Where are you on your path to licensure?

Hello and welcome to the Black Spectacles ARE community!

Whether you are a seasoned professional getting back to testing after a long break or fresh out of school we would like to hear about where you are on your path to licensure. We are a community of licensed professionals and other testing candidates – let us know where you are at and what we can do to help!

*Which division(s) have you taken so far?
*Which division are you currently studying for?
*What objectives and topics do you wish were clearer?
*What advice do you have for others who may be struggling?

Let us know below

1 Like

I started studying for Programming and Analysis first. Does it matter what section you start first in test taking? I see there are no questions yet for P&A.

1 Like

Hey Jenna,

We’re just getting started so some of the divisions might not have posts quite yet.

Personally I’ve heard some folks recommend taking PPD & PDD first, and I’ve heard the same about the other divisions too. Curious to hear what others think.

Hello- I’m definitely an unusual case but wondering if there are others who have considered resuming licensure after a long hiatus. I completed the IDP process way back in 1997 or 1998 (most of you were probably in preschool!), passed a single section of the exam, then stopped to raise four kids, but always working in some capacity. It was always my intention to finish it up but I’ve had a nice design career without it- my own residential design firm- but always this nagging feeling that I didn’t finish what I started. I imagine that the exam is vastly different now than it was back then and curious if it’s worth looking into.


Hi Holly, and welcome!

First off, congrats on raising 4 kids while also owning your own design firm, that’s fantastic. As for the notion of moving forward with licensure, we have an article with some quotes from others in somewhat similar circumstances that might help.

Beyond that though, I’ll tag a few architects that can probably provide some deeper insight into the differences you can encounter with the ARE 5.0. @cat.heard9, @coachdarionziegler, and @coachzachhoffman, any of you able to expand on Holly’s question?

1 Like

Hi Holly; you are not alone! Congrats on getting back on the path to licensure.

The tests have definitely gone through some iterations since the late 90s. I can’t speak to tests before my time, but here’s some basic information about the current version of the Architecture Registration Exams:

  • The AREs are comprised of 6 exams, correlating with the 6 practice areas of the AXP (formerly, IDP): Practice Management, Project Management, Programming and Analysis, Project Planning and Design, Project Documentation and Development, and Construction and Evaluation.
  • All testing is done electronically at a prometric center (this means results can be seen immediately after the exam. This also means no more hand drawn or digitally drawn vignettes!)
  • Depending on your state, you may have additional state exams, interviews or letters of reference to submit in addition to your NCARB transcript

In my opinion, the tests have gotten easier throughout the iterations. Having everything done electronically allows for quicker testing and less human error, which means a quicker licensing process as well. Because it sounds like you’ve kept up with the industry, I would doubt you’ll come across many knowledge areas that you’ve never seen or heard of. I think the biggest challenge will be learning the testing format, the ‘ideal’ AIA/NCARB work environment and how to pace yourself through the exam. (Let me know if you have further questions on the differences between the exam series. I have a few documents I could pass along if you’re interested.)

I know the overall licensing process can feel daunting, but if you’ve raised four kids, you’ve already got the patience and drive to conquer the AREs. You’ve got this, and we’re here to answer questions, commiserate and celebrate along the way!

1 Like

Thanks so much for the reply- this is helpful. If memory serves, I think I talked to someone with AIA Illinois or National about all this years ago. My concern then was that I would need to complete additional IDP (AXP) requirements under a licensed architect prior to being able to resume. I think I was “grandfathered” in and wondering if this still stands. I have not worked for an architect since 1997 but have remained active in design and construction on my own projects since.

1 Like

Have ppd on 2/14. Haven’t passed any yet but am hoping this will be my first!


Wish you the best of luck with PPD, let us know how it goes!

Anything in particular you might want help with as you study/prepare?

Hmmm, I see. If I were you, I’d take this route to figuring out where you currently fall in this process:

1 - reinstate your NCARB record. If you ever logged IDP it should still show up in the equivalent AXP categories. This should tell you if more hours are required to complete the hours requirement. If you see you have additional hours to complete you can request to supplement those hours through the NCARB portfolio option.
2 - determine your eligibility to test. This can be done through your NCARB record and varies by jurisdiction. Eligibility is determined by education, AXP completion, residency and more. If your home state has more restrictive testing requirements you can test through another jurisdiction to complete the licensing process faster (this was the path I took).
3 - determine how you want to move forward. NCARB offers different ways of completing education and hours. I would suggest reaching out directly to NCARB and/or your state board to determine the best way for you to move through the licensing process.

Fortunately, whatever your position might be, NCARB has allowed for multiple paths to licensure. I think after you reinstate your record and get in touch with NCARB you’ll be well on your way.

1 Like

Hi @berlydark, you’re going to be great!!! Pass or fail, you’re making progress. Let us know how it goes!

1 Like

I’m 46 and started taking the exams about a year ago. I have children(19-7 Y.O.) and a practice (20 years) which is a lot to balance - but needed to get it done. Getting my mind wrapped around the exam was a bit painful at first - had to drop the ego. I’ve accomplished a decent amount in my small world so the exam was a frustrating - but I’ve realized there are benefits - i don’t know it all. Getting the right study material is key. I would do it -

1 Like

@cat.heard9, I am new to black spectacles and reading some of the comments because I am sure that I am not the only one in the ‘stranded’ boat of “where to begin” pertaining to exams. I have finished my AXP hours and now I believe I am ready to begin taking my exams. I just don’t know where to start.
I read that you have some documents that might be helpful. Do you mind sharing them with me as well.
Thank you in advace!

1 Like

Hey @cristalpwilliams09, thanks for reaching out.

First, welcome! This is a great first step in starting your exam journey. Definitely take advantage of all the materials Black Spectacles has to offer. For just starting out, I’d recommend listening to the past ARE Live sessions and signing up for the upcoming one. It’s a free webinar that poses a few practice exam questions and gives you a ‘taste’ of what each exam is like. This can be helpful in gauging how much you know about the different divisions. You can sign up for the upcoming ARE Live on 8/13 here.

Second, flip through the ARE Handbook. This will give you a further in-depth snapshot into what to expect in each division of the exams.

Third, and my personal advice; the exams are in a specific order for a reason. I would’ve saved myself a lot of headache (and extra study hours) if I had tested in the following order:

  • Practice Management (PcM)
  • Project Management (PjM)
  • Programming & Analysis (PA)
  • Project Planning and Design (PPD)
  • Project Development and Documentation (PDD)
  • Construction and Evaluation (CE)

The exams sequentially build on each other, so by testing in the above order, you’ll continue to gain and expand upon the knowledge you gained in the previous exam. A great study tip if you find yourself getting stuck on one exam is to check out study material for the ‘sister’ exam, which is the exam before, or after in the above order. The one caveat I’d make to that order is inserting CE above the PA exam. I’ve heard people have great success breaking the exams into two chunks: PcM, PjM, and CE; and PA, PPD, and PDD.

Fourth, you’ve gotta jump into testing at some point. I strongly encourage people to sign up for two exams to start with. This was the absolute BEST advice I was given when I started testing. Sign up for two exams, one a couple months from now, and the other about 4-6 weeks after your first one. By doing this, you’re committing to studying and keeping up your momentum after your first exam, even if you don’t end up getting the results you want. My first fail was HARD. I’m so glad I had signed up for my second one already, because it meant I had to get going. I ended up ‘leap frogging’ all of my exams after that, taking one, taking another, retaking the first, retaking the second, etc until I had passed them all.

Finally, everyone is different. Please don’t believe the posts on different forums telling you that the only way to pass is by reading every single resource cover to cover and studying 80 hours a week for 6 months at a time. It’s simply not true. My study schedule was studying 4-5 days a week, for 1-2 hours a day, for 3-5 weeks before an exam. That said, I didn’t pass all my exams on the first try (failed 3), but this study schedule kept me sane and motivated. These exams are hard but not impossible, you got this.

Phew! Sorry for the essay! I hope you find some useful information up there.

Here are some links I found useful during my testing days, and hope you will too:

My favorite books for studying (PS, check your local library/AIA component for these!):

  • The Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice, 15th edition
  • The Project Resource Manual: CSI Manual of Practice, 5th edition
  • Planning and Urban Design Standards

Good luck, and keep me updated on your progress!


Also tagging @erich.raudebaugh here. I saw you had questions on study materials on another post. Hopefully some of the info I put above is helpful!

1 Like

Hello to everyone.
I am Juan Ramirez. I finished my masters at Syracuse in 1996 and finished my IDP in 2001, took some of the exams but moved to Europe and things with the ARE got behind. Came back to the states and begun my own design/build company and raised 2 children, so that process is moving well but is time to get done with the licensing process.
I am currently studying for the PCM just because I want to take a test ASAP so I can reanimate this long and forgotten process. Ready to give it a kick and get this process done.
Looking forward to interact and learn as much as I can with all of you.

1 Like

Hi @juanjarc67 & welcome to the ARE Community! We’re excited for you to get back to your road to licensure!

Feel free to take advantage of our free resources!

Don’t forget to join our ARE FB Group

Good Luck! :smiley:

6300 N. Northwest Highway P.O. Box 31846, Chicago, IL 60631-9998 / All rights reserved © 2020 Black Spectacles.