In 2015, the number of Architect Registration Examination® (ARE®) completions reached an all-time high, and the average candidate took less time to complete the exam. With the launch of ARE 5.0 around the corner, many candidates are looking to complete the exam in 4.0, while some are planning to take a combination of both versions. 

Meanwhile, NCARB has developed a number of tools to help candidates navigate the ARE—including live webinars, video tutorials, and an online community. Recent program changes, such as the new 60-day retake policy, have also enabled candidates to maintain their momentum and make a plan to finish the exam. 

ARE Completions Reach All-Time High

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Almost 4,500 candidates completed the ARE in 2015, the highest number on record. This jump is likely caused by the upcoming launch of ARE 5.0, as candidates seek to complete the exam in ARE 4.0. A similar spike occurred in 2008 before the move from ARE 3.1 to ARE 4.0. 

Time to Complete the ARE Improves

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The average candidate completed the ARE in 2.1 years, six months sooner than in 2014, and the shortest time since 2010. This improvement is likely tied to NCARB’s new retake policy, which went into effect October 2014. Before then, candidates had to wait six months to retake a failed division. Now they can retake an exam in as few as 60 days and up to three times a year.

NCARB also developed a number of tools in 2015 to help candidates prepare for the exam, including live webinars, video tutorials, and the ARE 4.0 Community—an online space where candidates can come together to ask questions, share best practices, and interact with exam experts. 

Schematic Design Division Has Highest Pass Rate

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Among the ARE divisions, Schematic Design (SD) had the highest pass rate of 77 percent, and Construction Documents & Services (CDS) had the lowest pass rate of 58 percent. This marks the fourth year in a row that SD held the highest pass rate. In 2015, the average success rate across all seven divisions was 65 percent. 

ARE Division Pass Rates Drop Slightly

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The pass rates for each ARE 4.0 division have remained fairly consistent over the past five years, hovering between 58 and 77 percent. However, pass rates dipped slightly in 2015—particularly among three key divisions: Construction Documents & Services (CDS), Programming Planning & Practice (PPP), and Site Planning & Design (SPD). By combining these divisions with specific 5.0 divisions, candidates will be able to complete the exam in as few as five tests. So, the recent drop in pass rates for these division could be the result of candidates hurrying to complete CDS, PPP, and SPD before the transition. 

ARE Success Rates Impacted by Exam Updates

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Historical trends show that ARE success rates typically drop around the launch of a new exam. When ARE 4.0 debuted in 2008, ARE 3.1 success rates dipped about 5 percentage points. That same year, ARE 4.0 success rates started around 55 percent, gradually climbing to the upper-sixties by 2010. Similarly, ARE 4.0 success rates dipped about 2 percentage points between 2014 to 2015, which is likely tied to the upcoming launch of ARE 5.0. 

Candidates Test More Frequently

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For the third consecutive year, the number of ARE divisions taken by candidates increased. In 2015, more than 52,300 divisions were administered, representing a 16 percent jump from 2014. This growth is likely tied to the upcoming launch of ARE 5.0, as candidates seek to complete the exam in ARE 4.0.

Retakes represent a significant portion of this growth, as nearly 16,000 retakes were administered in 2015—a 46 percent increase from the previous year. This spike is likely tied to NCARB’s new retake policy, which enables candidates to retake a division in as few as 60 days and up to three times a year.

Most Candidates Overlap the ARE and IDP

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Of the licensure candidates who completed the ARE in 2015, 62 percent took at least one exam while completing their experience—the largest percentage to date. As the path to licensure becomes more flexible, this upward trend will likely continue. Currently, 50 of the 54 licensing boards allow an overlap between gaining experience and examination. 

Success Rates Highest While Completing IDP

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Candidates who take the ARE within a two-year window before completing the IDP tend to have the highest pass rates. This could be tied to an overlap in subject matter, as both programs address the knowledge and skills required to practice independently. Plus, candidates invested in wrapping up the IDP may be more focused on completing the path to licensure. 

Note: This data represents licensure candidates who completed the IDP between 2013 and 2015.