February 10, 2009
by: Jessica Sheridan Assoc. AIA LEED AP

With NCARB’s launch of Version 4.0 of the Architect Registration Exams (ARE), designers seeking licensure are turning more and more to online discussion groups and chat rooms for advice from recent test takers. While it is worth celebrating all means of communication used to prepare future architects, a recent breach of the exam’s “Confidentiality Agreement” prohibiting dissemination of exam content, as well as violations of the U.S. Copyright Act, has created a rift in the system.

Several ARE candidates have been accused of posting exam questions and answers to online forums. Some of the individuals have received warnings, while others have been referred to the NCARB Committee on Professional Conduct (PCC). According to the NCARB website, “Depending on the severity of the disclosure, these candidates may have their exam score cancelled and/or all of their eligibilities suspended for six months to three years or more.”

Other than punishments awaiting the individuals, the violations are impeding the ARE process overall. NCARB and Prometric are undertaking quality control checks. This is delaying the process to alert candidates whether or not they have passed their exams. I know of someone who took an exam last November and has yet to hear if she passed. Also, NCARB is threatening to extend the six-month wait period to retake a failed division to protect the pool of questions (a test taker should never see the same version of a division). The organization may increase test costs to make up increased development and operational costs. It may even stop delivering entire divisions for a “significant period of time” to protect the tests’ content if it determines that too much information was released.

NCARB acknowledges the fine line between “helping” and “cheating.” In a profession that prides itself on responsibility and morality, I find it extremely disappointing that the line has been crossed. Surely, we are better than that.

To read the official statement made by Erica Brown, AIA, ARE Director at NCARB, click here.


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