Log in

Why I’m About to Fail the New, Harder LEED v4 AP Exam

You heard it here first: the new LEED Accredited Professional (LEED AP) exams require a much deeper knowledge of the reference guide.
Paula Melton
November 17, 2014

Editor's note: Need tips on the v4 LEED AP exam? Click to learn about our BD+C Exam Prep guide, which includes a 45-page companion workbook and a 50-question online sample exam.

In less than an hour, I’ll be driving to Worcester, Massachusetts—through "wintry mix," no less—to take the LEED AP, BD+C exam.

I’m probably going to fail, and here’s why.

I have it on good authority (*cough* Alex Spilger of GreenStep Education *cough*) that the v4 test is a lot harder than the 2009 version of the test was. Here’s what Alex wrote in an email to me. He’s taken it “only” four times so far to help him develop the new GreenStep exam prep materials, he notes: In general, the new LEED AP exam was tough. Definitely tougher than the v3 version. However, the good news is that you can miss up to 30 questions and still get a 170—the minimum passing score.

Oh dear. Counting how many questions I can get wrong and still pass has never really been part of my perfectionist M.O. (I also don't usually procrastinate, but I did on my LEED Green Associate exam and still passed—here's my account of that, and an explanation for the tiger motif that my colleague insisted on including here.)

You rely on LEEDuser. Can we rely on you?

LEEDuser is supported by our premium members, not by advertisers.

Go premium for  »

Spilger adds some examples of types of information that are needed now that weren’t really expected before:

  • Detailed questions on pilot credits
  • More focus on specific credit information, such as maximum allowable points in the three different Innovation options
  • Requirement to memorize thresholds for exemplary performance points—and other points, too
  • Questions on stuff that’s often buried deep in the reference guide, like the definition of a brownout at the end of the long and complicated section on demand response
  • Questions like which variables you need to know in order to do a calculation
  • Questions about documentation requirements for specific credits

I did purchase some practice exams (GreenStep’s aren’t ready yet because Alex is apparently a perfectionist too), and they tend to confirm what Spilger told me. You need to have a very deep knowledge of the reference guide, including “behind the intent,” “step by step guidance,” various exceptional examples, etc.

Be afraid. Be very afraid. I know I am! But I also know that, although it will be annoying, there will be no shame in failing the test. My takeaway from Spilger and the practice exams I’ve tried is that the only really fool-proof way to get all this information in your head is to work on at least one v4 project. I’m signing off to try and cram a few more percentages and rating-system-dependent exceptions in, so wish me luck!

POSTSCRIPT: I passed! But Alex is so right. That test was really hard, and I thought I had failed right up till the moment when I saw my score. Watch for my study tips in the near future!

Add new comment

To post a comment, you need to register for a LEEDuser Basic membership (free) or login to your existing profile.


March 12, 2015 - 4:34 pm

Hi, all! I wrote up my LEED AP BD+C exam tips in so much detail that we went crazy and decided to turn it into a study guide, workbook, and online practice exam! :-)

You can read more about it and find out how to get it here:


November 24, 2014 - 1:58 pm

I participated in early discussions on the AP exam update for v4 prior to leaving USGBC, and this sounds very different from what we discussed at that time.

Paula - I'd be interested to hear more about the exam and whether it is a useful tool for determining what an individual has learned about LEED and Green Building. Also, did you take the v4 version of the Green Associate?

March 12, 2015 - 4:25 pm

Amy, sorry, I didn't see your comment until now. It's certainly a useful tool for getting you really, really familiar with the reference guide! I don't think there's any substitute to hands-on use of the rating system.

November 19, 2014 - 5:06 pm

Keep up the great work at Building Green too!
I am a LEED AP BD+C and my challenge is to keep up! I instruct in two courses on green building and promote LEED v4 and Building Green in both. I am excited about the new credits in transparency and hope it will nurture increased efforts at transforming the industry - a Herculean task that LEED (I believe) has advanced beyond anyones' wildest expectations.

September 21, 2015 - 9:07 am

That is very logical,
Thank you,

September 21, 2015 - 8:54 am

Paula, thanks for your question! We aren't offering CEUs for this particular course. That's because once you pass the AP exam, your Green Associate credits will get purged and you'll start from scratch, so it's somewhat pointless.

Good luck!

September 21, 2015 - 7:56 am

Congratulations Paula, and thank you for all the work to write all this documetns.
I have a question, does this course give us CE points for our credential maintenance?,
thank you

March 12, 2015 - 4:26 pm

Jonathan, sorry I didn't see your comment until now (not sure how that happened). Thanks for your kind words. I know a lot of people here at LU and BG will help all of us stay up to date! It's a new world.

November 19, 2014 - 3:03 pm

Well done! Thanks for the info

March 12, 2015 - 4:26 pm

Lyle, sorry I didn't see your comment until now. Glad you found the info helpful!