In 2018, nearly 5,000 candidates completed the Architect Registration Examination® (ARE®), the second highest number on record following the peak in 2017. The average candidate took two months longer to finish the exam in 2018 compared to 2017—potentially a result of the lower pass rates seen in conjunction with the transition from ARE 4.0 to ARE 5.0. 

2019 examination data

With many candidates attempting to finish the exam in ARE 4.0 before it retired in June 2018, taking a combination of both versions, or testing for the first time in ARE 5.0, 2018 saw a slight increase in the number of retakes. This was most likely caused by some candidates either rushing to test or adjusting to the new exam format. 

Number of ARE Completions Dips Slightly

Nearly 5,000 candidates completed the ARE in 2018—a 2 percent decrease from 2017, but still the second highest number on record. ARE 4.0’s well-publicized retirement prompted candidates to attempt to complete the exam before June 30, 2018. However, the rush to test led to a reduction in pass rates, with some candidates using all three attempts allowed on a specific division within a 12-month period. These candidates can test again once their eligibilities have renewed. 

Time to Complete ARE Increases

The average candidate took 2.2 years to complete the ARE in 2018, roughly two and a half months longer than in 2017. Similar to the dip in ARE completions, this increase was likely caused by decreased pass rates, as many candidates hurried to test before ARE 4.0’s retirement. 

After failing a division, candidates must wait 60 days to retake that division, and can take each division up to three times per 12-month period—a provision that is both necessary for exam security and encourages candidates to properly prepare before testing again. Prior to October 2014, candidates had to wait six months to retake a failed division. 

Schematic Design and Construction & Evaluation Have Highest Pass Rates

Among ARE 4.0 divisions, Schematic Design (SD) had the highest pass rate of 79 percent, and Programming, Planning & Practice (PPP) had the lowest at 47 percent. This marks the sixth year in a row that SD held the highest pass rate; for comparison, the average success rate across the remaining six ARE 4.0 divisions was 55 percent. 

Among ARE 5.0 divisions, Construction & Evaluation (CE) had the highest pass rate of 70 percent, and Project Planning & Design (PPD) had the lowest at 46 percent. For comparison, the average success rate across all six divisions was 54 percent. 

Exam Transition Sees ARE Success Rates Drop

ARE 4.0 success rates (the average of all division pass rates) fell 5 percentage points between 2017 and 2018. This is likely due to the transition to ARE 5.0. Historical trends show that ARE success rates typically drop around the launch of a new exam, as some candidates rush to finish testing in the current version. This proved especially true for strategic testers, who opted to combine ARE 4.0 and 5.0 divisions and finish testing in as few as five divisions. 

ARE 5.0 overall success rates have remained stable since the November 2016 launch, with rising pass rates for non-strategic divisions offset by falling pass rates for strategic divisions. At 54 percent, success rates for the new version of the exam align with ARE 4.0’s early success rates. 

ARE 4.0 Divisional Pass Rates Fall, With One Exception

Average ARE 4.0 pass rates continued to fall in 2018 for all divisions except Building Design & Construction Systems (BDCS). This general decline was most likely caused by some candidates rushing to complete the exam in ARE 4.0 before it retired on June 30, 2018. 

This trend is most evident in the divisions required to test strategically: by combining specific ARE 5.0 divisions with ARE 4.0’s Construction Documents & Services (CDS), Programming, Planning & Practice (PPP), and Site Planning & Design (SPD), candidates were able to complete the ARE in as few as five tests. Pass rates for these three divisions have dropped an average of 13 percentage points since strategic testing was announced in 2014. 

ARE 5.0 Divisional Pass Rates Impacted by Strategic Testing

Like ARE 4.0, ARE 5.0 division pass rates were impacted by strategic testing. While the average ARE 5.0 success rate has remained at 54 percent since the version launch in 2016, pass rates for individual divisions have either increased or decreased, largely dependent on whether they were a strategic division. 

By combining ARE 5.0’s Programming & Analysis (PA), Project Planning & Design (PPD), and Project Development & Documentation (PDD) with specific ARE 4.0 divisions, candidates were able to complete the ARE in as few as five tests. Pass rates for these three divisions have fallen by an average of 6 percentage points since 2016, while pass rates for the non-strategic divisions have risen by an average of 8 percentage points in the same time frame. 

Number of Tests Decreases Slightly

The total number of tests administered dropped slightly in 2018, with candidates taking over 55,000 divisions—a 1 percent dip from the high of 2017. Reasons for the decrease could include fewer candidates in the testing pool after the record number of completions in 2017, and less pressure to test from July to December 2018 following ARE 4.0’s retirement (an anticipated result of the exam transition). 

First-time attempts in ARE 5.0 significantly outnumbered those in ARE 4.0, with 78 percent of first attempts in ARE 5.0 and 22 percent in ARE 4.0. Retakes were more evenly split between the versions, with 47 percent in ARE 5.0 and 53 percent in ARE 4.0. However, candidates were only able to test in ARE 4.0 for six months of the year, due to the exam’s retirement in June 2018. 

Most Candidates Overlap the AXP and ARE

Of the licensure candidates who completed the ARE in 2018, 63 percent took at least one division while completing their experience. This represents a 2 percentage point decrease from 2017, and marks the second year of decline in a row. The drop could be driven by a number of factors—including a motivational push for candidates with long-established eligibilities to take the exam before the transition to ARE 5.0 as well as the alignment between the AXP and ARE, which could prompt candidates to wait to test until they’ve completed the related experience. 

Currently, 51 of the 55 licensing boards allow candidates to overlap gaining experience with taking the ARE. 

ARE Success Rates Highest While Completing AXP

Candidates who take the ARE shortly before completing the AXP tend to have the highest pass rates. With the coordination between the six realigned experience areas and ARE 5.0’s six divisions, the higher pass rates near the culmination of the experience program suggest an overlap in subject-matter expertise is beneficial to candidates. Plus, candidates invested in wrapping up the AXP may be more focused on completing the path to licensure. 

Age at ARE Completion Increases

On average, licensure candidates who began the ARE in 2018 were 29 when they started testing, and licensure candidates who finished the ARE in 2018 were 32—a four-month increase likely driven by the ARE 4.0 to 5.0 transition. While the ages candidates start and finish the ARE have not shifted dramatically, these two points have gradually decreased over the last decade: candidates are now a year and a half younger when they start and finish the ARE than they were in 2009.