How I passed the LEED Green Associate exam with self-study

I just finished taking the LEED Green Associate on June 9th, 2012 at my local Prometric location and passed with a score of 184/200 (92%)! It was my first attempt at the LEED GA and my major is construction engineering management so I was knowledgeable with LEED but not to the degree that I could pass the test without the mildly rigorous studying that I did. Like many others who have taken the test, I did a lot of googling about “how to pass the LEED GA” and read on forums about other people who got high scores and garnered as much experience from them as I could. If you’re thinking about taking the LEED GA soon then please take some heed to what I have to say because it could help you pass the exam the first time and avoid paying another $150 to retake the test!

The two critical success factors to passing the LEED GA for me was reading study guides and taking practice exams. Those are the two main things I will focus on through this post.

Study Guides

I don’t think I could have passed this test without the study guides that I used; I only used two. The first one was a study guide that I got from a friend and it was the  the LEED AP Building Design + Construction Study Guide published by the USGBC. This was the first book I read consisting solely of LEED principles and it was extremely helpful to get familiar with LEED, their requirements, the categories, and the credits involved with each one. It was very helpful that the book had a glossary of terms before each category so that I could get to know the definitions before I read each chapter. They also have five practice questions at the end of each section that really test your knowledge because they are difficult questions. Sometimes the questions are a little absurd because I read some of the questions and it required a lot of extrapolation from what was written in the text; so some of the questions were way too difficult and I didn’t see questions of that level of difficulty on the official LEED GA. This book was a good starting point to get familiar with LEED but I would definitely not delve too far into it because it goes in-depth to the actual calculations for the credit and that is not pertinent information for the LEED GA. A friend let me borrow the book for free so if you had to purchase the book, I would NOT recommend it because the second book I used was excellent.

The second study guide was a free one I found on the internet called the LEED Green Associate Study Guide published by Studio4; it was free when I downloaded it but I heard that they started charging but I think you can still find a free copy by googling. The book is 240 pages and I read it from cover to cover and that truly elevated my knowledge of LEED. It was very comprehensive in regards to the credit requirements of each category and the text was very easy to understand. The outline of the study guide was also very easy to follow and they used a good example of a theoretical project trying to achieve LEED certification throughout the study guide. They also had comprehensive guide of glossary terms that was good to know because there was several questions regarding definitions like albedo, density factor, building footprint, among many others. The only thing I didn’t like about the study guide was that it didn’t include any practice questions because I think that really helps emphasize learning. I would highly recommend either finding a free copy online or purchasing it.

Practice Exams

I used three different practice exams before I took the test and averaged around a 70% on all three tests but I noticed that the questions in those exams were far more difficult than anything I saw on the actual LEED GA. It was really good preparation because a lot of those questions I saw on the LEED GA but was just reworded differently. I took the free 100 question practice exam that was created by and that was very helpful because of the specific questions they asked and I saw several of the questions on the LEED GA. I also took the 35 question practice exam given by which requires you to e-mail an address to get the answer key but that was not an issue because I got a response within 5 minutes. I did pretty bad on this test and I think it was because the questions were a little misleading but it was also good practice. Both of these tests were truly helpful because instead of telling you which answer is correct they include a short paragraph on why that answer is correct and the others are incorrect. The final practice exam I took was the 10 question and 50 question from which was the most easiest and realistic in terms of test taking because it was administered online; the other ones I printed out. This test included a lot of questions that were actually on the LEED GA and it was the last practice exam I took before the actual one. I didn’t like how they didn’t explain the correct/incorrect answers which could have helped in learning the material.

If you want to pass the LEED GA, then you must take as many practice exams as you can! I can’t stress how important practice exams are because they test how well you know the basics of LEED and many of the questions you will see on test day. It is also good to take the 100 question exam in actual conditions (2 hour limit, no outside information, secluded area, etc.) to help you prepare for testing conditions and to see if time will be an issue for you. I truly believe that the reason I was able to pass the LEED GA was because I took as many practice exams as I did, and don’t be discouraged if you get a bad score because the questions on the LEED GA are easier than what’s on those practice exams.


1. Give yourself a few days to study. Don’t cram for the test because there is just too much information to be disseminated in a few hours. Allow yourself at least a few days to read through the study guide by Studio4 and any other materials that you could get your hands on. I didn’t read any of the references that was listed on the USGBC website. I also studied a week before my test at 2-4 hours a day with the final 2 days somewhere between 4-6 hours.

2. Take as many practice exams as you can! I can’t stress this enough, the indicator to you passing the LEED GA will be dependent on how many practice exams you take. I remember taking one of the practice exam a few hours before my test and 3 of the questions were almost verbatim on the test. If you don’t have time to read through all your study materials then spend all the time you have before your test on taking practice exams.

3. Read each question very, very carefully. I can remember one question where it asks you to calculate the water usage per day depending on FTE and one word changed which answer you would pick; the word was graywater, and if you didn’t catch that word then you might calculate the total water because it included both toilets and lavatories. And of course all the answers available were “correct” depending on how you did your calculations.

4. Mark every question you have any hint of hesitation about. If you finish with plenty of time left (>30 mins) then you should have no problem with going over all the answers you have questions about a second time. I marked more than 50% of the questions and finished with more than a hour left. Before I reviewed my marked answers, I took a bathroom break to splash some water on my face and take some deep breathes to clear my head. This short intermission really helped me rejuvenate and refocus and let me go back into the questions with a new perspective.

5. Relax and have confidence in your studies. I knew that I had studied well for the exam and did fairly well on the practice exams. I was thrilled going through the first few questions of the test and thinking how easy these questions were. So just relax, have confidence in yourself, and make sure you took the necessary time to prepare yourself for the test.

I hope you all the best on the passing the LEED Green Associate exam!!


8 thoughts on “How I passed the LEED Green Associate exam with self-study

  1. Hello Khang,

    Congrats on passing the LEED Green Associate Exam! I came across your blog while looking for important tips on passing this Exam. I am particularly interested in more info on the “mark” feature on the Exam (since it doesn’t feature on ANY of the practice tests I have yet attempted). Your blog post is the only major source I found related… so thank you, thank you, thank you for posting about it!
    I am particularly concerned about it since it will be a first hands-on experience using this feature right on the exam. To add to it, I some times select answers and hit the “Submit” button a little too early to realize afterwards that I committed a “silly” mistake and didn’t score! I have been able to finish all practice tests within an hour or so, but I have ended up loosing major points just because I was not able to review (and maybe correct) my previous answers. So my strategy for the actual Exam is to mark all questions and double (or triple) check everything by going back to the marked questions. I would like to have your feedback on this based on your experience with the real exam. I am confident it will help me a lot!

    I have my Exam coming up soon and I would appreciate your prompt reply. Thank you once again for all your help!

    • Hi Angie,

      Thanks for stopping by! If you’ve done your due diligence in studying for the LEED GA then you shouldn’t have a problem with the actual test. I don’t know if the exam has changed much but my practice exams were probably 2 to 3 times more difficult than the actual exams. I was averaging in the mid 70’s on my practice exams but I flew right by when it came to the actual test.

      If it makes you feel comfortable marking the answers and going back, then please do it. I would only caution that you keep your eye on the clock if you decide to mark all the answers. You have 2 hours to answer 100 questions so with one hour left you should hopefully be more than 50% complete to give yourself time to review your marked questions. Remember that the proctor doesn’t care if you have all your questions answered but you just haven’t submitted them. When your time is up, it’s up.

      The LEED GA should allow you to do this but I will warn you that the LEED AP will not allow you the time to be able to mark all the questions. I was literally down to the last minute when I submitted my last question and when I was reviewing some of my marked questions, I just took a complete guess because I had no idea.

      If you studied with earnest, you will do fine. Good luck to you and please come back to tell me how you did!

      – KN

      • Hello Khang,

        I want to apologize to you for not returning to your blog earlier than I did.. but the good news is that I passed the LEED Green Associate exam! I scored 183.

        It was a fantastic experience! I so agree with you when you say that the practice exams were probably 2 to 3 times more difficult than the actual exams. Thank you so much for the heads-up on the “mark” feature. I was able to go finish and review well head of time because of the mark feature. So I thought it was really great to have it!

        I passed the exam in November 2013 and have been preparing for the AP exam, but I feel its a lot more extensive as compared to the Green Associate.

        What have you been upto?

        Thanks again,

  2. Hello!
    Congrats on passing your exam!
    I am a third year student in university. I have been studying for two weeks now for my LEED GA exam. I bought the core concepts guide and GA study guide from the USGBC website. I have written countless notecards and have begun to study. My question to you is where do I go from here? A lot of forums have said that you need extensive knowledge of LEED BD+C but others don’t. I am looking for a study guide that will review what I have studied and maybe give me a little more information on what is important. I know you suggested the Studio4 guide, is this what I need? Any advice would be helpful! Thank you!


  3. Hi KN,

    I have my exam within a week, and i am scoring 80% in practice exams
    i am good at fundamental part , but worried about the leed Credits(i havnt memorized or have deeper undersanding of them)..

    Please clarfiy wether there is huge emphasis on leed credits.. or its an easy exam..


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