Alert! Candidates must complete all divisions of the ARE before eligibility for the CSE.

California Supplemental Examination (CSE)

Taking the Examination

The CSE consists of 100 scorable multiple-choice items. The examination may also contain an additional number of items for the purpose of pretesting (non-scorable items). Pretesting allows performance data to be gathered and evaluated before the items are scorable in a future examination. These pretest items, distributed throughout the examination, are not identified or used in calculating the examination score.

All of the items in the CSE have been written and reviewed by multiple panels of California-licensed architects. The items are based on the knowledge and ability statements contained in the CSE Test Plan and are written at a level to assess minimum standards of competency necessary for practice in California. Items are supported by reference material and have been pretested to ensure statistical performance standards are met.

There is only one correct answer for each item. The "incorrect" answers are typically common errors and misconceptions, true but not relevant statements, or incorrect statements. There are no "trick" questions in the examination. Scores are based on the number of correct answers. It is to the candidate’s advantage to answer every question.

The CSE consists of individually timed sections that may include general multiple-choice items and project scenario related items pertaining to the content within the CSE Test Plan and applicable knowledge and ability statements. Each section of the exam will have a designated time limit displayed on the computer monitor. If a section is completed before the designated time has expired, the remaining time may not be carried over to another section. Once a section is complete, a candidate must proceed forward to the next section of the examination and may not go back or review answers from a prior completed section. Candidates will have approximately 3.5 hours to take this examination.

The project scenario questions pertain to hypothetical project(s) and related documents. The exam proctor will provide the candidate with a handout at check-in, which may include:

  • written information, such as the project program, site description, and architect and client profiles;
  • graphics, such as a site plan, floor plan, elevations, sections, and/or details; and
  • other project-related information, such as a letter from the client, a transmittal from the contractor, a memo from the planning department, etc. for each project.

The project name(s) on the cover of the handout should match the project name on the computer screen for the Project Scenario items. The handout must be returned to the proctor upon completion of the project scenario items of the exam.

A candidate who needs to take a restroom break during the examination will not receive additional time to complete the examination.