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LEED AP exam

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

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.)

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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!

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