How Hard is the LEED Exam? Harder than Passing the Bar?

Sarah Ward's picture
Sarah Ward
March 14, 2014

As the green building movement continues to boom, LEED AP accreditation is becoming an increasingly desirable asset for a growing number of lawyers. Could it be right for you? And, if so, how are you going to conquer it?

Have a plan for achieving your goal of passing the LEED AP exam.
Have a plan for achieving your goal of passing the LEED AP exam.
Credit: Archimedia/ACXT Architects via Flickr

Attorneys from all fields and certifications are seeking to become LEED accredited professionals, or what are more commonly referred to as LEED APs. Why? Because the field of green building is utterly booming, and the LEED AP certification provides a competitive advantage in the field of environmental sustainability, environmental and real estate law.

Environmental Law to LEED

An increasing number of corporate law clients are adopting public sustainability policies, and for good reason... A 2013 Harvard Business School study titled "The Impact of Corporate Sustainability on Organizational Processes and Performance" indicates that corporations that voluntarily adopted sustainability policies focusing on organizational processes and performance significantly outperformed companies that did not adopt such policies, both in terms of stock market and accounting performance. As a result, going beyond the basic concepts of sustainability is becoming more strategic than ever. Indeed, in some board rooms, such knowledge is essentially a prerequisite for doing business. In-depth knowledge that can readily be applied to a variety of commercial and residential projects is essential, and the “LEED AP” credentials convey the efficacy of one’s ability to do so.

According to a recently released study by McGraw Hill Construction, the green building industry is expected to more than double by 2016, reaching as much as $105 billion in value. Given that more than half of all builders have reported that consumers are willing to pay as much as 5% more for a homes and buildings outfitted with sustainable features, the field is unquestionably lucrative. But in order to effectively play in this growing space, the LEED AP badge is dramatically helpful.

How Hard is the LEED AP?

Anyone intending to acquire LEED AP accreditation must first pass an examination of their understanding of the USGBC's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system. There are five LEED rating systems, BD+C, ID+C, O+M, ND and Homes, each of which focuses on a specific type of building development, from new construction to interior design to residential.  Each rating system includes a wide variety of green building practices and principles, ranging from reducing the environmental impact of existing buildings to understanding the design and construction phases of green building in the different environmental categories such as site, water, energy, materials, indoor environment, innovation and regional concerns.

With an estimated 30% pass rate, successfully completing the LEED AP exam is no easy task. Real estate professionals report that other exams, such as the real estate broker's exam, pale in comparison to the LEED exam. Though most would say that the bar exam is much more difficult when comparing its rigor with that of preparing for the LEED exam. Typically, a successful examination requires months of dedicated study, utilizing a variety of strategies. Bryan D. said:

"I will admit that preparing for the LEED AP exam was intense, it in no way compared to amount of studying, prepping and memorizing necessary for passing the Bar. That was an experience I will never forget. However, I did prepare for the LEED AP along the same lines of preparing for one of my Bar subjects, which included reading and re-reading the guidance document, making up my own outlines, my own flash cards, and finishing by concentrating on practice exams."

Formal online preparation courses allow a candidate to study at their own pace and schedule, while in-person LEED Exam Prep courses often require greater investments of time and money. Online LEED practice exams allow candidates to replicate the actual experience as closely as possible, while study guides and flashcards can be used to supplement such exams as targeted study tactics.

Those with the most recent credentialing experiences stress that the examination requires both rote memorization of the entire LEED specialty reference guide and the application of what they’ve learned through actual practice. Yet many cite their biggest hurdle to success is not the actual material, but rather finding the time necessary to devote to studying. Consequently, if you anticipate challenging this exam, be sure to begin your study process at least six months in advance and purchase your preparation materials from a reliable, accredited provider!


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