How to Prepare for the RIBA Part 1

December 14, 2023

Every year, thousands of architecture students across the globe set their sights on becoming a registered architect in the UK. At the heart of this aspiration lies the RIBA Part 1 – a key milestone in the journey to join the esteemed architectural profession. But what exactly is the RIBA Part 1, and how can you prepare to pass this stage with flying colors? Read on to learn more.

RIBA, or the Royal Institute of British Architects, is a professional body that prescribes a sequence of stages to ascertain the qualifications of aspiring architects. These are known as the “Parts” and the first in this sequence is the RIBA Part 1. Completion of the RIBA Part 1 signifies that a student has successfully completed their first stage of formal architectural education, ready to move on to more advanced stages of learning and practical experience.

Understanding the ins and outs of the RIBA Part 1 is essential for students embarking on this journey. This includes grasping the eligibility criteria, getting familiar with supporting material you’ll need to prepare, and fully comprehending the general criteria for assessment. Additionally, it’s equally important to have a clear understanding of what graduate attributes are expected from a successful RIBA Part 1 candidate.

Our guide aims to provide an in-depth, step-by-step walkthrough of all these aspects, equipping you with the information you need to navigate this critical step in your architectural education.

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What is RIBA Part 1?

RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) Part 1 refers to the first stage of architectural education and professional qualification in the United Kingdom. It is one of the requirements for becoming a registered architect in the UK. RIBA Part 1 is typically completed within an undergraduate architecture program at a recognized university.

During the Part 1 stage, students acquire a broad understanding of architecture and develop core skills and knowledge. The curriculum covers various aspects of architectural design, history, theory, construction technology, building materials, and professional practice. Students also learn about urban planning, sustainability, building regulations, and other related subjects.

At the end of the Part 1 stage, students usually submit a portfolio of their work and may be assessed through examinations or design projects. Upon successfully completing RIBA Part 1, students are awarded a Bachelor of Architecture (BArch) degree or an equivalent qualification, depending on the university.

Preparing for the RIBA Part 1: Eligibility and Criteria

First and foremost, to be eligible to the RIBA Part 1, you must have completed a university degree in architecture. This degree must meet the eligibility criteria prescribed by RIBA and the Architects Registration Board (ARB), the registration body that governs the practice of architecture in the UK. This ensures that all candidates have a uniform foundational knowledge of architecture, making the RIBA Part 1 a fair and comprehensive assessment of their understanding and abilities.

Eligibility Criteria

  • Completion of a RIBA Part 1 prescribed university course, or equivalent.
  • Submission of an academic portfolio showcasing completed academic projects.
  • Completion of a preparatory course if required for international students.
  • Fulfillment of all general criteria and specific criteria stipulated by RIBA and ARB.

Graduate Attributes

RIBA and ARB seek a range of graduate attributes from successful Part 1 candidates. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Sound knowledge of the history and theories of architecture and related arts, technologies, and human sciences.
  • Understanding of the urban and rural context for architecture, landscape, and infrastructure.
  • Adequate design skills and ability to solve complex problems in a variety of contexts.

Let’s delve deeper into understanding these criteria and attributes.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio via Pexels

Delving Deeper: Understanding the RIBA Part 1 Criteria

RIBA and ARB have outlined several criteria for the Part 1 examination, designed to test a candidate’s comprehensive understanding of architectural practice and theory.

General Criteria

The general criteria for the RIBA Part 1 encompass broad knowledge areas, such as architectural history, design theory, communication, and professional ethics. To meet these criteria, a candidate should demonstrate an understanding of:

  • The cultural, social, and intellectual history and theory of architecture.
  • The impact of design decisions on built environment sustainability.
  • The basics of construction, environmental design, and technology.

Specific Criteria

In addition to the general criteria, candidates also need to meet the specific criteria for the RIBA Part 1 examination. This involves more detailed aspects of architectural education, such as:

  • Understanding the process and production of architecture within various social and economic contexts.
  • Demonstrating the ability to create architectural designs with a clear understanding of materials, processes, and techniques.
  • Understanding the regulatory framework for construction and the role of the professional architect within it.

Constructing Your Supporting Material: The Role of Your Portfolio

Creating a compelling portfolio is a significant part of your preparation for the RIBA Part 1. This collection of supporting material is more than just a showcase of your academic projects. It’s a testament to your understanding, your approach to design, and the development of your skills throughout your degree.

Your portfolio needs to demonstrate your ability to conceptualize, design, and communicate architectural projects effectively. In essence, it should reflect your ability to translate theory into practice. Here are some tips to construct an engaging portfolio:


Don’t just passively read or watch your study materials. Engage with them by taking notes, discussing with peers, or teaching the content to someone else. Active engagement can boost comprehension and retention.

Choose Wisely

Select projects that show the breadth of your skills. Your chosen projects should demonstrate your understanding of diverse architectural themes, from design and planning to construction and sustainability.

Detail Your Process

Each project should explain your design process. Illustrate your journey from the conceptual stage to the final design. This should include sketches, models, plans, sections, and detailed drawings where relevant.

Highlight Collaboration

Where applicable, highlight your ability to collaborate. Team projects are an excellent way to demonstrate your communication skills and ability to work as part of a team.

Keep it Clear and Concise

Lastly, maintain clarity and conciseness. While it’s crucial to showcase a comprehensive understanding of your projects, you should strive to present information in an easily digestible format.

What’s Next After RIBA Part 1?

After passing the RIBA Part 1, the journey doesn’t end. In fact, it’s just the beginning of a dynamic career in architecture.

After Part 1, students typically undertake a year of practical experience, known as the ‘year out’. This period offers an opportunity to gain practical experience in an architectural practice, enriching the knowledge acquired at university with real-world context.

The next academic stage is the RIBA Part 2, a two-year full-time university course focused on more complex aspects of architectural design and theory. This is followed by another year of practical experience.

Finally, the RIBA Part 3 is the final hurdle. Successful completion of this leads to registration with the ARB and RIBA, marking the beginning of your professional career as an architect in the UK.

Photo by Thirdman via Pexels

Can I get RIBA Part 2 without Part 1?

No, you cannot typically achieve RIBA Part 2 without first completing RIBA Part 1. The RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) education and qualification framework follows a sequential progression, where each stage builds upon the previous one.

How long does RIBA Part 1 take?

The duration of RIBA Part 1 can vary depending on the specific architectural program and the mode of study (full-time or part-time). However, the typical duration for completing RIBA Part 1 in a full-time undergraduate architecture program is three years.

In the UK, undergraduate architecture degrees are commonly structured as three-year programs, with each year representing one stage of the RIBA education and qualification framework. RIBA Part 1 is usually completed within the first three years of the program, leading to the award of a Bachelor of Architecture (BArch) degree or an equivalent qualification.

It’s important to note that the duration can be longer if you choose to study part-time or if you pursue an integrated Master’s degree in architecture, which combines both RIBA Part 1 and Part 2 into a single program. Part-time study or integrated Master’s programs may extend the duration of RIBA Part 1 beyond three years.

Conclusion: The Road Ahead

Embarking on your journey towards becoming a registered architect in the UK is an exciting yet challenging endeavor. The RIBA Part 1 serves as a pivotal stepping stone in this journey, testing your understanding of architectural theory and practice and assessing your ability to apply this knowledge in real-world scenarios.

It’s a test of not just your academic prowess but also of your creativity, problem-solving abilities, and understanding of architectural practice. And, with the right preparation and guidance, you can turn this challenge into an opportunity for growth and learning.

Let PrepArchitect be your trusted companion in this journey, offering you comprehensive preparatory material, expert guidance, and consistent support. Together, we can pave the way to your success in the RIBA Part 1 and beyond.

Are you ready to embark on this exciting journey? Contact us today for further information and guidance. After all, the future of the architectural profession could be you! To stay updated with more insights and guidance on architectural exams and career paths, stay tuned to our blog. Your journey to becoming an architect starts here!

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