By Brandon Markey, Instructor – Lynnes Welding Training, Fargo, ND
I recently completed the AWS CWI Seminar and Exam in Minneapolis, MN and I wanted to share my experience with everyone to hopefully help those that may take this exam in the future. The Certified Welding Inspector certification (CWI) is offered through the American Welding Society (AWS) and is a challenging exam that even people with many years of experience struggle to pass. The exam is broken down into 3 parts: Part A Fundamentals, Part B Practical/Book of Specifications, and Part C the Codebook. The exam for each part is 2 hours long and will test not only your knowledge but your endurance as well. For the Codebook portion, you can test to either AWS D1.1 Structural Steel codebook, or the API 1104 Welding for Pipelines and Related Facilities codebook. (I chose the AWS D1.1 Structural Steel codebook)
Preparation leading up to the seminar week was incredibly important. During the week of the CWI Seminar there is a lot of information given to you in a short amount of time and if you don’t take time to prepare before seminar week, you could struggle comprehending everything reviewed during the seminar. To help me with this, I enrolled in a Pre CWI-seminar online course through the AWS which went in detail about the Fundamentals portion of the exam. I know each person learns differently, but I found it helpful to take a couple of months to slowly absorb the amount of knowledge needed to help me pass the exam.
Seminar week went from Sunday through Friday, 8 am to 5 pm with the exam being taken on Saturday morning starting at 8 am and lasting until almost 5 pm. Sunday and Monday were spent on fundamentals following the Welding Inspection Technology textbook and workbook. Tuesday and Wednesday were spent on the codebook of your choosing. (note: the AWS D1.1 is 586 pages) It was in this area where my spending two months getting familiar with the layout of the codebook was incredibly beneficial because by review week I had knowledge of where the bulk of things were, so my time in these two days was spent just refining my knowledge. Lastly, Thursday and Friday were spent on the Book of Specifications and practical exercise. We also spent some time on the tools in a welding inspectors toolkit and how to use them. For me, every evening was spent in a quiet area constantly reviewing everything that we learned. The week was intense, but it is designed to give you the necessary knowledge to pass the exam.
The last step in this journey was exam day. The exam was even more challenging than I expected even after months of preparation. Not only does being timed add to the pressure of the exam, but mentally you are already tired from an intense week of studying. You need to keep in mind that it’s more a marathon than a sprint. Our seminar instructor gave a us good advice the day before the exam. He said to go into every test with a positive attitude even if you don’t think your previous exam went well. He said that you will probably leave at least one part of the exam thinking you failed but, more than likely you probably did just fine. (I can relate to exactly what he was saying because after the exam on my drive back to Fargo all I could think about was certain questions and wondering how I did). Now comes the waiting game for results (4-6 weeks). While that’s a long time to wait to see if I passed or not, I know that I prepared like I should have for an exam like this and hopefully that hard work paid off. I wish you the best if it’s on your calendar.
Update: I found out last week that I passed the CWI exam on my first attempt. I was more than excited to find out after a month wait for the results. This goes to show that if you put in the time prior to taking the seminar and exam you will set yourself up for success. It was not a series of exams to take lightly but with hard work anything is possible. I look forward to using my new certification to further benefit our school.