Why the ARE Changes

Throughout the Demystifying the ARE series, we’ve been explaining how the current ARE is developed and scored. In this last post of the series, I want to explain why and how the ARE goes through various updates.

Why do we update?

The ARE is one of the requirements each jurisdictional board uses to decide whether to grant you a license to practice architecture. Along with the examination requirement, education and experience are all taken into consideration. The seriousness of granting one a license to practice independently is not taken lightly by any board. By granting a license, they are judging your competency.

In most jurisdictions, once granted an initial license, architects must remain current with practice by completing continuing education. The key here is that as a licensed professional, whether on Day One or Year Thirty-five, you are competent based on the current practice of architecture. Since the ARE is part of this decision making process for those initially licensed, it is NCARB’s responsibility to maintain the ARE’s relevance by keeping the exam current with the state of practice.

Some may think the exam only changes when the division structure changes (for example: when ARE 4.0 was released in 2008). This is not true. In fact, the exam is constantly being reviewed and updated. Since the release of ARE 4.0, NCARB has modified the test specification three times, adjusting internal aspects of each division, in addition to updating questions to keep them relevant to today’s practice. The structure has not changed, but the content within is slowly evolving with practice. This same change was taking place throughout the previous nine-division structure that existed from 1997 until replaced by ARE 4.0. This ongoing change is also the reasoning behind the Rolling Clock policy. The Rolling Clock helps to ensure that a candidate demonstrates comprehensive knowledge of the practice of architecture in a relative timely fashion.

How do we update?

So how does NCARB update the examination? Carefully and with significant input from the profession.

Every five to seven years, NCARB conducts a practice analysis, which includes surveying a broad spectrum of architects from around the country. Data is collected, which outlines the critical aspects of practice. Our most recent practice analysis was completed in 2012, and contained focus group work with clients, engineers, and other stakeholders to the architectural community.

All of this data is analyzed and presented to exam development committees. The committees evaluate the data against the current examination and determine the areas of the exam that need to be modified to remain current. Sometimes the changes are small and the structure of the exam remains the same while the underlying content is adjusted. Other times it may be decided to adjust the entire structure of the exam. The 2012 NCARB Practice Analysis of Architecture was used to implement some content adjustments in the current exam, as well as for the creation of ARE 5.0.

We’ve all heard sayings like the only constant is change or change is inevitable. These are accurate statements regarding examination development. NCARB will continue to ensure the ARE is reflecting the current practice of architecture. It’s our responsibility to all jurisdictional boards and a significant aspect in their licensing decision.

It's also our responsibility to you as future practitioners of architecture. By keeping the examination current with practice, we ensure that you and your future fellow practitioners enter the profession competent in the knowledge and skills necessary to protect the public we all serve.

Thanks to all who have engaged with our Demystifying the ARE series as this comes to close. Look for our next short blog series, which will provide greater insight into ARE 5.0 and the transition that is on the distant horizon. For those of you testing in ARE 4.0, be sure to check back this early summer as we are going to begin an in-depth look at each division of ARE 4.0, including highlighting resources for each division and digging into each vignette.

Other posts in the Demystifying the ARE Series

Who Develops the ARE?

How Written Exam Questions Are Developed

How Vignettes Are Developed

How the ARE is Scored

About the Author

Since joining the Council in 2008 as assistant director of ARE development, I have been involved with all aspects of the examination including development, security, the practice analysis, and implementation of ARE 5.0. Promoted to director in 2013, I am an advocate for transparency into the examination with a focus on refining the efficiency of the process while maintaining high standards and measurement quality. Before joining NCARB, I operated a sole proprietorship in northern Minnesota. I also served as a faculty member of the Architectural Technology program at Minnesota State Community and Technical College where I led the Architectural Technology program in the areas of curriculum development, course assessment, and program outcome assessment. I graduated from North Dakota State University with a Bachelor of Architecture.