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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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