement (along with completing the necessary education and experience requirements) to earn your license. Through this series, we’ll cover who develops the ARE, how questions make their way on to the exam, how the exam is scored, and what’s next (hello ARE 5.0, see you in 2016!). To kick things off, let’s take a look at the people behind the exam.

The Key Players

Hundreds of architects from across the country volunteer their services, expertise, and time to write, test, and analyze the ARE. In addition, we bring psychometricians to the table to ensure the validity, reliability, and fairness of the exam meets national testing standards and is legally defensible.

Each year, around 100 architects from across the country—plus a handful of specialty consultants such as engineers, code experts, and legal professionals—write questions for the exam and monitor the performance of current questions. Committee workgroups are structured to include volunteers with various levels of experience and backgrounds. Most of these volunteers tend to serve on their state board, but NCARB also invites recently licensed architects and other specialists to work on each of the divisions. In addition, recently licensed architects volunteer to test new graphic vignettes to help determine if they should be included in the future. 

Psychometrics is the science of measuring and testing the validity of an exam. Psychometricians make sure the exam measures up to national testing standards so the results can be legally defensible—which is especially important when testing for competence for licensure. NCARB consults with Alpine Testing Solutions, Inc. to assist with the development of the ARE. 

NCARB staff members do not write the questions for the ARE. They serve as a liaison between volunteers and the testing consultants and keep the development on track. There are seven members of our Examination Directorate, and they do everything from facilitating regular meetings of the volunteers, researching candidate-testing concerns, and working with the state boards to ensure candidates meet their requirements.

ARE Candidates
That’s right—you are also a part of the development process. Each division of the ARE includes 15-20 “pre-test” multiple-choice questions, which are not factored into your final score. The psychometricians use how candidates perform on these questions to help determine the validity of each question. Poor performing items are either improved and pre-tested again or deleted.

Next week, we’ll take a look at how multiple-choice items are developed.