FAQs & Helpful Hints - Architects Registration Board
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Prescribed Examination Frequently Asked Questions

Last updated: Tuesday 27 July 2021

1. When is the next available exam date?
The current exam schedule can be found here. On the application form it will be possible to specify a future month you would like to attend, or simply that you would like the earliest available appointment. We will do our very best to meet your requirements.

2. How much does the examination cost?
The exam costs £1671 per part.

3. Do I have to attend the exam in person?
We are running a remote version of the examination and you will be required to attend via a Zoom link.

4. Do I post my application to you?
We are only accepting electronic applications for these examinations. You can find out more about submitting an application here. Please note we are working remotely so we ask that you do not post hard copy documents to us at this time. Please email documents to us at exams@arb.org.uk.

5. What do I include with my application?
You must include all the documents (where applicable) listed in the checklist (item 10) of the application form. The checklist includes your Comparative Matrix, but you are not required to submit your supporting material at this point.

6. Do I need to submit the University Mapping statement?
The University Mapping Statement is only required if you have obtained a degree that is not principally in architecture.

7. How and when do I send my supporting material to you?
When we have checked your application and are satisfied your application is complete and you are eligible to sit the exam, we will email and invite you for examination. The email will set out the time and date of examination (in approx. four weeks’ time), and you will be asked to confirm your attendance. The email will set out instructions to enable you to upload your supporting material into Mimecast (approx. one week following the invitation).

8. Is there a limit to how much I can upload?
You need to be mindful that the examiners have an hour to review your material. You are asked to arrange your work in PDF files, flattening images when the PDF is created, and ensure that this includes all the material you have cited in your Matrix, including all written work such as essays, dissertations etc. and all design drawings.

The total volume of files submitted should not exceed 100MB.

9. I have lived, studied, worked in the UK for some time, but English is not my first language, do I still need to sit IELTS?
If you speak and write in English daily and you consider yourself to be proficient in English then you can opt to select English as a dual language.

10. I have obtained an overall score of 6.5 in IELTS, is this sufficient?
You need to obtain a score of 6.5 or above in every category.

11. If I fail the examination, do I need to pay the fee again?
Yes. If you fail the examination and have not been offered referral to lead examiner, then you must pay the full fee again for re-examination.

12. Are there any support services that would help me with the examination?
There are a small number of third party providers that can help you to prepare for the examination. The level of support varies according to your needs, if you email us at exams@arb.org.uk or call on +44 (0) 20 7580 5861 we can provide you with more information.’

General Frequently Asked Questions

1. What are Prescribed Qualifications?
Prescribed qualifications are qualifications gained from schools of architecture with courses that are approved by ARB. This is why the Board’s examination is called the Examination for Equivalence to Prescribed Qualifications (i.e. the Prescribed Exams).

2. What is meant by Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3?
Part 1 A qualification gained at first degree level which has normally involved three years’ full time study (or an equivalent period if you have studied part time).
Part 2 A qualification gained at second degree, or diploma level, which has normally involved two years’ full time study (or an equivalent period if you have studied part time).
Part 3 A final professional examination which follows recently completed 24 months practical experience under the
direct supervision of a professional working in the construction industry 12 months of which should have been undertaken in the EEA , Channel Islands or the Isle of Man under the direct supervision of an architect.

3. Can I sit Part 1 and 2 Examinations at the same time?
It is not possible to sit for both examinations on the same day. You must pass ARB’s Examination for Equivalence to Prescribed Qualifications at Part 1 Level before applying to sit the ARB’s Examination for Equivalence to Prescribed Qualifications at Part 2 level.

4. My qualification is recognised by the RIBA. Does this mean I am exempt from sitting the examination?
No. ARB does not directly prescribe (‘recognise’) any qualifications awarded outwith European Economic Area countries. This position is neither affected in any way by the awarding body being in a particular country, nor recognition provided by other organisations. Any applicant who does not directly hold the appropriate prescribed qualifications must pass the ARB’s Prescribed Examination at the applicable level if they wish to proceed towards registration as an architect in the UK.

5. What are supplementary materials
Supplementary materials are the documents listed in the checklist (item 10) of the examination application forms.

6. What are the ARB criteria that I am to be examined against?
The ARB criteria are detailed in the examination process document called Prescription of Qualifications: ARB Criteria. When applying for Part 1, the General Criteria at Parts 1 and 2 as a whole should be read along with the Graduate Attributes for Part 1. Similarly, for Part 2, the General Criteria should be read along with the Graduate Attributes for Part 2. No weightings are given to the areas within the General Criteria, however examiners will expect to see that architectural design constitutes at least half the work examined.

7. What is the Comparative Matrix?
ARB has provided a Comparative Matrix template for you to use. It is essential that all candidates understand the importance of evidence of the correct standard being specifically mapped to the relevant criteria if their application is to succeed. When you fill out your Comparative Matrix you should:
(a) list your materials, and
(b) describe how the materials prove that you have the requisite skills and accomplishments that relate to the ARB criteria for your level of examination.
(c) specify using the Key provided in the Matrix Template whether your work cited is academic, professional or other such as a competition entry.
(d) ensure any statement in the matrix is backed up by supporting material.

8. Is the Prescribed Examination a qualification likely to be recognised by EU member states?
It will be for each EU member state to decide whether they will rely on Prescribed Examination outcomes. You will need to contact the relevant competent authority for the member state in which you seek recognition for information.

9. Do I need to study for the examination?
You don’t have to study for the examination, but we do advise you to look at the criteria carefully and ensure that you have enough material that will meet all the criteria. You can use academic work; work from practice and any other work to demonstrate compliance with the criteria.

If there are areas where you feel your evidence is deficient, you will need to address the deficiencies – perhaps by reworking an existing design to meet the criteria, or generating an entirely new design.

10. Can I submit the same supporting material for Part 1 and Part 2?
This is perfectly acceptable, but please note the different graduate attributes applied to Part 1 and 2. It is important to understand the difference in breadth and depth between Part 1 and 2.

11. Can I submit work I have completed on my Part 2 course?
Yes. You can use any work you feel adequately addresses the criteria.

12. What are the examiners looking for in terms of Cultural Context?
Architects do not design in a vacuum but design in context with other buildings of different size, use and complexity from different periods in history. The designs need to consider the cultural context within which new buildings sit in terms of scale, massing and use of materials, not necessarily mimicking other buildings but respecting the setting such buildings are placed in.

13. I already have an edited portfolio of work I use for job interviews – can I just use this work for the purpose of the Prescribed Exam?
It is not a good idea to rely on this, as examiners will need to see a more comprehensive portfolio which should include the ‘messy work’ such as sketches and design development.

14. Some of my academic work isn’t very good and I’m therefore reluctant to present it.
It is perfectly permissible for you to be reflective about any item of work you present, and you can annotate the work to inform the examiners what you would now do differently. You can also add in or rework material as you see fit.

15. Can you expand a little more about GC3?
GC3 is knowledge of the fine arts as an influence on the quality of architectural design. The graduate will have knowledge of:

  1. How the theories, practices and technologies of the arts influence architectural design;
  2. The creative application of the fine arts and their relevance and impact on architecture;
  3. The creative application of such work to studio design projects, in terms of their conceptulisation & representation.

Reflecting the globally influential work of the great Modernist architects and the often indistinct boundaries between their architectural projects and other design work related to furniture, ceramics, painting, theatre design etc, this criterion refers to conceptual and practical inter-relationships between the milieu of the fine artist and the architect. Graduates of architecture should demonstrate that they understand architects may refer to the fine arts through:

  • Creatively considering and analysing relationships between the histories of art and architecture, particularly through written work.
  • Developing the strategic direction and intellectual content of design studio projects by inventive reference to the work and thinking of artists. (in any genre, and using any medium.
  • Innovative attitudes to the execution of drawings, models, and any associated media (analogue and digital film, video, online postings etc) representing ideas about architecture.

16. My work was completed overseas and my work including my thesis is not in English, what should I do?
You can annotate drawings and translate text accordingly. Your annotations should be sufficient to enable examiners to gain a full understanding of drawn work being presented. You will be required to provide the original of your thesis together with a summary in English, typically one or two A4 pages.

17. My thesis/dissertation is extremely long. Should I provide the entire document?
Yes, but you should also provide a précis or abstract of any written supporting material where the number of words might make it impossible for the examiners to review during the time available.

18. How many projects should I submit?
You are expected to provide at least two holistic design projects to demonstrate presentations using a variety of media and to generate a broad range of project types. These projects should be supported by working drawings and documents to demonstrate how and why you made the choices you did, and the ideas tested and discarded. See Examination Guidance Booklet A for further information.

19. Can I submit my syllabus and transcripts to demonstrate compliance with the criteria?
Your syllabus and transcripts are not in themselves evidence on which examiners can rely, you will therefore need to provide work completed within the programme which demonstrates compliance with the criteria.

20. Useful information
Some schools of architecture and other providers of education run workshops to assist candidates in their preparation to sit the Board’s examinations at Parts 1 and 2. If you would like further information about these, please email exams@arb.org.uk or call the Registration Department at ARB on 020 7580 5861 and a member of the team will be able to advise you.

Helpful Hints – the dos and don’ts

These dos and don’ts have been put together following observations from examiners and independent examiners. Although we cannot cover every eventuality, it is hoped that these helpful hints will provide you with some assistance when preparing for your examination.

Read the criteria – literally every word counts
Where plurals are used, ensure you provide more than one example. For instance in GC1.1 you are asked to demonstrate an ability to “prepare and present design projects of diverse scale, complexity and type in a variety of contexts, using a range of media.”

In GC2.1 “the graduate will have knowledge of the cultural, social and intellectual histories, theories and technologies that influence the design of buildings.”

Ensure you are aware of the difference between Part 1 and Part 2
The Graduate Attributes set out the difference in level. Generally, for Part 1 the examiners would expect to see work that you have completed in year 3, and at Part 2 work completed in year 5. It is perfectly permissible to present Part 2 work for your Part 1 examination.

Evidence the journey of your designs
It is important that you show the entire journey of your design projects from the brief to completion, demonstrating the influences, your analysis, your workings and sketches etc. Whilst it is acknowledged that development work is often discarded, it is important that the examiners are able to understand the research, thought process and design development. If you no longer have this work, you may need to recreate it.

Evidence based Examination – present the evidence
It is an evidence-based exam, evidence for each of the criteria must be present, referring to your course marks is not evidence, examiners will need to see the work that achieved the marks. Not all schools/areas or the world will work to comparable criteria. You may have to do additional work if you have not covered some of the criteria or if work is not to the requisite standard. You are able to revise and update material if you feel it’s appropriate.

The importance of correct citation
You must ensure that you cite all work contained within your supporting material against the relevant criteria. Work that is not cited as supporting material will not be examined and unclear citation will make it difficult for the examiners to find evidence that you have satisfied the required criteria. Work can only be considered for the criterion you have cited it against.

Tagging and organising your supporting material
Examiners have one hour in which to look at all your supporting material and decide whether you have met half or more of the criteria. It is therefore essential you set out your material clearly, labelled or tagged and signposted against your comparative matrix so that the examiners can easily navigate through your work. If an essay or dissertation is being presented you are encouraged to tag or reference the pages/sections of the essay of particular relevance to the criterion it is cited against. Remember you are not present for this part of the examination so it is important that you organise and structure your submission clearly and concisely.

Choose your projects carefully
Be careful not to use too many projects as this will make it very difficult for the examiners to carefully consider the material in the allotted time of one hour. Equally, you should not rely on only one or two projects. Whilst it is possible to cover all the criteria with a single comprehensive project, it is a risky strategy. The matrix suggests a maximum of eight projects, which you might wish to use as a guideline.

Do not rely too much on office based work
Authorship of academic work is easier to establish as your own work rather than part of an office team and you should bear this in mind when collating your work.

If you are presenting office based work, ensure your references cover all the ground cited on the ARB reference template and it clearly outlines your role and involvement within the team and that it identifies what you did on the project. It is also helpful to accompany office-based work with a reflective narrative.

Ensure that you can demonstrate your abilities within the context of coherent architectural designs, showing integration. Fully integrated design projects will often meet many of the criteria across the board, so ensure that you present ideally two projects of this kind and make sure that you cite these against all the relevant criteria.

Include PEDRs
If you have been completing Professional Education Development Records (PEDRs) you can include these as a part of your supporting material but you must cite these against the relevant criteria. They should form part of the supporting material only.

Get a second opinion from a friend or colleague
Does the submission stand on its own without explanation? Have you adequately set out your material so that the evidence can easily be found? Is your communication clear and does it tell the examiners what you want them to know? Is there anything missing? Your friend or colleague might be able to feedback on all of this.

Do not rush, prepare well!
This is an evidence based examination and it requires careful thought and planning. Make sure you have enough evidence at the right level that you are confident will meet the minimum standards expected by a UK school of architecture. You must have evidence for ALL of the criteria.

Do not rely on the fact that you may be able to talk up work at the interview, as you will need to meet at least half of the criteria on the strength of your portfolio alone to be granted an interview.