NALSA Publishing

How To Get From Here To There


Start, and finish the ARE.

We understand that every candidate's situation is unique, whether you are just getting started or are just a few exams away from completion. Everyday, we help candidates develop personalized study strategies that work for them. Along with our exceptional study materials, you are getting a team of experts to support you every step of the way.


Here's What You Need To Get Started.

1. The AREssentials include Archiflash Desktop and the Solutions book, and can be purchased together at a discount.

2. The Vignette Package for each division includes all of these proven study tools at a discount:

  • Insight Videos
  • Practice Vignettes
  • Vignette Grading
  • Evaluator Workbook

These study tools are designed to work together for the most effective exam preparation possible.


The NALSA Approach

The order in which you take the divisions of the ARE is really a matter of personal preference. However, because of the potential for transition to ARE 5.0, there is some strategy you should know. The message from NCARB is, “Keep testing.” But, because of the new ARE 5.0 division structure, passing the CD&S, PPP, and SP&D divisions of ARE 4.0 will be the most beneficial and will reduce the number of divisions required if you need to transition.

If you transition to ARE 5.0, it’s possible to complete the ARE in as few as five divisions instead of seven. So, determine a strategic approach to maximize your ARE 5.0 credit, and test accordingly. However, if you have already passed several exams, check your “rolling clock.” You may simply decide to finish testing in ARE 4.0. We’ll provide more information as it becomes available. In the meantime, keep testing!

Generally, we recommend that you begin by taking the division that you feel most confident about passing, just to build some momentum. Your first exam will help you get accustomed to the testing center environment, their computer, etc., under time constraints. The experience will also help to relieve anxiety and lessen any intimidation for the next ARE exam. For information on how to select which division to take first/next, read our blog post here.

The most important thing is just to get started. Don’t give up. Ideally, it is best to schedule a regular study time for yourself (like going to the gym) and stick to it, rather than study haphazardly when you happen to have a free hour or so. Of course this is hard. You may dread it. You may have a busy life and carving out time to study is difficult. You need to be organized to study efficiently. Do yourself a favor and get familiar with the ARE exam material at Read it. Study smart. Get this last hurdle in becoming a registered Architect behind you!

Read more information on getting organized and how to best use the NALSA study material in, Where Do I Begin.


Get the Basics from NCARB

Reading about the graphic vignettes is important. However, you must practice with NCARB’s software to become efficient at using what may seem like a very clumsy and inaccurate system for solving the vignettes. You must download or subscribe to NCARB's cloud based service for access to their practice software. Additionally, you should read the NCARB ARE 4.0 Guidelines, and the Exam Guide for the division you're studying. The software and the exam documents are found here.


We recommend that you first experiment with the NCARB software. Only attempt to solve the NCARB problem(s) after:

Familiarize yourself with the sample passing and failing solutions to these vignettes in the NCARB Exam Guides. You can compare your solutions to those expected by the computer scoring system. These sample solutions offer some additional insight into various approaches and the degree of accuracy required.

Compare the sample passing and failing solutions in the NCARB Exam Guides to NALSA's list of additional issues in the NALSA ARE Blog. If possible, set up a study group with a few friends so that issues can be openly discussed and analyzed. Additionally, misinterpretation of code and program issues will often be fatal. So, don't forget to take advantage of NALSA's NCARB Codes Illustrated documents in your "My Account" page under the FREE STUFF link.


Some Exam Specifics

In general, allowing about one to two months per division will give you sufficient time to absorb the fundamentals of multiple-choice, master the NCARB software, practice various scenarios and approaches to each vignette, practice with mock exam problems and get questions answered. Start with the division in which you think you will do well. You may feel more confident about one vignette over another and may want to take that division first. Here are some characteristics of the vignettes/divisions:

1. The Site Zoning and Building Section vignettes have only one 'correct' answer. Only careful following of directions is required. Therefore, the vignettes are not subjective.

2. In the Schematic Design Division (which has no multiple choice) the Interior Layout and Building Layout vignettes each have many passing solutions. These problems are subjective. As a designer, you will naturally want to try various design options to find an ‘ideal’ solution. Don't. Your solution does not have to be a work of art. Just follow the program and create an efficient solution that satisfies the program requirements.

3. The vignettes exist in a self-contained world, apart from reality. NCARB has created their own code requirements for the vignettes. The Accessibility/Ramp, Stair Design, Interior Layout and Building Layout vignettes each have several code issues that must be understood. See the FREE STUFF in your NALSA account.

Still unsure which division to take first? You can get more info here or base your decision on NCARB's latest (2013) division pass rates:

Programming Planning & Practice = 61%

Site Planning & Design = 67%

Building Design & Construction System = 65%

Schematic Design = 76%

Structural Systems = 71%

Building Systems = 67%

Construction Documents & Services = 62%

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