The alternate vignettes are accessible via the links below... scroll down...  Enjoy!

List of recommended study materials:

- Kaplan 2009  (I used 2009, later versions are the same with new cover art) [Note: do NOT use for vignettes]

- Ballast practice exams 
- Fundamentals of Building Construction (Second Edition) by Edward Allen [aka "FBC"]
- Architectural Graphic Standards (10th Edition) [aka "AGS"]
- ArchiFlash

(Note: eBay is also a good way to find cheaper books... and to sell them off when you're done.)

- post your vignettes for review on
- Ironwarrior videos for vignettes

Compiled vignette knowledge (info not in forum FAQ)...

Site Design vignette
- you can see under a deciduous tree but not through a coniferous tree (check program for D tree use)
- use coniferous trees to block view of service area if necessary
- plazas do not block views


Creating Defensible Space, by Oscar Newman  (published by HUD):


Alternate files for Site Design vignette:

*** Note: you cannot use alternate vignette files with NCARB's new cloud based (citrix) software.  You need to be running the NCARB software directly off your computer in order to switch out the files and run the vignettes.


Use the NCARB base file for Alternate #3.


Alternate files for Site Grading vignette:

Help with loading the Alternate Vignette files:
Note: your NCARB vignette files are probably in C:\Program Files (x86)\NCARB\ 

Lugnut's Site Design vignette FAQ (from

Q. I don’t understand the “noon-day sun” requirement for the restaurant. What does that mean?
A. At noon, the sun is due south and 45 degrees above the horizon. Because the restaurant entry is recessed, the entry must face south.

Q. The program requires the restaurant to have a view of the pond. Which side should face the pond?
A. Given the rectangular shape of the restaurant, the long side has a greater potential for windows, so the long side should face the pond.

Q. What is the white rectangle at the building entries?
A. Only NCARB knows for sure. It is acceptable to have a service drive, sidewalk or PP overlap these areas.

Q. How far away can C trees be to provide wind protection?
A. Distance does not appear to matter, however it is best to place them as close as possible. Remember, C trees also block views, so they may have to be moved upwind to maintain views per the program.

Q. Do I need a sidewalk from PP to both sidewalks along each street?
A. No. One is sufficient. Adding a second one will not cause a fail, but it won't help you either.

Q. Why are deciduous trees provided in the software?
A. It is possible that you will have a noon-day shading requirement in the real exam. D trees provide shade.

Q. The program requires the OT to be “near” the pond. What is the definition of “near”?
A. There is no definition or specific distance required. This is a judgment call, and not likely to be heavily weighted for scoring purposes.

Q. Are buffers (parking lot islands) required in the parking area, how big should they be, and how do I draw them?
A. They are not required by the NCARB program. You may make them any size you want, and they are simply what is left over after drawing the rows of parking spaces and driveways. There is no "draw buffer" command.

Q. Can new trees be planted in the setback?
A. Since trees are neither built nor constructed, it is likely that they can be placed in the setback. However doing so is not recommended unless absolutely necessary. We have no solid evidence of how NCARB views this issue.

Q. Can trees be placed directly on the Pedestrian Plaza?
A. Yes for Deciduous trees. No for Coniferous trees. Coniferous trees should never overlap paving. You cannot walk or drive under them.

Q. Does the practice software have a timer like the real exam?
A. No.

Q. When the program states that the plaza should be shaded at noon, does that require the entire plaza to be shaded? or just a portion or majority of it?
A. The program does not ask for partial shade, so the plaza should be fully shaded.

Common Mistakes:

1. The service drive must be kept at least 5’ from the building. The building is the blue area. This is probably the most common error on the site design vignette.
2. The universally accessible spaces must be entirely within 100’ of the OT entry. Measure this distance with a 100’ radius sketch circle. Travel distance does not appear to matter.
3. Be sure to connect the main drive to the street. This is done by extending your driveway centerline to the centerline of the existing street.
4. Only one curb-cut is allowed. This means that only one driveway may connect to the street.

Lugnut's Site Grading vignette FAQ (from

Q. How do I determine the spacing to avoid exceeding the maximum slope?
A. The given max slope is a percentage. That percentage is the rise in feet per 100 feet of run.
..........20% = 20’ rise in 100’ run. 100/20=5. Min spacing for 1’ contours is 5’ apart.
..........25% = 25’ rise in 100’ run. 100/25=4. Min spacing for 1’ contours is 4’ apart.

Q. How do I determine the spacing to avoid exceeding the minimum slope?
A. This is a significant change from the 3.1 program where no minimum slope requirement existed. Use the same calculations as shown above except you will determine a max spacing instead of a min spacing. ALWAYS check this distance down the centerline of a swale.

Q. How far away must the contour line be from the display?
A. It can follow the edge of the display in the 4.0 version provided the display elevation is 6” above the adjacent contour line. This does NOT apply to the 3.1 vignette where the paved area slopes.

Q. How do I intercept the runoff?
A. Create one or more swales that reach around to the uphill side of the pavement. If you have a swale coming up from each side, bring the “points” close together. Note they cannot cross or touch.

Common Mistakes:

1. Max and min slopes exceeded. Use sketch circles and the distance measuring tool.
Sketch circles can only be used to measure distances in a straight line. You have to use sketch lines and add them up when you measure down the centerline
of a swale that is not a straight line.
2. Incorrect display elevation (4.0).
3. Runoff crossing the pavement. You must intercept the runoff before it reaches the paved area. Do this with swales, not berms.


Check out the ERRORS page for additional info on the vignettes: