Kaplan University School of Professional and Continuing Education Kaplan University School of Professional and Continuing Education

Recommendations on Exam Division Order

Posted by: Brightwood Architecture Education
Published: July 21, 2015

NCARB allows candidates to choose the order in which they take the exams, and the choice is an important one. While only you know what works best for you, the following are some general considerations that many have found to be beneficial:

1) The Building Design & Construction Systems (BDS) and Programming, Planning & Practice (PPP) divisions are perhaps the broadest of all the divisions. Although this can make them among the most intimidating, taking these divisions early in the process will give a candidate a broad base of knowledge and may prove helpful in preparing for subsequent divisions. An alternative to this approach is to take these two divisions last, since you will already be familiar with much of their content. This latter approach likely is most beneficial when you take the exam divisions in fairly rapid succession so that details learned while studying for earlier divisions will still be fresh in your mind.

2) The Construction Documents & Services (CDS) exam covers a broad range of subjects, dealing primarily with the architect’s role and responsibilities within the building design and construction team. Because these subjects serve as one of the core foundations of the ARE, it may be advisable to take this division early in the process, as knowledge gained preparing for this exam can help in subsequent divisions.

3) Take exams that particularly concern you early in the process. NCARB rules prohibit retaking an exam for 60 days. Therefore, failing an exam early in the process will allow the candidate to use the waiting period to prepare for and take other exams.

4) NCARB has suggested that Construction Documents & Services (CSD), Programming, Planning & Practice (PPP), and Site Planning and Design (SPD) may be the best to choose from as a starter exam. Doing so will maximize your exam credits should you decide to transition to the ARE 5.0.