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Tips on taking the CSWA exam.

It is human nature to get a bit nervous when taking any kind of exam. When I took the CSWA I too was a bit nervous mainly for not knowing what exactly to expect. With that in mind I decided to provide some guidance on how to prepare for this exam for those interested in taking it. Consider the following as a resource of tips and advise for when taking the CSWA.

What is the CSWA?

It stands for Certified SolidWorks Associate and it is a 3 hour exam that will test your knowledge on what SolidWorks considers to be the basics. Click on the video below to get some information from SolidWorks themselves regarding this exam.

What else should I know?

Knowing how to use the commands mentioned in the video is a great start but you also need to be able to interpret drawing views and create sketches from them, so practice on interpreting engineering type drawings. Also be sure you know how to edit existing sketches and features because you will be asked to change dimensions on the same models used on previous questions. Develop a good comfort level on these areas before you jump into the exam.

Is there a sample test?

Yes. You can download the PDF portion here but you will need to download the complete zip folder at the SolidWorks website in order to download the part files to be used for the assembly questions. This will require a software to unzip the zip folder.

The sample test will present a good idea of what you will be tested on, but don't expect the same exact questions to appear on the actual certification exam. This sample test is a must for those with minimal experience in order to confirm that you are "potentially" ready. The reason I say "potentially" is because the actual test won't be as easy as the sample test. The recommended time of experience before you take the exam is a minimum of 45 hours of classroom instruction. I find this to be rather short and would recommend at least 100 hours.

Points of emphasize.

In addition to the information that the video above and the PDF sample test provided, I would add emphasis on the following topics:

  • Watch all the free tutorials linked on this page.

  • Read through the entire sample test PDF.

  • A copy of SolidWorks will NOT be provided for you on the test, make sure you have access to a copy.

  • You will need a software to open zip files and understand how to unzip and extract the files.

  • I recommend taking the sample test on the virtual tester, to familiarize yourself with the testing environment.

This point deserves more than just a bullet point so please read carefully. Make sure you practice as much as you can on developing your troubleshooting skills. Don't just get into a habit of starting over whenever you have issues. Focus on developing troubleshooting skills on sketches, features and mates in assembly. Understand what the error messages mean, read the message and learn to interpret the potential solution.

Where are the free tutorials?

There are tutorials provided by SolidWorks on YouTube. These tutorials are short yet provide good overall information.

I have created a tutorial video in regards to questions 3 to 6 on the sample test.

I have also created a tutorial video in regards to questions 7 to 8 on the sample test. Please subscribe to my YouTube channel to get updates on future videos.

What other resources are there?

There are several books available online that are guides for the CSWA. The one that I personally have used is SolidWorks 2015 Part I - Basic Tools. The book is a couple years old but Chapter 22 is a great reference.

There are other books also published by SDC which have a focus on the CSWA. The book below is for version 2015-2017.

This one is for version 2012-2015.

Time keeps on ticking.

The exam does not allow you to stop and save your current progress and pick up where you left off later. There is no stopping the clock so make sure you take the exam in a scheduled time of your day with no interruptions. Give yourself at least 3 hours of uninterrupted time. Depending on your skill level you can finish the exam in less time.

What happens after the test?

If you pass, then congratulations, you will be provided with a certification electronically and it can be a useful tool to set you above the rest when it comes to potential employment. You will receive an email with instructions on how to access a copy of the certification. If you are an aspiring student or entry level professional then include a copy of your certification with your resume to prove your aptitude to this great software.

If you fail well there is always next time. Don't give up, there is no limit on how many times you can retake the exam. You will be permitted to retake the exam after 30 days. The downfall will be if you paid for the voucher yourself then there is no reimbursement. In order to take it you will need another voucher. Also there are several iterations of the exam so when you retake it don't expect to see the exact same questions.

Well I hope the information here provides you with some knowledge towards your goal on successfully completing the CSWA. Good luck!

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