Becoming an Architect | My RIBA Part 3 Exam Experience

RIBA ARB Part 3 Exam – the Advanced Diploma in Professional Practice in Architecture (ADPPA)

This post is for anyone who is interested in registering with RIBA and ARB as a chartered Architect. I passed my exam a few months ago and I thought I would share my research and experience for those who are interested. Since there are many Part 3 courses you can enrol and each has different criteria on submissions, I am only focusing on the course I took which is titled RIBA Advanced Diploma in Professional Practice in Architecture (Part 3) by the Royal Institute of British Architects. If you are not taking the exact course, don’t worry some information below is still relevant. Feel free to jump to different sections.

Quick check:

When are you ready for the exam?

When you have completed 24 months’ practical experience under the direct supervision of a professional working in the construction industry post-Part II, which include at least 12 months working in UK/EEA. More detail information could be found on ARB website.

When are the submission requirements for the exam?

Submission requirement before exams: CV, Self-Evaluation, PEDRS, Case Study Exam submission: 2 days practical problems – 10 questions in total

1. CV

No surprise! CV is part of the submission. The CV cannot tell everything about you as it is only a summary of the past but it implies what you can do in the future. I have seen an AA friend presented his CV through timeline juxtaposed beautifully with project images. Mine is equally beautiful with nice spacing and little motto at the top of the page. You can do whatever presents you professionally and sell it well.

2. Self-Evaluation/ Career Appraisal

The Self-evaluation is to summarise your architectural background and professional experiences and analysis how to do better. I wrote it chronologically. Since my Part I study was at the University of Nottingham with Master of Engineering and part II was at the AA School of Architectural Association, so it gives me a good comparison with my education in different schools and explaining what I could have focused more on reflecting my practical experience i.e year out experience at OMA and my post part II experience at Fosters + Partners etc At the end of each project I had a chart, to sum up, my experience using the plan of work 2013 stage 1-7.

DON’T: I have seen a self-evaluation with a huge paragraph with his architectural interest sparks from age 3 playing LEGOS! Then another paragraph writing his favourite building – Sagrada Familia during a summer holiday that leads him to enrol the architecture course. I strongly suggest to keeping your interest with few lines and be more focus on the projects you involved in.

Dos: Be as critical as possible and how you can do better i.e you can talk about the office management.

3. PEDRs ( Record of experience)

This is one of PEDRs sample if you have never done one. Do not leave anything blank especially the office supervisor comments; do ask for feedback. Also the CPD part! 

4. Professional Case Study

Be prepared digging information! It is very time-consuming!

The ideal case study choice is to use the completed project that you have being involved since day one to the end of construction which is RIBA stage 0 to 7.Also, it is recommended choosing a project that is not too complex! For my case, the project I have chosen is very complex and it is at end of stage 5 and I was very worried because it is clearly not reaching stage 7 the day of my interview. It is actually fine as long as you could demonstrate your understanding of stage 6 and 7 and knowing what to expect.

I think of the case study in two parts – a) Office Operates and b) Procurement, Contract, Tendering

One of the first things I did was to create a content page so I can start filling in each chapter when I obtained information.

My entire document layout was left side with analytical diagrams/drawings and the right side is always texts.   I have used two colours in each chapter, black colour for the factual, Navy blue for the critical analysis. For example in procurement chapter, since my project is using construction management, I have listed out the role of each party in the project and discussed what does this procurement mean to us as an Architect, highlighted the issues and benefits so far. I created a table of pros and cons for the client, architect and construction manager using this procurement route. Then it leads me to compare other procurements route i.e the scenarios of using traditional, management contracting, design and build etc to show my understanding.

5. Tackling the practical problems

To be honest, once you have completed your case study, your revision is 65% done so for the exam is kind of easy-peasy!

Try to sit down to work on the pass exam paper. You will find out there is a pattern of the set questions and the topics are never a surprise as they are everyday life issues. Once you have done a set of past paper, you will notice the time is extremely tight! It is an open book indeed but in reality, there is not enough time to flip any pages except for the contract questions looking at clauses. I know there is a guy, unfortunately, reset the exam. He is very bright and joined our study group and shared what he could do better and he stresses time management is key and its a good advise. He told us he left his case study in the very last minute and hasn’t got time to revise and never got the chance to practice the exam paper. He left two out ten questions blank during the exam. So plan your time.

In order to overcome the timing problem, my simple strategy is to highlight all keywords and identify the type of questions when I first received the paper, i.e if this question belongs to Code of conducts? CDM Regulations? Appointments? Then it allows me to pencil down how much time I should spend. Well, I know fees proposal is my weakness so I tend to put more time for cross checking.

All candidates are given scenario a week before the exam. This is a crucial week to make notes on project detail and type of contract. Also, it is a good time to set up the agenda, letter, memo, report templates, Fees proposal in excel etc. If you have made them during your study group, don’t forget to write this in the submission.

6. After Exam

There is a month gap in between the exam and interview. Learn the exam questions, if you made mistakes or you want to change the answer, it is fine and it is a great opportunity to make notes. Review it with your office supervisor, colleagues, study group-mates, and the best is to find friends who passed the exam not long ago to look at your exam answers and case studies! Invited them to be as critical as possible.  

7. Interview Day

Kind reminder:

  1. Bring along the revised case study and the practical problems
  2. Dress professionally
  3. Arrive ½ hour before
  4. Print out some update photos of the Case study project

I had Stephen Brookhouse and Dyfed Griffiths on my interview panel. I was extremely nervous on that day.

I took a breath… went into the interview room.

The sequence of the interview was as follow:

Work experiences, Case Study, Practical Exam Problems

Work Experience – 10 mins

Introduce myself. Casually talked about the UK planning submission. Discuss what I am missing and the area I am aiming to get more experience in certain stages.

Case Study – 20 mins

No tricks. There were few areas I did not write it clearly, and examiners asked me to elaborate the Architect Appointments and contract it was fine. However, be prepared to answer the “what if “kind of question…? Or how can you improve this situation from your case study as a best practice?

Practical Problems – 20 mins

In this section, I thought they would ask me which questions I think I could do well and to go through them. My only advice here – be extremely familiar with the answer you wrote so you can catch up quick. Also, there are certain topics were not in the exam paper this year, i got also asked, for example, novation, the role of Contract Administrator which you get the idea once you done a few past paper. 

Examiners had a poker face, but they were trying to help, for instance when I answered something wasn’t quite what they were expecting, they re-phrased the questions and gave me a second chance. 

8. Where to begin? 

Reading! Here is my top book list to begin. 




I have a very long book list so I am popping a few in the above that I think that will definitely help you to get started. What I did was waking up early in order to spend 2 hours reading every day before going to work. Also, bring questions to the office. Another important thing is to set up a study group as early as possible and meet regularly. I used to meet up with my study group every week on Monday after work to discuss exam questions and weekend to work on the case study. It works well and I am glad I did it.

Let me know if there are specific things you want to know. Best of luck to all those taking the exam soon!

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  • Reply Tiffany Wong

    Thanks Elaine, i have found this blog entry really useful! Love your site and look forward to reading more of your posts 🙂

    September 27, 2017 at 00:53
    • Reply Elaine

      Thank you for dropping by Tiffany! It’s such a positive comment too! Hope the books I sent you are useful! Feel free to email me your case study we can always discuss! Have a great day!

      October 1, 2017 at 08:09

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