The Determined: Taking Another Shot at the CWI Exam

by AWS Education Services

This week’s blog is Part 2 in a 3-part series covering how the updated CWI Pre-Seminar can benefit specific groups of people. Today we’ll focus on those we call “The Determined,” who are looking to pass the CWI exam after falling short on their first attempt.

In a nutshell, CWIs are tasked with ensuring the structural integrity of welded consumer products, vehicles, machines, and structures. It’s not an exaggeration to say that CWIs play a pivotal role in strengthening our nation’s economy and keep its people safe. The CWI exam is designed to ensure that these weighty responsibilities are only placed upon those that truly fit the bill, as evidenced by its broad scope and extensive nature.

So, if you’re someone who took the CWI exam but came up short, do yourself a favor and take this to heart:

Don’t beat yourself up about it, and don’t give up! After all, the test is supposed to be challenging.

Having been through the fire, you’re in a perfect spot to parlay the experience into a successful second attempt. So, first thing’s first: If you haven’t already done so, sign up for your re-test. Once you’ve done that, it’s time to think about what you need to do to crush it on your second go-round. If you’re determined to make it happen, we are determined to help you. AWS offers a wide array of tools and resources to prepare you for the challenge, and we’ll discuss those in just a moment. However, before we do that, it’s important for you to determine what kind of prep will benefit you the most. The best way to do that is it to take a good look at your scores from the initial exam.

Know What You Don’t Know

If you’re re-taking the CWI exam, you’re looking at one of two possible scenarios:

  1. Re-taking the exam in its entirety – Part A, Part B, and Part C, or
  2. Re-taking only one or two specific parts

The scenario that applies to you will ultimately shape your preparation efforts, and depends on how you fared on your first attempt. You can find your scores for each part of the exam on your CWI Test Results. If your composite (average) score was 72% or higher, but you scored below 72% on one or more parts, you only need to re-take those specific parts. However, if your average score was less than 72%, you must re-take all three parts again.

Your test results also include an itemized breakdown of your performance on each part of the exam. In fact, this information isolates how well you did on questions centered around specific topics within each part. Depending on when your test results were generated, this information may be presented as a list, chart, or graph. In any case, reviewing this information is absolutely crucial – it’s what allows you to determine what areas of study you have down pat, and where you need to focus your efforts. As we mentioned earlier, the amount and scope of prep you’ll need will vary considerably depending on whether you’re taking the whole CWI exam again, or only one or two parts.

Second Time’s the Charm: How the CWI Pre-Seminar Can Help

In our previous blog, we discussed CWI test prep options, focusing on how AWS’ retooled CWI Pre-Seminar (specially priced until July 6th!) can provide a boost for first-time CWI applicants. Keeping the spotlight on the Pre-Seminar, it’s important to keep in mind that we designed it to also serve those who are giving the exam another try, whether it’s just a single part or the whole thing. In order to get the most out of the Pre-Seminar, you need to have a good understanding of what areas gave you the most trouble. This is why reviewing your scores is so important. In the following sections, we’ll break down which courses from the Pre-Seminar are best suited for specific topics in each part of the CWI exam. We feel it’s important to have a solid understanding of all the topics listed on the Body of Knowledge, so going over the section for each part is a good idea, especially if you’re re-taking the entire exam. However, if you’re feeling especially confident, or are only taking one or two parts of the exam, feel free to skip ahead to those sections.

Part A

Part A of the exam covers welding inspection fundamentals, including standard terms and definitions, basic welding processes, safety, and welding symbols. Your results for Part A include a categorized list of the questions you answered correctly. These categories mirror the CWI exam structure detailed in AWS B5.1.

If you perform a side-by-side comparison of the Part A exam structure and the Pre-Seminar course listing, you’ll notice a considerable amount of overlap. What does this mean for you? Well, if Part A proved to be a rough outing across the board, then you might want to go full steam ahead on all ten courses. However, if reviewing your score for Part A reveals a few topics that gave you a particularly hard time, you can focus on the courses that correspond to those areas of study and tackle them head-on. For example, if you missed most of the questions on brazing and soldering because you never expected those processes to come up, it might be a good idea to check out Welding Fundamentals III, which is exclusively dedicated to brazing and soldering. If you aced the questions on DT but didn’t have as much luck on NDT, then perhaps you can skip the Destructive Testing course and spend some extra time on Science of Nondestructive Testing.

The content in each Pre-Seminar course is delivered across a series of interactive online modules that can be accessed in any order and at any time, allowing you to personalize how you approach your exam prep. Each module is bookended by quizzes and exams that help you gauge how much progress you’re making in the areas you’re weakest in. And if you find yourself having trouble with a specific topic or question, you can always submit an inquiry to an AWS instructor.

Part B

Part B of the exam is centered around practical applications, including mechanical testing, welder and procedure qualification, and nondestructive examination. This proves to be the Achilles Heel for many prospective CWIs. If you’re re-taking the CWI exam, there’s a good chance Part B is the reason why. As far as visual inspection goes, experience is the best teacher. Shadowing a CWI or visiting a welding test lab is a good way to earn first-hand experience, and can go a long way toward your renewed preparation efforts. Also, if you didn’t opt for the instructor-led seminar the first time around, you may want to consider it for your re-test. The 16 hours of focused, hands-on training can make a huge difference in your proficiency for using inspection tools and getting a feel for what to look for on replica weldments.

Keeping that in mind, the online-based Pre-Seminar can still factor into your preparation in a big way. The structure of Part B is largely based on Welding Inspection and Flaws, but as detailed in B5.1, also consists of Utilization of Specifications and Drawings, Mechanical Test and Properties, Procedure and Welder Qualifications, and NDE. If your scores suggest that you need to brush-up on basic material properties, such as tensile strength, then the Metallurgy II or Destructive Testing courses in the Pre-Seminar might be a good starting point for you. Similarly, if you struggled answering questions that required you to use WPSs, PQRs, and the Book of Specifications, then diving into the WPS/PQR course should be a priority for you.

If you have the time and the inclination, it never hurts to revisit topics you had a solid showing on. Even if you only missed a few questions on a given topic, such as NDE, it can mean the difference between passing and failing on your second attempt.

Part C

Part C of CWI exam focuses on Code Applications. Doing well on this part boils down to knowing where to find specific pieces of information within a codebook. AWS presently has three online code clinics, devoted to navigating AWS D1.1, AWS D17.1, and API 1104, respectively, while the instructor-led live seminar focuses specifically on D1.1 or API 1104. Participating in a code clinic, online or instructor-led, can be a great way to fine-tune your ability to efficiently find what you’re looking for.

If you’re looking to identify trouble spots in your Part C score, the Code Applications breakdown in B5.1 can be especially helpful. “How so?”, you may be wondering. Well, the content of most code books is typically organized in a manner that closely resembles the categories that Part C is comprised of. In fact, the D1.1 code book has individual clauses (Material and Design, Fabrication, Inspection, and Qualification) that directly mirror those in B5.1. This makes determining what content areas of the code book to focus on especially convenient.

Make it Happen

Becoming a CWI isn’t easy, and we salute your commitment to achieving that goal and taking another shot. It can seem like an overwhelming endeavor, but you don’t have to go it alone. We’re confident that our instructor-led training, video Code Clinics, and online Pre-Seminar can improve your chances at success. However, your success ultimately hinges on you. Good luck!

Want to learn more about the Pre-Seminar? Click here for detailed course information. If you’re ready to register, please visit the Pre-Seminar registration page. And if you still have any questions, feel free to shoot us an e-mail or give us a call!