The "Exam"

In Illinois, in order to be eligible to take the Architect Registration Examination (the "ARE") you must have completed the following two tasks:

1. You must have received an NAAB-accredited B.Arch. or M. Arch. degree. 

2. You must have established an NCARB Record.

Click here for ARE Guidelines

There are seven separate divisions of the Architect Registration Examination which may be taken at any test center, in any order, and at the time that you schedule them.  The divisions, along with the type of test and the maximum time allowed are as follows:

1. Programming, Planning & Practice: 4 hours
2. Site Planning & Design: 4 1/2 hours
3. Building Design & Construction Systems: 5 1/2 hours
4. Schematic Design: 6 hours
5. Structural Systems: 5 1/2 hours
Building Systems: 4 hours
7. Construction Documents & Services: 4 hours

Upon receipt of a B. Arch. or M. Arch. degree from an NAAB-accredited school of architecture, you automatically become eligible to take the Architect Registration Examination (the "ARE"). When you are ready to take the exam, go to, go to "My NCARB Record, log in, click on "Ready to take the ARE?" and follow the instructions. NCARB will then enter your information into their exam eligibility system. NCARB then notifies you that you are eligible to take the exam.

You may sign up to take any division of the exam any time you feel ready.  To sign up for a test, click here. You have to pay for the division  you want to take first, and then you will be given a special number which you can use to sign up.  ARE Test centers are located at over 200 Prometric Test Centers throughout the country, Monday through Saturday. To find Illinois test centers, click here.

Each division may be taken individually, in any order, and spaced out at intervals based on your preference, but you must pass all seven divisions within a 5 year sliding time window.

Here is an example of the 5 year sliding time window, called the "rolling clock"

Each  test division will be custom prepared individually for a candidate.  You will not get exactly the same test that someone else would get, although they have been judged equivalent in difficulty.  These customized tests will contain a random selection of multiple-choice questions from a large master pool of questions, so that every candidate will take different, but equal tests.  All divisions will be taken by the candidate sitting at a computer located at the Prometric Test Center.  The computerized testing program will sequentially display each question one at a time and present  the candidate four possible answers from which he or she will select an answer.  The candidate may go back and review any question already presented or change any answer already given, prior to completing each portion of the exam.  The testing program will contain a certain number of questions for each division which must be answered by the candidate within a designated time limit.  It is  anticipated that a candidate's test score will be available within four to five weeks after taking each division.  If a division is not passed by a candidate, he or she will have to wait six months before re-taking that division.  There is no limit to the number of times that a candidate may re-take each division.

The graphic questions are also computer-administered and computer-graded. Each graphic part of the exam will consist of several short vignettes.  Solutions to these will be presented as drawings made by the candidate on the computer at the Prometric Test Center.  The program is Microsoft Windows-based and is similar to the old Windows Generic CAD software.  It draws rectangles representing rooms of any size with three corner picks, with double lines around them representing walls.  These rectangles can be readily moved around either individually or in groups, rotated at any angle, and stretched vertically or horizontally.  The program will quickly insert doors and windows, move them, or delete them as desired.  The program will allow you to draw in 2D only on two floors.  You designate whether you want to draw on the first or second floor and whether you want the other floor to be dimmed out or turned off completely.  The program is relatively easy to use for a candidate already skilled in CADD, but it could slow a beginner down and perhaps make the exam process tedious.  Every candidate will receive free tutorial software to practice with before they take the test.  The software is available on NCARB's web site for downloading (

In Illinois, if you have not passed all divisions within three years, you must re-enroll. However, unless NCARB has changed the design of the exam, you will be given credit for all divisions you have already passed in the first three years. Once all divisions of the ARE are passed, the Illinois Architecture Licensing Board will be notified by NCARB, and the candidate is then eligible for licensure in Illinois.  You must apply for an Illinois architecture license within one year after passing the ARE or completing the ADP, whichever is later.

Exam Costs:

Each of the seven divisions cost $210.00, for a total cost of $1,470.00. If you fail a division you will have to pay another $210.00 to take it again. You may take a failed division up to three times per year.

When you are ready to begin taking one or more divisions of the exam, payment for those divisions can be made by telephone when you reserve a testing date at the Prometric Test Center using Visa, MasterCard, or American Express.  Payment may also be made in person at the Prometric Test Center by personal check, certified check, or money order.  There are no other hidden charges, although you may, if you choose, pay for practice sessions at the Prometric Test Center of your choice on an hourly basis.


How to Pass the Exam:

Test-taking is like a design project.  You first need to know the criteria and the rules, which will be given to you.  Follow them explicitly.

Review your class notes from school and do some studying of the references listed above, particularly the AIA Handbook of Professional Practice.  For the graphics problems, you should become very familiar with the special CADD software provided by NCARB. You can download this software and other practice programs for each division from the NCARB web site at

Click here to access NCARB's ARE Practice Programs

AIA Chicago in partnership with offers online test prep tutorials - to register, go to

The Chicago AIA also provides live annual refresher courses - call them for dates: (312) 376-2720