LEED Green Associate Exam Study Tips

For several years now, I have been giving LEED Exam preparation classes for SHP, so I often get asked for advice and tips on the exams. I am, by no means a testing expert, but after passing 5 LEED exams and 9 Architectural Registration Exams and training over 750 people to take LEED exams, I do fancy myself to be fairly knowledgeable. So, without further delay, here are my top tips for preparing for (and passing!) the LEED Green Associate Exam.

  1. The Green Associate Exam is all about breadth, not depth, of knowledge. Can’t remember how many bike racks you need to get the Alternative Transportation: Bicycle Storage and Changing Rooms Credit? Don’t worry- that type of question is far more likely to appear on an AP+ exam than a Green Associate exam. Do focus on a general understanding of sustainable design and the strategies that the LEED Rating Systems encourage and why. Also, remember that the Green Associate Exam doesn’t just cover one rating system, it covers all of them from Building Design and Construction to Operations and Maintenance and Homes.
  2. Use the study tools that work best for you. Let’s face it; I know this is not the first test you’ve ever taken. Most people have a long history of academic and professional test-taking skills to fall back on when they approach the LEED Exam. Why change strategies now? If you know you learn well from flashcards or  practice tests, seek out those resources. Never been a fan of flashcards? Why start now? Seek out a popular study guide or study directly from the exam specifications. (Don’t forget SHP’s EcoFlash iPhone apps!)
  3. Download the FREE Green Associate Candidate Handbook (here) and use it! This free handbook contains all of the topics covered by the exam and the specific reference materials that were used to develop the exam. Most of the listed reference materials can be downloaded for free and will give you a solid foundation of knowledge for the exam. Use the topics and references contained in the handbook to guide your studies, and if you are looking to purchase and use a study guide, make sure the guide covers most, if not all, of the topics in the candidate handbook.
  4. This is a multiple choice test; take advantage of the format. Remember all those tricks you learned in grade school for taking multiple choice tests like using the process of elimination to give yourself the best shots on questions you’re not 100% sure of? All those tricks will work on this test too. Also, don’t forget the one where a later question in the exam may give you the answer to an earlier one that you struggled with if you pay attention!
  5. Read the question and ALL of the answers, then do it again. To me, this is the most important piece of advice. Many of us have at least moderate test-taking anxiety, and we tend to want to hurry up and “get through” the test. So, really focus on trying to relax, take your time and really comprehend the question before trying to answer it. It is so easy to overlook a key word and pick the wrong answer if you’re not being careful. For most people, two hours is plenty of time to take your time on a 100 question test.
  6. Use the tools the computer software gives you. The “mark” feature that the testing software has can be invaluable in giving you an opportunity to review the questions that you’re just not completely sure about before you bite the bullet and exit the test. Just try not to mark all of the questions.
  7. Take a practice test. In my opinion, there is no better way to assess your knowledge a few days before the exam than with a practice test. This also is a great way to practice those test taking skills I was talking about above. Not sure where to get a practice test? Come back next week when I post my free LEED Green Associate practice test.

I hope these tips help in your quest for your LEED Green Associate Credential. Please feel free to contact me via the contact page above if you have any questions!

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24 thoughts on “LEED Green Associate Exam Study Tips

  1. Allison,

    Great advice, particularly items 5 and 7.

    One of our most common weaknesses, and I am the worst offender, is to read a few words and mistakingly form a conclusion as to what the question is asking. Which brings us to the value of practice tests. You will quickly learn to break yourself of this habit when you argue endlessly that your answer IS correct – then see where you thought it was asking ‘what is’, when in fact the question was actually asking ‘what is NOT’! Practice tests teach more than learning content.

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  2. Couldn’t agree more, rookwood.

    The above advice is great as was the practice test! I caught at least 10 ‘stupid’ errors; have to slow down, read carefully and, as suggested, read it again. (Sadly, this was after taking the practice test from class twice and the one in the Study Guide several times!) It is easy to miss something that seems obvious after you read the explanation but you do begin to start thinking LEED.

    Beware of not covering what the Green Associate Candidate Handbook says to study for and, as said above, “it covers all rating systems”. Thanks again for this generous help!

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  3. I should be pleased if any body tell me what is the expected passing rate for the LEED GA exam, l know it is weighted but at least there ia a rang for passing, some people says it is 60% other says it’s 80%-85% which need a high level of preperation advers to 60%…Please tell me you expexctation at least.

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  4. Hi,
    How long would you recommend studying for the exam? I am a student and was considering studying for this and the GRE over winter break–about 2 hours a day (each) for 3 weeks. Would you advise this, or stretching it out over a semester? Also, if I were to take it, say, a month before I graduate, would I still receive student pricing?

    Thanks!

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    1. Paloma- I think a three week period is perfect. I really advise not stretching the studying out over any more than a month because I feel that you start forgetting what you studied first. I think 30 to 40 hours of total study time is about right for most people.
      As far as student pricing goes- you establish that pricing when you first apply to take the exam, so as long as you apply while you are a student, you will qualify for student pricing.

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  5. Hi Allison, Thank you for all of the great tips you’ve listed, I think they will help me zero in my focus. You said that you would be posting a free LEED Green Associate practice test but I am unable to find it. Would you direct me to where I might find it?
    Also a thought came to me about just what does a LEED Green Associate do? What would a Green Associate be responsible for? What role would one play. Is it just a credential that does nothing for a project. I have not been able to find an answer for that.
    Thank you

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  6. Hi Allison,

    I was just wondering how many questions you need to get right to pass the LEED Green Associate Exam. I have been getting 80’s and 90’s on the practice exams from numerous sites including:build my life green practice test, greenlearner exams, glengi.com, studio 4 and I bought the Chan LEED GA Mock Exam book. I know some questions are weighted, I’m just looking for an opinion on how many questions someone thinks you need to answer correctly to pass. Basically, would a person fail if they answered 80 questions correctly.

    Thank you

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    1. Sean- it’s hard to know for sure since GBCI is a little secretive about exam development. My best guess based on my own experiences taking LEED exams and my students taking them is that 70-75% correct is probably passing. Like you mentioned, though, the weighting certainly affects the overall score as well, but if you’re consistently getting 80s and 90s you should be in pretty good shape! Good luck!

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  7. Thanks for all the helpful tips and links. I was interested in downloading the document you described in #3: the FREE Green Associate Candidate Handbook, but I think the link has changed. Any chance you can update that?
    Thanks.

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  8. Allison,

    Looking to eventually be LEED AP certified. Do I have to take the GA test first, or can I skip to AP. I assume it would be easier to start with GA and work my way up. Suggestions or tips?

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    1. Sarah- unless you have the old LEED AP credential already, you will have to start with the LEED Green Associate and work your way up to being a LEED AP with specialty. You can technically take the Green Associate and LEED AP specialty exam in the same sitting, but I strongly recommend against it. Tackle the Green Associate and then work your way up!

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  9. Hi Allison – Thanks for the tips. I’ve taken an online exam prep course and am reading through the candidate handbook and attached documents, but have heard that it’s important – necessary? – to also study the Green Building and Core Concepts Guide and/or the LEED Reference Guide for Green BD+C. From your posts, it doesn’t seem like these are completely necessary given a good understanding of the other material, and I’d rather not buy more books if I don’t have to right now. Thoughts? Thank you!

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    1. Sam- I personally don’t find the Core Concepts guide very helpful and the Reference Guide for BD+C will be way too technical for the Green Associate exam. You should be in good shape with the candidate handbook and the web links it gives in the references section. You may also want to check out some of the practice exam sites online like Green Building Education Services for a better way to spend a little bit of money for a better exam prep resource.

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  10. Allison, thanks for all the helpful advice on your wonderful website!
    I have my LEED Green Associate Exam coming up in a couple of weeks and I have been practicing on the tests from Green Building Education Services. I wanna know if you have personally taken their tests and according to you, how close is their wording & content to the actual exam? I have been scoring in the 70’s and lower 80’s on their Full tests and slightly higher on their Section tests. But recently I tried a few other tests which I found online for free. To my horror, the language was very different, the content was slightly off and I scored relatively low, in the 50-60% range 😦

    I am very nervous now because of the dip in my scores and I need your honest opinion about on the GBES tests. Thanks a lot!

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  11. Hi Allison,

    Thanks for a great website. I finished my LEED course on October and now I have registered for the LEED GA exam next month. I have time to study only 1 month(2-3hrs/day). Now I am worried about my schedule as I’m not sure if 1 month is sufficient enough.

    Please advise for my schedule. I might postpone the exam if need be. Thanks a lot!

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    1. Wanida- you should be fine! I usually recommend that people who attend my course spend an additional 20-40 hours studying for the exam after the course. You have plenty of time, just plan out your studying so you know exactly what you need to do between now and your exam. Good luck!

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  12. Hi Allison,

    Thanks for your free practice test questions and tips for exam preparation.

    Is there any updates made on LEED GA exam from your view? and the another straight forward question is how close practice tests to the actual exam (GBES, ETC.,)

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  13. Tip #1 is mostly true, but any question is fair game. I took and passed the GA exam on March 31, 2014 with a score of 178. One of the questions on my exam was specifically about bike racks. My study habits consisted of reading the LEED Green Handbook and taking the practice tests purchased from GBES.com over a one month period. I had studied the mile wide, inch deep content, but was thrown off by bike rack quantity question and similar “mile deep” questions.

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  14. Hi Allison,

    I really want to become a green associate. I have diploma in BArch and MSc in Renewable Energy & Architecture from University of Nottingham/UK.

    Through my research I found out that I need to have either green building related work experience or education. Do you by any chance have more information on the ‘education’ requirement? For instance, will a MSc in Renewable Energy & Architecture diploma be sufficient in order to qualify?

    Thanks in advance 🙂

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