In our last few blog posts we discussed the duties of a Certified Welding Inspector and enumerated several good reasons for choosing this career. Today we’ll look at the steps you need to take to actually become a CWI. We will also provide some tips and links to help you navigate the waters of certification.
Not surprisingly, the first step to becoming a CWI is to fill out an application. You can find the application and application requirements on the AWS CWI Certification web page. In order for you to qualify to become a CWI, you’ll need a certain amount of practical welding experience. The amount of experience varies depending on your education level. For example, if you have a high school diploma with no technical school courses, you’ll need 5 years minimum work experience. However, if you have an associate degree in engineering, engineering technology, or physical sciences, you’ll only need 3 years minimum work experience.
When you complete your application, you’ll select a testing location for a CWI examination. You must pass this exam to be certified, so once you’ve submitted your application, start studying! Many CWI candidates make the mistake of thinking that just taking the CWI Training Seminar is enough to prepare them for the exam. It’s usually not. The CWI exam covers a considerable body of knowledge and therefore requires a corresponding degree of preparation both in the classroom and on your own time.
Here are some tips to help you prepare:
Make sure you read the AWS B5.1:2003 Specification for the Qualification of Welding Inspector and the QC1:2007 Standard for AWS Certification of Welding Inspectors. Both documents outline every aspect of the CWI program and exam. The B5.1 covers the skills and knowledge required of a CWI, while the QC1 gives a detailed overview of the various sections of the CWI exam. Read our blog post, How to Prepare for the Certified Welding Inspector Exam Part 1: The CWI Exam Playbooks, to learn how to get the most out of these resources.
Don’t just read: study. Reading a document isn’t the same thing as absorbing its content. When you study for exams, don’t just skim for basic points. Try to really understand the material. Ask yourself why these rules and procedures exist in the first place. Then, try teaching the material to a friend. Sometimes the best way to understand a concept is to explain it to someone else.
Take the AWS CWI Seminar. This week-long series of sessions is designed to help you review information that will appear on the test. Note, however, that the seminar covers a lot of material in a relatively short amount of time. Therefore, you should already have a basic understanding of the course material when you begin. The CWI certification exam is offered upon conclusion of the seminar.
Consider taking the AWS online CWI Pre-Seminar. The AWS CWI seminar is designed to review—not teach—the CWI body of knowledge. The CWI Pre-Seminar is designed to help you learn or relearn the basics. The courses that make up the CWI Pre-Seminar offer a comprehensive treatment of the essentials, from welding fundamentals and safety to welding symbols and non-destructive testing. It’s an intense course of study that you can work through at your own pace from the comfort of your own home.
Identify what you’re being tested on and where to find it. The AWS Body of Knowledge web page provides an approximate breakdown of the examination categories and the number of questions drawn from each subject area. It also lists the publications recommended for self-study.
Create a study plan. There is no single, fool proof way to prepare for the CWI exam. Your study methods should be tailored to how you learn best. We recommend a 3-part plan to help you evaluate what you already know so you can design your study schedule.
Check out the How to Prepare for the Certified Welding Inspector Exam blog series on American Welding Online. It outlines what you’ll be expected to know for the test, where to find the information, how best to use the reference materials, and strategies to prepare for the CWI exam.
Once all your preparations are complete, it’s time to take the exam. The exam is split into three parts: A, B and C. Part A tests your fundamental welding knowledge and is 150 questions long. Part B tests a range of inspection topics, including welding examination and nondestructive testing. This part contains at least 46 questions that must be finished in two hours. For Part B you’ll be provided with visual inspection tools, plastic replicas of welds and a sample codebook. Part C of the CWI exam is open-book and tests how well you can locate and understand information in a code book. Part C of the CWI exam contains a minimum of 46 questions. All parts of the exam require you to get at least 72% of the questions correct.
Time is of the essence so take the test strategically. For Part A of the exam you have 45 seconds per question. For Parts B and C, you’ll have about 2.5 minutes per question. Since you only need to get a 72%, if you’re struggling with a question move on until you finish the test, then return to the questions you skipped. The exam can be intimidating, but with the right preparation you can succeed.
I would wish you good luck, but if you follow these suggestions you probably won’t need it!