NCARB Technical Issues: What You Need to Know

What to do if you were impacted by NCARB's technical issues during your exam, and how to study going forward.

If you’ve been in NCARB’s ARE 5.0 Community during the past few days, you’ve probably seen that some people are experiencing a technical issue with their exam where the case study resources don’t load or are frozen, making it impossible to complete this section of the exam without some guesswork. 

After about a week of this issue occurring across divisions and in different parts of the country, NCARB has released a statement saying they’ve “completed their investigation and have implemented a solution for the intermittent technical issue.” 

If you were impacted by this technical issue in a recent exam, NCARB is encouraging you to inform them in writing so that they can give you a free seat to schedule a new exam at no cost. They will also “review your exam results and may waive the 60-day retake policy in this instance depending on your progress and performance prior to the case study items.” 

Candidates that were affected should have also received an email from NCARB this morning (January 26) with assistance based on how and how much they were impacted. If you didn't receive this email, or don't feel like the assistance offered meets your needs, you can call NCARB for further assistance. 

Based on this statement and other responses NCARB has provided in their community, it appears the issue should be resolved. Just in case, we’re going to keep monitoring updates as they come, and we’ll update you here when they do. In the meantime, here are some things you can do if you’re taking an exam soon: 

Open the case studies first

If you’re scheduled to take an exam soon and are worried about the case studies loading, try opening that part of the exam first, so you can verify if they’re working. If the resources don’t load, you should alert your PSI testing center staff immediately. 

By opening this part of the exam first, you won’t spend so much time and energy on the rest of the exam only to discover a potential tech issue at the end. It should also allow you to avoid the 60-day retake policy, as you won’t have seen 75% of the exam. If this happens to you, follow NCARB’s suggestions above for reporting your technical issue as soon as you can. 

And if the issue really is resolved and the case studies load, great! You can now proceed with the rest of your exam as expected. It’s worth noting here that if you do open the case studies first, make sure you answer any and all questions you view before taking your break, if you take one. If you view a question but don’t answer it before your break, you’ll be locked out of that question and won’t be able to complete it after. 

Practice this strategy in your studying

If you’re still in the thick of studying and have a little time left before your exam, it’s probably a good idea to practice opening the case studies first to make sure they load. Remember, if you open a question before your break, you need to answer it before your break. 

We recommend responding to the case studies first, but leaving one question unviewed in each case study before your break. That way, after the break you can still view all the case study resources (which could help you for discrete questions) and you've knocked out most of the case study questions already. As you take practice exams this way, you’ll get used to it and won’t be too thrown off during your actual exam. 

You may also find that opening and answering the case studies first actually works better for you in general, even if there’s no technical issue on your exam day. Black Spectacles consultant and architect Cat Heard recommends trying some of your practice exams this way regardless, just to see if it might work for you. (Jump to timestamp 1:02 in this month’s ARE Live to hear her talk more about question order and why it might be beneficial to approach your exams by answering case studies first.) 

Where to go from here

As mentioned above, it appears that NCARB has resolved the technical issue and you should be able to take exams moving forward without experiencing this issue. With this in mind, if you have an exam scheduled in the near future, you’re probably okay to proceed as normal. Especially if your rolling clock is running down, it’s likely worth taking your exam as scheduled. If for some reason there’s an outstanding tech issue, you can follow NCARB’s guidance for reporting it and getting your exam rescheduled. 

All that said, if all of this has made you feel anxious about your exam or more stressed than you were before, and you have some time before your clock runs out, you can consider rescheduling your exam by a week or two while the dust continues to settle. The NCARB ARE 5.0 Guidelines state that you can reschedule your exam for free as long as you do it up to 48 hours before an in-person appointment and up to 24 hours before an online one. 

While all these reports of technical issues are frustrating to hear about and even more frustrating to experience, don’t let them get in the way of getting your license. NCARB is clearly aware of the issue and it appears to have been resolved. You’ve been studying hard, and you have some good options and strategies for getting through any bumps in the road. You’ve got this! 

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