ARE Graphic Vignettes

The ARE graphic vignettes are part of all 7 exam divisions, yet are commonly overlooked and underestimated by many test takers.

Practice Vignette Software

In my opinion, there is so much more information and study guides available that focus on the multiple choice section of each exam, yet the vignettes are just as, if not more, important than the multiple choice questions.

The reason why I placed so much more emphasis on passing the ARE graphic vignettes is because I knew that one major mistake on the vignette could result in a fail, yet one wrong question on the multiple choice would probably not be enough to fail anybody.

For those of you who don’t know what the graphic vignette portion of the exam is, make sure you read What Is A Vignette For The ARE first.


The purpose of the ARE graphic vignettes are to test your problem solving and planning skills as well as a variety of other abilities. Each vignette section relates to the topic of that specific ARE exam. Depending on the exam division, you may be asked to complete 1, 2, or 3 vignettes at the same time.

From my own personal experience, I recommend studying for the vignettes just as much as you do for the multiple choice. Studying for the vignettes can be a little tricky because unlike the multiple choice, you’re not just memorizing facts, you need to understand how to APPLY what you know.

What To Study

NCARB Sample Problems – Through NCARB’s website, you can view a practice program as well as a passing and failing example. There isn’t too much information available through NCARB but it’s important to take a look at since the ARE is created by NCARB.

Dorf Solutions Book – This is the main tool that I used when studying for the ARE. Written by Norman Dorf, this guide runs through all of the vignettes showing various passing and failing solutions as well as frequently asked questions. It’s available online for about $100 and definitely worth it.

ARE Advisor ebooks – I’m in the process of creating step-by-step guides that will walk you through each vignette section and how you can approach the exam. These ebooks also have practice problems that I’ve created that will prepare you for the different types of vignettes. Please stay tuned for more information on how you can get your hands on the ARE Advisor Vignette Guides.

How To Study

You can have all the study materials in the world but if you don’t know HOW to use them, you won’t have much success. Here are some of my tips for actually studying for the ARE graphic vignettes.

Read through what each ARE vignette is actually asking you to do – By knowing what you actually need to produce in the end, it will help you figure out how you can get to that solution.

Read the program and the vignette rules! – There are a number of rules and guidelines that each vignette gives you at the beginning. Read through these as you study because one rule violation could result in a fail. (Note: You’ll never need to memorize any codes and rules for the vignette. Every rule will be provided in the instructions, yet you’d be surprised how many people fail because they didn’t follow the rules)

View step-by-step guides – By taking your time and reading through the process of completing each vignette can be very helpful. Instead of diving right in to the practice problems, I found it helpful to read through examples first so I knew the PROCESS that needed to be completed.

Practice, Practice, Practice – Nothing will prepare you more for the graphic vignettes than to get in the software and practice it yourself. NCARB offers a free downloadable program that you can practice with. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND DOING THIS. The software that NCARB uses is quite different from anything you’re probably used to so learning how the program works is just as important as learning how to do the individual vignettes.

Vignette Resources

If you’re looking for some advice on how to prepare for the graphic vignettes, I’ve included below a breakdown of my personal tips and techniques for passing the vignette portion of the ARE.


I really can’t stress the importance of preparing for the ARE graphic vignettes. Come test day, it’s hard to get through the vignettes if you haven’t prepared yourself for them. They’re so unique from anything else you’ve seen in your architectural career that it’s hard to pass if you don’t study.

Fortunately for you, there are some tools available that will help you prepare for passing the vignettes. It’s now time for you to take the next step and start learning how to do them.