NCARB Vocabulary 101: Terms to Familiarize Yourself With

The architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry has its own bundle of terms—and NCARB is no different. From program names to exam-specific lingo, we’ve explained our most common terms that are essential for you to know.

Whether you’re just starting out on the path to licensure or a practicing architect, this glossary will ensure you can navigate all things NCARB with ease. Without further ado, let’s get started with our NCARB vocabulary session!

Becoming Licensed


Licensure: Documentation granted by your chosen jurisdiction that enables you to legally offer architectural services. To earn a license, you must typically complete three basic requirements—education (degree from a program accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board, or NAAB), experience (the Architectural Experience Program, or AXP), and examination (the Architect Registration Examination, or ARE).

Jurisdiction: One of the 55 U.S. states and territories whose architectural licensing boards make up NCARB’s membership. Also referred to as licensing board, state board, and/or Member Board.

Licensure candidate: Refers to an individual completing the AXP and/or the ARE for initial licensure.

NCARB Record: A detailed, verified account of your education, experience, and examination history. Candidates will need to establish a Record to report AXP experience, start the ARE, earn an initial license, and later apply for an NCARB Certificate.

My NCARB: The secure portal on NCARB’s website that provides access to NCARB Records for candidates and architects, the reporting tool for supervisors and mentors, and a registration board section for Member Boards. Note: My NCARB accounts are free, while NCARB Records are a paid service. Supervisors and mentors do not need a paid account.

Getting an Education


Integrated Path to Architectural Licensure (IPAL): An option within NAAB-accredited architecture programs offering candidates the opportunity to complete the requirements for licensure while earning a degree.

NAAB-accredited program: A program that offers a professional degree in architecture. Note: Since the NAAB accredits programs, not degrees, individuals who graduated from a NAAB-accredited program should not be referred to as having a NAAB-accredited degree or an accredited degree. Rather, they hold a degree from a program accredited by the NAAB.

Education Standard: A document that approximates the requirements of a professional degree from a program accredited by the NAAB. It is used to evaluate the educational background of individuals who do not have a degree from a NAAB-accredited program—typically those pursuing licensure or certification as a foreign applicant, or those pursuing NCARB certification through the Education Alternative.

Education Alternative: A path that offers two ways by which architects who don’t have a degree from a NAAB-accredited program can satisfy the education requirement for certification—either by documenting additional experience beyond the requirements of the AXP (Two Times AXP), or by submitting an NCARB Certificate Portfolio. Available options are based on a candidate’s educational background, as evaluated by NCARB.

Education Evaluation Services for Architects (EESA): Administered by the NAAB, this evaluation compares your academic transcript to the NCARB Education Standard  and determines whether your education meets the requirement for licensure or NCARB certification.

Documenting Experience


Architectural Experience Program® (AXP®): The program designed to guide licensure candidates through earning and reporting practical experience. Most jurisdictions require (and all accept) completion of the AXP for licensure.

AXP Portfolio: An alternative method for completing the AXP through an online portfolio, available only to experienced design professionals.

My AXP: Free NCARB app used for recording AXP experience—available for Apple and Android devices.

Taking Exams


Architect Registration Examination® (ARE®): The architect licensing exam required by all 55 U.S. jurisdictions in order to become licensed. The current version of the exam, ARE 5.0, is developed by NCARB and features six divisions.

Cut score: The minimum passing standard for exam performance. It identifies the number of items you need to answer correctly in order to receive a “Pass” on an ARE 5.0 division. If you score at or above the cut score on a division, you’ll receive a “Pass.”

Form: A version of the exam. Creating multiple forms of each division ensures that candidates can retake a division several times without being over-exposed to specific test questions. This safeguards the security and validity of the exam.

Item: Another term for test questions, specifically when talking about the ARE.

Pretest items: Unscored items included on all divisions of the ARE. These items are being evaluated for official use on the ARE and have no impact on a candidate’s overall score. Note: Candidates will be unable to tell which items are pretest items and should treat all items as if they count!

Rolling clock: The five-year window during which a passing score on an ARE division remains valid, starting on the date the passed division was taken. If you have not completed the ARE before the rolling clock period for a division ends, the passing score for that division will expire, and that division will need to be retaken.

After Licensure


Certification: An official credential (NCARB Certificate) granted by NCARB that demonstrates you have met national standards to practice architecture—offering additional benefits that can advance your professional career, including the flexibility to pursue work in multiple jurisdictions.

Continuum Education: NCARB’s collection of self-study resources by experts in the profession. Previously known as NCARB’s Monograph Series.

Reciprocity: An agreement among the 55 U.S. jurisdictions—and some countries—to recognize licenses issued by other boards. The easiest way to apply for a reciprocal license is through the NCARB Certificate, which allows architects to practice in more than one jurisdiction, providing them with job flexibility and security. To find out if your jurisdiction requires the Certificate for reciprocal licensure, visit the Licensing Requirements Tool.

Go-to Resources


Destination Architect: NCARB’s recently launched online resource that serves as a guide for candidates along the path to licensure. On the site, you can find a basic breakdown of the steps needed to become an architect, informational videos, and more.

Guidelines: Document(s) providing instructions and requirements for completing specific NCARB programs—including the ARE Guidelines, AXP Guidelines, Certification Guidelines, Continuing Education Guidelines, and Education Guidelines.

NCARB by the Numbers (NBTN): NCARB’s annual publication analyzing data on the path to licensure and the architecture profession.