PREAMBLE: it was quickly brought to my attention that while the NCARB site indicates that their practice exam programs are not compatible with 64-bit operating systems, the software will indeed run in a 64-bit environment. The error will occur when you launch the practice vignettes for each practice exam. While your mileage may vary on the success of running these program in a 64-bit environment, I would venture to say it’s safe to bet that the exam itself will happen on a 32-bit system and while there MAY NOT BE ANY DIFFERENCE it is advertised as being 32-bit program. Just keep that in mind as you proceed doing the vignettes in a 64-bit environment. I’d love to hear feedback from Prometric or NCARB on this issue.


NCARB by the Numbers does a great job of tracking the status of Architectural Registration as an indication of the health of our profession. Their numbers for 2014 indicate a very healthy number of registrations happening especially at a younger age as students are exiting school. I feel that they have done a great job of preparing us for the atrocity that is known as the Prometric testing interface. Unfortunately the practice software only runs in Windows XP. I mean, it’s great that the software is available for us to practice with but even the developer of Windows XP admits that the software is outdated and no longer supports it! NCARB gives us a fee based option for an extremely tiny $10 annual subscription. However, if you’re like me and realize that that very same $10 is like 2 lunches you’re quickly looking at the FREE alternative that they offer.   While NCARB does point you towards the download center on Microsoft’s site, there aren’t many instruction past the point of “click here to read more instructions”.


So here I am hoping to give knowledge to those of you looking for how to install the free alternative practice exams. Best of luck in your AREs. Happy designing!


Up to this point everything is pretty much covered under Microsoft’s directions on the Virtual PC and Windows XP mode tool. The rest will cover how to install and use the practice guides within Windows XP Mode. Once the setup is complete it will automagically fire up the Virtual PC with Windows XP running. Hopefully you remember your password or had “Remember my Credentials” checked. XP will finish booting up inside of a Windows 7 Window (WINDOWCEPTION!)

  • Right click on the Winows XP Start Button > Explore
  • Browse to where you saved the practice exams on your Windows 7 disk. This will appear as a network drive in the explorer places bar on the left. In my case I downloaded all files directly to my host machine’s “C:” drive
  • Double click the practice exam you wish to install and click “Run” at the security dialog
  • Get some more coffee… maybe even some lunch cause this will take almost as long as the initial setup.
  • Click Finish
  • Repeat above if you want to install multiple exams

The really cool thing about Virtaul PC and Windows XP mode is that once you have the application installed inside the Virtual PC environment you can run the applications one of two ways.

  • Run it inside of the Virtual PC window containing Windows XP
  • Run it as a virtual application straight from your Windows 7 start menu

NOTE: when logging off of the virtual pc or closing the virtual application I almost always receive a crash report from the Virtual PC application. This shouldn’t affect your machine and you should still be able to continue using the software and your computer if you receive these crash reports.

So there you have it. A way to save $10 a year and practice for your AREs at the same time! Hope this has been helpful, thanks for stopping by and hope to see you around again soon!