How to Prepare for the Certified Welding Inspector Exam Part 1: The CWI Exam Playbooks

Last month I attended the American Technical Education Association National Conference and spent a good deal of time speaking to AWS members from around the country. Inevitably, almost every conversation went into one of two areas: the new programs we were releasing through American Welding Online, or the Certified Welding Inspector Seminar and Exam. Of the many conversations I had that week, one in particular stood out. I had an in depth conversation with a local Tennessee instructor who wanted to tell me about his experience with the CWI exam. I vividly remember him saying that when he started down the road to the CWI he “didn’t quite know what I was getting into.” He said that he “went through some grueling nights covering materials,” in preparation for take the exam, but in the end he was “glad” he went through the process.

This and other similar conversations made me think about my time at AWS. Over the past four years, there is one question I am asked more often than any other: How do I prepare for the CWI exam?

Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this question. The CWI exam is complex, encompasses years of practical and theoretical knowledge, and is designed to ensure that only those who truly understand the material and have developed the necessary practical skills are given the responsibility to protect the public’s safety.

With a program of this scope and importance, where do you begin preparing for the CWI? The simple answer is… the beginning.

Before there was a CWI exam, before there were CWIs, two AWS committees, composed entirely of industry experts, developed two consensus documents that outlined every aspect of the CWI program and exam: the B5.1 and QC1.

AWS B5.1:2013 Specification for the Qualification of Welding Inspectors is an American National Standards Approved document that outlines the Certified Welding Inspector qualification requirements. This document outlines the body of knowledge and skills a CWI must possess to be a successful CWI. It also lists the requirements that must be met before sitting for the exam. Before doing anything else, every single person that plans on becoming a CWI should study this document thoroughly. Table 1 in the B5.1 outlines every point of knowledge and skill that a CWI must possess. Why is this important? Because if it’s in Table 1, it may very well be in the exam. Read Table 1; learn Table 1.

There is a second reason why everyone should study, not just read, but study, AWS B5.1. Specification for the Qualification of Welding Inspectors. Section seven of the document restates the knowledge and skills in Table 1 in greater detail, and attributes a weight to each section. The Fundamentals part of the CWI exam known as Part A, attributes at least 4% of all the Fundamental questions to the section titled “Duties and Responsibilities. This means that the information contained in this document and the QC1, will be covered in at least 4% of the Part A exam.

The B5.1 document is available as a free download from the AWS questions website at the following link:

The QC1:2016 Standard for AWS Certification of Welding Inspectors document is of similar importance and impact to the B5.1 This document provides a thorough overview of the CWI exam, including the various sections of the exam. In particular importance is section 11 of the QC1 which details the Code of Ethics, Rules of Conduct, and Practice for the CWI. Not only could this information end up on the exam, but every CWI should know this section by heart.

The QC1 document is available as a free download from the AWS website at the following link:

As I mentioned at the beginning of this blog post, preparing for the CWI exam is not a simple matter that can be covered completely in a single blog. Over the next ten weeks we will release a series of eleven blog posts to cover the topic thoroughly. Here is a quick rundown of the upcoming blog posts, beginning with Part 2 next week:

Part 2: Understanding the Test
Part 3: Know What to Know
Part 4: Recommended Reading is Not a Recommendation
Part 5: Make a Plan
Part 6: Do I Need the Pre-Seminar?
Part 7: When is the AWS CWI Seminar Right for Me?
Part 8: Going at it Alone
Part 9: Testing Tips & Tricks I
Part 10: Testing Tips & Tricks II
Part 11: Are you Ready?

Please remember that reading these blog posts are not enough to become a CWI. The advice, tips, and tricks provided through these blogs are meant to enhance your ability to prepare, answer some questions, and to provide you, the reader an edge. I truly hope you find this information useful in your preparations.

See you next week for Part 2!

David Hernandez

17 thoughts on “How to Prepare for the Certified Welding Inspector Exam Part 1: The CWI Exam Playbooks”

    1. Read our series of blogs on preparing for the CWI exam. It discusses the documents from which the questions are taken and steps that you can take to prepare.

  1. I find it very interesting and very helpful this guide to learn how to focus our study on welding inspection and examination aid and our professional knowledge.
       thank you very much.
      attentamente: Engineer Alejandro Vargas Torres.

  2. I’m going to have an exam with the code book ASME Sec. IX 2010, Add B31.1 2010/12 and B31.3 2010. This paper package has a whole extent of approx. 900 pages. How can I prepare myself for the code book test subject? It would be very taff to have an overview about all pages. Are there any main issues where I have to put my focus on it?

  3. David,
    What you said about CWI preparation is absolutely right.
    In 2012, I took this training program and passed the test and then certified as a CWI. I took me almost half a year for the preparation work. To read QC1, B5.1, D1.1, Welding Inspection Technology and so on. It was not a easy job because I had to deal with my daily job responsibility in the factory, but that process gave me much more than I thought.
    CWI is just a “paper”, after 5-day training and 1 day exam, maybe you can get that paper. But the work I did behind that paper is much more important than the paper itself.

  4. taking test under 1104 what area’s need to be tabbed out in the code book for easy access

  5. sir i wrote my cwi exam and i have failed in part A & B i could not understand how i got failed in part A I was hoping for 90 % what would have gone wrong can u pleas explain me and how should i prepare for re test waiting for your reply.

  6. I have a degree in B.S. in Mechanical Engineering. If I am understanding this correctly, that is only good for two years of experience?

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