Sep 20

NCARB Practice Software For The ARE

Utilizing the NCARB practice software for the ARE can significantly help better prepare candidates for the graphic vignette portion of the exam.

For those who are unfamiliar with the general format of the ARE, let’s briefly touch on it. Each ARE exam division is broken up into 2 different sections: the multiple-choice part and the graphic vignette section. The graphic vignette section basically presents you with a written problem and asks you to solve the problem by drawing up a solution.

The graphic vignette problems differ depending the focus of each test. For example, the CDS (Construction Documents and Services) exam requires you to draw a building section for the vignette while the SPD (Site Planning and Design) exam will test your ability to design and draw a site plan from scratch for the vignette.

Before computer-aided drafting (CAD) became popular, the ARE would actually require candidates to literally draw their solutions on a physical piece of paper. As the industry moved towards different CAD programs, NCARB eventually moved away from manual drafting and created its own software program for the ARE.

Is the NCARB software similar to AutoCAD?

Unfortunately, the software used for the ARE vignettes is not a typical program that’s used in architecture firms around the United States. NCARB has developed this software specifically for the ARE graphic vignettes.

Although the NCARB software has some similarities to other CAD programs, it’s truly a unique program that has some major differences and flaws. Since ARE candidates are not familiar with this software, it can cause many headaches on the day of the exam because a lot of time can be wasted just getting used to the software instead of solving the problem.

Is there a way to practice this NCARB software?


NCARB does allow you to download and practice the ARE vignettes with the NCARB software free of charge from their website. There are a few requirements though.

– It can only be used on the following systems: Windows 98, Windows XP, Windows NT or Windows Vista 32-bit
– The practice software will not work on a 64-bit computer

Unfortunately, these requirements hinder a lot of people simply because NCARB has not fixed this problem. I would still recommend finding a way to get a compatible computer to download the practice software to.

If you’re interested in downloading the software from NCARB, please follow the link below. There is a free download of the practice software for each ARE exam division.

Click Here to Download the NCARB Practice Sofware

Why Do I need to practice the NCARB Software?

Yes! Yes! and Yes!


Since the NCARB software is unlike any other CAD program that you’re familiar with, it’s essential that you at least open up the program before going in to take your test.

At the very least, I would recommend using the NCARB practice software to play with the different tools so you can be familiar with how to draw basic elements. Since the software is so different from traditional CAD programs, it does take some time to get used to everything.

What else can I use the NCARB practice software for?

In addition to simply practicing the basic tools, you can use the NCARB software to actually complete a sample vignette for EACH test.

This is such a valuable resource to use because along with the software, NCARB provides a full practice problem for you to solve within the software. You’ll be given a sample problem in the same exact format as you’ll see on the actual ARE.

Since each ARE exam division contains a separate vignette, it’s just as important to practice each one individually so you can get used to the specific tools and issues for that division. I definitely recommend using the practice software on each test since each test is so unique.

Once you have completed your practice vignette, I recommend posting it to the ARE Forum for general feedback from other candidates. Since there is no “correct answer” given on the practice program, seeing what other candidates have to say can be very beneficial.

In addition to the ARE Forum, I’d recommend looking into the ARE Advisor Vignette Series eBooks which are available in the link below.

Other ARE Vignette Resources

If you haven’t heard about the ARE Advisor Vignette Series eBooks already, I certainly recommend checking it out.

These eBooks walk you through the NCARB practice vignettes and break everything down in a step-by-step format for you. Since NCARB provides the free software program, it’s certainly worth it to get your hands on the ARE Advisor eBook to help explain everything to you.

For more information on the ARE Advisor Vignette Series and how it can help you pass the ARE, see here!

If you have any questions regarding the NCARB practice software, please don’t hesitate to contact me by filling out the Contact form above.