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Apr 12

ARE – Site Planning Vignettes

There are 2 ARE Site Planning Vignettes that help to make up the site planning and design (SPD) exam. This exam consists of a multiple choice section before the vignette section. For the 2 SPD vignettes, you will have 2 hours to complete both vignettes.

Instead of breaking up the site planning vignettes into 2 separate sections, you can complete these sections in any order you choose. In the NCARB software program, you will have the ability to switch back and forth between vignettes. The nice thing about this ARE exam division is that candidates don’t have to complete the vignette before moving on to the next vignette either. If you want, you can start each vignette and move on to the other one if you get stuck.

Just like the other 6 exam divisions, once you start the ARE vignette section, you cannot go back to the multiple choice section.; however, the order you do the vignettes for the SPD exam are completely up to you.

The 2 site planning vignettes are actually quite different in what they require you to do. Both vignettes do deal specifically with common issues related to both site planning but also site development.

1) Site Grading Vignette:

The site grading vignette will test a candidate’s ability to understand and modify site topography. You will be given an existing site plan with contour lines and will be asked to modify them in order to drain water per program requirements.

This section of the vignette is meant to be a quick test of your knowledge while the other SPD vignette will test your planning and designing skills. The more time you can save on this vignette, the better off you will be on the site design vignette.

For a more detailed explanation of the ARE site grading vignette, see here.

2) Site Design Vignette:

The site design vignette will be a bit more complicated that the grading vignette based on the number of requirements needed in this section of the SPD exam. This vignette will test a candidate’s understanding of various site planning issues such as light/wind/circulation/parking/etc.

This vignette section is a bit more complex and has many more requirements for you to follow such are parking restrictions/vehicular circulation/site views and many more. It’s important to save as much time out of the 2 hours given for both vignettes to complete this vignette.

For a more detailed explanation of the ARE site design vignette, see here.


As you can see, the ARE Site Planning Vignettes are quite different both is the requirements that you are being asked and the issues that they cover. It’s never good to rush through a vignette section, but the faster you can come up with a solution for the site grading vignette, the more time you can use on the site design vignette.

The site design section certainly will require more time and effort so it’s important to understand some of the requirements and code issues that you may expect to find come test day. By practicing with the NCARB software, you can help save yourself valuable time.


Additional Tips & Practice Exams

For a full breakdown of the ARE Site Planning and Design Vignettes, please see the ARE Advisor eBook Series – SPD Vignettes 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.