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How to Earn Your LEED Credential in LEED v3

If you’re ready to earn your LEED credential and enter LEED version 3, this article is for you. You’re already familiar with what LEED is about, and you know you have to pass an exam, so let’s get started.

  • If you’re an existing LEED AP from a previous version of the exam, click here.
  • If you’re brand new to LEED and don’t know what it’s about, click here.
  • If you failed a previous version of the exam, don’t worry – I know how frustrating that can be. Becoming a part of LEED v3 is a little more complicated, but you’re in the right spot. I’m here to help, so let’s get started:

The LEED credentialing process is a 3-tiered system:

  • Tier 1: LEED Green Associate
  • Tier 2: LEED AP Specialization
  • Tier 3: LEED AP Fellow

The LEED AP Fellow is reserved for elite participants in the LEED community, so we’ll just be talking about the first two tiers: the LEED Green Associate and the LEED AP Specialization paths.

Because you’re new, you can either take a LEED AP Specialization test to become a LEED AP+, or the LEED Green Associate exam to become a LEED GA. Which test you should take depends on your experience and your career paths. Let’s keep on reading to find out more about each exam.

LEED AP Specialization Exams

We’ll talk first about the LEED AP Specialization exams because there is a major eligibility requirement that many people will be unable to meet.

A LEED AP Specialization exam is a two-part exam. Part 1 is actually the LEED Green Associate exam, and part 2 is related to the specialization that you choose.

The specialization part tests you on your green building knowledge within a specific LEED rating system. It’s mainly for the people who will be working on LEED projects in the field, such as architects, engineers, contractors, etc.

After you pass, you will then be able to work on certifying LEED projects in your specialization as the LEED Accredited Professional. Here is a list of the various specialization exams:

  • LEED for Building Design & Construction (BD+C)
  • LEED for Interior Design & Construction (ID+C)
  • LEED for Building Operations & Maintenance (O&M)
  • LEED for Homes
  • LEED for Neighborhood Development (ND)

However, like I said, there is an eligibility requirement to take one of these exams:

You MUST have previous experience with a LEED registered project within three years of your application submittal date. This must be documented in the form of a letter from a supervisor, client, or project manager, etc. and must describe your involvement on the LEED project. This information is uploaded during your application process for the exam.

If you don’t have this experience, then you’ll have to enter LEED v3 by taking the tier 1, LEED Green Associate (LEED GA) exam. You can take the specialty exam later once you become eligible. Click here to go to the LEED Green Associate exam section below.

If You Are Eligible for a LEED AP+ Exam

If you happen to be eligible, you may be wondering which specialty exam you should take. This decision is up to you, and should be based on your career path and the career goals you have. That being said, here is a short description of each specialization exam for your information:

  • Building Design & Construction (BD&C): This exam actually covers three different rating systems: New Construction (which includes major renovation), Schools, and Core & Shell.
  • Interior Design & Construction (ID&C): This rating system is mainly for tenant spaces that don’t occupy an entire building, i.e. tenant improvement projects.
  • Existing Building: Operations & Maintenance (O&M): This rating system is applicable for buildings with commercial occupancies that involve building operations, process & system upgrades, minor space-use changes, facility alterations and additions.
  • Homes: This track covers single-family, low-rise multi family (under 4 stories), affordable housing, production, manufactured & modular homes.
  • Neighborhood Development (ND): Mainly developmental projects, such as neighborhoods, infill projects and larger mixed use developments.

Not all of them are live yet. In fact, only LEED for Homes and LEED for O&M are available at the moment. BD&C and ID+C are scheduled for September 15th, 2009 and ND in 2010. However, you should begin studying as soon as you feel comfortable about which exam you want to take.

What to Study and How to Study for a LEED Specialty Exam

The LEED AP Specialty exams are all based off of the Reference Guide of the particular rating system you choose. The Reference Guide is the manual that is used when certifying a LEED project, so you’re going to want to pick one up, even if you plan to use a study guide to help you study. It does help to use the Reference Guide along with a study guide at the same time. Reference Guides can be purchased from the USGBC on the publication list via their website.

In addition to what’s located in the Reference Guide, information from the USGBC website and the GBCI website are all fair game for the exam as well. This includes information about the LEED Application Process, Minimum Project Requirements (MPRs), Credit Interpretation Requests (CIRs), etc.

As you can probably tell, there is a lot to learn, which is why I recommend using a study guide to supplement your studying. You can check out the study guides for your exam of choice in the left hand side of this website, or by clicking here.

Probably the best way to practice for the exam after you believe you’ve learned what you need to know is by taking practice tests. Again, you can view the best practice exams for each test in the left hand side of this website, or by clicking here.

Lastly, you are free to use any of the free resources found on the homepage of greenexamacademy.com under the category for the specific exam you plan to take. There are helpful tips and charts that are free, which should help you memorize and understand the information even further.

Here is some more info about the exam:

  • 2 part exam, 2 hours each (4 hours total)
  • The 1st part is actually the Green Associate Exam (see below)
  • 100 multiple-choice questions for each part (200 total)
  • Computer-based test
  • For two-part exam: USGBC national members: $300, All others: $400
  • For specialty exam only: $150/$250

For more information, please check out the handbooks which can be found on the GBCI website.

The LEED Green Associate Exam

The LEED Green Associate (LEED GA) exam is the 1st tier in the LEED credentialing process, and is the stepping stone to earning your LEED AP with specialty.

The GA exam is less detailed than the specialty exams, but can cover general green building concepts that span across all LEED rating systems.

The GBCI website states that the Green Associate exam is “for professionals who want to demonstrate green building expertise in non-technical fields of practice…[it] denotes basic knowledge of green design, construction and operations.”

This exam is geared toward the product manufacturers, the marketers, the finance people, students, people in customer service for a large construction firm, etc. It’s also for people who are not yet eligible to take a LEED AP specialty exam.

In order to take the LEED Green Associate exam, you must meet one of the following eligibility requirements:

  • You must have previous experience supporting a LEED-registered project, or
  • You must have experience working in a sustainable field of work, or
  • You must have attended an education program that addresses green building principles.

Your experience must be documented in the form of a letter from a supervisor, client, project manager, or teacher, and describe your involvement. A completion certification from an educational program, or an official transcript will suffice. This information is uploaded during your application process for the exam.

Let’s go through each of these eligibility requirements one-by-one:

You must have previous experience supporting a LEED-registered project

This is self-explanatory. If you’ve worked on a LEED registered project in any way, shape or form – then you qualify for the LEED Green Associate exam. Again, you’ll need documentation (as described above) to prove this.

You must have experience working in a sustainable field of work

I believe all they are looking for is for you to explain how you and your company or profession has anything to do with sustainability, environmentalism, or the green building industry. Of course, if you’re an architect or engineer, then you should be able to meet this requirement very easily. If you work for a product manufacturer (i.e. a carpet manufacturer),  then you’ll have a little bit of explaining to do as to how you and your company relate to the green building industry.

You must have attended an education program that addresses green building principles

The GBCI has yet to be absolutely clear about what exactly qualifies as an acceptable education program for the LEED Green Associate exam. I will be asking for clarification from the GBCI very soon, and I’ll update you as soon as I find out.

This is what I’ll be asking:

  • Is there a list of acceptable education programs to choose from?
  • Can certain college courses count?
  • Can these programs be taken online, or only live?
  • What about continued education programs at work?
  • If you have more questions, please comment below and I’ll ask!

If You Are Eligible for the LEED Green Associate Exam

If you are eligible for the LEED GA exam, you may be wondering exactly the exam is about. Here’s a quick breakdown:

The Green Associate exam will test your knowledge of:

  • The LEED Application Process
  • Project Site Factors
  • Water Management
  • Project Systems and Energy Impacts
  • Acquisition, Installation and Management of Project Materials
  • Stakeholder Involvement in Innovation
  • Project Surroundings and Public Outreach
  • Synergistic Opportunities between various LEED strategies

Here is some more quick info about the exam:

  • 2 hour exam
  • 100 multiple-choice questions
  • computer-based test
  • USGBC national members/full-time students: $150, All others: $200.

For more information, please take a look at the Green Associate exam candidate handbook, which can be found on the GBCI website.

What to Study and How to Study for the LEED Green Associate Exam

You should definitely take a look at the Green Associate handbook found on the GBCI website. The handbook will tell you important information about what is covered on the exam and where you can find that information.

In addition, you are always free to use the information on greenexamacademy.com to help you along the way.  On the homepage you’ll find information about you’re the exam, including summaries, tips and charts to help you organize all of the information for you.

I also have published helpful study guide called The Green Associate Exam Walkthrough, which you may find very useful.

Last Note from Pat

If you have any questions, please feel free to leave them below in the comments section, and I’ll do my best to find you the correct answer as soon as I can. Since this is an open forum format website, people in the future with the same question may benefit from you asking yours now – so please don’t hesitate to do so.

Lastly, thank you so much for your support. I wish you the best of luck on your journey!

Kindest regards,

Pat

Click here for the best Study Guides & Practice Exams

43 Comments On This Post

  1. I took the Leed AP test and failed with 169 points. Could my Leed-NC book help me with passing Leed GA? Do I have to order all the books listed on GBCI web-site as references? Or could I supplement my knowledge from LEED-NC guide with only few other sources? Is A LEED-GA a step down from LEED AP? Or is it just a new version of LEED AP? Thank you for your help, we are lost sheep, appreciating your guidance.

    Reply
    • Hi Natasha – I’m sorry to hear you failed and were so close. Your NCv2.2 book will help a little bit, but the GA exam is more general and the information on the exam could pertain to all LEED rating systems.

      I don’t think you need to get all of those books listed on the GBCI website and in the handbook for the GA exam. However, some of those things you can get for free (like some of the articles).

      Also, I guess you could say a LEED GA is “a step down” from a LEED AP, because a LEED AP that’s comparable to one from the previous version would be considered a LEED AP+ with Specialty, or a LEED AP from the 2nd tier. However, a LEED GA is the stepping stone to a LEED AP+.

      I hope this helps! Best of luck to you.

      Reply
  2. I took the LEED AP Exam in June and scored a 169 as well, with the new tiers being implemented, can I pursue the LEED AP specialized track but take the exam in the two parts or do I have to take the 4 hr exam at one sitting?
    Thanks for your help Pat.
    P.S. your walk-through guide was EXCEPTIONAL! Keep up the encouraging work.

    Reply
    • Congratulations Andre on getting back on that horse. I have talked to and heard from those who have failed the LEED AP and become bitter. Good luck in moving forward. To answer your question, you do not have to take the test in one sitting, you can get your GA and then sit for your specialty at a different time.

      I wish you all the best and I know you will be joining us certified professionals soon.

      Reply
  3. I took the LEED AP test and failed in June also. I understand that GBCI have reference guide for BD+C on Sept 15 and was wondering if you will be providing a new LEED AP Walkthrough e-book for Building Design and Construction.

    Reply
    • Hi Darrell,

      I’m sorry to hear you didn’t pass. Actually, the study guide for BD+C is already available. September 15th is when the exam will go live.

      In addition, there is BD+C material in the Study Guide section on the left hand of this website already.

      Thanks and best of luck to you!

      Reply
  4. Dear Pat, i have passed the leed AP exam, i will enroll myself as LEED AP+ BD&C, but i want also to be specialist in O & m. Can i have both speciality, or do i need to give the exam for LEED AP+ ( part 2) , also , do i need to have experience to work on green project to be eligible to give the exam, if have to.

    Reply
    • Hi Real Jadsigh, since you already have a LEED AP, you’ll be able to enroll in one specialty through the CMP requirements, without having to take that exam. However, I believe that since you’d like a second AP specialty, you’ll probably have to take that particular exam.

      Reply
      • continuing from where we left, do i need to have the experience to work on green project to be eligible to take the exam

  5. Quick question, is it possible to take the AP Exam and pass the first part and not the second… thus earning a GA? Thanks for all the great information!

    Reply
    • Matthew, if you sign up for a LEED AP exam, and only pass the first part (The Green Associate Exam part), you are not a Green Associate – because you signed up for the AP part as a whole. However, you only have to retake the AP specialty portion when you retake your exam.

      See FAQ question #8 from the GBCI website here: http://www.gbci.org/DisplayPage.aspx?CMSPageID=195

      Reply
  6. Hello Pat, am working for US based company from india, we do LEED credits for new buildings, i have 3.5 years of experience, an i take LEED AP Exam in next month (Sep 15th)??

    Reply
  7. Hello pat, am working for US company from our india branch, we do LEED Credits for New US Buildings, i have 3.5 years of Experience in this Feild, can i take LEED AP Exam in next month (Sep 15th 2009)?

    Reply
  8. I have gone through your introductory pages and they are well well articulated. Thanks so much for all the info. I feel more positive about the exam than before.
    One quick question…I am an architect with @ 5yrs experience in the field. Does that qualify me for the LEED GA exam? None of this exp is with a LEED related project. How ould i document this to make me eligible for the exam.

    Reply
    • Hi Mek, thanks for stopping by greenexamacademy. I’m glad you’re finding it helpful.

      Anyways, in regards to your question, since you have experience working in the field, you should definitely be eligible for the Green Associate exam. A letter that’s drafted per the instructions in the GA handbook from the GBCI website from a supervisor or boss would probably suffice, just verifying your experience in the field and how it’s basically related to sustainability and green buildings. Best of luck to you!

      Reply
  9. If I want to be LEED AP O&M do I need to purchase the study guides for both LEED Associate and LEED AP O&M?

    Reply
  10. if i take the part one GA exam and i do not do part 2 or do not pass it, i still Ga or not??

    Reply
    • Hi Asmaa,

      If you take the GA exam by itself (meaning you scheduled to take only the GA exam), and you pass, you’ll be a GA. If you schedule to take a LEED AP Exam, and you happen to not pass the GA part, you are not a GA. This is based on the information from http://www.gbci.org and their handbooks.

      Reply
  11. Hi, I’m trying to find some information about being LEED GA certified and I’m just wondering where I can get the study material? Is your LEED GA walkthrough provide enough information to pass the test? thanks

    Reply
    • Hi J,

      I always tell people to get as much study material as possible, just so they know they have all their bases covered, however people have told me that my guide does indeed provide enough information to pass the GA exam. Most, however, use practice exams to supplement their studies. Hope that helps. Best of luck to you!

      Reply
  12. My website is under construction. I’m studying for my ga test. I took an online course at greenexamprep.com. Can I use this course to qualify for the GA test?
    Could you give me some insight on the nd ap accreditdation? what it covers and how it how it will be applied.

    Thank you for this site. It is a treasure

    Reply
    • Hi Gerald. I know greenexamprep.com offers different courses, so you’ll have to be more specific in order for me to answer your question. Actually, it would probably be best to ask them if their classes qualify for the GA exam.

      Regarding the Neighborhood Development AP Accreditation, I believe it will be available in 2010. You can read more about it here: http://www.gbci.org/DisplayPage.aspx?CMSPageID=88

      Reply
  13. I am planning to take the Leed GA exam however, i dont have any experience on leed projects.

    I plan to attend an education program instead. Can you provide me some references for the accredited programs?

    Reply
  14. I am looking forward to give Leed AP (BD+C) in March. I had worked as an architect,consultant on project in india which was registered for LEED NC & Major renovation rating under IGBC (Indian Green building council) and has achieved gold certification. Please guide me,would that make me eligible for AP exam.

    I appreciate your help.

    Regards,
    Riya

    Reply
    • Hi Riya, I believe you would indeed qualify for the AP exam based on your experience. Just make sure the letter that’s to be uploaded with your appilcation has all the requirements that describes your experience and connection with the LEED registered project.

      Reply
  15. Our company has 12 certifided LEED projects completed what qualifies as “personal” experinece?

    Do you have information on the accredited qualifying programs?

    Reply
    • It’s a little vague, what “personal experience” means, but if you were somehow involved with the LEED projects, in the process of getting them through the application process all the way to certification, than you have personal experience. You may want to double check with the USGBC or GBCI just to make sure if you’re concerned.

      As far as accredited qualifying programs, right now that information can be found at http://www.usgbc.org/DisplayPage.aspx?CMSPageID=283

      Reply
  16. LEED Specialty Exam Credentials
    I enrolled in a educational program to satisfy the credentialing to take LEED GA. I passed the LEED GA recently.
    Do I qualify automatically to take specialty exam without LEED work experience? Please advise.

    Reply
    • Hi Noli,

      You need experience on a LEED Registered project. Even though you pass the GA, and you are a LEED GA, you still need that experience in order to qualify for the AP exam.

      Reply
  17. I want to do de Green Exam and Specialities.
    I actually work in a project searching the LEED certification. How do i demostrated the experiences? Help

    Reply
  18. Hi Pat,
    This is a great help. I am absolutely new to LEED. Am working with an architecture firm since last 2 years. We have an ongoing project that will be submitted for gold or platinum approval. Do i need to take Leed GA or Leed AP. and the link for leed GA / AP resource books – they will help me completely to prepare for the exam right?

    Reply
  19. all help is appreciated.. Thanks a ton!

    Reply
  20. hi I’m an architect (not register yet) and have experience on LEED certify project; should I go for the LEED AP or start with the LEED GA?
    one more point – the project is on the USGBC web site but never been build (maybe will…) is that still count?

    Reply
  21. I would like to become a LEED AP in BC Canada, where do I start?

    Reply
  22. Hi Pat,
    I want to know how I can pass each exams (LEED Green Associate Exam) . What about the score ? and what is the whole score?

    Best regards

    Reply
  23. i am an architect having 17years exp. but i have no exp. in green architecture .even my company is not involved in green projects…but i am still interested in giving leed AP & LEED GA exam…m i eligible ?

    Reply
  24. Hi Pat,
    I am an Architect from India, with substantial Interiors experience (12 yrs +). I have been based in UAE for the past 6 years. I am interested in attaining LEED ID+C. I would appreciate if you could guide me through. Am i eligible for LEED AP speciality straight away or do i need to first take LEED GA. I dont have much experience working on LEED projects. Please advise.

    thanks,
    Sach

    Reply
  25. Hello Pat,
    I’m in Canada, I have the required LEED project experience. What are the “exact” steps I need to become a LEED AP (BD+C)?

    Reply
  26. i am in canada. how can i get LEED[op+m] also LEED AP

    Reply
  27. kindly diret me which thig to buy from your web site, i am planing to go for BD+C for quick preperation for LEED exams.

    Reply
  28. O.K

    Reply
  29. HOW TO BECOME THE ASSOCIATE MEMBER

    Reply

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About Me

Hi! My name is Pat and I’m the guy behind GreenExamAcademy.com. I graduated with a B.A. in Architecture from the University of California Berkeley, and was working in an Architecture firm for the last few years in Southern California...

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