How difficult is the LEED green associate exam?
June 14, 2011 1:13 PM   Subscribe

I am inquirying about the difficulty of the LEED Green Associate exam. Specifically, how much studying is needed or is it just all common sense? Have you taken the exam? What materials would you reccomend?

I have Civil Engineering degree and have an EIT certification, I just went through the LEED 101 course and it was pretty basic stuff.
posted by berkshirenative to Education (3 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I took the LEED exam a couple years ago under the LEED 2.2 version, before they brought out LEED 2009 with the different accreditation levels.

My main resource was the LEED guide put out by the USGBC. I also got some study materials from PPI, which included a study guide, case studies and flash cards, but those weren't entirely useful to me. I actually spent a fair amount of time going through the study materials and correcting errors in them, which turned out to be a fairly good method of studying.

That said, while LEED points are typically based on common sense principles (if you're in the right frame of mind), it is necessary to know the specific percentages and amounts required to obtain certain credits or prerequisites, and to know which credits are synergistic and which are trade-offs with others, as well as whether certain things will actually qualify for certain credits. Also, the test isn't just on sustainable building practices, it has a lot to do with how the LEED certification system is administered and how buildings obtain different certification levels. The guidebook is helpful for that, but you'll also need to spend some time reviewing the USGBC/GBCI websites, which provide more complete information on procedural matters and rulings from past credit challenges.

I spent a few months studying, but I was unemployed at the time and didn't really have much else to do. There is a lot of memorization involved. Even with all that, I didn't totally ace the test, although I did much better than just clearing the passing bar. For comparison, I had worked in architecture for 10 years prior to taking the test, and went to a school that had a sustainability-oriented curriculum.
posted by LionIndex at 1:54 PM on June 14, 2011

I know a couple dozen folks who've studied for and taken past iterations of the exam and up through 2009 I can say that I am only aware of one that needed to retake it. I don't know how much they've upgraded the difficulty in the most recent version.

The content tends to be a bit arbitrary and trivia based in my opinion. You are very unlikely to be able to "ace" it, even if you are knowledgeable and good with green design. If you don't go in expecting to ace it, you can breath easier as you go by the random question about which occupancies are listed in ASHRAE 62 and focus on getting the material you do know right.

Also, the USGBC and GBCI seem constitutionally incapable of doing real intermediate and advanced courses. Not sure why, but everything they do comes off as basic or introductory.

Hope this rambling response is vaguely helpful.
posted by meinvt at 3:00 PM on June 14, 2011

Best answer: When I took the exam (v 2.2), the best methods which worked for me were to:

a) memorize the LEED checklist. Knowing how the LEED scorecard is organized helped me index all of the information I had to digest in my brain. Scouring through every page of the massive, expensive LEED book provided by the USGBC is not worth the time. Just know the basics of each credit. Who is responsible for it? What are the specifications? Any standards need to be followed? What submittals are required?

b) I cannot stress this enough: take practice tests!!! Go to and call them to get a discounted price. They're very nice folks. Take the practice tests over and over and over and over. Study your mistakes. Learn from them. This helped me tremendously and if you're going to go with minimal studying, this is the best route to take. If you do well on these tests, you're more than likely to pass triumphantly. From what I've observed among my peers, everybody I know who took the practice exams passed the test.

c) make a mock cheat sheet. For the actual LEED exam, you are given scrap sheets of paper and 2 pencils. You are allowed to write down any information that you wish on these pieces of paper before and during the test. I spent several days leading up to the test just jotting down the various standards (e.g. ASHRAE) and which credits they pertained to, the flow rates for fixtures, how to do full time equivalent (FTE) calculations, how much does it cost for various procedures to become LEED certified, etc. It got to the point that by the time I took the test, I didn't even need the cheat sheet. Only do this once you have mastered the practice tests.

d) No matter how much prior work/school experience you have had in the AEC industry, common sense does not necessarily prevail on the LEED exam when answering questions. LEED follows LEED and LEED alone. It is best to go by the book and not what YOU think would be the best solution.
posted by inqb8tr at 10:09 PM on June 14, 2011

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