CSWA: When and how to become a Certified SOLIDWORKS Associate

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What is the CSWA?

What is the CSWA: The Certified SolidWorks Associate certification (CSWA) is the base level certification set by SolidWorks Corporation. It is a good tool for standing apart in the workplace. The CSWA examination covers the basics of SolidWorks use, and it can be taken on a virtual test client.

CSWA Pricing and Costs

  • SOLIDWORKS Associate exam costs $99
  • SOLIDWORKS Professional exam costs $99
  • SOLIDWORKS Expert exam costs $149
  • SOLIDWORKS topic exams cost $19.95.
  • If any SOLIDWORKS certification exam is failed, you can retake it but must wait 14-30 days

Quick Navigation:

CSWA: Is it Worth it?

What does the CSWA Test Cover?

Preparation

How to take the Exam

What Next?

Conclusion

Links to SolidWorks Pages

Abstract

SolidWorks is one of the most widely used engineering CAD programs in the industry, and, with so many schools picking up SolidWorks to teach students, it can be difficult to stand apart when applying for a job where CAD proficiency is a requirement. In response to this, SolidWorks has adopted a certification program. There are many certifications available, but the starting place for anyone looking to get certified in SolidWorks use, is the Certified SolidWorks Associate (CSWA). Below we take a look at who should get their CSWA, how to prepare for the test, how to take the exam, and what it means when you’ve achieved the title of CSWA.

CSWA: Is it Worth it?

One of the first questions many people ask when they discover that SolidWorks has a certification program is whether or not it will actually make a difference. The answer depends entirely on what you are looking to get from it. In general, merely taking the CSWA won’t improve your skills, but, if you are a professional CAD user, it does prove you have an understanding of how SolidWorks functions. In a competitive work environment, something such as an official certification can really be what sets you apart. It can also offer proof of competence to a new SolidWorks user. If a newer user can pass the CSWA, it shows that they are ready to start tackling SolidWorks in the workplace. In addition, you have to take the CSWA before you can take more advanced SolidWorks certification exams. If you are a new SolidWorks user looking for work, need validation of your skill set, or have intentions to take a more advanced SolidWorks exam, then the CSWA certification can definitely be worth having.

What does the CSWA Test Cover?

The CSWA is meant to certify in the basics of SolidWorks use, and as such if you intend to take it there are a number of areas in which you will need to be prepared. The Solidworks webpage for the CSWA lists the following areas:

  • Sketch entities – lines, rectangles, circles, arcs, ellipses, centerlines
  • Sketch tools – offset, convert, trim
  • Sketch relations
  • Boss and cut features – extrudes, revolves, sweeps, lofts
  • Fillets and chamfers
  • Linear, circular, and fill patterns
  • Dimensions
  • Feature conditions – start and end
  • Mass properties
  • Materials
  • Inserting components
  • Standard mates – coincident, parallel, perpendicular, tangent, concentric, distance, angle
  • Reference geometry – planes, axis, mate references
  • Drawing views
  • Annotations

This list seems long at first, but it is much more approachable than it may appear at first. If we were to summarize this list we would say the test covers:

  • Creating fully defined 2D sketches
  • Creating solid geometry using extrudes, revolves, sweeps, lofts, and reference geometry
  • Modifying solid geometry using fillets, chamfers, and patterns
  • Creating fully defined assemblies from part and assembly files
  • Creating basic drawings
  • Using Mass properties and Materials

Everything above is really covered in these six categories and makes the list look much more manageable. The list from SolidWorks is very specific and therefore very useful, but keep in mind that many of the items listed are contained within multiple categories or are very simple.

Preparation

Knowing what the test will cover is only the beginning of preparation. Knowing how to study for the test can make the difference between a passing and failing score for any examination and the CSWA exam is no exception. SolidWorks recommends that anyone contemplating taking the exam complete the “SolidWorks tutorials” and “SolidWorks essentials” training courses. In practice, we highly recommend working through the basic SolidWorks tutorials that are available on the software, but taking the courses is usually not essential. That said, if you want to be sure that you are ready, the courses offered by SolidWorks would be a great way to do so. If you have completed the tutorials and are comfortable experimenting with the software and creating basic models, SolidWorks has provided another excellent preparation tool in the form of a practice exam. This is available to be downloaded as a PDF on the webpage for the CSWA (link available at the end of the article) and can be taken just like the actual CSWA. We highly recommend that the test be taken under time limit, just like the actual test. If you find that are easily able to complete this practice exam with a high score, it is likely that you are ready for the actual exam. If you miss any questions or fail the practice exam, be sure to go over what you missed and complete the question with the correct answer. Taking the practice exam in this fashion can be as valuable a learning tool as any that are available to you. If you understand the CSWA/CSWP preparation tutorials that are available from SolidWorks, and you understand all the practice test questions, then you are likely ready for the exam. A final note on tools available to you during the exam. There is no guidance from SolidWorks about using the internet during the exam. This leads to some disagreement as to whether or not one should use this tool. In general, if you are having the test proctored at a reseller, educator, employer, or the like, they should tell you whether or not you are allowed to use tools such as the internet or the SolidWorks help function. If you are taking the test on a personal computer, you will have to decide if you will use these tools or not. It is not stated anywhere that this is violating test policy so it is generally considered acceptable, however, if you are not prepared enough to take the test without the aid of the internet, it is likely that you will likely run out of time to complete the test. That said don’t forget about tools like SolidWorks search function (found in the SolidWorks search bar) to locate features that you use less frequently, as this will save you valuable time searching for them manually.

How to take the Exam

Once you’ve fully prepared and are ready to take the exam, the process is very straightforward. Sometimes an exam will be proctored such as if you are a student or taking it as part of an event. If this is not the case, however, you simply need to download SolidWorks testing client from the SolidWorks certification center’s website (link available at the end of the article). Once you have this downloaded follow the prompts to create an account and log in. Once you have logged in, you will have to purchase a CSWA exam credit. Once you have selected to purchase the credit, and followed the prompts to complete your purchase, you can begin your exam whenever you are ready to do so. Keep in mind that once you have begun the exam, you cannot pause the timer or start over so make sure that you have set aside a block of uninterrupted time with which to take the exam. Follow the onscreen instructions and answer all the questions to complete the exam. You can go back and revisit questions before you submit the test, and the test client will prompt you of this and warn you before you submit the test. Be sure to read all on screen instructions. Keep in mind that you will need to have access to an active copy of SolidWorks for this exam, and at the time of this writing, it must be SolidWorks 2011 or later. Keep an eye on the SolidWorks CSWA webpage for updates to this policy.

What Next?

You may find yourself wondering what happens when I’ve finished the exam? Once you have submitted your exam, you will immediately receive your score. Hopefully, as a result of good preparation, this is a passing score. If you don’t pass the exam on your first attempt, however, don’t worry because you can try again. SolidWorks has a retest policy. At the time of this writing you have to wait a minimum of fourteen days before taking the exam again and will have to purchase a new exam credit. While you cannot review individual questions, SolidWorks does supply you with analytics that tell you what areas to review more closely, and this should be taken seriously when studying to retake the exam. If you Pass on your first attempt, congratulations! You are now a CSWA and entitled to all the benefits that come with it. First of all, you can log in to the SolidWorks Certification Center’s website and download your digital certificate and logos for your email signature or business cards. You can also access your verification number that you can supply to prospective employers so that your certification can be verified. Lastly, if you so desire, you can activate the option to be listed in the SolidWorks certification directory. This means that anyone looking for SolidWorks CSWA’s or looking for you specifically can search and see that you indeed have passed the CSWA exam. Now that you have achieved the title of CSWA, you can also begin taking higher level certification exams as your skills progress.

Conclusion

The CSWA certification can be a great asset to have. It can set you apart in the workplace, validate your skillset, and is necessary if you intend to take higher level exams. While it can be daunting, good preparation can make passing the exam an achievable and satisfying experience. Taking the CSWA exam is just the beginning of SolidWorks Certifications and hopefully this article has helped you to get started.

Links to SolidWorks Pages

SolidWorks CSWA webpage

SolidWorks Certification Center

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Trevor Holloway is a mechanical engineer and CAD expert. He is certified in SolidWorks at the expert level (CSWE), and has years of experience in designing products for manufacture. Trevor Holloway is driven by turning ideas into reality through engineering. He consistently seeks to push the limits of his skills and expand his knowledge base with the intent to innovate and solve problems. He enjoys viewing the engineering process holistically, from design to implementation, and always seeks to take a hands on approach. He is certified by SolidWorks as a SolidWorks Experts (CSWE).