9 Reasons I Failed the LEED AP BD+C Exam

This is an article that I contributed to poplarnetwork.com. Please provide feedback below!


After passing the LEED GA exam by a 15 point margin, I was confident I would pass the BD+C exam with ease… Then I failed by 1 point.

Please read my tips below to avoid a similar situation for your first attempt at the LEED AP BD+C test.
Please read my tips below to avoid a similar situation for your first attempt at the LEED AP BD+C test.
Credit: Alba Estevez G. via Flickr

Prior to my first attempt at the LEED AP BD+C exam, I had studied, read flash cards several times over, and was completing my practice tests well above the recommended 85%.

Considering that I had passed the LEED Green Associate by a 15 point margin, I had convinced myself that I was well equipped to tackle the AP test. However, when I sat down to write the test, the questions didn’t seem to be relevant to what I had studied. I found myself guessing more than analyzing the questions.

I finished the test 1 point below the minimum required score of 170. You can imagine the level of disappointment I felt was massive…

Please read my tips below to avoid a similar situation for your first attempt at the LEED AP BD+C test:

#1. Memorization of the right materials

I cannot stress the importance of the right study guide and practice questions. However, utilization of practice exams must be done carefully. It is very easy to gain confidence by earning high grades on the practice exams after doing them multiple times… Especially if the questions are overly simple or even outdated. In my first attempt to pass the LEED AP exam I used practice tests from a supposedly reputable provider but in retrospect the questions may not have been as up to date as they could have been.

Also, there is a danger to using any practice tests in that once you have done the questions too many times, you may memorize the correct answers as opposed to selecting the proper answer by process of elimination each time.

As such, again, it’s important to rely on exams that are designed by someone who is familiar with the material that will be tested. The second time I prepared and successfully passed the exam I memorized and tested myself on the material in the GreenStep LEED AP BD+C Study Guide, which is condensed and focused.

#2. Lack of time

I have read in different blogs what the right amount of time for preparation is, but I think it varies based on the person. Numerical values regarding study time must be taken with a grain of salt. All testers read, comprehend and retain in different ways. In my case 4 weeks was not enough given my full time work schedule.

#3. Favoring strong areas, disregarding the weak

I was able to comprehend the Sustainable sites category with ease, yet I struggled with the Energy and Atmosphere section. It’s likely that this is due to my architectural training, whereas someone with HVAC training may have opposite strengths and weaknesses.

Practice tests should give you a decent indication of where your strengths and weaknesses lie by providing feedback immediately. It’s also helpful to think for yourself which category a question may reflect, and consider synergies (as described below).

Do not neglect this, because one category can make or break your results.

#4. Not breaking down practice exam questions

In my first attempt, I became flustered because I did not totally understand the questions. I developed a method that I call “process of elimination” which should be practiced thoroughly while doing practice tests. The Process of elimination is as simple as it sounds: Identify the first one or two answers that do not belong before you try to assess what is correct.

If a question is overly tricky, you can also do this by marking the questions (as is allowed in the Prometric exam process) and coming back to them later after you have gone through all of the questions in the full exam once. Having viewed all of the practice questions you may find that you have new perspective on a tricky question and will be more confident of your answer.

#5. Disregarding Synergies

Don’t just understand individual credits, understand how these credits work with other credits. And how categories work with other categories.

For instance, if the size of the HVAC vents in a building are increased in size/diameter, what credits will be affected? What synergies are most directly associated with each other?

A lot of LEED credits are not entirely independent of others, so be attentive to credit relationships.

#6. Having poor knowledge of sequence

Especially in the LEED Process category, you must understand the sequence of operations. When does the Discovery phase happen in the integrative process? I didn’t pay a lot a lot of attention to this when I studied, and it hurt me on the exam.

#7. Not recognizing the word that doesn’t belong

This one is closely associated with synergies and process of elimination. If you have done your due diligence and you approach the question the proper way, there should be immediate red flags. On my second (and successful) attempt, I realized how oblivious to this I was on my first attempt.

#8. Failing to use common sense

Sometimes, well, always, the correct answer is right in front of your face. However, if you do not use common sense when you use the process of elimination and break questions down, you may not realize how blatantly obvious an answer actually is.

Not having a tactic for approaching the questions properly caused me to panic. I can’t stress the importance of a proper approach.

#9. Last Minute Cramming

If you have been studying for months, can you really teach yourself the material required the morning before your test?

I had read as much as I possibly could have the morning before my test. I believe that this contributed to me becoming overwhelmed with what I didn’t know as opposed to brushing up on what I did know.

IMHO you want to be fresh on test day!



2 thoughts on “9 Reasons I Failed the LEED AP BD+C Exam

  1. All very good points. Number two, I believe, is the most important. To fully understand LEED you have to immerse yourself in it. LEED Is complex. I studied almost every day for a year, while working full time, took practice tests and met with a study group. I passed with a small margin, but was unsure up to moment I submitted the completed exam.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for your feedback Peter. Yes, I would probably have to agree with your comment about number 2 being the most important. However, studying the wrong material for a long period of time is just as detrimental as depriving yourself of time!


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