Understanding Changes to NCARB’s ARE 5.0 Handbook

Each summer or fall, NCARB updates the ARE 5.0 Handbook to be sure it accurately reflects what candidates see at the test center. While the exam’s objectives haven’t changed since it launched in 2016, sometimes we notice that the language in the handbook could be improved, so these updates are intended to help you better prepare for your tests. This year, after reviewing the items currently included on the exam, we focused on clarifying the descriptions of objectives related to two topic areas:

  • Sustainability and resilience
  • Assigned cognitive levels

Over the past decade, questions related to sustainability and resilience have permeated the ARE, but that wasn’t explicitly called out in the handbook. We’ve now fixed that, starting with a new bullet point under the Definition of Competence on page 3. We also added four new resources to the Reference Matrix on page 178. These resources, all of which focus on sustainability and resilience, are recommended by our volunteer item writers: Daylighting Handbook I, Framework for Design Excellence, Green Building Illustrated, and The Green Studio Handbook: Environmental Strategies for Sustainable Design.

Although you’ve read about cognitive levels on pages 7-8 in the handbook, some of the text in the other sections of the handbook didn’t match the cognitive level assigned to each objective. As an example, it’s important for you to know when you’ll need to simply identify something (a U/A action) versus fully assessing something (an A/E action), as noted in the Programming & Analysis section 1 objectives. The items on the exam today are correctly written to their assigned cognitive level, so these tweaks to the verbiage will help you know what to expect.

Practice Management
Updates to Practice Management’s objective descriptions cover topics you probably already see in your firm. We added more examples of resources in objective 1.1; strategies in objectives 2.2 and 2.3; and design methodologies in objective 4.2. You already know the importance of assessing the scope of a project prior to finalizing a contract, but now we’ve said that more clearly in objective 3.1. Objective 1.4 now calls out a responsibility to address climate change, something our profession has been talking about for many years.

Project Management
Topics you’re already studying in AIA Document B101, like the types of architectural services and management of project phases, were added to the description of objective 3.1, as a reminder of some key aspects of that standard agreement. Likewise, the objective descriptions in section 5 were expanded to note other topics you’ve probably read about: the importance of code analyses, strategies for managing risk, coordination with consultants, and collaboration with project stakeholders.

Programming & Analysis
As noted above, you’ll find clarity in several objective descriptions about the cognitive level assigned to each objective. Some other new things you’ll find in these descriptions are typical sustainability and resilience topics in section 1 and reminders about code and regulation analyses in section 2. In section 4, the descriptions expand on other topics you’ve likely been studying, with added examples of the key design factors, technical documents, and graphical representations to consider during the programming phase, especially in existing buildings.

Project Planning & Design
Once again, several objective descriptions in sections 1, 2, 3, and 4 expand on the sustainability and climate change topics that probably sound familiar to you. Elsewhere in this division, we’ve added more examples to help you better prepare, such as types of neighborhood context in objective 1.3, structural considerations in objective 3.2, and cost evaluation tasks in objectives 5.2 and 5.3.

Project Development & Documentation
We added examples to some of these objective descriptions, too. You’re probably already studying the MEP integration tasks now noted in objective 1.2, the structural detailing tasks in objective 1.3, and the specification writing tasks in objective 3.2. The updates to code and regulatory requirements now described in objectives 4.1 and 4.2 better reflect what you’re likely doing in your firm, along with the environmental considerations now noted in objective 2.2.

Construction & Evaluation
These objective descriptions were enhanced with things you’re probably doing and seeing on job sites. More examples of the architect’s role are noted in objectives 1.1, 2.1, 3.1, and 4.1, while the contractor’s responsibilities are further defined in objectives 3.2 and 3.3. The sustainability and resilience comments added to the descriptions for objectives 1.3 and 4.2 also reflect topics you’ve probably been studying already.