Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
- Who Can/Should File a complaint?
Anyone may file a complaint-a consumer, a licensee, a building official. The Board will review each complaint regardless of the source. A complaint should be filed by anyone who believes that a licensee or a candidate for licensure of the Board has or is engaged in illegal activities which are related to his/her professional responsibilities. A complaint should also be filed against anyone who may be practicing architecture without a license.
The most effective complaints are those that contain firsthand, verifiable information. While anonymous complaints will be reviewed, they may be impossible to pursue unless they contain documented evidence of the allegations made.
If you are harassed by the person about whom you have complained, notify the Board immediately.
- How Do I File a Complaint?
The Board provides a Consumer Complaint Form (PDF), which requests specific information needed to initiate a formal complaint. Please complete all sections of the form and provide a statement explaining the nature of your complaint. Include as much detail as possible and any documentary evidence you might have. It is NOT necessary to refer to specific sections of the law which have been violated. The emphasis should be on providing necessary factual information rather than conclusions.
Alternately, you may file your complaint using the online form available on the Department of Consumer Affairs' website.
- How Are Complaints Processed?
After the Board receives your complaint, you will be formally notified of its receipt and that the Board is beginning the review process. If your complaint concerns something outside our jurisdiction, we will let you know if another state or local agency might be able to help you, or if you should seek alternative means of redress (i.e., small claims court, civil action, criminal complaint).
Those complaints containing allegations that would warrant disciplinary action, if substantiated (e.g., negligence, incompetence), will be investigated by the Board staff and may be referred to a Department of Consumer Affairs Investigator. If violations are substantiated, the Board may proceed with administrative action as prescribed by law.
Other complaints which, even if substantiated, may not warrant formal disciplinary action may be dealt with through direct mediation between the parties involved or through referral to other agencies or organizations as appropriate.
- Complaints that are clearly non-jurisdictional (i.e., fee disputes) may be referred to other agencies or organizations which may be able to assist you.
- The Board cannot represent private citizens in court or collect money on their behalf. The filing of a complaint does not prohibit you from filing a civil action at the same time.
- If we are unable to mediate a satisfactory solution or establish sufficient evidence to substantiate a violation of the law, your complaint will be closed, and you may be referred for further assistance to other agencies such as the Better Business Bureau, Small Claims Court, or Municipal or Superior Court.
- Should Unlicensed Practice be Reported to the Board?
If you have evidence which indicates that an unlicensed person is participating in activities for which a license is required, you should report such activity to the Board. However, you should be aware that as a licensing agency, the Board has limited jurisdiction to take action against unlicensed individuals. The Board will investigate allegations of unlicensed practice and, if sufficient evidence is established, may forward this information to the local District Attorney's Office for criminal prosecution, or the Board may issue an Administrative Citation.
In cases where an applicant for licensure may be engaged in unlicensed practice, the Board will investigate and will pursue appropriate administrative action if substantiated.
- How can I obtain a license?
A candidate must provide verification of three years of architectural practice experience and five years of education equivalents for a total of eight years of experience to become licensed in California. The candidate must also successfully complete both the Architect Registration Examination (ARE) and the California Supplemental Examination (CSE). A candidate must verify five years of education and/or work experience to be eligible for the ARE and eight years for the CSE and licensure. Credit for education and training experience is granted as outlined in the current edition of the Table of Equivalents.
Candidates must complete, prior to licensure, the Architectural Experience Program (AXP) as administered by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). This requirement effects new candidates applying for exam eligibility as well as candidates who were previously eligible but have not taken an exam as a candidate of the Board for five or more years and who are re-applying for eligibility.
For more information or to begin the process, go to the Becoming a Licensed Architect section of the Board's website. There you will find the instructions on how to apply for the ARE, the necessary applications and forms, and the applicable publications.
It is advisable for candidates to contact the Board for specific questions or information.
- What are the written examination filing deadlines?
There are no filing deadlines for the ARE. New candidates may apply when they feel they have met the eligibility requirement of a minimum of five years of qualified education and/or work experience. Application for Eligibility Evaluation (PDF) are accepted on a year-round basis.
- May I submit my application and fee for the written examination without Employment Verification Forms (EVF) and transcripts?
Yes. The application and fee may be received prior to the Board receiving the Employment Verification Form (PDF) and transcripts; however, eligibility cannot be determined until the appropriate documents are received.
- Do I need an accredited degree in architecture in order to be eligible for the ARE?
No. An accredited degree in architecture is not required for licensure in California at this time. It is, however, required in most other states.
- May I apply for the ARE if I have not graduated yet or my degree has not yet been posted to the transcripts?
Yes, if you have enough work experience to meet the minimum five (5) year requirement.
- May I submit a copy of my transcript with the application?
Transcripts must be certified originals sent directly by the college or university to the Board office. The Board does not grant credit for transcripts marked "Issued to Student". All foreign transcripts must be evaluated by an approved education evaluation service.
- May I receive credit for work experience performed during the acquisition of my degree?
Please refer to the Table of Equivalents subsection (a)(10)(A) through (E).
- How will I know when I can retake a failed division of the ARE?
- May I have work verification forms and/or transcripts submitted from other state boards?
No. You must use the Board's Employment Verification Form (PDF) to receive credit. Transcripts must be certified originals.
- How can I receive credit for ARE divisions passed in another state?
You must contact the other state's licensing board and request to have a certification of passed exam scores sent to the Board's office. The certification must include the division names, exam dates, and scores.
- How is my work or education experience evaluated?
Each EVF and transcript received is evaluated by the Board staff according to the Table of Equivalents (TOE). The Evaluation of Record (a record of experience credit the Board has granted) lists each EVF and transcript received and the amount of credit granted according to the TOE. The Board's staff processes EVFs and transcripts as they are received and notifies the candidate with an update letter if any additional information is required to determine eligibility.
- How do I know when I am eligible to take the examination?
The Board sends an Eligible Letter to new candidates that indicates eligibility has been established and shows the amount of credit accrued. An Eligibility Notification is sent to candidates once the application has been processed.
- Why do I have multiple identification numbers?
The Board assigns a Candidate ID Number when an Application for Eligibility Evaluation is received. This number is used when contacting the Board. The test vendor then assigns a different ID Number when an eligible candidate is issued an ATT. This number must be used when making an appointment for examination. Additionally, NCARB assigns a record number when candidates establish their NCARB record. This number is used when contacting NCARB or submitting AXP reports.
- How long does it take to get ARE results?
Generally, results are processed within four to six weeks. When your score is processed and available to you, an automated notification will be sent to you via email. At that time, you will be able to access your score report online via My Examination.
- How do I schedule to take a division of the ARE?
You must first apply with the California Architects Board. Once you have been made eligible, you can schedule to sit for individual divisions of the ARE. You may take any division of the ARE at any time, and in any sequence you choose. You are not required to take the ARE in the same jurisdiction where you are seeking initial registration.
- How many times can I take one ARE division in a year if I should fail?
A failed division of the ARE can be retaken as soon as 60 days after the previously attempt at the division. A candidate may only take the same division of the ARE three (3) times within a running year.
- What is required if I let my ARE eligibility lapse?
If more than five years have lapsed since the candidate last took an exam, was determined eligible, or the candidate file has been purged, the candidate must submit an Application for Eligibility Evaluation, the applicable application review fee, and documentation necessary for Board staff to determine eligibility based on the Board's current Table of Equivalents at the time of reapplication. New and reapplying inactive candidates must complete AXP prior to taking the California Supplemental Examination and obtaining licensure.
- How does the Rolling Clock affect my scores?
Exams that have been taken and passed after January 1, 2006 are impacted by the Rolling Clock. The candidate must complete all remaining divisions within five years of the date the first exam was passed or the candidate will lose any passing credit and must take the division again.
- How can I appeal a denial of a license application?
If a candidate receives notification from the California Architects Board that their license application is denied, they have the right to request a hearing under Chapter 5 (commencing with Section 11500) Part 1 of Division 3 of the Title 2 of the Government Code. Candidates must request the hearing in writing within 60 days of receiving their Notice of Denial.
If a candidate requests a hearing the Board will be represented by the Attorney General's Office. Candidates should be prepared to represent themselves or they may obtain an attorney to represent them at the hearing. After the hearing the application may be denied or granted. If the application is denied, the earliest date a candidate may reapply is one year from the effective date of the decision.
If a candidate does not request a hearing within 60 days, the right to a hearing is deemed waived. The earliest date a candidate may reapply is one year from the date of the Board's Notice of Denial.
Send any request with attention to the Board's Enforcement Unit at the Board's address.
- What is ARE 5.0?
In early 2013, the NCARB Board of Directors voted unanimously to approve the development of ARE 5.0, the next version of the examination. As part of ARE 5.0 development, NCARB is investigating the incorporation of dramatic new breakthroughs in graphic testing methods and the use of case studies. The new performance item type questions, along with other refinements and enhancements to the examination, will allow the determination of a candidate's competency while not requiring the present outdated CAD software system.
- Why is NCARB developing a new version of the exam?
The ARE is in a constant state of evolution, and NCARB makes significant annual investments in research and development to ensure that the exam remains relevant to current practice, psychometrically justifiable, and legally defensible. NCARB and its volunteer committees are committed to using and implementing effective testing methodologies in order to test a candidate's ability to protect the public's health, safety, and welfare.
- When will ARE 5.0 be released?
ARE 5.0 is anticipated to launch in late 2016. We should know an official launch date in the next year.
- How many divisions will be included in ARE 5.0?
The structure includes six divisions:
- Practice Management
- Project Management
- Programming & Analysis
- Project Planning & Design
- Project Development & Documentation
- Construction & Evaluation
Each of the divisions will be standalone, single test administrations. The new Test Specification approved by the NCARB Board of Directors.
- Why is the division structure different from ARE 4.0?
These divisions are a change from the current seven division structure in an effort to align the divisions of the ARE with the more commonly defined professional architecture activities of practice management, project management, and project design. The Test Specification was strongly informed by the results of the 2012 NCARB Practice Analysis of Architecture. This comprehensive study included multiple surveys designed to engage architects—the most appropriate representatives of the profession—in the evaluation of tasks and knowledge/skills required of an independent practitioner.
- Will there still be graphic vignettes on the exam?
ARE 5.0 is expected to take advantage of new tools and technology in the testing industry. The division structure for ARE 5.0 incorporates graphics throughout the exam through new performance item types like hot spots (candidates are presented a question asking them to identify the correct location, or "hot spot", on a response image) instead of through the current graphic vignettes. These new item types allow for testing at higher levels of cognition through analytical, synthetic, and evaluative exercises—which will be more like what an architect does as part of regular practice.
- Are other new item (question) types being incorporated into the exam?
In addition to the new performance item types under consideration, case studies are also anticipated to be implemented. These will consist of a scenario with a related set of resource documents (e.g., drawings, specifications, code resources). Case studies require candidates to assess multiple pieces of information and make evaluative judgments, a better reflection of the practice of architecture, as often no one decision is made in isolation of other factors.
- How is the transition to ARE 5.0 different from the transition to ARE 4.0?
For the transition to ARE 5.0, dual delivery of both ARE 4.0 and ARE 5.0 will last longer—at least 18 months. Additionally, candidates will have the ability to self transition to ARE 5.0 when it is most convenient for them during the dual delivery. There will also be more interactive tools available for candidates to help determine their individual path forward.
- What does dual delivery mean?
Dual delivery means that both ARE 4.0 and ARE 5.0 will be offered at the same time. Candidates who started in ARE 4.0 will have at least 18 months after the launch of ARE 5.0 to finish in that version before they are transition to ARE 5.0. However, candidates who started in ARE 4.0 will have the option to choose to start testing in ARE 5.0 anytime after it launches.
- What does self-transition mean?
Once ARE 5.0 launches, ARE 4.0 candidates will be able to make the individual choice as to whether to keep testing in ARE 4.0 or transition their eligibilities to ARE 5.0. The ability to self-transition will allow candidates to control how they strategically complete the ARE. Once you transition to ARE 5.0, however, you must finish the exam in ARE 5.0.
- If I don't self-transition, how long can I keep testing in ARE 4.0?
The last day ARE 4.0 will be available in test centers is 30 June 2018. After this day, any remaining ARE 4.0 candidate will be transitioned to ARE 5.0.
- How was ARE 4.0 mapped to ARE 5.0?
NCARB's Examination Committee, consisting of subject matter expert, architects, and psychometricians from our test development consultant, mapped the content in ARE 4.0 to ARE 5.0. Grounded in the science of testing, they used the 2012 Practice Analysis of Architecture as a guide to compare ARE 4.0 to ARE 5.0 to look for a reasonable level of alignment. You can view the ARE 5.0 credit model.
- How much will each ARE 5.0 division cost?
The cost of each ARE 5.0 division is $210. In July 2018, the cost per division will increase to $235.
- When will ARE 5.0 study materials be available?
Study materials will be available in early 2016, allowing ample time for any candidate to prepare for a division of ARE 5.0. ARE 5.0's test specification (what each division will test) has already been released.
- What can I do right now to prepare for ARE 5.0?
Keep testing in ARE 4.0! The average candidate finishes the ARE in two years—meaning most candidates currently testing will be done with ARE 4.0 before ARE 5.0 even launches.
- Does NCARB have any suggested strategies for preparing for ARE 5.0?
Yes. A good strategy for any candidate who thinks they may transition to ARE 5.0 is to focus on passing three critical divisions in ARE 4.0, which will maximize credits in ARE 5.0:
- Construction Documents & Services
- Programming, Planning, & Practice
- Site Planning & Design
If you pass these three divisions in ARE 4.0, you will only need to take two additional divisions in ARE 5.0—Project Planning & Design and Project Development & Documentation. If you take this path, you could finish the ARE in only five divisions!
When determining your testing strategy to prepare for ARE 5.0, it is important to know your Rolling Clock dates. It may be in your best interest to finish the exam now to ensure exam credits do not expire.
- Is ARE 5.0 going to be harder?
No. ARE 5.0 will not be easier or harder than ARE 4.0. It is going to be different in that NCARB will be using different question types to assess a candidate's understanding of the knowledge and skills being tested through the ARE.
- Will ARE 5.0 have more questions than ARE 4.0?
The exact number of questions in each division of ARE 5.0 is still being determined. Final details about how each ARE 5.0 division is structured will be released in early 2016.
- I am currently testing, should I wait for the launch of ARE 5.0?
No. Your Rolling Clock will still tick in the time between now and the launch of ARE 5.0. You should look at what divisions you have currently passed and make a plan to pass the remaining divisions. If you believe you may be affected by the transition to ARE 5.0, you should make sure you test strategically going forward.
- Is NCARB going to shorten the six-month retake policy for ARE 5.0?
NCARB is constantly evaluating all of the policies that govern its programs—including the retake policy. At this time, the six-month retake policy remains in affect.
- When will I get my score in ARE 5.0?
More information about how candidates will receive score reports will be available in 2016.
- Is ARE 5.0 the right path forward for the examination?
All of the proposed item types for ARE 5.0 have been judged by outside testing experts to be psychometrically justifiable for purposes of the program. The Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing (AERA, APA, & NCME, 1999) requires test developers to collect evidence that supports the intended interpretations and uses of test scores. Such evidence is typically collected to ensure that the test is measuring the intended knowledge and skills (validity), in a consistent manner (reliability) that is appropriate for all examinees (fairness).
The proposed direction for ARE 5.0 was informed by:
- Multi-year efforts by the Research & Development Subcommittee with additional support from the Graphics Grading Subcommittee Construction Documents & Services
- Research conducted by a multi-disciplinary staff project team
- Emerging technology, including interviews of industry leaders
- Results of the 2012 NCARB Practice Analysis of Architecture
- Why will it take so long for ARE 5.0 to launch?
NCARB is committed to a thorough and sound design process. The important contributions of the psychometric experts who advise us, and of the architects who serve on our volunteer committees, will continue in the coming months—and years—as ARE 5.0 moves from concept to development. ARE 5.0 is anticipated to launch in late 2016, and the next few years will be devoted to development and integration testing.
The Council is committed to transparency throughout the development process, and our goal is to provide plenty of advance notice to candidates as important decisions are made about the future of the ARE.
- Who are the volunteers that help develop the ARE?
ARE 5.0 is being developed by practitioner volunteers from across the United States, ranging from recently licensed to experienced architects, from large firms to small firms, from education to private practice, all of which allow the future exam to reflect the broad aspects of current practice. These architects voluntarily serve on ARE-related committees that fulfill critical functions such as: setting standards for the exam; development and implementation of the practice analysis; exam research and development; writing, editing, and pretesting items; developing and applying grading criteria; and updating the test specification.
- How can candidates stay informed about the development and implementation of ARE 5.0?
Leading up to the launch of ARE 5.0 in 2016, NCARB will provide ongoing updates to candidates about the development of ARE 5.0 as well as tips and resources to help prepare for the transition to the future exam.
In the coming months, updates will include invitations to webinars, announcements about preparation resources, and more. Subscribe to ARE Updates to receive notification when new information is available.
- When can I begin earning AXP credit?
You can earn AXP credit once you have successfully established one of the following: 1) enrollment in a NAAB/CACB-accredited degree program; 2) enrollment in a pre-professional architecture degree program at a school that offers a NAAB/CACB-accredited degree program; or 3) employment in experience setting A after obtaining a US high school diploma, General Education Degree (GED) equivalent, or comparable foreign degree.
- Do I have to complete the AXP requirement before I can be eligible to take the Architect Registration Examination (ARE)?
No. In California, candidates are allowed to take the ARE upon verification of five years of education and/or work experience credit, as evaluated by the Board and enrollment in the AXP. However, most other states require candidates to have completed NCARB's AXP prior to taking the ARE.
- I'm not currently eligible for the ARE, but I took some exams in the past for California. Will I have to complete the AXP requirement?
New and inactive candidates must complete the AXP requirement prior to becoming eligible for the California Supplemental Examination and licensure. A candidate is inactive when more than five years has passed since either they were determined eligible or since the last exam they took.
- How much does it cost to participate in the AXP?
AXP fees are determined by NCARB.
- If I complete the AXP requirement, does that mean that I can get licensed in any other state or certified by NCARB?
Each state establishes its own licensing laws, as NCARB establishes its own certification requirements. You should contact the individual state directly to find out their licensing requirements or contact NCARB to find out their certification requirements.
- What happens when I have completed all of NCARB's minimum requirements for the AXP?
You will receive a message on your e-EVR home page when you have successfully completed the minimum requirements for the AXP.
- How do I obtain a copy of my DD-214?
If you need assistance obtaining your military records, then contact any County Veteran Service Officer (CVSO). To obtain your DD-214 on your own, submit your request via the National Archives and Records Administration or call (314) 801-0800.
- How many hours of CE do I have to complete?
The current requirement is five hours.
- What types of HSW courses can I take to meet the CE requirement?
You may only receive credit for disability access requirements courses. The coursework must be presented by trainers or educators with knowledge and experience on the requirements imposed by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (Public Law 101–336; 42 U.S.C. Sec. 12101 et seq.), state laws that govern access to public facilities, and federal and state regulations adopted pursuant to those laws. Any other course (green, sustainability, etc.) does not fulfill California's disability access requirements.
- What does ADA mean?
The Americans with Disabilities Act, which is also known as the Americans Disability Act of 1990 (Public Law 101–336; 42 U.S.C. Sec 12101 et seq.), prohibits discrimination against an individual with a disability on the basis of that disability in specified situations, including employment opportunities and access to public accommodations, services, and transportation.
- What does disability access have to include?
The coursework must include information and practical guidance concerning requirements imposed by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (Public Law 101–336; 42 U.S.C. Sec. 12101 et seq.), state laws that govern access to public facilities, and federal and state regulations adopted pursuant to those laws.
- What courses are approved by the Board?
Unfortunately, the Board does not have the authority to endorse or recommend any courses or course providers.
- How do I know if this course is going to be approved by the Board?
You must consider the content of the course. The coursework must be presented by trainers or educators with knowledge and experience on the requirements imposed by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (Public Law 101–336; 42 U.S.C. Sec. 12101 et seq.), state laws that govern access to public facilities, and federal and state regulations adopted pursuant to those laws.
- Where can I find the rules and regulations for ADA Accessible Design?
- Can I complete self-direct study?
No. The coursework must be presented by trainers or educators with knowledge and experience on the requirements imposed by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (Public Law 101–336; 42 U.S.C. Sec. 12101 et seq.), state laws that govern access to public facilities, and federal and state regulations adopted pursuant to those laws.
- I took coursework on federal ADA. Do I have to complete coursework specific to California?
Yes. The law states that the accessibility requirements must include state [California] laws that govern access to public facilities and regulations adopted pursuant to those laws.
- How long do I have to keep my CE records?
Two years from the date of your license renewal, and licensees shall make those records available to the Board for auditing upon request.
- Can I renew without completing the course(s)?
No. You are required to complete the disability accessibility courses within the previous two years from the date of license renewal. A licensee who provides false or misleading information as it relates specifically to the disability access requirements will be subject to an administrative citation, which may include an administrative fine pursuant to Business and Professions Code, section 125.9, or to disciplinary action by the Board.
- Can I get an extension to complete my continuing education requirements?
No. You cannot renew your license until you have completed all of the continuing education requirements.
- Is there an exemption for military personnel?
Yes, but it is only temporary. You must possess a current and valid license prior to receiving active duty orders as a member of the United States Armed Forces or the California National Guard. Only during active duty service is your continuing education requirement waived. You are required to complete all the necessary continuing education requirements within six months from your date of discharge. Licensees are also required to notify the Board within 60 days of discharge to the Board that they are no longer on active duty.
- In the past, I had to submit coursework documentation. Do I still have to submit this information?
No. Starting January 1, 2013, you are no longer required to submit coursework documentation with your application.
- I've been selected for audit. What information do I have to provide to the Board as proof that I took the course(s)?
If you are selected for an audit, then you will be required to submit coursework documentation. The Board may also request college transcripts or certificates of your disability access coursework. As required by law, you must provide to the Board all of the following information during the audit:
- Course title
- Subjects covered
- Name of provider
- Name of educator or trainer
- Date of completion
- Number of hours completed
- Statement about the trainer's or educator's knowledge and background experience
- May I have a stamp of the embossing type?
- Does the shape and size of the stamp make a difference?
Yes. A circular shape 1" minimum–2" maximum in diameter is specified in the regulations.
- May architects design their own stamps?
Yes. Provided that they comply with the requirements set in the CCR section 136.
- What elements can the design incorporate?
The design can be composed of solid lines (thin or thick), or broken lines, such as dashes or dots. Other possibilities include a rope or beaded effect or words forming the circle.
- Is there a particular type style that is required?
No. Any type style is acceptable as long as it is legible.
- Does the ink used for stamping plans, specifications, and other instruments of service have to be a special type?
No. It only has to be permanent and photo-reproducible.
- Can the stamp be generated by computer onto the documents that require a stamp?
Yes. A stamp generated as a drawn image from a computer will be acceptable, provided that all required elements are present in the design. However, verify with local jurisdiction for specific stamp and signature requirements.
- What is the difference between renewal date and expiration date?
None, as far as the stamp is concerned. Although the Architects Practice Act (Act) specifies "renewal date" for the language that indicates validity of the license, the term "expiration date" will be acceptable. The date to be written is the date when the current license comes up for renewal in the future. It is designated that way to indicate the period of validity, just as a charge card does.
- Can the architects in a firm share a stamp?
No. Each licensee must have his or her own stamp.
- Can a stamp manufacturer or stationer demand proof of certification when I order my stamp?
Yes. However, there is no law requiring it.
- May an architect be referred to as a "registered architect" on his or her stamp?
No. Although some states may have used that designation, the Architects Practice Act (Act) specifies the term "licensed architect" as the required title for California licensees.
- Is there a required layout within the circular design for the terms and information required in an architect's stamp?
No, but the stamp must be readily legible and all information must be contained within the 1"–2" diameter circle.