What Is The Entrance Exam For Architecture

Explaining the Process

Architecture is one of the most exciting career paths that an individual can pursue – but the entrance exam is a steep hurdle to clear. Firstly, an individual must determine what school they want to apply to. While there is no universal test for entrance into architecture school, many prestigious institutions such as the Harvard Graduate School of Design or the University of Texas at Austin have their ow entrance exams. Aside from the general requirements such as high standardized test scores or a portfolio of creative work, students must complete their respective school’s entrance exam in order to gain admission.

The Exam

Once an individual has identified the school the wish to pursue their studies at, they can begin researching the exam. Many of these tests will consist of an essay and multiple choice components. The essay portion will require students to discuss a current event in the architecture world, and pose their own opinions on the topic. This is an excellent chance for students to showcase their knowledge of the field as well as their creativity and analytical minds. On the other hand, the multiple choice part of the exam will ask questions pertaining to a range of basics such as mathematic principles, problem solving, drawing and observation, and design fundamentals.


When it comes to Architecture school entrance exams, preparation is key. Fortunately, a quick online search will lead to the appropriate resources that an individual may need. Publications such as the ArchDaily or the website USArchitecture.com provide up-to-date material in the fields of mathematics and architectural design fundamentals, while sites such as PrepScholar offer sample essays and multiple choice questions.

Tips and Tricks

As with any other exam, the best way to gain admittance into architecture school is to thoroughly prepare. When studying for the essay portion, it is important to familiarize oneself with modern trends and topics in the field of architecture. Additionally, when it comes to multiple choice exams, students should focus on familiarizing themselves with the language of the questions – both in grammar and subject matter. Finally, consider utilizing timed practice exams, as most architecture schools will end up administering a timed test.

What To Expect After The Exam

Once an individual has taken the exam, they can typically expect the results in the mail or online. Oftentimes, the school will require a minimum score in order to gain admittance – however, even if a minimum score is not achieved, a student may be able to make a case for their admission if they have an impressive portfolio or strong interview.

Fees and Other Considerations

It is important for students to remember that taking the entrance exams for architecture school may not be “free”. Many schools require an application fee, separate from any test fees associated with the exam. Additionally, applicants should review their school’s policies on taking the exam multiple times. Some schools may allow a second or even third try, while other schools may have stricter policies in place. Applicants should make sure to research these policies prior to registering for the exam.

Standing Out

While the entrance exams are a metric used to evaluate applicants, strong creative portfolios or additional documents such as references can strengthen one’s application. Architecture schools care deeply about their student’s creative endeavors, so when combined with a solid entrance exam score it can be a considerable plus. Furthermore, current or former teachers, employers, or colleagues can provide valuable insight as to why an individual is a suitable candidate for the program.

Timing Matters

When taking the exam for architecture school, timing is key. The earlier an applicant takes the exam, the better their chances are of gaining admittance. Many schools have rolling admissions, which means that applicants that turn in their completed applications before the deadline will receive a response sooner than those who wait until the last second. This allows for students to potentially plan for the upcoming semester, should their application be accepted. Furthermore, it is important to factor in the time it takes to receive the results, as well as any additional documents (e.g. transcripts, references) that may need to be provided.

Additional Resources

The best way to prepare for any entrance exam, specifically the ones designed for architecture school, is to familiarize oneself with the resources available. Association websites such as AIA.org and NCARB.org provide useful information regarding the different architecture exams and preparing for the specific exams. Additionally, the websites of the target schools usually provide sample exams and further details on the scope of the exam itself, ultimately making the process smoother and less stressful.

Tips for Test Day

Finally, when the day of the entrance exam arrives, it is important to be adequately prepared – both mentally and physically. It is highly advisable to arrive to the test early, as this will afford the applicant ample time to familiarize themselves with the venue and better prepare for the exam. Moreover, it is advisable to arrive with snacks and plenty of water to refuel during breaks. Most importantly, however, approaching the exam with a goal-oriented mindset is essential – make sure to focus on the task at hand and maintain a positive outlook when tackling the challenges of the exam.

Anita Johnson is an award-winning author and editor with over 15 years of experience in the fields of architecture, design, and urbanism. She has contributed articles and reviews to a variety of print and online publications on topics related to culture, art, architecture, and design from the late 19th century to the present day. Johnson's deep interest in these topics has informed both her writing and curatorial practice as she seeks to connect readers to the built environment around them.

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