4.0 vs 5.0: Format
Whether you are starting to test in the ARE 5.0 version, or deciding whether or not to switch from 4.0 to 5.0, there are many questions about the difference between the two.
How does the format change from 4.0 to 5.0? The biggest difference between the two is how the individual tests are organized and how the information is divided between them.
The 4.0 version of the ARE is "topic based". Meaning, each of the seven tests is on a particular topic. Of course there is some overlap, and information from one test can find itself on another. However, the general idea is that contract information will be focused on in the CDS test...and structures will be focused on in the SS test...and HVAC and plumbing systems will be focused on in the BS test, etc.
So when a candidate is studying, he or she can compartmentalize topical information and focus on one topic at a time...and then move on to another topic.
This concept has drastically changed in the 5.0 version of the ARE.
In this new version, the exams are "phase based". Meaning, each exam is focusing on a different phase of the project. The information from the 4.0 exam still exists and needs to be learned; however, the way in which it is applied to the exams is different. For example, instead of structures coming up on one exam focusing solely on structures, the 5.0 candidate will see questions regarding structures in multiple tests. The type of question asked, however, will relate to which "phase" of the project is being considered.
You can think of the different 5.0 exams as considering a project at different architectural scales. For example, the Programming & Analysis exam would be looking at a project at a 1/16" scale. Everything is in the planning stage...nothing is too detailed yet. Next, the Project Planning & Design exam would be looking at a project at a 1/8" scale. You are talking about the scope of the project in more detail, etc. Then, the Project Development & Documentation exam is taking the project in at a 1/4" or 1/2" scale. You will really understand how the systems work, etc.
So, candidates will no longer be able to focus on one topic at time. They will now have to consider all of the information on every test, but at varying levels of detail.
Another difference you will see in the new 5.0 version is the shift to more application based questions. You will be pushed to apply the knowledge you have gained in more situational-based questions (such as the new case studies).
You may be wondering "what happens to all those old 4.0 questions?"...many of them are still in the 5.0 question bank! However, 5.0 also has new question types such as hot spots, drag and drop, and case studies as well.