Aiman asks: Hi, I read your other article about the new LEED v4 rating system and the new combined LEED AP test, it was very informative. I am wondering about taking the LEED AP exam directly versus starting with the LEED Green Associate credential… Which would you recommend?

Answer: Hi Aiman, thank you for your question and for reading my previous article about LEED v4 exam updates. As mentioned, the new LEED v4 exams were released in 2013 at USGBC’s Greenbuild conference. Since they were released, USGBC has removed the LEED project experience prerequisite for the LEED AP exam.

If you are looking at earning a LEED credential, it’s a great idea… We recommend people become a LEED Green Associate as a first step, then take the LEED AP exam to become a LEED AP, rather than take the LEED AP combined exam.

Because the combined LEED AP with Specialty exam is a four (4) hour test, it is comprised of two two hour exam parts…

  1. Part 1 of the LEED AP combined exam session is the 2 hour LEED Green Associate exam
  2. Part 2 of the combined LEED AP exam is the 2 hour LEED AP specialty portion (i.e. BD+C, ID+C, O+M, etc.)

If you are very experienced in architecture, engineering, or design and regularly working on LEED projects you may be very familiar with LEED already and feel confident about studying for the four hour combined exam and taking this route.


Best path LEED credentialing exams work flowchart

We recommend that people take the two exams separately (above left) which involves earning the LEED Green Associate credential first.

We recommend this because if you take the four hour combined exam (above right) and fail either portion, you don’t earn any credential and have to retake the failed portion and pay the exam fees again.

Each exam is different and has a high difficulty level. The passing grade for each exam is 85% and you will find out whether you pass or fail immediately after taking the exam.

The diagram above illustrates how the LEED professional credentialing examinations work, depending on which credential you want to earn and which path you choose. The right shows the path for taking the “combined” 4 hour LEED AP exam which includes both exam parts. The left side below shows the path for taking the 2 hour LEED Green Associate exam first, earning that credential, then choosing to take the 2 hour LEED AP with Specialty exam.

We typically recommend people follow the path on the lefthand side, pass the LEED Green Associate exam, then move on to the LEED AP exam.


imageVineela Kasi Reddy, LEED AP BD+C

Vineela is an Architect, LEED AP BD+C and a GRIHA (Indian green building rating system) certified evaluator. She is currently working on understanding the financial implications of sustainability.

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