How to Prepare for the Certified Welding Inspector Exam Part 4: Recommended Reading is Not a Recommendation

In a previous blog post I mentioned that the most common question I receive is “how do I prepare for the CWI exam?” This series of 11 blog posts is my response. Some of these best practices, tips, and general points of advice are complex, like last week’s post on determining the minimum number of questions for each category in the CWI Body of Knowledge. This week’s advice is fairly simple, but very often overlooked.

The first piece of advice I provided in this series of blog posts was to read, study, and know the foundation documents for the CWI program. These are the B5.1 Specification for the Qualification of Welding Inspectors and the QC1 Standard for AWS Certification of Welding Inspectors. Aside from containing information that can appear on the CWI exam, the B5.1 also provides a wealth of information on what resources to study and how to prepare. The B5.1 document contains two Annexes that are often overlooked even by those who take the time to study for the CWI exam. While Annex B is of limited value for the purposes of preparing to take the exam, Annex A may be the single most important piece of information that the B5.1 standard provides for potential test takers.

Annex A, (Informative) Reference Documents, contains a list of documents that according to the B5.1 may have been utilized in the development of CWI exam questions. While not every single question from the CWI exam will come directly from one of these standards or technical documents, these are the best resources to use when preparing for the exam. These documents are utilized by the AWS CWI Test Bank Committee to prepare exam questions.

The biggest problem with Annex A is that it is partially incomplete. It lists the documents needed to study for the CWI, but the versions or publication dates for the documents are not included. This information is not omitted in an attempt to hide any information from potential test takers. Instead, this is purposefully done to address one of the more challenging aspects of managing a test as comprehensive as the CWI. The B5.1 and the QC1 do not change often. The duties, responsibilities, knowledge, and skills that a CWI needs to be successful in the industry do not generally change from month to month. However, the reference materials used by the CWI, such as the A3.0 Standard Welding Terms and Definitions, and the A2.4 Standard Symbols for Welding, Brazing, and Nondestructive Examination, change every few years. This is further complicated by the fact that each document found in Annex A is on an independent revision cycle determined by the AWS committee of volunteers who produce the document. Every year, at least a few of these documents are updated. If the B5.1 were to contain the publication date for each of those documents, it would need to be reissued several times a year.

The internet has provided a simple and effective solution to this dilemma. AWS takes the information from Annex A, and posts it on the AWS webpage at This web page, which can be updated daily if needed, contains the latest information about which resources, and which version of those resources, should be utilized to study for the exam. A common mistake made by those preparing for the exam is to assume that the latest version of a document is always the correct version to study. While this may seem logical, it neglects the fact that the CWI Test Bank Committee of volunteers needs to update the CWI exam when new versions of standards are released. For example, when the new version of D1.1 Structural Steel Code was released in 2010, Part C of the CWI exam continued to utilize the 2008 version for several months as the large quantity of test bank questions were reviewed, and when necessary revised. Additionally, since many test takers sign up for the CWI exam months before the exam, AWS believes in providing them with ample time to adjust to new standards, codes, and reference documents. Always refer to the web page above and verify which documents will be used on the CWI exam for which you are registered.

Inevitably, when addressing the resources needed to study for the CWI exam, the issue of when books are issued as part of the AWS CWI Seminar seems to surface. One of the benefits of registering for the CWI preparatory seminar offered by AWS is that a large portion of the books listed in this document are provided to the participants as part of the program, thus avoiding having to purchase them separately at list price.

However, over the past two years, we have received suggestions from numerous test takers, that it would be significantly more beneficial to them if they could receive the reference materials provided as part of the AWS CWI Seminar before they attend the seminar so that they can have time to read, study, and learn the materials. AWS values this kind feedback and will work diligently on making adjustments when possible. In the next few weeks, we will be announcing a BETA test program where, under certain conditions, test takers will receive their CWI seminar resources shortly after registering for the seminar and exam. This BETA test will allow AWS to gauge the practicality of doing something similar with all individuals who register for the AWS CWI Seminar. The BETA test will most likely run through the end of 2013. If everything works as intended, we look forward to releasing it to everyone in 2014.

Next week, in part 5 of 11, we will be discussing how to bring together the information from parts 1 through 4 and formalizing a study plan for the CWI exam.

David Hernandez

4 thoughts on “How to Prepare for the Certified Welding Inspector Exam Part 4: Recommended Reading is Not a Recommendation”

  1. Just sent my completed application to AWS for a CWI/CAWI Seminar in Denver. Curious as to if I will receive some sort of code book to study before the seminar. Thank You.

      1. I do understand that, thank you. However I am looking for literature to study BEFORE seminar week.

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