Architect in England? ARB Prescribed Examination

As I mentioned before, being a foreign architect is everything but easy. It is exciting though.

I decided to register as an Architect in the UK for a great number of reasons. When I started all the process in Ireland, I was referred to the RIAI and found out that I had just two choices: wait until I am 35 years old to sit an examination (which is similar to the ARB one) or study an expensive masters degree in UCD or DIT.

I consider both UCD and DIT great universities, nevertheless, if you are not European you have to invest twice as much in tuition and fees.

Options in Ireland were limited for me. Thankfully, somebody told me that the UK offers the opportunity to get office based qualifications. I contacted RIBA and ARB (British registration bodies) and they gave me more possibilities to get registered, including to study in a great university for less money than Ireland.

That is how I ended up sitting the ARB Prescribed Examination to be able to study in the UK.

There is a huge lack of information regarding this exam. You can google it as much as you want, you won’t find enough information or guide to succeed at it.

I traveled to London quite often, I took a short course in The Bartlett School of Architecture (the best architecture school after MIT), I reached 7 in an English exam called IELTS and worked a lot.

I failed the first attempt, I didn’t even fail, I was not entitled to sit it cause I was missing school material.

I was concerned, not only because I spent a couple of thousand euros on that but I did a huge effort and worked like crazy.

There is just three opportunities to sit this examination in your life and I was already missing one. However, I received a lot of support from the ARB and RIBA and they encouraged me to try it again.

I decided to try again but differently.

I contacted Mexican architects registered in the UK , some of them were working in huge practices like Foster and Partners and Zaha Hadid. I shot them with a ton of questions. Fortunately, they were kind and gave me great advice.

I found an experienced tutor, I read British legislation, planning and law books. I prepared the most detailed portfolio including my degrees thesis , two dwellings, a passive house, an interior design project within a listed building, a hospital designed in Mexico, two school written projects and an essay comparing the architecture practice between Ireland and United Kingdom. I also showed a hand drawing portfolio, a CGI portfolio and my published pictures.

As result, I had a 200 pages portfolio with high quality content to convince the board that I have the same level as a British student. All this just to be accepted to study my Part 2 in their country.

They assess your weak points, they noticed straightaway I was including little information about art.

My whole examination was related to art. They asked unforeseen questions, from key dates to name of artists, movements and so on. Thankfully, I trusted my memory and I could answer almost everything.

I took me at least 10 months to prepare the second attempt, I spent two years of my life on this.

A couple of weeks after I received a letter, finally I was awarded the ARB and RIBA Prescribed.