Passing the LEED AP Exam

I recently decided to add the O+M credential to my exiting LEED AP ID+C appellation. Shortly after registering to take the exam, I questioned my decision – and sanity – as I remembered how hard it was to pass my last LEED exam in 2004. According to friends, colleagues and the green building rumor mill, the LEED exams are only getting more difficult. 

As described by USGBC, “The professional credential exams measure your understanding of green building design, construction and operations. The LEED AP exams also assess your understanding of the LEED rating system and your ability to facilitate the certification process.”

Ok, I facilitate the LEED process for a living. Can the test really be as tough as everyone reports? Can it be true that the pass rate is estimated at only 34 percent? I have bad news - yes it is a very difficult test – and good news - I PASSED and so can you. Here are some hints and tips:

·         Although strongly recommended, USGBC no longer requires project experience in the rating system in which you are pursuing credentialing as a prerequisite to taking the exam. However, without it you will have to study harder. Thoroughly familiarize yourself with the rating system and the scorecard. 

·         Study –and then study some more - the v4 Reference Guide specific to the specialty credential that you are pursuing. Read critically and highlight key concepts and credit specific metrics. You will need to have a very deep knowledge of the Reference Guide including the Behind the Intent, Rating System and Project Type Variations and Required Documentation sections for each credit. The test may include questions that require you to recall calculations, point thresholds, definitions and referenced standards.

·         Take some practice exams to familiarize yourself with the test format, length and kind of questions that may be asked. Although at additional cost, I used the exams from Green Building Education Services. They were as difficult as the actual exam and I found them to be a great tool in my preparation process. Make note of which questions you did and did not answer correctly and learn from your mistakes. I admit to failing three out of the four practice exams.

There is no shame in failing the exam on your first attempt; apparently most people do. Take to heart the wise words of Paula Melton, Managing Editor of BuildingGreen in her November 14th blog post: Why I’m About to Fail the New, Harder LEED v4 AP Test, “Be afraid. Be very afraid. I know I am!”  Use that fear to drive yourself toward earning a passing score by preparing for the worst (and hoping for the best).