Apr 06

ARE – Programming Vignette

In order to help you pass the ARE Programming Vignette (PPP), you will need to have a good understanding of how to properly zone a site and read a site plan. The PPP vignette can be very tricky to some people but by simply following all of the rules and restrictions given to you, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t pass this exam.

Similar to the CDS vignette, one major error on the Programming Vignette could cause you to fail. With all of the information and requirements given to you in the program, it’s essential to take your time and read the rules first so you know exactly what to do. As we go through some of the general guidelines about the PPP vignette, it’s important to remember that some of the requirements may change on the actual ARE exam so you may see some requirements that you haven’t seen before.


On the ARE Programming Vignette, you will have 1 hour to complete 2 different parts that both involve site zoning restrictions and requirements. The first part you have is to draw, in plan, the buildable area for a building and for site improvements on a site plan. The second part for the size zoning vignette is to draw, in section, the profile of the site grading as well as the maximum profile of the building as given in the requirements.

Even though this ARE vignette has 2 different requirements, you will still draw them on the same page in the NCARB software. On other exams with multiple vignettes, you have to go to the main screen to switch back and forth between the two. For the programming vignette, you won’t need to treat these vignettes as 2 separate entities. As you’ll see, many of the requirements will affect both parts so it’s important to treat the part as one.


For the PPP vignette, you will be given a variety of information both in text and in graphic format. Here are some of the items that will most likely be provided to you:

– Existing site plan with contour lines
– Blank grid for drawing the site section
– Construction setback dimensions
– Construction restrictions from other site items
– Building envelope restrictions (in height)
– Maximum building heights

Elements To Include:

Since this vignette is broken up into 2 separate parts, you don’t HAVE to complete these in any particular order but a lot of the information that you need to include in Part 2 you can get from completing Part 1 first. Since Part 1 is a plan and Part 2 is an site section, the information and requirements that you show in the plan can easily be transferred into the site section to make Part 2 easier to complete.

The following should give you an idea of what you need to include for each site zoning part.

Part 1

– Surface Improvements Boundary
– Building Construction Boundary

Part 2

– Site Grade Line
– Building Outline

As you can see, there really doesn’t seem to be a lot of information that you need to include on the site zoning vignette so it will all come down to your ability to read the directions and implement them in the drawing. Since there are very few elements that you actually have to draw, the majority of the time you’ll spend should be planning and checking your work. Below are some more strategies to help you pass the programming vignette.


There are many strategies for completing the ARE Programming Vignette and the following advice are just my recommendations for how to complete this section. Of course, you’ll need to verify everything with the given program and requirements because the vignettes do change over time.

The site zoning vignette is very unique because there is very minimal “thinking” involved in this test. Compared to other vignettes that ask you to come up with your own solutions, the PPP vignette is basically a test to see if you can follow directions properly. All of the information you need to complete the vignette is given to you in the program so it’s really just a test to see if you can implement these requirements into the drawing.

It’s for this reason why it’s so important to take your time at the beginning to read the instructions and figure out your plan of attack. There is plenty of time (1 hour) to complete this vignette so take some time to plan out the drawing so you don’t miss anything.

Here are some additional tips:

Part 1

  • Using the sketch tools first, draw out the site improvement area according to the program. *Use sketch circles to draw setbacks from curved lines such as trees or lakes
  • Do the same for the building construction boundary. The reason for using sketch tools first is that they are easier to modify if you make a mistake. When it comes time to draw the actual area it will be easier to simply trace the sketched lines
  • Using the site boundary tool, draw over your sketch lines and complete the shape. If the shape is drawn and connected properly, it will hatch as a solid color. Try to avoid editing the area once you draw it because it can become very tricky and may lead to more harm than good.

Part 2

This is where you will use the information from Part 1 to help you complete the site section.

  • Using sketch lines, draw corresponding vertical lines from where the section cut crosses a contour line. Do this for every contour line before drawing your grade line. *Pay careful attention to the scale of the provided grid. You will want to make sure that you note the contour elevations at the proper scale
  • Draw your grade line by connecting the ends of your sketch lines. *Again, pay careful attention to the spacing of the given grid. This can often lead to a fail.
  • Sketch out the remaining restrictions including: setbacks, easements, height restrictions, and planes using the sketch lines like you did before.
  • Trace over these sketch lines with the building outline tool to complete. Make sure you connect the building outline to the grade line or else the computer may read your solution as floating

Additional Tips & Practice Exams

For a full breakdown of the ARE Programming, Planning and Practice Vignette, please see the ARE Advisor eBook Series – PPP Vignette that I’ve created to help you out. This ebook consists of step-by-step instructions, practice programs, and personal thoughts and advice to passing this section of the ARE.

Personally, I believe that many people fail exam divisions because they don’t spend enough time studying the ARE graphic vignettes. Granted, the multiple choice is just as difficult and time needs to be spent preparing for that section as well, but many people leave studying for the vignette until the last minute. These ebooks have been created to help better prepare you for the graphic vignette sections of the ARE.