How to Prepare for the Certified Welding Inspector Exam Part 5: Make a Plan

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin

Much to the disappointment of many potential CWI test takers, there is no single book or resource that can prepare them for the CWI exam. There is simply too much information to contain in a single source. There is no single seminar or course that can do this either. I often try to explain to participants in our seminars that the 40 hour CWI seminar provided by AWS is a review seminar. There is no way that AWS, or any company for that matter, can teach everything a CWI is expected to know in a 40 hours course. Preparing for the CWI exam is a process… oftentimes, a long process. Because of this, successful test takers need to make a plan before they even begin studying.

Becoming a CWI can potentially change a person’s life in significant ways. CWIs tend to command higher salaries, are afforded the opportunity to travel, are able to work independently, etc. But with these benefits come a huge amount of responsibility. The CWI is a safety critical individual. The decisions a CWI makes can affect lives. Because of this, AWS expects that a CWI possess a wide breath of knowledge and skills. While reviewing the wide range of knowledge and skills listed in Table 1 of the B5.1 can be intimidating to potential test takers, developing a study plan can help reduce anxiety and ensure that enough time has been spent studying the materials. This will likely produce better results in the long run.

So how do you develop a study plan? The study plan I am introducing in this blog post can be divided into three sections:

Section 1: Self-Assessment
Section 2: Creating a Routine
Section 3: Adapting

Performing a self-assessment will provide you an opportunity for honest reflection on where you stand in the process of becoming a CWI. It will tell how much you have left to prepare, and the amount of resources that you can dedicate to the process. This self-assessment is a conversation with yourself. You pose and answer basic questions that will help structure your plan. While there are a number of questions that can be part of a self-assessment, here are some of the basic questions that should be included.

How much do you know?

Review Table 1 of the B5.1 thoroughly. Make a determination as to how much you really know about each of those knowledge points. Create a rating system for yourself. For example, next to each knowledge point on Table 1 mark a number one, two, or three. A one means that you have an introductory level of knowledge with the ability to recall basic facts. A two means that you understand the information enough to apply that knowledge in a real work situation. For example, a two next to welding symbols would mean that you can both read and produce welding symbols in a workplace environment. A three means that you understand the material well enough to teach a novice about this topic and help them move their one to a two. This review of your knowledge will then allow you to ask the next question.

How long will it take to prepare for the CWI exam?

The answer to this question will be different for each person because it is based on how much you currently know. Take a look at the list of ones, twos, and threes you created. Pull out a highlighter and highlight every knowledge point that you marked with a one. You want this list to contain only twos and threes before you sit for the CWI exam. These are your first priority. Map these items to the resources from the recommended reading discussed in part 4 of this blog series. Use this to estimate how long this material will take to learn. Consider the length of the materials you need to read, and factor in additional time to review the materials and to reread problem sections. For example, if the Welding Symbols standard A2.4 is approximately 130 pages in length, assuming it would take you 10-20 hours to read through the materials would be appropriate. Factoring in an additional 30% of time for practice and additional studying would increase the study time for welding symbols to between 13 – 26 hours. Add together the total study time for all of the items on your list marked with the number one and this is the total study time needed to prepare yourself for the exam.

How much time can you dedicate daily for this preparation?

Now that you know how many total hours of studying you will need to put in to be ready for the CWI exam, you need to determine how many hours of study time you can reasonably put in each week. Divide the weekly number of hours by the total number of studying hours you are estimating you would need to study for the CWI exam. For example, if based on your examination of Table 1 from B5.1 you determined you needed 350 hours of studying to prepare for the exam, and you think you could reasonable put in 10 hours of studying per week, then it would take you roughly 35 weeks to prepare for the CWI exam. At that point, it would be beneficial to add in some extra time to account for weeks where you might not be able to put in the same amount of work due to previously made plans and unforeseen circumstances. I would recommend that an individual with similar circumstances to the one in our example sign up for the AWS CWI seminar nine to ten months from the date he or she plans on starting the studying process.

Part 5 of this blog series on preparing for the CWI is a little longer than the rest. I’m going to end this one right here and pick up with Sections 2 and 3 in next week’s post.

David Hernandez

3 thoughts on “How to Prepare for the Certified Welding Inspector Exam Part 5: Make a Plan”

    1. Certified Welding Inspectors are qualified to inspect welds in all industries.

      Thank you for your interest.

      Carlos Plaza

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