NALSA Publishing

ARE Blog Posts at a Glance

  1. ARE 5.0 Sample Question Breakdown
  2. Can I use Archiflash to study for ARE 5.0?
  3. What's the Deal with ARE 5.0 Study Materials
  4. Dear ARE Candidates
  5. Some Thoughts about ARE Practice Quizzes
  6. Site Design Pond Setback Violation
  7. Graphic Vignettes: Metaphorically Speaking
  8. ARE Nameophone Challenge
  9. UPDATED: What You Need to Know About ARE 5.0 NOW
  10. Interior Layout - Understanding Furniture Access Requirements
  11. How to Use the Cut Stair Tool Correctly.
  12. The Truth About the NCARB Exam Guides
  13. ARE Multiple Choice Strategy
  14. How To Find The Minimum Dimension For The Joist/Duct Combination In The Building Section Vignette
  15. Which Test to Take First/Next?
  16. A Discussion on Recessed Accent Light Fixtures in the Mechanical & Electrical Plan Vignette
  17. Solutions - Understanding the Graphic Vignettes of the ARE
  18. New Site Design Program Language & Confusion
  19. The Site Zoning Vignette. Should I Interpolate the Grade Profile?
  20. Archiflash Study Tip - "Back-to-Front"
  21. Interior Layout Door Swings
  22. Eight things you should know about the Structural Layout vignette
  23. NCARB ARE Retake Policy
  24. Expert Vignette Reviews
  25. ARE 4.0 Through June 2018
  26. Trouble Saving a Screenshot of your Vignette Solution?
  27. ARE 5.0 - Coming in 2016
  28. Heads-Up for ARE 5.0, but...
  29. NCARB Intern Think Tank
  30. The Blackout
  31. Building Elements and Trees in the Site Design Vignette
  32. Why do Customers Have to Print Their Own Material?
  33. Why 3D images of Vignette Solutions?
  34. Embrace the Parallel Universe
  35. Perspective
  36. Download Both 3.1 & 4.0 ARE Practice Software
  37. How different are ARE 4.0 and ARE 3.1?
  38. Six Things You Should Know About the Site Zoning Vignette
  39. Evil Pink Packing Peanuts

ARE 5.0 Sample Question Breakdown

ARE 5.0 multiple choice questions are constructed so that only one of the answer choices is the best option. Because the remaining answer choices (distractors) are plausible, it’s the candidate’s job to dissect the question (stem) for clues as to why one answer choice is better than another. Take this NCARB sample problem, for example.  


During a routine site visit, the owner tells the architect to change the layout of two interior framed walls the contractor has already framed based on the construction documents. The framing changes will not have an impact on any code-related issues. The owner is adamant the walls be reframed per their new request. Which of the following should the architect do?

A. Ask the contractor to schedule a meeting onsite with the owner, architect, and framing subcontractor to review the changes

B. Review the expected effect on construction cost and schedule with the contractor, then prepare a change order for owner review

C. Issue a construction change directive, with a requirement for time and material invoices to be submitted for the work

D. Include documentation of the discussion and a drawing




Let’s break this stem down into its various elements:

  • During a routine site visit,

It was not one of the architect’s two required inspections (no substantial/final completion issues). 


  • the owner tells the architect to change the layout of two interior framed walls

The owner wants something changed. Presumably, the owner does not expect the architect to pick up a hammer and begin reframing.


  • the contractor has already framed based on the construction documents.

That portion of the work is done and it is in accordance with the construction documents.


  • The framing changes will not have an impact on any code-related issues.

The proposed changes are within the general scope of the contract


  • The owner is adamant the walls be reframed per their new request.

       The proposed changes must be made.


Which of the following should the architect do?

A. Ask the contractor to schedule a meeting onsite with the owner, architect, and framing subcontractor to review the changes

B. Review the expected effect on construction cost and schedule with the contractor, then prepare a change order for owner review

C. Issue a construction change directive, with a requirement for time and material invoices to be submitted for the work

D. Include documentation of the discussion and a drawing



Many candidates choose “B” (prepare a change order), which seems reasonable. However, the most correct answer choice is “C” (issue a construction change directive).

Why? Because the owner is “adamant.” This is the one clue to selecting the correct answer. The owner’s inexorable decision to change the layout of the two walls can be ordered via construction change directive even though the contractor and owner have yet to agree on any change in cost or time.


Here’s the relevant article from AIA Document A201-2007:


A Construction Change Directive is a written order prepared by the Architect and signed by the Owner and Architect, directing a change in the Work prior to agreement on adjustment, if any, in the Contract Sum or Contract Time, or both. The Owner may by Construction Change Directive, without invalidating the Contract, order changes in the Work within the general scope of the Contract consisting of additions, deletions or other revisions, the Contract Sum and Contract Time being adjusted accordingly.


In reality, depending on the scope of the requested change, one of several scenarios might play out. It’s possible that, if the contractor is feeling particularly charitable, the walls might just be reframed, no questions asked. However, because the owner is “adamant” there is only one best option. If the owner was merely interested, any of the answer choice distractors might suffice. 

Can I Use Archiflash to Study for ARE 5.0?



According to NCARB and ARE 5.0 candidates, Archiflash for ARE 4.0 can be used successfully to study for ARE 5.0. While NALSA continues to develop new ARE 5.0 content and study tools, here’s an Archiflash study tip from successful ARE 5.0 candidates. Sort and study! As a bonus, the process of sorting the cards helps you study.


Which ARE 5.0 division are you taking?


Related ARE 4.0 Divisions  
 ARE 5.0 Divisions ARE 4.0 Divisions 
 Practice Management PPP + SPD + CDS 
 Project Management PPP + SPD + CDS
Programming & Analysis PPP + SPD
Project Planning & Design SPD + BDCS + SS + BS
Project Development & Documentation CDS + BDCS + SS + BS
Construction & Evaluation CDS

 If You're Using Archiflash Desktop

1. Select the related 4.0 division(s) from the chart above, and click “START.” You can also use the “Content Areas” button to select specific topics.

2. When you encounter a card related to your ARE 5.0 division, create a new ARE 5.0 division deck by clicking the “Create/Add” button and name it after that 5.0 division. For each additional related card, simply add them to that new deck.

3. Then you can study all the cards in your new ARE 5.0 deck by selecting it from the “My Decks” list. Repeat for each ARE 5.0 division.



If You're Using Archiflash for iPhone/iPad:

1. Select a related 4.0 division, and click “START.”

2. When you encounter a card related to your ARE 5.0 division, click the “Bookmark” icon. Do the same in any related division.

3. Then, to study for your ARE 5.0 division, click on “Bookmarks.”




Good luck from the NALSA crew!

Dear ARE Candidates


Consider this scenario. You’ve finished construction of a project that you designed. A friend mentions they saw your project, but you realize it's in a different part of town. Somehow, without your permission, another architect got a hold of your drawings and decided to use your work for a project they were hired to design. That architect proceeded to get three more clients from your work whereas you have yet to receive one. This is why copyright protection exists.


Copyright infringement of ARE 4.0 and ARE 5.0 study material and reference books is rampant. Many people, including some AIA chapters and architecture offices, don't give it a second thought, and some believe that access to free material is a right. Aside from being illegal, in the end, it hurts all candidates. Illegal copying and sharing ultimately limits the test prep industry’s ability to research and develop new content.


One of many recent examples is a Google Drive account owned by an AIA workshop provider who should know better. This public account contained dozens of files, including pdfs, screen captures, photocopies, etc., of third-party study materials, not just from NALSA, but from several ARE test prep providers as well as industry books from publishers such as Wiley, etc. What’s more, some of the material is incorrect and outdated, but how would a candidate know?


We understand the challenge of finding the time and money to study for and take the ARE. We also know the amount of time and resources required to research and develop high quality ARE study material. That’s our job, and to do it effectively we need your help.


On behalf of the ARE test prep industry, please consider the impact of copyright infringement on you and your fellow candidates. By purchasing your own study material, you contribute to the development of new and better resources in the future and everyone benefits.


Thanks, and good luck on your exams.

The NALSA team

Some Thoughts About ARE Practice Quizzes

Candidates often gauge their ARE 4.0 and ARE 5.0 exam readiness by their performance on practice quizzes. Practice quiz questions have their place in the study process, but as a measure of your preparation for the Architect Registration Exam, their usefulness is questionable. Simply memorizing questions and answers is not practical or helpful. You need to consider the content more broadly.


Keep in mind, in terms of content and cognitive complexity, ARE questions are very carefully written to assess your competency on several fronts. Answering even a relatively straightforward exam question correctly is likely to require a general understanding of multiple factors.


Take this NCARB sample multiple choice question, for example:

A construction manager will best be used by joining the team during which phase of a fast track project?

◊ Schematic Design

 Construction Documents


Construction Administration


Schematic Design

RATIONALE: The Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice identifies that an owner will gain the greatest advantage from a construction manager by including him/her during the Schematic Design phase and for the remainder of the project. This will provide continuity to the project in terms of a project design, budget, and schedule. A construction manager adds technical and cost estimating advice, so they're joining the team early increases their value to the project and reduces risks associated with a fast track project. The other three phases all typically occur after the design has been set.


This quiz question focuses on a very narrow slice of project management. Yet, answering correctly requires a grasp of several complex subjects:

  1. Project delivery
  2. Construction Management
  3. Fast track projects
  4. Phases of an architect’s professional services
  5. Project management


Furthermore, quiz questions only reflect the information in the book, video, etc., provided by the quiz creator, and may not represent actual exam content. So, unless a quiz question happens to be the same as an actual NCARB exam question, the benefit of answering that quiz question correctly is limited. While a quiz question is great for assessing your ability to answer that specific question, the real value is in the explanation of the correct answer, and/or incorrect answer choices, i.e., content.


What’s really useful for answering an actual exam question correctly (in addition to broad, on-the-job practical experience) is a solid understanding of the topic. This increases the likelihood that you can correctly answer any question related to that subject.

What's The Deal With ARE 5.0 Study Material?

NALSA participated in the NCARB test prep provider meeting in the spring. While we learned some very important things, we were also left with some big questions. How will candidates prepare for this exam, and how will NALSA help them do it effectively?


By design, we do NOT have a release date for our ARE 5.0 study tools. Our objective is not to be first to market, but to provide the most effective study tools possible. This is our challenge. We've heard the chatter about ARE 5.0 study materials from various test prep companies. To buy, or not to buy? It's a legitimate question, and many candidates are justifiably skeptical.


New ARE 5.0 divisions and subject matter mean that simply repackaging ARE 4.0 content will leave gaps in content coverage, and sample quiz questions aren't going to cut it. More importantly, the way candidates will be tested requires understanding complex topics across multiple divisions.


The new ARE 5.0 testing model makes it easy for NCARB to test a candidate's knowledge about a specific topic from the perspective of any division, relative to any phase of a project, and at any level of cognitive complexity. This makes preparing for any single division much more challenging for a candidate.



ARE 5.0 requires a different approach to studying. Here's why.
Vignettes aside, ARE 4.0 tests candidates from six distinct repositories of information. Questions about site design are in the SPD division. Questions about construction documents are in, you guessed it, the CDS division. This compartmentalization makes studying fairly straightforward.


ARE 5.0 on the other hand tests holistically. This was evident in the transition calculator, and is confirmed by the ARE 5.0 Handbook. Most ARE 5.0 divisions include content from several ARE 4.0 divisions. For example, in ARE 5.0 the Project Planning & Design division includes content from five ARE 4.0 divisions; SPD, BDCS, SS, BS, and SD. The content is no longer isolated within each division.


Let's take the topic of project delivery methods as just one example.  


 ARE 4.0: Project Delivery Methods ARE 5.0: Project Delivery Methods
 Construction Documents & Services Practice Management
  Project Management 
  Project Development & Documentation
  Construction & Evaluation


The difference is that each of the ARE 5.0 divisions deal with the topic of project delivery methods somewhat differently. For example:

PcM: Which project delivery method is appropriate for a particular project?

PjM: What documents are required for a particular project delivery method?

PDD: How does the project delivery method affect the drawing set?

CE: What are the architect's preconstruction responsibilities based on delivery method?


Let's look at project delivery methods in terms of ARE 4.0 vs. ARE 5.0.

NCARB sample ARE 4.0 question:

A local bank has a budget of $30,000,000 to construct a new main office. The bank wants to use contractors who are customers of the bank; however, none of the bank's contractor customers can bond the entire amount of the contract. Which of the following delivery methods would be best suited to meeting the bank's contractor selection goal?

□ Design-build
□ Fast-track
■ Multiple prime contractors
□ Additive change orders

Makes sense, right? The question is clearly from the Construction Documents & Services division. It has a relatively low level of cognitive complexity, and assessing one factor in the question leads you to a single best answer choice. 



NCARB sample ARE 5.0 question:


An architecture firm is expanding into the healthcare market and has been selected to design a new hospital building on a previously undeveloped site. The client requires a design-bid-build delivery method be used. When preparing the proposal for professional services, which factors should the architect consider? Check the three that apply.

□ Capabilities of the contractor
□ Requirements for a brownfield site assessment
■ Level of risk associated with the project
■ Project schedule
□ Guaranteed maximum price (GMP)
■ Specialty consultants required


Is this question from the Practice Management (PcM) division or the Project Management (PjM) division?

It has a high level of cognitive complexity, there are several variables to consider, and a candidate must select multiple correct answer choices. This question is from Practice Management (PcM). However, modify one or two variables in the question and you might find it in almost any ARE 5.0 division.




What does all of this mean to ARE 5.0 candidates?

It means that, among many topics, candidates must understand project delivery methods in preparation for at least four ARE 5.0 divisions. Candidates study for one division at a time. How will a candidate study a topic like project delivery methods from the narrow perspective of each division?


As a means to better assess the ability of a candidate to practice architecture, the new ARE 5.0 format, subject matter, and item types all seem like a step in the right direction. Great, right? For the health of architecture as a whole, perhaps. But, for candidates trying to pass the test? Maybe not.


Other than having on-the-job experience in every facet of practicing architecture, the challenge for candidates is, how to prepare for any single division? NALSA's objective is to design and deliver effective content that will prepare candidates for success on ARE 5.0 – that's what we're working on.

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