How to Read an ARE 5.0 Score Report




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    Ricardo Largaespada

    I have taken PPD on May 12th. And I have FAILED! According to my score card, I am at Level 4 on all sections. I have studied for this exam for three months, and I had memorized all the content for it, especially the codes. Is it possible for NCARB to send me my examination to determine which questions I have answered incorrectly?

    I had great determination to get a PASS on my first try in the ARE 5.0, but being at Level 4 makes me feel very uncomfortable.

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    Michelle NCARB

    Hi Ricardo,

    I'm sorry to hear about your failing score.  NCARB does not send candidates their examinations. Be sure to review the ARE 5.0 Guidelines (pages 23-24) for more information on steps you can take.  Depending on your jurisdiction, you may be eligible for a Review and Challenge process, which would allow you to review the questions you answered incorrectly.  Regardless of your jurisdiction, you can also request a Score Verification, through which an NCARB staff architect will review your exam performance and verify the accuracy of your score report.

    Also read through the discussion on this community, for tips on preparing for your next test.  The ARE does not expect you to memorize codes or other material.  Instead, focus on understanding the content areas described in the ARE 5.0 Handbook.

  • Hi, I tried to log in the page and it says that there is an error in the page... Error 404 and it does not let me request a score verification... kindly advise me how to proceed.

    Also, could you please let me know if Florida is eligible for a Review and Challenge process.

    Many Thanks

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    Nick NCARB

    Hi Stephanie,

    Thank you for pointing out the broken link on your Score Report. We are currently in the process of developing a fix for this issue. It sounds like you are interested in a Score Verification or a Review and Challenge. You can read more about each process on our website. Also, check out pages 23 and 24 of the ARE 5.0 Guidelines

    Regarding your second question, Florida does allow candidates to appeal their exam score. I recommend that you contact the Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation: Board of Architecture and Interior Design for more information. They can be contacted at 850.717.1982.

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    Cedric Reuter

    Nick, I was wondering, why doesn't NCARB offer the feedback on passing reports? It would have been nice to know if I was just skating by or really nailing an exam before moving on to the next one.

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    Michelle NCARB

    Hi Cedric,

    Descriptive feedback is not provided on passing score reports as the exam is designed to assess general competency, not to be used as a “teaching tool.”

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    Rebecca Weeks Erdman Edmunds

    Hi, Michelle. 

    Is a score 'verification' required? It seems like all is documented properly, so I'm not certain of the function of the verify link.

    Any thoughts you can share would be appreciated.




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    Michelle NCARB

    Hi Rebecca,

    I assume you're asking about the link on the top of the first page, "To verify this score..."?  A couple things here.  First, no - it's not required.  That link is there in case someone other than the candidate (say, an employer) wants to verify that the score report hasn't been digitally edited.

    We've also updated the language on the score report, so it now says "To authenticate this score..."  That change was made to avoid confusion with the Score Verification process outlined in the ARE 5.0 Guidelines (p. 23).  The image in this Knowledge Article will be updated in the future to match.

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    Ryne Wight

    Can someone tell me the chance of over turning a failing result after a test verification is requested?

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    Michelle NCARB

    Hi Ryne,

    I assume you're referring to the Score Verification process.  NCARB offers this service to help candidates find greater peace of mind in their scores, but no score verifications or exam reviews have resulted in overturning a failing score in at least nine years.

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    Melissa Ehn

    I'm disappointed that there's no descriptive feedback for a passing score. As Cedric mentioned above, it would be helpful to know whether we've passed comfortably, or just barely, in order to guide future studying.

    Also, since the content is often related from one exam to the next (for instance, I just completed PPD and am getting ready to take PDD), it would be very useful to know if there are areas where I'm weaker and should focus my studying.

    Plus, come on, we work hard for these things and we want some detail!

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    Matthew Strope (Edited )

    I'll join Cedric and Melissa in expressing my disappointment with the lack of feedback for a passing score.  I just took and passed my first exam, and even minimal feedback would be very helpful to help gauge future studying strategies for the other exams.  I fail to see the harm in disclosing, for example, the percentage of questions answered correctly.  Furthermore, I do not understand the logic behind refusing to reveal the same level of feedback to passing candidates as failing ones.  In my opinion, if competency level scores can be provided to failing candidates, they can be provided to passing candidates as well.  Did I nail the exam with all Level 1's?  Did I barely skate by with all Level 2's, or a combination of 1's & 3's?  I really wish NCARB would acknowledge the clear desire for such feedback and reconsider its policy, as this would be valuable knowledge for myself and many other candidates. 

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    Michelle NCARB

    Hi Melissa and Matthew,

    Congrats to both of you on your recent passed divisions!  There are a few reasons why you didn't receive descriptive feedback.  First, a pass is a matter if you skated by or nailed every section.  NCARB doesn't want others to misuse such data - for example, employers comparing scores of test candidates in order to make salary/hiring decisions.  It's a privacy issue, and it's typical of many professional licensure exams, not just the ARE.

    At its core, the ARE is a tool for your state licensure board to confirm that you've demonstrated competency in the various content areas.  The boards don't care how well you did - we don't give them descriptive feedback either.  Really, they just want to know that you met the threshold for competence.

    Descriptive feedback is provided on failing score reports so candidates can better prepare for a retest in that same division.  But using it to prepare for another division would be a misuse of data, as each division covers different content.  Remember to also look to your education and experience when preparing for the exam - don't just rely on score report feedback.

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    Matthew Strope

    Hi Michelle,

    Firstly, thank you for your response and the congratulations. 

    Secondly, I understand your obligation to defend the current NCARB policy, however I still respectfully disagree with it.  

    As for fearing the misuse of data by others, the remedy seems glaringly simple:  Share the feedback in a private communication with the candidate.  Also, the fact that it's a typical practice doesn't necessarily make it a mandatory one, or an appropriate one for that matter.

    I would also argue that it is not a "misuse of data" for a candidate to use feedback for one exam to guide studying for another.  It is widely acknowledged that the ARE exam divisions (especially 5.0) have significant overlap in their content.  I would re-assert Melissa's comment about the PPD and PDD exams, and urge NCARB not to attempt to treat each exam as if it exists within a vacuum.  

    Please know my intent is not to be a thorn in your side, but simply to voice my concern about something I believe could use improvement.  Again, thank you for fielding our questions & comments.  

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    Youssef Matta

    Hi Nick and Michelle,

    so based on the explanation on the fail report, does this mean that you have to pass in all the exam content areas / section in order to pass.

    or You do have to have an overall pass of the whole exam. as a whole only

    Appreciate your feedback

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    Michelle NCARB

    Youssef -

    As noted above, a pass/fail decision on ARE 5.0 is determined by the total number of items answered correctly.  That's across the whole exam, not by content area.  The descriptive feedback is provided for each content area to give you some guidance as you prepare for a retest.

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    Hessam Khanaman

    could you score level-2 at all categories on a test and still pass? what is the pass fail percentage on any particular test.?

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    Michelle NCARB


    Yes, if you achieved Level 2 in all content areas, then you would have likely met all minimum performance requirements across the division in order to pass.  Passing percentages by division and by school can be found on NCARB's website.

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    yamel Salomon


    What happens to the exam questions that i answered but mark them to review later? Do they still count? I ran out of time and didn’t unmarked them...

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    Michelle NCARB

    Hi Yamel,

    Rest assured, the option to mark questions (and unmark them) is entirely to help you during the test.  It has no bearing on how questions are scored.  So yes, the questions you're asking about are counted same as the rest.

    Hope that helps!

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    Luke Petrocelli (Edited )

    Just chiming in here as another voice on the side of receiving passing score reports, for the aforementioned reasons.

    In response to employer misuse of data:

    Let's compare the ARE to the SAT or GRE, which, to me, sounds like the basis for NCARB's stance here. SAT/GRE scores are a standardized method for Universities to judge a candidate's strength. The ARE could never be that, and comparison is fundamentally flawed. Here's why:

    Candidates who are taking the SAT or GRE are doing so (for the great majority) to gain access to a University or a Graduate School. There is almost no other content by which Universities can judge a candidate's strength, considering this average candidate has almost no work experience and usually at most a High School or Undergraduate GPA (which are weak indicators at best, anyway). Now think about the experience required to simply take the ARE 5.0, and the products of that experience (work samples, resumes, project experience, etc.) I think NCARB fails to realize that if you're capable of being a working part of an Architectural office for 3,600 hours, you're probably a pretty capable human being, regardless of passing the ARE. Employers willing to look to the ARE scores of a job candidate are a myth. Let's do a hypothetical:

    Architect A and Architect B are interviewing for an Employer. Both architects have equal levels of relevant experience for the position, and commanding the same salary. Both are licensed Architects, because they both passed all 6 Divisions of the ARE 5.0. Let's now go way out on a limb and say the Employer requested the ARE scores of both Architect A and Architect B.

    If NCARB thinks that the tie-breaker is going to be the fact that Architect A got "better" ARE scores, and not:

    1. each candidate's references,

    2. academic background,

    3. quality of work samples,

    4. personality and cohesion with culture, and

    5. clout of previous employers/projects,

    then they are risking the optics of being a bit out of touch with the very profession they're representing. If an employer is willing to select candidates on this criteria, they are not actually an employer because they don't in fact exist as functioning Architects.

    If anything, publicly disclosing the University pass/fail rate for each exam has more adverse effects, which I won't get into here. (major curriculum shifts, false marketing, Faculty hiring decisions, etc.)


    In response to candidate misuse of data:

    These exams certainly do not exist in a vacuum. Case in point: NCARB's study reference "matrix". Hint: it's a matrix, not a list. On my PPD exam taken yesterday, I received a question that verbatim could have appeared on my CE or even PCM exam regarding the Architect's obligation to change document sets that have come in over budget. As I head into PDD, I know for a fact that I will need to dive deeper into the concept-level information I just acquired to pass PPD. Who's to say that I even understood those concepts, though, without a pass report? I might now review how to size a beam, without even understanding the forces acting on that beam.

    I can't understand the posts here suggesting that these exams don't overlap. This is fundamentally incorrect.


    My suggestion:

    Allow reports for passing exams at a small fee, and keep it privately accessible.

    My guess is that less than 10% of candidates would actually go through with it. I think a good majority of us are just looking to itch a scratch, and psychologically feel underwhelmed by the simple "Pass / Fail" evaluation.

    This also puts our money where our mouths are. If we're saying we want the passing reports as a study tool, then, like any other study or informational resource, we should be willing to pay for it. The fee covers NCARB's other potential problem, which is the cost of administering and producing these reports.

    If the rare case does come up where an Employer wants to inquire about this, it would be with the blessing of the Employee, and, if they are ethical, at the cost of the Employer.

    As for failing reports, keep providing them at no cost. 

    NCARB can package this as doing a little bit of extra work to support failing candidates and help them on their path to being a licensed Architect. Knowing the reports come at a cost to those who pass, failing candidates would feel good about getting some "free advice". A silver lining to an otherwise disappointing outcome, and motivation to get back on the horse.

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    Michelle NCARB

    Hi Joseph,

    I can try to help you here.  I think you're referring to the sample score report at the top of this page, yes?  That shows one area, Content Area 5, at Level 1.  You're correct that Content Area 5 comprises 2-8% of the division.  However, this score report shows just two areas at Level 2 - Content Areas 1 and 4.  Together, those comprise 39-51% of the division.  The other two areas are at Level 3 - Content Areas 2 and 3 - which together comprise 44-56% of the division.  All in all, this candidate demonstrated competency at or above the minimum standard in about half the division, but they underperformed in the other half.

    Remember that scores are not calculated by content area.  You need to earn enough points across the entire division to meet or exceed the required threshold.  But this descriptive feedback can help you better understand your strengths and weaknesses as you prepare to retest.

    Hope that helps.  Let me know if you have additional questions.

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    Michelle NCARB

    Joseph, thanks for clarifying your question.  Yes, I'll follow up with you outside this Community.

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    Milan Michail

    Hi Michelle,

    I received my score report and it shows Level 2 on all sections but I failed.  Can you please let me know how this is possible?  Level 2 states "Performance at this level meets the minimum performance necessary to demonstrate competency." 

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    Michelle NCARB

    Hi Milan,

    You're right, that shouldn't be possible.  I'm having trouble finding your score report, though.  I'll email you outside the Community to get more information.

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