LEED AP credential holders have demonstrated an advanced level of understanding of green building with specific expertise focused in a particular LEED rating system.
Forgemind Archimedia/ACXT Architects

To become a LEED AP with Specialty, you must take and pass a two-hour, 100 question multiple choice exam.

Exams are held in Prometric testing centers, and are delivered via computer in a secure environment. The passing score is a 170 out of 200, or an 85%.

Prior to taking the LEED AP, you will choose your Specialty. Specialties designate precise knowledge of a particular rating system. You may choose BD+C, ID+C, O+M, Homes and ND, as described below.

For example, if you earn the LEED AP BD+C, it indicates that you have advanced knowledge of the Building Design + Construction (BD+C) rating systems. You may earn more than one specialty, though you will have to take and pass exams for each individual specialty.

How do I Choose the Right Specialty?

Choose the LEED specialty that fits your interests. 

free LEED AP BD+C examLEED rating systems, and their associated credentials, include:

  • Building Design + Construction (LEED AP BD+C)
  • Operations + Maintenance (LEED AP O+M)
  • Interior Design + Construction (LEED AP ID+C)
  • Homes (LEED AP Homes)
  • Neighborhood Development (LEED AP ND)


Well-suited for professionals interested in the design and construction phases of sustainable building.  This specialty covers not only new commercial and residential construction, but also education and healthcare.  LEED BD+C spans three separate LEED rating systems including LEED for New Construction, LEED for Schools and LEED for Core and Shell. 


If you are interested in interior design, remodeling or tenant fit-out, the LEED AP ID+C credential may be for you.  The LEED ID+C focuses on design, construction and improvement of interior and tenant spaces including retail and office.  The LEED for Retail Commercial Interiors rating system is part of LEED ID+C with emphasis on retail projects. 


This credential focuses on operations and maintenance of existing buildings. We believe that the fastest growing area of opportunity may be the existing buildings sector.  The increasing price of energy combined with incentives for green improvements is fueling the shift to sustainable operations, management and maintenance. 

Operations and maintenance focuses on performance and is the only LEED rating system that requires re-certification every 5 years.

If you are a property manager, on-site engineer, retrofitter or sustainability consultant, the LEED AP O+M may be appealing.  You'll learn about efficiency measures in water, energy and materials, as well as improvements to indoor air quality and green technologies. 


If you are interested in residential construction, LEED for Homes is ideal.  The only LEED system to focus on highly efficient, healthy and durable residential properties, LEED for Homes works with Green Raters to ensure that homes are built to the highest standards. 


Urban planning is more important than ever.  With increasing focus on reducing sprawl, the LEED for Neighborhood Development rating system emphasizes integrated planning, design and development of sustainable, walkable communities connected to the surrounding habitats.

Qualifying for the LEED AP Exam

Prior to LEED v4, the LEED AP exam had eligibility requirements. Up through June of 2014, all exam candidates had to have worked on a LEED project within 3 years of their application date. 

However, this is no longer the case.

New LEED AP with Specialty exam takers do not have any eligibility requirements, other than passing the LEED Green Associate exam, as described in more detail below.  However, USGBC highly recommends that you have experience working on a LEED project prior to taking your LEED AP exam.

USGBC has taken steps to try to gauge knowledge of working on LEED projects from within the exam itself. Poplar offers LEED project experience work with any LEED AP exam preparation packages from GreenStep Education. You may also participate in the LEED Project Experience Program 100% online. 

If you have not already earned your LEED Green Associate, you may take both exams on the same day in a back-to-back session. However, we discourage students from doing so, because the exams are different in terms of content and both are difficult.

Also, if you do not pass the LEED Green Associate during the four-hour period, you will not earn the LEED AP credential, even if you pass the LEED AP “Specialty” portion of the test.

How to Sign Up for the AP Exam

Signing up for the LEED AP exam is simple and very similar to signing up for the Green Associate exam.

The steps for signing up to take the LEED AP exam are:

1. Create an account on USGBC.org
2. Log into “My Credentials” and click the “Apply” link. Fill out the application.
3. Once your application has been approved, you can register for the exam. Again, log into “My Credentials”. This time, click the “Register” link and fill out the form. You should receive a confirmation email within 48 hours.
4. Schedule your exam with Prometric at a testing center near you.
5. Study for and pass the exam!

How to Study for the LEED AP Exam

The study strategy for the LEED AP exam is different from that of the LEED Green Associate exam. For detailed tips on how to pass the LEED AP v4 exam, see this article.

A study guide is essential for the Green Associate exam, and for the LEED AP exam. While 100% of the exam questions come from a single document (the LEED Reference Guide for your specialty), candidates are encouraged to use a focused study guide due to the volume of information in the 800+ page Reference Guides. Much of this information is unnecessary for the exam.

The Reference Guide for the rating system related to your specialty can be purchased on USGBC’s website. The LEED Reference Guide includes all of the material that will be covered on the exam.

As mentioned in the LEED AP study tips article mentioned above, do your best to memorize the prerequisites, credits, while using study tools, such as flash cards, creating charts for memorization, and study groups, while taking as many practice tests as possible.

Since the passing score is 85%, Poplar recommends studying until you can pass the practice tests with a 95-100%. Take practice tests again and again until you can score in this range.

LEED CMP: Maintaining the Credential

LEED APs with one specialty must complete 30 continuing education hours every two years to maintain their credential. All of the continuing education hours must relate to green building and/or LEED. Six of these hours must be LEED-specific, and they must relate to their specialty.

LEED APs with more than one specialty must earn an additional 6 LEED-specific hours per specialty. The hours must relate to that specialty. So, for example, a LEED AP BD+C and O+M would need to earn a total of 36 hours, 12 of which are LEED-specific. Of the LEED-specific hours, 6 would have to relate to BD+C rating systems and 6 would have to relate to the O+M rating system.

There are 4 main ways to earn continuing education hours:

1. Education: Green building courses that have or have not been approved by GBCI. Approved courses are offered at USGBC’s Greenbuild conference each year.

2. Volunteer: Volunteer with an organization, such as USGBC, GBCI or Habitat for Humanity, that supports green building and LEED.

3. Authorship: Write original articles or books related to green building. Poplar members can submit articles for continuing education. (link)

4. Work on a LEED Project: Participation on a LEED registered project counts as continuing education.


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