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.Applicants must have a minimum of three years’ experience in architectural practice to join the examination at Part 1; or 3 years post-Part 1 experience to join the Part 2 stage (as well as having completed a recognised Part 1 qualification).

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

What is the difference between RIBA OBE and a degree?

The important difference between this examination and programmes of study in universities, is that 'candidates' (rather than 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.

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. Description and details of the current validation criteria can be found by clicking here:

Candidates who qualify through this route, are then eligible to take the UK 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.

What sort of people take the RIBA OBE?

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, and they 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 European Commission's Architects Directive (1985) as set out in the ARB/RIBA Criteria for Validation (2003), to which the learning outcomes and criteria for assessment of each part of the Examination have been matched. All assessment criteria for the Examination are based on the current RIBA Validation Criteria, which apply to this programme.

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:

Candidates' Offices and Office Mentors

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

Any period of employment of less than 3 months will not be recognised. Any interval between employment exceeding 3 months in any one year may lead to the candidate being suspended from the Programme until new employment is secured.

Candidates are also required to keep a Professional Experience Diary throughout their period of study on the Programme.

Personal Tutors

Tutors are appointed by candidates for the duration of the Programme and must be completely independent of the candidate's office. They should be architects registered in the country where the candidate is working, with at least 3 years' qualified experience, and not retired more than 5 years. Exceptionally, candidates may choose a tutor who 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.

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 Case Study or 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.

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 requirements must also be met:

Part 1 of the Examination:

A minimum of 3 years' practical experience and similar educational qualifications to those required by schools of architecture (see below). Graduates from related construction industry disciplines are eligible to apply for entry to Part 1 of the Examination if they have also gained a minimum of 3 years' certified working experience in architectural practice. Graduates with degrees in non-construction industry subjects are required to provide evidence of 3 years' certified post-graduate experience in an architect's office to enter Part 1 of the Examination.

Part 2 of the Examination:

​A minimum of 3 years' certified practical experience after gaining the Part 1 qualification in architecture at a school of architecture ​prescribed by the ARB,​ ​​or validated by the RIBA, or through the ARB Prescribed Examination​ at Part 1.. 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.

Open Days

There are usually two open sessions held in the spring 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 this webpage.

Examination Entry: Admission

Admission Procedure

Admission to the Programme comprises three stages:

    Stage 1
  • An application form for prospective candidates is downloadable from www.architecture.brookes.ac.uk/obe/part1-2.html. This form should be completed and submitted to the Examination 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 Examination Manager. At this stage, applicants with accredited prior learning and experiential learning may request advanced credit from certain parts of the Part 1 Examination only.
  • 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 requirements

Certified 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 2

A Part 1 qualification prescribed by the ARB, or validated by the RIBA (depending on the member states' requirements for registration)​3 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 RIBA Examination in Architecture for Office-based Candidates.

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.
  • 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).

Failure to provide any of these at interview will immediately negate the interview and applicants will not be offered a place.

Credit for Prior and Related Study

The sequence of assignments in Parts 1 and 2 of the Examination is both developmental and inter-related, and all examinations and project assessments are mandatory. Credit for Prior Learning (APL), for Prior Experiential Learning (APEL), and for other relevant qualifications may be awarded, but only in exceptional circumstances, and only on the recommendation of the relevant Subject Examiner.

Applicants must submit transcripts of marks, together with a syllabus detailing the previous course of study for consideration.

Such recommendation is submitted to the Programme Examination Committee or the Programme Management Committee for consideration, which are the only authorities to award credit. Only in exceptional circumstances will candidates be given credit for subjects at Part 1; no credit is offered at Part 2. Such award of credit will not lead to a dispensation of time to be spent on the Programme.

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:


Minimum result accepted


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
IGCSE 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
  • There are separate tests in reading, writing, listening and speaking.
  • Applicants should be advised to choose the academic modules in the test.
  • IELTS is valid for 2 years.
  • Website: www.ielts.org
TOEFL (Test for English as a Foreign Language) Paper based test 550-600
TOEFL (Test for English as a Foreign Language) Computer based test 207-260 (for UG & PG courses)
TOEFL Internet based test IBT 90 = IELTS 6.5
IBT 80 = IELTS 6.0
TOEFL (Test of written English) Recommended Marks: 5
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 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)
  • 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  


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.

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.


All written and design 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.

Study Leave

Normally, candidates will not be expected to travel to Oxford or London more than five 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.


Sam Hughes

School of Architecture
Oxford Brookes University
Headington Campus
Gipsy Lane
Oxford UK

Tel: +44 (0)1865 483413


Applications for March 201​7​ are now closed. Please apply from April 201​7​ for the March 201​8 ​intake.