LEEDing the Way: What to Expect On the New LEED 3.0 Exam


I recently had the opportunity to speak with Matt Macko who helped develop the new LEED exam and is a principal at Environmental Building Strategies about his role in the creation of the new exam.

As part of his daily work, Mr. Macko consults with clients who are interested in obtaining LEED certification for their building or who desire to use green building techniques and/or build as sustainably as possible.

Mr. Macko was selected to help develop the new LEED exam for a number of reasons, including his desire to advance the industry and his work in helping his clients understand the most important concepts and options for their projects. His commitment to the industry is obvious; he is a LEED Accredited Professional, RESNET Energy Rater, Certified Energy Plans Examiner, Certified Green Building Professional, Certified Sustainable Building Advisor and Chair of the Bay Area LEED Users Group (BAyLUG).

CleanTechies: What has changed in the new exam?

Matt Macko: The new LEED AP or LEED AP + Specialty is much different than its predecessor.  Beginning with the commitment, skill, and diverse knowledge required to pass the exam, followed with the need for project experience, as well as a commitment to 30 hours of Continuing Education, and 4 hour time slot needed to sit for the two-part 200 question exam.

CleanTechies: What about the people who already have LEED AP under the old exam?

Matt Macko: The current green building climate necessitates that there be a distinction between professionals and their certification and accreditation criteria.  As a result of these industry changes, the US Green Building Council (USGBC) and Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) are representing their stakeholders in the green building community such as architects, engineers, and construction workers, by ensuring the LEED AP is an appropriate representation today’s green building professional. It is important to note that we in the professional “green” world demanded these changes and the responses to Job Task Analysis surveys showed GBCI what was important to its stakeholders.  The USGBC and GBCI responded by making the changes listed below:

  • If you do nothing and/or don’t wish to be an AP+ Specialty you retain your LEED AP.
  • If you sign up for the Credentialing Maintenance Program (CMP) and follow the Disciplinary Policy guidelines, you will become a LEED AP+ specialty, joining the new regime.
  • Once you sign up for the CMP, if you took the original AP exam under the New Construction Track you will automatically be “mapped over” to the new LEED AP BD+C (Building Design and Construction) – The same is true for Commercial Interiors; you will be automatically “mapped” over to  the LEED AP ID+C (Interior Design and Construction) designation. The same is true for Existing Buildings; you will be automatically “mapped” over and have the LEED AP O+M (Operations & Maintenance) designation.
  • All of these changes were to begin August 1, 2009, at which point a LEED AP had two years to switch over.  Thereafter, a $50 fee is required to maintain your AP+ Specialty status.

CleanTechies: Why the need for a new exam?

Matt Macko: GBCI has publicly stated that the changes to the exam system reflect the rapid advances in green building technology and practice in the marketplace.  Therefore, the new exam system will help ensure that LEED professionals have the latest knowledge and understanding of green building practices AND that their proficiency is recognized.

CleanTechies: What is the style of the new exam?

Matt Macko: The new exam handbook emphasizes three hierarchical cognitive levels of questions.  They are Recognition Items, Application Items, and Analysis Items.  GBCI defines these levels as:

Recognition Items: These items assess a candidate’s ability to recall factual material that is presented in a similar context to the exam references.

Application Items: These items provide the candidate with a novel problem or scenario that the candidate can solve using familiar principles or procedures described in the exam references.

Analysis Items: These items assess a candidate’s ability to break the problem down into its components to create a solution. The candidate must not only recognize the different elements of the problem, but must also evaluate the relationship or interactions of these elements.

CleanTechies: What type of questions will show up on the new test?

Matt Macko: A test taker should expect questions that will demonstrate knowledge in relation to each of the three hierarchical levels mentioned a moment ago.  Analysis items will test the ability of a person to analyze scenarios, breaking down the LEED elements and investigating the possible synergies that exist.  This context of question breakdown did not exist in previous Candidate Handbooks.

CleanTechies: There are many new categories of LEED professionals, what material is specific to each credential?

Matt Macko: The AP+ Specialty will be a person who has an advanced depth of knowledge in green building practices and specialization in a particular LEED Rating System such as Building Design and Construction (BD+C) or Operations and Maintenance (O+M).  The AP+ Specialty exam and designation is representative of an individual who has passed the exam and possesses the knowledge and skills necessary to participate in the design process, to support and encourage integrated design, and to streamline the application and certification process.

The LEED Green Associate is a person who possesses the knowledge and skill to understand and support green design, construction, and operations. The LEED Green Associate exam is designed to measure your skills and knowledge against criteria developed by Subject Matter Experts and to assess your knowledge and skill to understand and support green design, construction, and operations.  This exam is most appropriate for anyone entering the world of green building as well as someone who supports the LEED system.

The LEED AP + Specialty exam is designed to measure and assess the candidate’s skills and knowledge of green building science, the LEED Rating System, and the certification process as set forth in the most recent Job-Task Analysis that was conducted by GBCI during the 3rd quarter of 2008. .

CleanTechies: What are some study materials a candidate should use?

Matt Macko: In addition to the study materials listed in the candidate handbooks, I would recommend studying sustainability and the principles of green building.  Understanding green building holistically will benefit a test taker greatly.  From there, you will understand how the USGBC is using LEED to assess the principles of green building.

CleanTechies: Any other advice?

Matt Macko: Yes, since many preparatory sites out there are “green” to this new exam, I would wait until they have their bugs worked out before buying into the idea that whoever wrote their sample exams knows how the new exam is different. Otherwise, my best advice is to study hard and good luck!

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  1. That had to be a really amazing opportunity for Mr. Macko. I can’t imagine being a part of something that would affect so many people. I think the new exam has turned out well. I like that there are more levels and specialties. I think this will help people more in the future. It is important to have general knowledge but to also be proficient in a particular area, and this version of the LEED exam allows for that. It’s a hard test, but it really demonstrates what you know and have learned. Those who pass are clearly proficient in the subject matter.

  2. If you are very serious about a career in green building, try networking on sites like http://www.LinkedIn.com where there are a lot of groups of green building specialists who may have similar interests. They can also provide feedback on the demand for LEED Green Associate and LEED AP credentials. You can do a lot of research online about the types of green jobs that are becoming more in demand. For those aspiring LEED Green Associates out there, consider using a free practice exam resource to gauge your level of knowledge of LEED and sustainability before choosing a preparation route, as mentioned above. There are a few FREE LEED Green Associate practice options out there and a good one is available at: http://www.green-buildings.com/content/78778-free-practice-test-leed-green-associate-exam Good luck! – Rob

  3. After losing my job and found it difficult to get a new one, I enrolled in CleanEdison’s LEED GA course. I passed the exam and started a new career. I am waiting for more experiences to make me eligible for their LEED AP courses.