How to Prepare for the Certified Welding Inspector Exam Part 2: Understanding the Test

In the last blog post I mentioned two documents that serve as the CWI exam playbooks. These are the AWS B5.1. Specification for the Qualification of Welding Inspectors and the QC1:2007 Standard for AWS Certification of Welding Inspectors. Completely overlooking these documents is one of the most common mistakes made by prospective CWIs. The B5.1 and the QC1 are treasure-troves of vital information. They include everything from the books that can be used to prepare for the exam, to the topic to be covered.

The QC1 document outlines the exact structure, breakdown, and requirements for the CWI exam.  Ignoring the information in QC1 is like playing a game when you don’t know the rules. As a test taker, you should be seeking to increase your advantages whenever possible. The information presented in the QC1 is supplemented by the information on the AWS CWI webpage

The CWI Exam is divided into three parts identified by the letters A, B, and C. Part A of the CWI exam assesses the participants understanding of fundamental welding knowledge. According to the QC1 the CWI Part A exam contains a minimum of 150 questions that must be answered within a two hour period.

In an exam consisting of 150 questions, participants will have a maximum of 45 seconds to answer any given question. Knowing this ahead of time will allow you to pace yourself during the exam. If any individual question is taking you too long to answer, skip the question and move on to the next one. Go back to the question if you have time when you have completed the test. If you don’t have time to think about the question, then guess. Do not leave any questions unanswered.

A minimum score of 72% is required to pass Part A of the CWI exam. Therefore, participants have to correctly answer 108 of the 150 questions successfully complete this section of the exam. In other words, participants can miss up to 42 questions and still pass Part A of the exam. This doesn’t mean that you should haphazardly ignore questions, or assume you have answered enough questions to pass the exam. Your goal should be to maximize the number of correct questions in each part of the exam. A little known clause in the QC1 standard states that any participant who fails one section of the exam (Parts A, B or C) and yet attains a composite score of at least 72%, will only be required to retake the part of the exam they failed—as opposed to all three parts.

Part B of the CWI exam is the inspection practical. The practical exam covers a vast range of topics including welding examination and nondestructive test processes, with a focus on visual inspection. Participants are provided with visual inspection tools, plastic replicas of welds, and a sample codebook (Book of Specifications) to complete this part of the exam. Part B of the CWI exam contains a minimum of 46 questions that must be completed in two hours. In a best case scenario, participants will have a little over two and a half minutes to answer each question.  Like Part A, participants must correctly answer 72% of the questions (34 out of 46) to pass Part B of the exam.

Part C of the CWI exam is an open-book test that establishes the participant’s ability to locate and understand information in a code book. While AWS currently provides training for only the D1.1 and API1104 Part C exams, participants can also sign up to take the code book exam utilizing AWS D1.2/D1.2M (Aluminum); D1.5M/D1.5 (Bridge Welding Code); AWS D15.1 (Railroad Welding Code); ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code Sections VIII and IX, or ASME Section IX, B31.1, and B31.3. In 2014, AWS will begin providing online training for some of these code clinic exams.

Part C of the AWS CWI exam contains a minimum of 46 questions that must be answered in a two hour timeframe. In a best case scenario, participants will have a little over two and a half minutes to answer each question. As with Part A and Part B, participants will need to score at least a 72% in order to pass Part C of the exam.

Understanding the contents, structure, and grading scale are essential first steps towards passing the CWI exam. In next week’s blog post we will discuss other important things you need to know about the CWI exam. Come back next Tuesday to learn more!

David Hernandez

38 thoughts on “How to Prepare for the Certified Welding Inspector Exam Part 2: Understanding the Test”

  1. Thanks for the helpfull info on the blogs. I’m wanting to do my CWI as well and just had a question. I’ve worked in Refineries ,Power Plants,Shops Fabricating Pressure Vessels, and Does the API-1104 cover these type of infrastructure as a CWI, Or will i need additional endorsements?

  2. To all readers,
    As Dave stated above, prepare yourself with the documentation suggested by AWS, I understand it can be costly but it’s worth you while to look online to find used books if possible to prepare yourself for this.Once you are comfortable with your fundamentals and your code book thoroughly, read through your Part B, and don’t include your base knowledge on any code that you’ve previously learned or worked with. The Part B issued is your (code book) for this part of the exam. If you’re taking the week seminar, Part B is briefly gone through for only a few hours and you only get to see the molds that you’ll be testing with for that short amount of time. Do not get caught up in conversations in class and pay close attention to the molds and the instructions given from your instructor. Good luck and thanks.

  3. I’m sorry to say that more often than not, I hear that people feel the CWI class that AWS gives is a “scam.” I have not taken it so I can only go off what I hear. If you want to pass the first time, take the 10 day course offered by Real Educational Services. No I don’t work for them, but I passed the first time with flying colors, and so have a few other people I know. No matter what prep class you choose, the test will be VERY difficult, and it not only tests you on general knowledge, but on how well you follow directions. Hands on prep is essential to pass Part B, as you will be evaluating plastic weld samples. You should know how to use tools such as fillet weld gauges, undercut gauges, and calipers/micrometers. The test will expect you to measure defects to the nearest 1/32″. Another tip I give people is, forget most of what you know and walk into class “stupid.” History has proven, that the CWI is not a “gimme” just because you have X amount of years in welding, inspection, or any other discipline. What AWS wants you to know for the test may not necessarily be what happens in the field, so keep an open mind and ask a lot of questions!

    1. I have failed the part B two times …can not seem to get higher then an 59 percent ..this test is pure hell on my mind but im going after it again and again until I get it !!! Any help would be greatly appreciated

      1. Sorry to hear the trouble your having as I’m going in december to take 2 week course then test for cwi. I’m going in blind so of you can give me any tips or what kinda questions to expect it be greatly appreciated. I know in class they will go over alot but sometimes I think I need more time to sink it all in. Email response,thanks,

    2. I disagree, To prepare for the AWS CWI Test……the moto is prepare, prepare, prepare…..I had over 40 years in the welding trade, Licensed, State Contractors licenses, Welding Certifications, AWS, LA City, (all Process, all positions)……I took the CWI prep course at Orange Coast College (Costa Mesa Ca.) 12 weeks….and the 1 week (5 day AWS Course) the week before the test and scored only a 68…..Now, to be clear, the test is complex as the writer said…..and mostly everything on the test is something any qualified welder has never seen in the work place….metallurgy questions, engineering questions and so on. Very technical stuff…..I found the AWS course to be very complete and the instructor was really incredible at teaching and cutting out the things you did not need concentrate on to take and pass these tests…also by taking the AWS prep course you get ALL THE EXPENSIVE BOOKS included in and for the tests…….they almost cost what the Prep course did……Yes I still failed the test…but that was no ones fault but mine….the test is very stressful and that can play a major roll in your score…….according to the instructor about 35% of the 50 or so people in the class would actually pass these tests…….I also learned that you can have an assistant audit the course with you and help with your studies prior to the test…(wish I had Known?)….any way, this test is not for the inexperienced….it is difficult even for the veteran welder who is certified in many areas……….remember that it cost a lot of money, I spent a total of $5,000.00 preparing traveling to and from and taking the test…… better really want this certificate and NEED IT……unless your company is sending you to be a CWI for them… probably won’t find a job in the CWI arena….because most companies don’t hire inexperienced CWI’s………research the marketplace first….Google jobs for CWI.s and look at the experience required to qualify?…….having the certificate is not enough…….and then look at the wages offered?……Most certified welders make far more than CWI’s……….I’m old, wanted out from under the hood, had a CWI job offer and thought it was a good idea……my partner who I have welded with on many jobs for over 30 years took the test two years earlier and passed with an 84%…..He got a job with Caterpillar qualifying their own welders….after 7 years with the company he makes about $65K a year….so go figure……..and good luck……I won’t do a re-take…….but the AWS prep course was excellent…no, I don’t work for them or even like AWS…..for about 5,000 reasons…………..they do say that testing is to weed out the incompetent…..Hmmmm?……and that IS the reason for these regulations………..

    3. You forgot to mention that all the tools provided in Part “B” are metric and the questions are al American standard so you have to do the conversion from Metric to English for your answer……oh, and you get to keep the kit……….

    4. I have tennitis ( ears ringing )the quieter it is in my surroundings the louder it gets! I also have ADD. I’m not a test taker but a blacksmith I am ! these tests are made for young kids colledge grads to weed out the old school guys ! I recently attended a 80 hr CWI seminar and did the math (whitch ) oh yea that word is used numerously. ? I thought they all rode brooms or is that witch! In any case every time that word was used( whitch )was exasperating! I thought one was going to fly through the room! At 1600$ a pop × 50 students × 12 mos. In a year how much is that! More than the jouls coming out of a jet rod I can tell you that! 100,000,000 a year and thats just one location there must be 50 test sites at least in the US alone not including Internet sales ! The money is bottom line to all involved the more you have to take the test the more money they make ,so if you love capitalism like I do you think wow,but if you see an injustice you think wow also ,I would love to see one of those egg heads on my next job . try to keep up with me P.s. if they’ll throw I a free PT test for qualification,they’d go broke.PEACE!

  4. I took and received my AWS/CWI in 1986. I took it over API-1104. There are several options to choose from but for the test this is the easiest choice to “take the test”. Once you pass the test you are considered QUALIFIED to use and interpret from ANY code. A project will always be designed and have an inspection code assigned to it as required by the end user ( the customer ). Taking the test doesn’t certify you to any PARTICULAR code. It certifies that you have the ability to read, decipher, interpret and “govern your decision making” to any particular code. ASME codes are the largest set of code books in the industry. MANY other codes will “reference” the ASME codes. You are wise to begin soaking yourself and your brain matter into the ASME codes and most likely you will one day be more and more familiar with what information is found in “what section” of the ASME codes. Never try to memorize them or claim to KNOW them. The key is knowing where to go to find supporting data to support your decisions in the inspection world. That is the real key to testing of AWS/CWI. API-510, 570, 653 and others. Learning what types of information are found WHERE and stay up to date on chances such and addendums and code cases alike. I have been neck-deep in the ASME codes for some 38 years now and still will NEVER try to quote what they say. I DO know where to find particular types information in them. I keep a flash-drive in my pocket at all times with all codes we use in the industry just in case I need to go back and refer to them. Trust me it helps.

    1. Wow that’s some good info, I really appreciate it. I’m preparing to take cwi in december and I’m trying to get as much info as I can to prepare myself for it. I am taking the 2 week course they have but I just wanna make sure I pass the first time, still some things I don’t understand like what u said about asme codes, I didn’t know different organizations make them also. Feel like I need to start from foundation on up. Any info that can help please email me c2x4@ymail.Com thank you

  5. I got Bachelor Degree in Aircraft Maintenance Technology, can i take the exams right away to be CWI?

  6. i want to write cpwi exam and i want to know the list of books i will need to read and were i can get it online

    1. Annex A in AWS B5.1 Specification for the Qualification of Welding Inspectors: contains a partial list of the documents from which the CWI examination questions may be taken. You can take the online CWI Pre-Seminar: to prepare for the Fundamentals portion of the CWI exam. AWS also offeres instructor-led seminars around the country: that can help prepare you for the practical and code book portions of the exam as well.

  7. So now I ‘m prepare to exam CWI 3.1. Please help provode the question bank for exam welding inspector. Thank

      1. DO NOT register to take this test without taking a prep course of some kind unless you can memorize 1,400 pages of technical information…….AWS makes money letting you take and fail these test and then re-taking them……..during any prep courses you will be provided with sample tests to take………….I still have all my copies if any one needs to see them…….pm me at my email and can try to dig them up….

        1. I just re-took mine for the third time last Saturday, the new changes on the part B sick but I feel good with the other parts . Any info can help.

        2. hi, mark I read your post online and im trying to further my education I have my NACE level 1 but trying to be more diverse and want to take my CWI could you please send me any info u have on CWI for studying thanks

        3. Hi Mark,

          I am not a welder but i have been helping welders since 2008 out pipelining and trying to become a CWI now.I took online prep course with 7 modules:-1.Welding fundamentals 2.Safety in welding 3.Understanding welding symbols 4.Science of non-destructive testing 5.Metallurgy for non-metallurgist 6.Fabrication Math I 7.Fabrication Math II.
          Sounds like you took some of these prep courses as well. Can you tell me how similar those sample tests are with ones in actual CWI exam please?

  8. Hi Tim G.

    I read you have worked on the new CWI’s PART B 2016.
    I try to learn more about the changes but cannot find a lot of informations.
    Is it only the samples that are changed ? or is it more ?
    Because you mention “sick” .. so I wonder..

    Thanks in advance

    Note : 8 years experience in welding inspection. wanted to get CWI as a personnal goal to expand my horizons. I studied by myself, while working. 1 month before exam, no seminar.. and did not pass ..68% average. Part B was messed up (A&C passed) . sad.. I do not give up but wonder about this new PART B…

  9. im taking my retest on saturday and ive heared from a few people on the part b the plastic test specimens are based off a 1 foot piece even though they are 6 inches.if anybody knows and could help me it would be much appreciated.thanks

  10. Would like retake the cwi exams for the third time.
    Previously, Part B had been the headache. Please, assist with changes in this section to arm me.
    Thanks, man.

  11. i’m doing Inpectiion level one in South Africa ,Big guys interpreting a code book and having to write exam within 20 days it’s a nightmare ASME,EN ,AWS And DIN all within 20day?yoooooo

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