Keep Calm and Test On(line)

By now you’ve probably heard the news NCARB is making online testing for the ARE 5.0 available in 2020. On December 14th, you will be able to log into your account and register for a seat to take an exam from a private location of your choosing (see below for online proctored standards). Before we dive into how this impacts your testing process, let us grab a megaphone and say: CONTENT IS NOT CHANGING!

We know this transition is a little more nuanced than that so review NCARB’s full detail on the changes, and read our outline below for what we know to be staying consistent, as well as the adjustments you can anticipate:


We can’t reiterate enough that objectives and content are remaining the same. You work hard to master this material, and it is not a waste. Rest assured, the long days and nights spent flipping through flashcards, watching video lectures and taking practice exams will still set you up for a pass.

You are staying the same. Your education, perseverance and studying have equipped you with the knowledge to take this exam. Trust your brain and the work you’ve put in thus far.


Now for the main attraction. We’ve watched the webinars, read the updates and have consolidated the information, making the changes palatable for you.

Primarily, the exam will be offered both online and in person. To keep the system congruent regardless of testing style, there have been some updates to the examination process. Make sure you adhere to both Prometric and NCARB approved online proctoring protocols. A couple tips we’ve gathered to ensure your space is online proctor approved:

  • Check the ARE 5.0 Guidelines on December 14th for updated logistics and exam format, and download the ARE 5.0 Handbook for the most recent objectives for each division.
  • NCARB is offering an at home system check to give your testing area a thumbs up.
  • Be a member of the clean desk club - make sure there are no study materials in sight.
  • Check with your firm to see if they can make conference spaces available for testing.
  • If you sign up to take the test in person, you can reschedule to take that exam online.

The number of questions per division is decreasing, meaning your time per question is increasing. There will be 115 fewer questions and 70 fewer minutes of testing collectively across all six divisions. Case studies will also have fewer questions but the format remains the same.

You will have more break time and more flexibility on when to take the breaks. Candidates are allotted 30 or 45 minutes total, depending on the division. You choose how and when to use your break, but an important caveat to keep in mind - all viewed questions will be locked after your break. Essentially, no running out to your locker to check a code and coming back to answer a question - that’s middle school stuff.

Cut scores will be updated, but NCARB has to accrue 400 results for each division before making any determinations regarding cut scores. Here are some resources on what goes in to cut scores, and what cut scores are for each division.

In lieu of a piece of paper and pen, you’ll now be provided with a digital whiteboard. It’s a floating window with unlimited space for drawing and typing. You decide when to clear your whiteboard, however, all of your data is saved in case of unexpected interruptions. Your whiteboard data is saved but is unavailable to you after a break.

As with anything, we know change can throw you off a bit. Hopefully a simple breakdown of what is actually being modified can aid in your attempts to keep calm and test on(line).

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