NALSA Publishing

Heads-Up for ARE 5.0, but...

In a few years the vignette format will disappear. We’ve been enjoying these little puzzles for more than sixteen years. Unfortunately, the vignettes do not test our ability as an architect, but our ability to assemble these puzzles while in the vaccume of the NCARB universe. In 2016, if the promise of ARE 5.0 is true, we can expect to be tested in a more realistic way.

Until then however, we’re expected to solve problems that have very little to do with the practice of architecture, but have more to do with our ability to read carefully, follow directions, and assemble a solution that satisfies the narrow NCARB requirements. Just check out this passing architectural masterpiece.

A-R 3D 


Of course, this is easier said than done.

This is why we've developed a very focused suite of study tools. Each of these tools approaches the vignettes from a unique perspective, which will challenge your understanding of the problem.

To get a clear understanding of these tools and what you can expect, check out these short videos

Archiflash Study Tip - "Back-to-Front"

Are you getting the most out of Archiflash? Many cards are written so they can be studied "Back-to-Front."

Read the answer side of the card first and challenge yourself to determine the question, like Jeopardy. It's effective.




NCARB Intern Think Tank

Intern Think Tank: Shape the Future of Licensure


NCARB is holding their second Intern Think Tank on December 13-14, 2013 in Washington, DC. This event will provide 12 interns with the opportunity to get involved in the future decisions of the licensure process.

We encourage all interested interns to apply for this opportunity. IDP hours will be granted for all time spent on the Intern Think Tank.


Topics Covered:

  • Pros: Discuss the successful elements of the current licensure process.
  • Cons: Discuss the challenging element of the current licensure process.
  • Education: Propose new concepts to promote licensure upon graduation.
  • Internship: Discuss and provide feedback on any proposed initiatives.
  • Examination: Provide feedback on the proposed elements of the upcoming ARE 5.0.

How to Apply:

  • Fill out the following application.
  • Write a 500 word essay "Describing your philosophy regarding licensure and your current approach toward achieving it."
  • Include one architect reference.

Please Note: Selected interns must be available to travel/meet on Dec. 12-15, 2013 in Washington, DC. All related expenses will be covered through NCARB's travel policy.


To learn more about the Intern Think Tank, visit

New Site Design Program Language & Confusion


NCARB announced some changes to the ARE and published new Exam Guides in July, 2013. First, the two relatively minor changes; No more Metric units, and 2009 IBC instead of 2007. Seems simple enough.

However, in an effort to provide “more explicit instructions” in the Site Design vignette, NCARB has changed the ambiguous “near/far” language in the program to include specific distance requirements. Unfortunately, in doing so, NCARB has reintroduced some ambiguity. Keep in mind that these numbers may be different on your exam.


Let’s take a look: 

1. The Office Tower and the Pond shall be no more than 125 ft apart.

2. The Restaurant and the Office Tower shall be at least 210 ft apart.

For the distance between the Office Tower and the Pond (#1), from what point is NCARB measuring? Does the entire OT have to be within 125 ft of the pond? Does only the entry to OT need to be within 125 ft of the edge of the Pond? Any part of OT? Does the “pad” at the entry count as part of OT?

For the distance between the Restaurant and the Office Tower (#2), I think it’s safe to assume that no part of either building can be closer together than 210 ft. However, do the “pads” at the entry and service entry count as part of the Restaurant?

One additional change to the SD program is that the Pedestrian Plaza now requires “noonday summer sun.” Previously, the main entrance to the Restaurant had this requirement.

This brings us to the new sample “passing” solution provided in the new NCARB Exam Guide. In this solution, because of the OT, approximately 20% of the Pedestrian Plaza is in shadow at noon. Is this acceptable? How much shade is too much shade?

This and other issues regarding the new NCARB sample passing solution here. Scroll down to the Site Design vignette.

With all of the ambiguous program requirements in the various vignettes, why did NCARB try to address this one? What about the “near” requirement in the Building Layout vignette? Not to mention the train wreck that is accent lighting in the Mechanical & Electrical Plan vignette.

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