How to Prepare for Your SOLIDWORKS Certification Exam

When working in the SOLIDWORKS community, users will often ask or wonder, “How can I tell whether I am getting proficient with the software?” To help with this concern, there is an effective system of testing known as the SOLIDWORKS certification program. One of the most common certifications available is the “Certified SOLIDWORKS Professional” or CSWP. Two other common levels of certification are the “Certified SOLIDWORKS Associate” or CSWA and the “Certified SOLIDWORKS Expert” or CSWE. By achieving these levels of certification, you can ensure that you (and everyone on your team) are working at a professional or expert level of proficiency within the software.

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Figure 1. Three examples of certification levels—from left, CSWA, CSWP and CSWE.

In Figure 1, you can see three of the most commonly referenced levels of certification available to users:

  • CSWA: Typically taken by college-level students
  • CSWP: Typically taken by professional-level users
  • CSWE: The highest level of SOLIDWORKS Mechanical Design certification, which may only be taken after completing several other exams

Here are some of the exams that are currently available to any end user:

  • CSWA: Certified SOLIDWORKS Associate
  • CSWP: Certified SOLIDWORKS Professional
  • CSWE: Certified SOLIDWORKS Expert
  • CPPA: Certified PDM Professional Administrator
  • CSWP-S: Certified SOLIDWORKS Professional – Simulation
  • CSWPA-SM: Certified SOLIDWORKS Professional Advanced – Sheet Metal
  • CSWPA-SU: Certified SOLIDWORKS Professional Advanced – Surfacing
  • CSWPA-MT: Certified SOLIDWORKS Professional Advanced Mold Tools
  • CSWPA-DT: Certified SOLIDWORKS Professional Advanced Drawing Tools


What Does the Exam Look Like?

The certification exams are taken online through the VirtualTester program. After purchasing your exam (see below), you may visit to download the testing program and begin your first exam.

After downloading and installing the VirtualTester program, you will be prompted to choose from a list of available exams based on your purchased products. Once you have selected your desired exam and choose “Next,” a welcome screen will appear giving you an overview of how many questions are on your exam, and what the required passing score is.

Here is an example of what this welcome screen might look like. Please note that the following images are artist renderings of the VirtualTester environment and are only meant to provide an example of what you will be seeing once you begin the exam.

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Figure 2. A sample CSWP Welcome Screen.

Once you click “Next,” the 90-minute timer will begin. You will then be presented with a series of questions and these questions will each require an answer. The answer will be typed into the box or selected from an available group of answers (also known as “multiple choice”). You don’t need to submit the models you create, and most exams may be taken with any version of the software later than SOLIDWORKS 2010. Let’s take a look at an example question, again shown in an artist’s rendering of what you might see on the exam (see Figure 3).

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Figure 3. A sample of a typical CSWP question.

As you can see in Figure 3, there is quite a bit of information contained in each exam question. Let’s break down the question box into sections:

  1. The question number and the total number of questions on the exam
  2. The point value for each question
    1. Tip—When you are working on a tricky question that is taking an extended amount of time, consider how many points the question is worth as it may be beneficial to skip this question and move on to a question that has a higher point value but is less tricky.
  3. The question itself
    1. Tip—Most questions will contain important details in the text of the question, so take your time and read the entire question before you begin creating the models.
  4. The images
    1. Most questions will have one or more images associated with the questions. These are typically different views of the model. These images may be selected and enlarged using the tools in VirtualTester.
      Tip—It is highly beneficial to have a second monitor for placing the VirtualTester exam, as it allows you to maximize the software on your main monitor while examining the question and images on the second monitor.
  5. The answer block
    1. As mentioned above, the question will either ask you to type in the answer or select the answer from a list of choices.
      Tip—Be sure to read the question carefully as it will often indicate what the precision of the answer should be (when you are typing in the answer).
  6. Navigation buttons
    1. The navigation buttons allow you to move forward and backward through the list of exam questions. You may skip forward to another question, even if you have not yet answered the current question.
      Tip—It is often beneficial to begin an exam by clicking “Next” through each screen to the end of the exam so that you may read all of the exam questions first and be able to anticipate what types of challenges you may encounter during the exam. You can then return to question 1 and begin taking the exam.
  7. The timebar
    1. The timebar is a very important area of the exam because it shows you how much time is allotted for the entire exam, as well as how much time you have remaining. It also counts down the exam time as you proceed, keeping you aware of how much time you have remaining in relation to the total allotted time.


How Do I Purchase the Exam?

The various SOLIDWORKS certification exams may be purchased by going to this website and clicking on the link for Exam Registration.

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Figure 4. Click Exam Registration to purchase a SOLIDWORKS Certification Exam.

After you click in the Exam Registration link, you will be taken to a webpage that lists the available certification exams, as well as the cost of each exam.


How to Get a Code for a Free Certification Exam

If your software seat is currently on an active subscription, you may qualify for one or more free certification exam codes. To obtain this code, you must visit this website and then click on the link on the right for Certification Offers for Subscription Service Customers.

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Figure 5. Click the link shown in this image for information on taking a free certification exam.


Is There a Practice Exam I Can Take?

If you feel ready to purchase and take an official exam, but want to get a little more practice in first, you can take a practice exam for most of the certification exams.

Start out by clicking on this link.

Next, click on the exam you are interested in taking. As an example, we will select CSWP.

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Figure 6. Click the link shown for more information on the CSWP, including the link to the practice exam.

On the next screen, you will see information regarding the CSWP, including several links to information on the Sample CSWP Exam. Click on one of these links to take the Sample CSWP Exam (for free). Once you can pass the Sample CSWP Exam, you will be ready to take the official CSWP Exam and receive your certification.


What Skills Do I Need to Know to Pass an Exam?

Each exam is different and you will find quite a bit of information using the links above to examine the more detailed exam descriptions. For the CSWP Exam, you should be very comfortable with the following skills:

  • Creating fully defined sketches
  • Creating Boss Extrudes, Cut Extrudes, Fillets, Shells, Hole Wizard Holes and Mirror Features
  • Renaming dimensions
  • Using equations in a single part file
  • Working with configurations to suppress and unsuppress features
  • Working with design tables to modify existing configurations
  • Working with design tables to create new configurations
  • Creating a new assembly from a part file
  • Adding parts to an assembly
  • Adding sub-assemblies to an assembly
  • Working with mates in an assembly
  • Using the measure command in an assembly
  • Working with flexible sub-assemblies in an assembly
  • Replacing one part with another in an assembly

If any of these skills are unfamiliar to you, you’ll want to review and practice before taking the CSWP Exam.


Best Practices for Taking Your Certification Exam

You have now purchased and signed up for your exam. You are ready to begin the actual test. Each of the certifications has a set time limit and this limit can run out much sooner than you might expect.

Let’s take a look at some common things you can do before starting the exam to ensure that you don’t run out of time:

Tip #1: Set a date and time to take the exam. One of the more common mistakes I see users make is trying to fit the exam into an already busy schedule. They inevitably get interrupted, which ends up costing them time. Instead, I encourage users to schedule the exam properly at an approved (and uninterrupted) time with their co-workers and supervisor.

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Figure 7. Schedule the exam at a time when you can focus on the exam for the entire duration.

Remember that the exam is taken via an automated electronic system, so it doesn’t have to be taken during standard work hours. If you think it would be less likely that you will be interrupted, consider scheduling the exam in the early morning, later at night or over the weekend.

Tip #2: Get and set up a second monitor. On almost every exam, the questions will include a dimensioned view of the model and you will be challenged to create this model. Minimizing and maximizing the window containing the exam in order to work with SOLIDWORKS will cost you time. Having a second monitor will allow you to place the exam on one screen while running the software in full-screen mode on your primary monitor, which will help maximize your efficiency while taking the exam.

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Figure 8. A dual monitor setup will allow you to maximize the software on your primary screen while keeping the exam on your second monitor.

Tip #3: Restart your computer. When performing day-to-day tasks on a computer, it is not uncommon for programs to remain open in the background or otherwise take up computing resources. Before starting the exam, it’s a good idea to ensure that none of these programs are going to slow down your progress on the exam, so restart your computer just before starting the exam.

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Figure 9. Before beginning the exam, reboot your computer.

Tip #4: Launch SOLIDWORKS beforehand. Before beginning the exam, launch the software. Again, the exam is timed, so you’ll want to maximize the time you spend actually creating models and answering questions. Sometimes the software can take 30-60 seconds to launch and you can save this time by launching the software first before beginning the exam.

Once the software is launched, take a moment to ensure that your part, assembly and drawing templates are all working properly and efficiently. Some exams will ask you to create models in millimeters, some will ask you to work in inches. Take a moment, before starting the exam, to ensure that you have templates created in both unit systems.

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Figure 10. Before beginning the exam, start SOLIDWORKS and begin a new part, drawing and assembly.


Passing Your Exam

Now that you have purchased your exam, completed all of your practice and research, rebooted and launched the software, you are ready to take and pass your exam. Take your time during the exam. Be sure to check and double-check all of your dimensions and geometry before moving on to the next question. Some exams, such as the CSWP Exam, include questions that build upon previous ones. So if you get something wrong on an early question, every question thereafter may be wrong.

However, if you take your time and make sure that you have matched all of the dimensions, geometry and material properties with what is shown in the exam, you should have no problem passing and collecting your official certification.

I wish you all the best of luck with your exams.

About the Author


Tobias Richard is a SOLIDWORKS elite applications engineer from Philadelphia, Pa. He has been working with SOLIDWORKS software since 1998 and has been providing training, technical support and tips and tricks since 2001.

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