The National Council of Architecture Registration Boards (NCARB) has nixed a rolling clock policy that limits the amount of time candidates have to take and successfully pass each of the six divisions of the Architect Registration Examination (ARE) and register as a licensed architect. In essence, candidates who have not fully completed all divisions of the ARE within the allocated five-year timeframe, will not have to retake previously passed divisions when the proverbial clock runs out. NCARB cited analyses that shows placing a time limit on the oft-drawn-out process disproportionally impacts women licensure candidates and candidates of color. The organization said that allowing a score validity policy based on a fixed time limit—and not an exam version—to remain would continue to serve as a roadblock for many potential architects. 

“This research-backed decision to eliminate the rolling clock policy was unanimously supported by the Board of Directors and the new score validity policy will maintain the integrity of the exam while making the ARE more equitable,” said NCARB President Bayliss Ward in a statement.

As described by the Washington, D.C.–based nonprofit that serves as the parent organization for all 55 member jurisdictions, the new score validity policy is effective beginning May 1. All passed ARE divisions from “both the current and prior versions of the exam will be valid. This national policy change will reinstate the validity of all passed ARE 4.0 divisions, taken between 2008 and 2018.”

As further spelled out by NCARB, the elimination of the rolling clock policy essentially means the validity of ARE 5.0 divisions for current test takers will be extended through the next version of the exam, which is likely ARE 6.0. As a result, score validity will be doubled from five to at least ten years. 

As with many things NCARB, standardization is left to individual jurisdictions, some of which have their rules regarding the five-year rolling clock policy. Although the change will not go into effect automatically within these jurisdictions, the organization said that its goal is to work with all Member Boards to eliminate rolling clock-type policies “as soon as possible.”

In its announcement, NCARB also said it will reinstate the validity of all ARE version 4.0 divisions taken after 2008 to be counted towards ARE 5.0 credits through the end of that version’s delivery.

The American Institute of Architects (AIA), which just recently announced the launch of the Stop the Clock campaign at its annual Leadership Summit, celebrated the news

“The U.S. needs more licensed architects to advance a healthy, safe, and thriving built environment, and AIA believes individuals deserve flexibility as they pursue licensure,” said AIA EVP/CEO Lakisha Ann Woods. “This change in policy will allow more opportunities for individuals to achieve that goal.”

The AIA will continue with its campaign to “encourage people to share their stories of how the rolling clock has affected their own path to licensure to ensure this effort is standardized across all jurisdictions.”

As mentioned, the rolling clock policy—identified as a “pinch point” in the long road to securing licensure—has had an outsized impact on women candidates and candidates of color. Baseline on Belonging: Examination Report, the second full report of a comprehensive survey jointly helmed by NCARB and the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA), found financial challenges and firm support (or a lack thereof) to be major obstacles in completing ARE. According to the study’s findings, only 26 percent of test takers indicated they “felt confident” that they could afford ARE and African American and Latino candidates were less likely to report that their firm will contribute to exam costs the cost of the exam than their white peers. (Seven versus nine percentage points, respectively). 

The rolling clock­­–related news comes just days after NCARB and its UK counterpart, the Architects Registration Board (ARE), signed a historic reciprocity agreement that streamlines the process for eligible U.S. architects seeking licensure in the UK and vice versa.