What percentage of candidates pass all ARE tests without failing a single one?

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    Nicholas Civitano (Edited )

    I doubt Ncarb will respond with statistics. I passed 5 of 6 on the first try, I felt I could have passed 6 for 6 with a little luck on Ppd and more studying. I kinda rushed Ppd at the end and paid for it with months of studying and hundreds more dollars. That being said, I could have easily failed the other 5 on the first try too. It really isn't relevant. Reading the forums, the handbook and the topics for each exam is the best guide to if you're prepared or not. Although the exams could always be improved, I bet a large amount of those who failed one or more would, once they passed all of the exams, admit they just didnt know enough or were prepared to take them..

    Good luck!

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    William May

    I believe that your question is valid because you simply asked. The value may only be to you but it is possible that others are also interested. Roughly 15,000 people took tests. Only 54% got passing scores. That's a terrible outcome for any test. I have a business. The business is profitable compared to expenses. I am always billing my clients on established criteria. I am paying contractors on established criteria. Based on the 6 test categories I function as a business and an architect without the benifit of title or use of term. When you consider that a stamp doesnt guarantee or warrenty against any error or omission, when a project goes thru plans reviews, my prokects meet codes and are built with over 80% rate.

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    William May

    Nick. I look at the 6 tests and feel that they really dont determine fitness. I also nelieve that a 5 year degree is way over rated. If a degree isnt providing the skills to practice then that is a failed educational program. Look what was done to the apprentice program. NCARB dropped hours from the process. Why? Simple. Not enough work for the number of candidates.

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    Nicholas Civitano

    William-

    I think that the whole architecture education / testing could be more integrated and improved. I went to a largely theoretical based / design based school which taught little to no practical architectural education. I had worked for 3 years in architecture and 5 years in construction / contracting before going to school and luckily that foundation allowed me to take what I was taught and try and apply it to real world problems. Like I said, I would have loved that each semester of grad school had a class aligned with one of the 6 divisions and at the end we could have had the chance to take the exam. Its actually simple, the class would be called i.e. ARE Project Management, you study the content, discuss in class etc and after 8 or 12 or 16 weeks you take the exam, pass or fail at least  you have that environment while you have the time to study in school to put in toward the AREs. Doubling the internship or setting aside another 3000+ hours AFTER graduation would prevent people from graduating as architects if they were unprepared. It would be a checks and balances, School / Internship/ Exams, you graduate and have to do a second wave of internship. In other words you are letting your colleagues more in on the decision to allow for licensure. In any case, your concern lies more with NAAB than NCARB. (That should tell you something already that the same organization doesn't take care of both school / licensure accreditation / verification).

    I do think the internship is a pretty good system and believe that maybe something like doubling it while simplifying the testing would be a good approach. However, I must say that not all of the ARE is a waste or not good for testing fitness as you would say. I absolutely think I am more prepared to stamp plans having studied and gone through the 6 exam process. I knew almost nothing of insurance and contracts and liability, I knew very little on most codes which do not pertain to residential construction, I knew very little of many building systems and now I feel that I am fairly well versed. I also felt I was strong in much of materials, structural stuff, construction observation, etc and I think the extra studying reinforced that and added to my knowledge base. 

    Of course there is a percent of each exam that feels like "filler" but you have to cut NCARB a little slack. Sure some questions are written by what seems to be an angry, old jaded group of architects who have it out for the new wave, but many of the test questions are well thought out and are challenging. Remember the test is largely about assessing problems and coming up with the best solution based on your knowledge base. It is also to test fitness of someone tasked with ensuring life safety for places where thousands of people may potentially gather.

    Obviously your knowledge base in many areas is very good but it may not be in others. You have to also remember that it is a National exam meant to cover the entire field of architecture. I personally will probably work primarily on residential projects during my career in Hawaii. I have worked on commercial projects and it is not my cup of tea. Others taking this exam may only work on interior build outs in type 1 or 2 tall buildings in dense urban environments, some only on industrial projects and some may do it all. I can't tell you how many questions I got over the 6 exams on Type 1, 2 or 3 buildings and almost none on type V. I have almost only worked on type VB and the occasional type 3. This is all to say that, it doesn't really matter what you think of the questions you are being asked, some of them will be applicable to you and what you think is worthy and some won't but those same questions you think are bad may be important for another. 

    William, trust me I felt A LOT of frustration at the tail end of this process. I even made a post about PPD. I think PPD PA and PDD need some reassessing. I do not think they are flawed per se I just think they are a little  unorganized and not focused enough. There are a lot of ways to do it, they could add an exam for Site and Building Planning to help focus PA and PPD more on the other topics or they could shift some of PPD and PDD around to PA and the other exams and make them all around 100 questions. To be honest I think the project management / CA stuff from CE should be in PJM and CE and PA should take on some of the materials / detailing / planning off  of PPD and PDD. 

    I also think NCARB should send out a questionnaire after you finish the exams to allow for some feedback to improve these exams. Maybe there is something? I'd love to write down some suggestions that would actually be read. (Currently have an email out to NCARB for about 2 weeks, no response. That is one thing that needs improvement, their email / phone communication is horrendous.)

    Anyway, sorry for the ramble, the AREs tend to do that. A lot of emotion, energy and time wrapped up in this process.

     

    Good luck

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    Joseph Finger

    I failed one in 4.0, took a year off, and then passed all 6 in 5.0 my first try.  I completed all 6 exams in about 16 months and in between the second and third exam my wife and I had our sixth child.

    https://are5community.ncarb.org/hc/en-us/community/posts/360029090573-Passed-6-Exams-with-6-Kids-You-Can-Do-It-

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    William May

    So here's my question:

    Preface -

    1.) You generally don't learn what you need to know to run an architectural firm while in college.

    2.) You don't learn what you need to know to run a firm going thru AXP or IDP.

    3.) You do need to buy an entire library of books and 3rd party videos to pass the 6 divisions but then once you pass the ARE in entirety you are now able to practice as an architect.

    Is that about right?

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    William May

    Many years ago I earned my Real Estate Agent license.  The process being that you "signed on" with an office whose manager and a few licensed agents would show you the activities agents perform.  Then you went to an 80 hour class to learn the terms, calculations, forms and duties necessary to be a licensed agent.  You then take the REA test and passing that test you are a full blown agent.

    I quickly caught on and became a Million Dollar Producer - You help sellers and buyers sell and by property to the tune of a million dollars.  that usually takes about 12 months to do that much business.  The commission is about 3%.  That equates to about $30,000 a year.  That is also roughly commission on 4 properties of $250,000.  If you do 8 in 12 months that's $60,000 and so on.

    I left the profession when the market crashed.  I now have a small firm and do residential projects and occasionally do the Existing Condition Surveys for local owners, builders, developers & architects.  Passing the tests seems to be fairly difficult considering that the Pass/Fail ratio is 54%.  

    I have to wonder if the process is working properly.  With only a 54% Passing rate it doesn't seem like the time and money spent is correctly proportioned.

  • Avatar
    Nicholas Civitano (Edited )

    1.) You generally don't learn what you need to know to run an architectural firm while in college.

    -- I think this is very dependent on your school and how close you take the AREs within graduating. Also, like any type of education how much you apply yourself to learning it. I mean really learning, understanding, analyzing and applying. A lot of students can regurgitate facts the week of an exam, not as many learn it and really understand / know it.
    In general I would agree the priorities of architecture school are more in line with helping to shape design thinking rather than professional production or administrative work. We had a professor who went to MIT who taught his classes (Design Communication, i.e. computer based communication tools for presentations and production, Cad, Revit, Rhino, Photoshop etc etc) and his refrain was always , we are not teaching you to be "CAD monkeys" Disparaging to our production level colleagues (my self-included the last 7 years) to be sure. I never liked the phrase and although I blame part on his broken English and understanding of the language, the notion behind what he was saying is he wasn't teaching us CAD or Photoshop to do production he was trying to teach methods of communicating a design to an uninformed client. His point was always if you want to just be good at the software then go to a technical school not an architecture school.

    This is one example, but the same idea permeated through theory and studio and other design classes too. They believed the purpose of architecture school was to teach ideas regarding design. How do we do something innovative; how do we push the envelope or do a design that aesthetically meets the clients wishes.

    It was not all like this, we also learned the practice-based stuff in Structures, Systems, and Planning studios and classes. When I took these classes I was already working, already had done my own small projects and really tried to apply this learnt knowledge to my real life. That helped and I remembered much of this info. Did I necessarily remember all that I wanted to of this info when taking the AREs? No but I wish I had. Both my systems professor and my structural professor were actual practicing engineers and they taught their classes and material to a much more difficult level than the AREs test on. I.e. the ARE ppd and pdd exams test on some basics of statics, maybe analyzing a freebody diagram for shear or moment or calculating some loads on foundations.

    My structural exams in school were analyzing whole systems of structures, following load paths and building resistance elements. Much more difficult. My building systems class had us doing building analysis, systems integration with climate and specifically sizing of ducts, pipes, calc load demands and systems etc..

    The failing isn't completely on the school or on Ncarbs AREs, the failing is that there isn’t a system in place for those of us who would have wanted to take the AREs while in school or having a more integrated school to licensure approach. If I would have taken Ppd and Pdd the semester after my structural and building systems classes, with some extra studying on some code and safety stuff I think I could have passed them both without any additional materials. Definitely not the hundreds of hours I ended up putting in.


    2.) You don't learn what you need to know to run a firm going thru AXP or IDP.

    You love black and white examples... this is another shade of grey here. This absolutely depends on your firm and your mentor. My mentor and firm is tiny, only a handful of people. I worked directly with the principal who was also my mentor, I saw and participated in day to day functions as well as on design, production, CA, etc. If you choose to be at a massive firm with a hands-off mentor you may not really learn how to run a firm through Axp.

    Once again, how much you apply yourself to learning is key. School, AREs and Axp are a minimum requirement. Nothing is stopping AXP candidates from asking their firm, mentor or colleagues questions about how a firm is run. Take on some extra responsibility, ask to be given tasks which challenge you to learn unknown parts of the profession. Scared of building codes? Ask to sit in on a code review or hell, go down to the building department and make friends with a building plan reviewer or inspector. In my experience these guys are very, very excited to see a new architect show interest in their side of the work. The biggest congratulations I received after passing all my exams and sending my application to my state was from the head building plan reviewer because he knows I want to do the work in the right way, not the quick way and easy way. It’s called initiative and a willingness to learn the profession that extends well beyond your job title, duties or pay. If you’re at a firm that doesn’t support this type of motivation and determination to learn the profession, then leave the firm and find one who does support it.

    3.) You do need to buy an entire library of books and 3rd party videos to pass the 6 divisions but then once you pass the ARE in entirety you are now able to practice as an architect.

    -- Absolutely not, and if you look at the material as a waste of money then you have a closed mind to learning. Very little of the material I purchased I would consider a waste. The paper books and ebooks I bought all have great reference material for not only the Ares but the profession afterward. AHPP, ASC and Building construction and codes illustrated, Fundamentals of building construction, etc are great examples of books I will use to reference things later on. I would say that the 3rd party stuff is not needed. I used Ballast and enjoyed the review manual and practice exams but could have done fine without them. Bought 1 month of Black specs for my retake of Ppd and while the practice exams were ok the videos were very rudimentary.

    I would also argue that if you have the proper experience very little material was needed, but the more resources you have the easier it is. Arguably I could have passed all 6 exams with AHPP, MEEB a copy of the IBC and the free downloads of the AIA contracts, but why make it this hard. There are plenty of books like ASC, BCI, Fundamentals of building construction etc that are relatively inexpensive in the grand scheme that make life a lot easier. There is also a massive amount of information available for free online. I mean, come on this is 2019, the age of the internet. Youtube, trade materials, government websites, the IBC, you could easily pass the AREs with google searches if you were so inclined. You want to learn about what type of soil is best for foundation bearing? Google it, You want to learn about seismic or wind? Free FEMA docs,, AIA Contracts? Free downloads and Schiff Hardin lectures. I watched many, many hours of youtube while working to learn many new things along the way. It HAS to be a second job to you to pass. The material in and of itself is mostly interesting and helpful to the job, but it is still a lot to know and will take many hundreds of hours of studying, researching and prepping.

    The level of difficulty will vary with your experiences but it’s not easy and it shouldn’t be. I feel like you keep waiting for someone to tell you your miscellaneous experience in many different fields should be enough to pass, its not going to happen. It doesn’t matter if you can do designs, draw plans, get permits and coordinate with clients, contractors or government agencies, those are not the only requirements. It also doesn’t matter if you are successful in running your own firm and make money. Many people make money and are successful in business but that doesn’t make you a licensed professional.



    And after you pass school, Axp and AREs your ready to practice? Yes and no. Yes, depending on your state requirements, you will have a license and stamp and are allowed to practice. If you are ready to go out on your own and practice is a very serious personal question we all have to ask ourselves. Not all engineers and architects who get their license go on their own or actually use their license. A friend of mine said they would never go out on their own or stamp plans, but they still want to get their license. That does not mean you can't continue to practice it just means you are not the one willing to put your license up as architect of record.

    Some people like myself have had the goal of getting their license to practice independently ASAP. Others have different ideas. Some of us feel confident in their ability to practice and call themselves an architect and others, despite finishing the requirements do not want the responsibility of either the liability or the many hours it takes to run a business on your own.

    I look at it this way, a lot of people pass the written exam and the driving test and get a driving license but there are thousands of people who should not be allowed to drive. Passing a minimum requirement is only part of the overall thing, but that doesn't mean passing your own personal requirements and ideas of what being an architect are give you permission to have a license either. Each jurisdiction in this country has decided what it takes to be considered a licensed professional in architecture, everyone of them chose the AREs and AXP as part of that. If you have an issue the real people to talk to is your licensing board. I can bet, though, that they are going to side with NCARB because the standard has been set and agreed upon by a very large group of people. This is NOT to say that SOME of the questions on SOME of the exams can’t be improved because we all know some of the questions are not very well written. The questions are written by professionals with varying ideas of what questions should be asked but we are all human and not every question is going to be perfect. But the vast majority of those who have finished the AREs would probably agree that the AREs are a good assessment on whether you should have a license or not. You took and failed PCM, I personally thought this was one of the easy exams.  I also feel like I  learned the most of real life important actual practice-based knowledge in PCM and PJM. The design, the documentation and the administration of CDs is the easy part, the running the business, the management and the laws and insurance are the more difficult part, in my opinion.

    And in response to your second post, Im not sure how being a real estate salesperson has any relevance. My sister is very smart and passed her real estate exam studying for 3 days while in the midst’s of doing a complete gut remodel (both the design and the labor) to a house she is selling. Her boyfriend studied for little under 2 weeks and passed first time as well. They also have new systems in place that allow you to be under a broker in a cloud-based system which takes only days to set up.

    So comparing something you can accomplish in a week to something that has taken some of us 15 years or more is a little silly. Real estate is a fine profession and not to take anything away from it but there are no comparisons in the requirements.

    Summing up, I think the pass rates for some of the exams are low. I think part of that has to do with a large group of people who go in unprepared the first time. 54% is not great, but it means probably more than half of the people pass after retaking an exam the second time. That isn’t that bad either for an architecture license. The exams are hard and easy to trip up on. I have said before, I passed 5 on the first try but could have failed them on the first try too.

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    Ryan Toews

    The reason I asked this question is because I did it, and the only reason I want to know is for marketing myself when looking for other jobs. I've been licensed for over a year now. I have many friends in the field, some very smart, and none of them passed all without failing. Some just failed one or two, but no perfects. When you're applying for jobs in a competitive market things like being in a very small percentage of people who pass all without failing, is a good bullet point on a resume. I was just hoping to find a number, instead I opened up a debate. Side note, I agree with Nicholas above. Architecture is still a noble profession, even if it's sadly lost some of that. The tests are a right of passage. I borrowed my buddies Ballast books, studied about 2-3 weeks per test and passed them all. I will tell you this, it's a critical thinking test more than it's an architecture test. Of course you have to know architecture to have the basis to answer the questions, but they're really testing to see if you can find the best possible answer out of 4 answers that could be correct in a certain circumstance. I think that's what throws people off. Pick the answer that's correct most of the time. I said WTF to myself probably 1,000 throughout taking the tests simply from how off the wall some of the questions were. No study guide or practice test came close to giving me a sample question anything like the real ones. Cheers!!

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    Nicholas Civitano

    Awesome Ryan, 

    That is an amazing accomplishment to get them all on the first shot! 

    I almost was able to pass them all without failing, although that was never the goal when I set out. It was more a reality when I had passed and taken 4 in a row. I messed up on PPD but in the end got it. 

    I think you nailed it above, they are a rite of passage and are very much about critical thinking. The undertone is always architecture but the nature of what they are getting at is understanding and evaluating and trying to know what parts are important and what parts are not to get to the correct answer. Some are questions you may have memorized like code requirements but many are questions that require many layers of understanding to evaluate to get to the correct response.

     

    Congrats on your license! 

  • Avatar
    Nick NCARB (Edited )

    Hey all,

    This is a great dialogue, and we want to comment on a few of the topics.

    We haven't analyzed the data to see how many candidates pass all six divisions on the first attempt, but this is something that we will consider looking at in the future. Remember, all passes are viewed the same regardless of how many attempts it takes to pass a division. There is no hierarchy within architectural licensing. 

    One final comment on divisional pass rates, it is important to understand that they include ALL test administrations for a particular division, including retests. What this means is that a candidate who needs multiple retakes to pass a division can have a significant impact on the overall pass rate for that division. As an example, let's say that there are only two candidates who have tested on a division of the ARE. Candidate #1 passes the exam on their first attempt, and candidate #2 passes the exam on their fifth attempt. The pass rate for this scenario is 33% which doesn't tell the entire story.

    Hopefully this helps provide a bit of clarity on these topics. 

     

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