RIBA Examination in Architecture for Office-based Candidates

A unique and flexible route to qualification for RIBA Part 1 and Part 2 only for people working full-time under the supervision of an architect in the European Economic Area (EEA), Isle of Man, Channel Islands or Switzerland.


The RIBA Examination in Architecture for Office-based Candidates provides the means to achieve internationally recognised qualifications: the RIBA Part 1 and the RIBA Part 2. The Examination route to qualification was originally established by the RIBA in 1863, but was re-established in its present form by the RIBA in 1988.

The Examination is governed by the provisions of Article 47 of the EU Professional Qualifications Directive which provides for the recognition of architectural training which lies outside of conventional patterns of full-time university level education combined with periods in practice.

The Examination provides an alternative route to qualification for those who prefer to invest their personal development in practice.

The important difference between this examination and programmes of study in universities, is that ‘candidates’ (instead of being called students) are required to be employed and remain working full-time** in the field of architecture under the supervision of an architect, for the duration of the examination. Candidates are required to be mentored by an experienced architect who is registered where the candidate’s place of work is based, and who has responsibility for the regular supervision and professional development of the candidate. Examples of workplace types include:

  • architects practices,
  • an architects’ section of a multi-disciplinary practice,
  • local authorities.

** Full-time employment is deemed to be met by working at least 1,250 hours per annum or 24 hours a week.

Since 2002, in partnership with the RIBA, the Examination has been delivered by the School of Architecture at Oxford Brookes University. The Examination is governed by the same criteria which apply across the UK to the recognition of architectural qualifications at Part 1 and Part 2 and leads to the award of the RIBA Part 1 Certificate in Architecture and the RIBA Part 2 Diploma in Architecture.

Candidates who qualify through this route, are then eligible to take the RIBA Examination in Professional Practice and Management (Part 3) which leads to:

  • Full chartered membership of the RIBA.
  • Recognition by the Architects' Registration Board (ARB) for UK architects' registration.
  • Recognition throughout Europe under the European Union (EU) Professional Qualifications Directive.

Most of the candidates who choose this route to qualification are either working at high levels within practice with substantial responsibility and therefore cannot be released for part-time study, or find there is no suitable part-time programme of study in their geographical area. The Examination is therefore based on the concept of learning through practice, but the objective is to provide opportunity for candidates to place their experience and personal development in the context of the validation criteria at Part 1 and Part 2 level.

The methodology relies upon the development of a ‘personal portfolio’ together with parallel portfolio evidence of development through practice. The Examination demands that candidates engage in critical studies in relation to design, technology, cultural context and professional contexts. These subjects are examined formally through written examinations, essays and coursework submissions and through traditional graphic and oral design presentations. There is also review of candidates’ ongoing professional development through practice. The Office-based Examination therefore offers candidates the opportunity to develop their own critical and creative skills whilst continuing to work full-time.

In order to support this process, candidates are required to identify a qualified architect within their place of employment who will act as a mentor during their preparation for the Examination. Candidates are also required to appoint a personal tutor who is completely independent of the candidate’s workplace. The Examination operates through the exchange of an individual ‘learning contract’ through which candidates identify elements of the Examination to be taken each year. Although there are prescribed time-limits for completion of phases of the Examination, the Office-based route aligns with the concept of ‘life-long learning’, providing a flexible route to qualification, allowing for candidates to withdraw from study, as necessary, without penalty.

The Examination Syllabus that is followed by office-based candidates sets the same learning outcomes and standards as those expected of students in schools of architecture. These correspond with the requirements of Article 46 of the EU Professional Qualifications Directive EC/2005/36, as set out in the ARB/RIBA Criteria for Validation (2011), to which the learning outcomes and criteria for assessment of each part of the Examination have been matched.

When is office-based study an option?

Office-based study is an option for anyone who meets the academic and practice-based entry requirements, who can demonstrate personal suitability for independent study and who is unable to attend a full-time or part-time course in a school of architecture – possibly due to financial, professional or personal circumstances, or through geographical remoteness.

This route should be considered carefully. Applicants who believe this to be a quick and easy way to qualify are likely to be ill-prepared for the degree of commitment required. Although time and costs are similar to those of a part-time taught course, the essential difference between this Programme and a taught course needs to be fully understood.

This is a Programme of self-preparation for the Examination, which means that candidates are required to provide themselves with their own architectural education, with the assistance of their Personal Tutor and Office Mentor. This means that the time spent in studying the subject, especially in personally experiencing notable contemporary architecture and developing a critical view of it and of architecture as a whole, is as important, if not more so, than the time spent in doing the work for the Examination.

Because the Programme is offered as an alternative route to qualification for those unable to benefit from full-time or part-time courses, it is operated flexibly, within prescribed limits, in order to accommodate fluctuations in candidates' circumstances. This is managed through a system of annual learning contracts and formal Deferrals.

Practice Experience Entry Requirements

In addition to the requirements concerning employment, the support of an Office Mentor, and the appointment of a Personal Tutor, the following minimum requirement must also be met:

  • A minimum of 3 years' certified practical experience after gaining the Part 1 qualification in architecture at a school of architecture recognised by ARB and the RIBA, or through the ARB Prescribed Examination. The 3 years of certified practical experience may be reduced, at the discretion of the Panel of Interviewers, if practical experience was acquired while gaining the Part 1 qualification through a part-time course at a recognised school of architecture, or through Part 1 of the RIBA Examination in Architecture for Office-based Candidates.

Candidates who will have reached the minimum practical experience by the start of the Programme's year in March may be considered for interview in the previous year. They will need to demonstrate that they are sufficiently established and supported by their employers to have the potential to succeed through this route.

Candidates' individual study for the Examination must be supported by the day-to-day learning and experience of architectural practice. For this reason, for the duration of the Examination Programme, candidates are required to be employed full-time in the field of architecture. Full-time employment is deemed to be met by working at least 1,250 hours per annum for the practice.

Candidates are required to be employed in one practice for a period of not less than three months. Any period of employment of less than three months will not be accepted for entry or for credits.

Candidates are required to be mentored in their workplace by an experienced architect who has responsibility for ensuring the regular supervision and professional development of the candidate.

What is meant by office-based study?

The Examination Programme is a unique system in which formally assessed academic work is supported by learning through experience in the candidate‘s place of employment, with the Examination sequence mirroring the development and realisation of design projects in architectural practice. All candidates are required to have substantial experience in practice before they register, and to remain in full-time supervised architectural employment throughout their studies for the Examination. Candidates' development is supported and guided by two vital elements of the Programme:

1. Candidates' Offices and Office Mentors

Individual study for the Examination must be supported by the day-to-day learning and experience of architectural practice.

Candidates are required to be employed in one practice for a period of not less than three months. Any period of employment of less than three months will not be accepted for entry or for credits. Any interval between employment exceeding three months in any one year will normally lead to the candidate being suspended from the Programme until new, full-time employment is secured.

2. Personal Tutors

Candidates are required to engage a Personal Tutor for the duration of the Programme. In the event of the arrangement being terminated, candidates must inform the Programme Manager immediately and engage a replacement Tutor within 3 months, again informing the Manager when this is done. Failure to do so will lead to the candidate's progression in the Programme to be suspended until a replacement Tutor is appointed. Under such circumstances, a candidate's fees may be refunded proportionally. It is the candidate's responsibility to ensure that all of the provisions are met in full.

Tutors are appointed by candidates for the duration of the Programme and must be completely independent of the candidate's office. Tutors should be architects, registered in the country where the candidate is working and ideally experienced in architectural education. Tutors must have at least three years’ qualified experience in either practice or academia, and not have been retired more than 5 years. Exceptionally, candidates may choose a tutor who, although not a registered architect, has substantial architectural design teaching experience within Higher Education. It is also recommended that Candidates may appoint additional subject specific tutors who need not necessarily comply with these criteria.

The Tutors' function is to assist candidates across the whole range of work required for the Examination. This should focus on developing their understanding of architectural design and practice; to apply this to the production of a portfolio of personal design work that expands their design horizons and skills beyond their immediate office experience; and to tutor them on their design projects and, if appropriate, their Dissertation. Personal Tutors are welcome to accompany their candidates to the Annual Induction and the Building Visits when they may meet other candidates and Tutors, also members of the Examination Team, in order to exchange their experiences and discuss the Programme. Tutors are also welcome to attend Portfolio Reviews, and Interim and Final Design Assessments as observers.

Qualities and Qualifications required by Personal Tutors

Tutors should be EEA (European Economic Area) registered architects with at least 3 years’ post qualification experience, and not retired more than 5 years. Candidates should consider the advantages of appointing an architect who has experience teaching design in a school of architecture. Exceptionally candidates may choose a tutor who is not a registered architect but has substantial architectural design teaching experience within Higher Education and not retired more than 5 years. Candidates may also be assisted by other tutors who need not necessarily comply with these criteria. For example, candidates may elect to appoint one tutor to help with their design development, and a different tutor to help with critical reading/writing skills in preparation for the dissertation.

To operate effectively, tutors should be able to bring the following experience and expertise to their role:

Experience:teaching architecture, training staff, preferably including the training of ‘year-out’ students within practice and/or experience of relevant part-time teaching within a higher education context.
Knowledge:familiarity with current RIBA/ARB criteria for Part 1 and/or Part 2 as appropriate; an objective view of contemporary design and practice.
Judgement:independent from candidate’s current practice; understanding of pedagogic development and programme management.
Availability:as an approximate guide, one or two tutorials monthly, depending on individual candidate’s needs at different stages of the Examination, and weekly at critical stage.

Open Days There are usually two open sessions held during the year when prospective candidates may talk to members of the Examination team and find out if this route to qualification meets their needs. These days are advertised on the website at: http://architecture.brookes.ac.uk/obe/index.html

Examination Entry: Admission Procedures See Appendix A: Examination Entry: Admission and Registration for details of admissions procedures, specific entry requirements and required English Language qualifications.

Registration The Programme runs from March until February each year, as distinct from the traditional academic year of September to May. All candidates are expected to register in the February following interview and acceptance. Places will be held for one year only, after which time candidates may be asked to reapply and attend for further interview.

Study Leave Normally, candidates will not be expected to travel to Oxford or London more than 8-10 days each year. Whilst it is a matter for negotiation between candidates and their offices, it is expected that study leave would be granted without affecting annual leave.

Examination Costs

Annual Registration Fee This is charged each year and is the same amount, irrespective of the number of assignments chosen to be completed by the candidate.

Suspended Studies Fee A nominal fee is charged to candidates who are unable to undertake any assignments during the year but wish to remain registered on the programme.

Tutors’ Fees Candidates are advised to enter into a professional agreement with their tutor. As a general guidance, we recommend candidates pay their tutors an hourly rate of £45. It is expected that candidates would meet their tutors about twice a month.

Travel All examinations take place in Oxford, so travel expenses need to be considered.

Overnight Accommodation Candidates may wish to book overnight accommodation prior to examination days. There are a number of b&bs in Headington, all of which can be found on the Oxford City Tourist Information Website.

The Induction Session and Awards Ceremony are held at the RIBA in London.

Appendix A: Examination entry: Admission and registration


Only candidates who have satisfied the Examination entry requirements may commence the Programme for Part 1 or Part 2 of the Examination.

Any applicant who has previously been a student at Oxford Brookes University or a candidate registered on the programme and been required to withdraw for disciplinary reasons is not eligible to apply for re-admission as a candidate under any circumstances unless specifically approved to re-admission by the Chair of the RIBA PEC.

Admission Procedure

Admission to the Programme comprises three stages:

Stage 1 An application form for prospective candidates is downloadable from the website at http://www.brookes.ac.uk/schools/be/media/part1form.pdf This form should be completed and submitted to the Programme Manager.
Stage 2 Subject to meeting the eligibility requirements, a second stage application form and extract from the Guide, Syllabus and Regulations will be sent out. On completion, this form should be submitted to the Programme Manager.
Stage 3 Short-listed applicants will be invited to attend an interview, and this should be regarded as having the status of an entrance examination.

Applicants are required to submit the following:

Evidence of the minimum academic requirementsCertified evidence of the required
amount of office experience
Part 1
  • • 3 O-level/GCSE passes including English Language and Mathematics;
  • • 2 A-level passes or equivalent qualifications, e.g. HNC
3 years
Part 2Part 1 qualification in architecture as recognised by ARB and the RIBA3 years post Part 1, or possibly less if practical experience was gained by taking a Part 1 course part-time, or by passing Part 1 of the Office-Based Examination.

In addition, all applicants must supply:

  • A written statement of support from the applicant's current employer.
  • A written statement of 200-300 words explaining the applicant's suitability for office-based study, and the reasons for choosing to apply.
  • An academic reference.

If called to interview, hard copies of the following will be required:

  • A portfolio of personal work that includes a sketchbook, original sketches, photographs, projects, and a range of work carried out by the applicant in practice. Applicants for Part 2 should also include their final Part 1 project.
  • Examples of current work in practice that demonstrates the applicant’s contribution to project work and current level of experience.
  • Written studies and reports: for example essays or a dissertation written as part of previous coursework, or practice-related planning reports for which the applicant had sole responsibility.
  • Evidence of qualifications: original certificates.
  • Final Part 1 design project (applies to Part 2 applicants only).

Acceptable English Language qualifications

All candidates who are applying for entry from outside England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are required to produce evidence of English Language qualifications as shown on the table below:




Overseas GCE' O' level or GCSE in English Language

Grade C or above

This qualification has a ‘shelf life’ of 10 years

IGCSE in English

Grade C or above

This qualification has a ‘shelf life’ of 10 years.

English as a second language

Grade B or above (UG degree)

This qualification has a ‘shelf life of 10 years.

‘A' level in a Social Science or Humanities subject

Grade C or above

This qualification has a ‘shelf life’ of 10 years


  1. 6-7


  1. • There are separate tests in reading, writing, listening and speaking.
  2. • Applicants should be advised to choose the academic modules in the test.
  3. • IELTS is valid for 2 years.

• Website: www.ielts.org

International Baccalaureate (IB) in English

Specific English score not necessary if English is being taken at Higher or Standard level.


Cambridge Certificate in Advanced English (CAE)

Grade B or above


Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE)

Grade B or above


London tests of English

  1. Level 4+

London tests of English

Hong Kong Certificate in Education Examination (HKCEE) in English

Grade C or above in Syllabus B


Hong Kong Use of English Examination

Grade C or above


Indian CBSE /ICSE in English Language

Standard XII: 65% - 70% (for UG & PG courses)


Israeli Bagrut

Complete the Bagrut with 80% (8/10) in Unit 3 English


International Foundation Diploma (IFD)

Pass the IFD with 55% overall (Pass module U70509 with 50% or more)


English for University Studies (EUS) level 4

Pass at 50% overall (PG only)

  1. • One term course run by ICELS

• Exit level is equivalent to IELTS 6.5

Advanced Placement International English Language Examination (APIEL)

Score of 4 or 5


Appendix B: Guidelines for interviews

Applicants are assessed for suitability by an Interviewer who is drawn from the list of Examiners on the Programme and which operates as a Panel at each interviewing session.

Applicants are required to bring with them to interview their personal portfolio of sketches, photographs, personal projects, together with work in practice, any written studies or reports (academic and/or work related), any other relevant academic project work, originals of all qualifications, as indicated on the application form.

Interviews take place from April to October, allowing time for successful applicants to establish tutorial arrangements and undertake reading, building visits and examination preparation, prior to the Annual Induction in December/January. Each applicant is interviewed by one Interviewer, who is allocated 30 minutes per applicant, plus 15 minutes for completing the Interview Form.

Interviews are regarded as having the status of an entrance examination, with applicants being assessed on the quality of office experience gained; individual ability and potential to develop, as demonstrated in the portfolio of personal and office work; also on their suitability for independent study and the support and learning-base provided by their employment. In a sequence to be determined by each Interviewer, the Interview should discuss and assess:

  • The applicant's knowledge and understanding of the Programme, that it is a Programme of self-preparation for the Examination, not a taught course, leaving candidates to provide themselves with their own architectural education.
  • An understanding of the importance this places on the office, the Office Mentor, Personal Tutor, and the applicant's own motivation.
  • Possible choices for Office Mentor and Personal Tutor.
  • Applicant's knowledge, experience, and understanding of architecture.
  • Applicant's understanding of the importance of allocating adequate time to study the subject of architecture, in addition to the time required for undertaking work on the Examination.
  • Portfolio, to comply with requirements noted above.

Under no circumstances can any offer be made at the Interview either of a place on the Programme or of the possible granting of exemptions. The applicant should be informed that the decision to offer a place will be taken by the Panel of Interviewers, and relevant Examiners, and communicated to the applicant normally within 2 weeks.

At the end of each Interviewing session, Interviewers convene as a Panel to review each case, the recommendations of individual Interviewers, and to decide what offers, if any, should be made. Applications for exemptions are referred to the relevant Subject Examiner for recommendation to the Programme Examination Committee.

If selected, all candidates are required to notify the Programme Manager of their Personal Tutor, submitting the tutor's curriculum vitae.

All candidates are expected to register in the February following their interview. Candidates must supply 2 passport-sized photographs with their registration form and learning contract. Failure to do so may jeopardise examination entry. Places will be held for a maximum of 1 year, after which time candidates may be asked to reapply and attend for further interview.

Appendix C: Procedure for awarding advanced credit (Part 1 applicants only)

In support of the Programme's policy of widening access, it is possible, under certain circumstances, to recognise prior learning and experience on the part of applicants by considering requests for credit for certain parts of the Part 1 Examination. Applicants seeking the award of credit are required to submit the necessary documentation at the time of applying for interview. Such requests will ultimately be determined by the RIBA Professional Education Committee. Advanced credit is not normally awarded for studies completed more than 5 years prior to the date of application to the programme.

  • Applicants wishing to apply for credit towards part or parts of the Examination must do so in writing at the time of making their full application for an interview. This must be accompanied by the documentation outlined below.
  • Applicants are assessed on their individual merits as represented by the evidence submitted. This may comprise written and drawn material as necessary, also oral evidence if a separate interview concerning the award of credit is required.
  • Decisions to award credit for part or parts of the Examination are based on the evidence provided by the applicant as set against the learning outcomes and criteria of the Examination subjects.
  • As a minimum standard these will demonstrate equivalency in standard of competence under Section 4 (1)(b) of the Architects Act.
  • In particular, Awards and Qualifications will be considered. Relevant certificates should be submitted in their original form, or as certified copies. These should be accompanied by any certified examination transcripts where appropriate relating to those awards and with supporting course information to describe the syllabus or curriculum of the components of the course leading to the award which relate to the award of credit being sought.
  • Course handbooks and unit specifications will normally be sufficient to describe the content. However applicants should ensure that these are comprehensive enough to describe their equivalency to the criteria both to the RIBA Examination subjects and the components of criteria for prescription as outlined above.
  • In general, and as far as is practicable, original assessment material should be provided to support the documentary evidence.
  • Where relevant accredited prior learning (APL), or experiential learning (APEL) is submitted as evidence for the award of credit in lieu of academic awards, a case will need to be made by the applicant as to how this constitutes equivalency and the grounds upon which this evidence should be considered.
  • Subject Examiners will have particular regard to the validity of evidence provided to support the award of credit and, in the case of such award being granted, will record the evidence considered against the criteria.
  • Subject Examiners should have regard to ensuring fairness and parity between applicants and in ensuring that the award of credit is both consistent and equitable.
  • Recommendation for the award of credit will be made in the first instance by the relevant Subject Examiner to the Programme Examination Committee which, at its discretion, may submit the request to the RIBA Professional Education Committee for determination.
  • The RIBA Professional Education Committee is the only authority empowered to award credit.
  • The award of credit will be recorded in the minutes of the meeting of the Examinations Committee. These minutes will record the evidence upon which the award has been agreed, and a record of this process will be kept on the candidate’s file.
  • Only in exceptional circumstances will candidates be awarded credit for subjects other than Tl, T2 and Cl at Part 1; no award is offered at Part 2. Such award will not normally lead to a dispensation of time to be spent on the Programme, for candidates are expected to use any time gained for the structured study of architecture.


Vivien Walker
Manager Professional Examinations

School of Architecture

Oxford Brookes University
Headington Campus
Gipsy Lane
Oxford, UK

Tel: +44 (0)1865 483413
Fax: +44 (0)1865 483298



Applications for March 2014 are now closed. Applications for the March 2015 intake will open from April-July 2014.