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Apr 10

ARE – Schematic Design Vignettes

There are 2 ARE Schematic Design Vignettes that together, make up the entire schematic design exam. This is the only ARE exam division that does not include a multiple choice section but instead consists of 2 separate vignettes.

There are other ARE exams that have multiple vignettes but the SD vignettes are actually treated as 2 separate sections of the test. You will have a specific time limit for each vignette section and will not be able to go back to the prior vignette once it has been submitted. (This is different from BDCS and SPD where you can switch between vignettes.)

These 2 schematic design vignettes are similar in what they are asking candidates to do but they differ on the scale of the program.

1) Interior Layout Vignette:

The interior layout vignette requires you to design an interior space and a furniture layout that meets required codes and requirements. You will have limited time compared to the second vignette to complete your design. You will be graded on your ability to follow the applicable program requirements as well as meeting all codes and requirements.

For a more detailed explanation of the ARE interior layout vignette, see here.

2) Building Layout Vignette:

The building layout vignette tests your design and planning skills on a broader scale. For this vignette, you will be asked to lay out 15-20 different sized spaces/rooms that meet a variety of program requirements and codes. You will not have to worry too much about the interior spaces of each room for this vignette. The purpose of this section is to test your understanding of layout a building as a whole.

For a more detailed explanation of the ARE building layout vignette, see here.



Since there is no multiple choice section this exam, the ARE Schematic Design Vignettes become even more important. Many candidates run in to problems with this exam because they are too worried about coming up with a unique solution to the problem.

To succeed on the schematic design exam, it’s important to keep solutions simple and to make sure that every program requirement is met. Even though it’s testing a candidates “design” skills, it is actually testing your ability to follow directions and come up with the most efficient solution per given requirements.


Additional Tips & Practice Exams

For a full breakdown of the ARE Schematic Design Vignettes, please see the ebook 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.

Please stay tuned for more information on how to access the ebook.