5 Must Knows About the ARE 5.0 Transition


We’re now well into the ARE 5.0 transition and it’s time to look at what we’ve learned.  If you’re new to the 5.0 exams the below tips will help you know what to expect when you sit down at the testing center for your first exam.  We use our ARE 5.0 study materials to teach these methods, so check those out if you haven’t already.

Time is of the essence

If you spend any amount of time looking around the web, you’ll see one of the biggest complaints about ARE 5.0 is that candidates are running out of time.  In 4.0 it was common to get through all of the multiple choice questions and be able to go back and review marked questions.  That isn’t the case any more.  In 5.0, candidates must be very conscious about how they’re spending their time, and which questions they’re marking for review.

We recommend going into any 5.0 exam with a 5.0 specific strategy.  Remember, all of the questions are worth the same amount of points in 5.0 so treat them that way.  Don’t waste time on what we call “high risk” questions where one small mistake could mean a wrong answer and wasted time.  As a candidate you need to assess what your high risk questions are for yourself, but here are a few suggestions:

  • Free answer math questions.  Especially those that are involved or have complicated phrasing
  • Multiple choice math questions.  If it’s multiple choice, consider taking an educated guess, marking the question, and coming back to it if you have more time
  • Case study questions where the location of the information isn’t obvious.  Don’t spend too much time looking for a single answer.  If you’re not sure where something is, mark it and come back to it.

Some candidates have suggested skipping the entire case study section, this is NOT a viable strategy and it will cause you to fail.

The new question types to know in the ARE 5.0 transition

The ARE 5.0 transition introduces three new components to the exams: hot spot (point and click), drag-and-place, and case studies.  Make sure to click on the links and watch the videos to familiarize yourself with them.

Drag-and-place questions

The frustrating case studies

When you get to the case studies at the end of your exam, you’re going to get frustrated so be prepared for it.  We agree that 5.0 tests candidates in a manner that is more similar to how Architects practice.  The case studies are a huge step in that direction, but the case studies have a similar problem to the 4.0 vignettes – both attempt to replicate how Architects practice with limiting software and hardware.

Let us explain.  4.0 attempted to replicate CAD with NCARB software that’s really nothing like what anyone uses in practice.  5.0 plops an Architect’s set of drawings, Zoning Code, Building Code, and References in a little tiny window on the test centers tiny monitor.  To see information you need to toggle between all of the documents, zoom in, zoom out, scroll up, scroll down, scroll left, and scroll right.  In practice you’d probably have the drawings printed out or on a separate monitor.  Furthermore, the testing center computers have reportedly been slow to switch between documents.  Don’t sweat it, just be prepared and don’t let it affect your test taking.

It’s not easier

For anyone who hasn’t been a part of the ARE 5.0 transition, they’re bound to think that ARE 5.0 is easier than ARE 4.0 based simply on the fact that ARE 5.0 requires one less exam for candidates to get their license.  Well, I’m here to tell you that’s a myth (at least the easier part).

What removing one exam from the journey to licensure does is make it so that the exams are more broad.  That means candidates need to understand a little more for each exam.  But that doesn’t necessarily mean that 5.0 is harder, it’s just different.

Know your tools

You needed to know your tools in 4.0 too, but with the ARE 5.0 transition, the tools are a little different.

Case study resources: When you’re searching through the huge text docs on the case studies use the search tool located in the bottom left to search for key terms.

ARE 5.0 transition

Drag-and-place: A few candidates have wasted a lot of time because they didn’t realize you can rotate items in the drag and place questions by right clicking and typing in the angle of rotation.

The calculator:  Know what every button on the below calculator does and when to use it.  Don’t mistakenly have radians checked when you need degrees.  Do you know what asin is and when to use it?  Do you know exactly where to go to find the square root of something?  Knowing the calculator can help you save precious time.Break time:  Now you get to choose your own break in the top right of your exam so use it strategically.  Notice when you’re getting mentally fatigued and use it.

How are you doing with the ARE 5.0 transition?  Let us know in the comments below.


  1. allstarcarpetandtiles June 24, 2019 at 10:31 am #

    Great tips. I’m bookmarking this page. Its a great resource to keep. Thanks for sharing.

  2. hamzakhan17826 May 19, 2019 at 7:16 am #

    Ok sure, I will follow your steps before going to do exams. I hope your article will help me more.

  3. karlmistos May 14, 2019 at 10:41 pm #

    Thanks for sharing this. I’ll definitely share this with my classmates at de la salle zobel.

  4. classboat01 October 17, 2018 at 7:37 am #

    Hello there and thanks for your information, I have certainly picked up allot new info from right your post. You are also provided information about best tips for exam,Which is very helpful to me and other people also.

  5. mikemoreno September 5, 2018 at 3:48 am #

    thank you very much, verry helpfull…

  6. jogesh12345 August 14, 2018 at 1:55 am #

    Very effective and informative article.Thanks for sharing such an important tutorial.

  7. FLMIMA August 11, 2018 at 9:20 pm #

    Really helpful website

  8. Rumi July 15, 2018 at 7:16 am #

    I feel very grateful that I read this. It is very helpful and very informative and I really learned a lot from it.

  9. RJennings April 28, 2018 at 6:12 pm #

    Thank you for this website. The practice questions are helpful.

  10. Scott March 22, 2018 at 1:50 pm #

    Taking this test on Saturday. Last 4.0 exam to complete for the trio, then on to 5.0. This site is my go-to place when organizing what materials I’ll be studying

  11. shozab January 30, 2018 at 2:22 pm #

    Hi , very good article.

    thanks for sharing, keep up the good work

  12. dyba January 27, 2018 at 1:08 am #

    Good advice. Best of luck to all!

  13. KendraShirley January 16, 2018 at 4:04 pm #

    This is my favorite site for practicing for my tests! Great advise and super helpful.

  14. reximagetrim January 16, 2018 at 10:37 am #

    Nice post to read. A complete guide that can help all of us.

  15. tylerstockholm December 17, 2017 at 9:37 pm #

    Nice one… very helpful! Thanks!!!

  16. Aartiwalvekar November 21, 2017 at 8:56 am #

    Nice post

  17. Aartiwalvekar October 9, 2017 at 9:45 pm #

    Great post!

  18. Tony August 30, 2017 at 7:07 am #

    In the NCARB ARE 5.0 handbook they reference Fundamentals of Building Construction: Materials and Methods in both of their example questions for cost estimating. Unfortunately there isn’t a specific chapter on cost estimating, it’s woven throughout the content.

  19. Spencer August 30, 2017 at 1:15 am #

    What is the best reference for cost estimating for PDD.

  20. Amy July 26, 2017 at 3:24 pm #

    Thanks! Great advice

  21. Tony June 29, 2017 at 7:23 am #

    Deciduous trees should only be used for shade (especially in temperate climates). Deciduous trees lose their leaves in the fall and will have little protection against wind in the winter when it is most needed. Likewise, the leafless trees allow solar heat gain in the winter when it is desired, and shade in the summer.

    Coniferous trees are only to be used to block wind and views. Since they don’t lose their needles, they work great for these two items year-round.

  22. Shahid Logan June 28, 2017 at 4:50 pm #

    Hello. My name is Shahid. This comment is for anyone who would like to reply. On the Siteplanning test. To block the wind, can you use a Deciduous tree or must you use a Coniferous tree?

  23. Mike January 4, 2017 at 11:04 am #

    Hi Tony,

    I need to take 5.0 PPD & PDD. Do you plan on posting notes such as “Caroline’s Notes” that you had posted for the various 4.0 exams for either of those sections? I found those notes to be some of the best resources in studying for the 4.0 sections. If so any idea when? Thanks

  24. Stephen October 17, 2016 at 9:30 pm #

    Hi Tony,
    Any updates on the SS exam ? If there’s an expected release date ? Thanks

  25. DesignerHacks October 4, 2016 at 12:11 pm #


    We are releasing practice exams for the SS exam later this fall.


  26. Paige October 4, 2016 at 11:34 am #

    Will you have SS questions on here at some point?

  27. Daniel September 9, 2016 at 8:47 am #

    Great post, very helpful with the lists of suggested materials, I just passed CDs in July and am taking PPP in November so I definitely needed the list.

Leave a Reply