Tips for Passing the CSWA Exam

By Laura Weismantel on

Becoming a CSWA, or Certified SOLIDWORKS Associate, can seem like a daunting task if you don’t know what to expect. However, if you are an experienced SOLIDWORKS user, you should have no problem passing the test if you set yourself up for success. The following blog is intended to help you do just that.

The CSWA exam is a 3-hour long exam that you complete online in the SOLIDWORKS virtual testing environment. The exam consists of two types of questions: practical questions that require you to use SOLIDWORKS in order to obtain an answer, and theoretical questions that demonstrate your technical knowledge of things like drawing views and basic simulation (SimulationXpress) procedures. The questions are all multiple choice and a score of 70% or higher is required to pass. 

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Below I’ve compiled a list of tips that I hope will help you to prepare for your exam. 

1) Review the exam criteria here

This will help you ensure that you have a good understanding of what material the exam will cover. The CWSA page on the SOLIDWORKS website contains a detailed list of the topics that you may come across while taking the exam, but in general you should expect to spend a lot of your time on basic part modeling. Having a good grasp on sketching and basic features (extrude, hole wizard, fillets etc.) is important. You can also expect there to be at least one question that requires you to put an assembly of components together using mates.

 2) Take the online CSWA prep course found here

This course is self-paced and consists of a series of short videos covering all topics required for passing the CSWA exam. Access to all of the videos is granted to those with a valid and up-to-date SOLIDWORKS subscription just by registering at using your serial number.

3) Take a practice exam

I found a good practice exam here, but there are many available online if you just search “CWSA Practice Exam.” To get the most out of your practice exam, I would suggest simulating a real exam experience. Set yourself up in the same way you would for the real thing and don’t allow yourself to go over the 3-hour time limit.

4) Be comfortable interpreting detailed drawings in order to create a 3-D model

There will be several questions that require you to create a 3D solid model based on a number of dimensioned (2D and 3D) drawing views. It is extremely important that you can interpret these drawings in a timely manner so that you can create an accurate part. Completing the practice exam linked in tip #3 is an effective way to test your ability in this area.

Practice sketching in SOLIDWORKS for your CSMA exam

5) Practice sketching

Know how to define a sketch properly using dimensions and relations. This is a basic skill set in SOLIDWORKS that is required to be a good user of the software, so naturally, this is something that is tested thoroughly in this exam.

6) Know how to set units and compute mass properties 

This exam tests your ability to create a correct model based on the given drawings by asking you to compute the total mass (for a single part) or center of gravity (for an assembly). If you do well, the answer you get will match one of the multiple choice answers offered. If your answer doesn’t match, then something in your model is off.

Before you even start modeling you should check to make sure the units of your document match the units given in the question. This will be stated at the beginning of the question and it can be easily set in SOLIDWORKS by checking the units in the bottom right hand corner of your SOLIDWORKS window (available whenever you have a document open). If the units say MMGS when it should be IPS, simply click the units and a menu will appear in which you can make an alternate choice.

Check your units in SOLIDWORKS

When you’ve completed your model, and are ready to check your mass properties, go to Tools > Mass Properties or choose the Mass Properties icon in the Evaluate tab of your CommandManager. The Mass Properties window will appear and list various properties of your part or assembly, including the mass and center of gravity as it relates to the origin. If the units presented in the Mass Properties do not match the units required for the question, choose “Options…” at the top of the window and set the units properly.

Use Mass Properties to double check the units

The mass of your part depends on the material assigned to it, so be sure to choose the proper material from the SOLIDWORKS material library before checking your mass properties. Like the units, the material will be stated at the beginning of the question. You can set the part material by right-clicking on the Material call-out in your FeatureManager design tree and choosing “Edit Material.”

Set part materials in SOLIDWORKS by using FeatureManager

Finally, the location of the center of gravity for your assembly depends on the location and orientation with respect to the origin. Make sure when you are assembling your components to match this perfectly. There should be an image in the question that shows how the assembly should be placed with respect to the origin.

7) Have a good computer set up 

Since much of the exam will be spent looking at drawings of a part and recreating it in SOLIDWORKS, it will be extremely useful to have the drawings visible while you are modeling them. Because of this, a dual screen set-up is ideal so you are not constantly switching between the exam and your SOLIDWORKS window.

If dual screens aren’t possible, another option is to use two computers, one for the virtual tester and another one for SOLIDWORKS. If you use this solution, keep in mind that there might be part files you need to download for the assembly modeling component of the exam. You should have a flash drive handy to quickly transfer the necessary files from one computer to the other.

8) Use SOLIDWORKS Help, when needed 

The CSWA exam is considered an open book test and every answer to the theoretical questions can be found in the SOLIDWORKS Help documents found at Help > SOLIDWORKS Help or here. Familiarize yourself with the SOLIDWORKS help environment and use the search capabilities to quickly look up answers when you aren’t entirely sure. This will not be very helpful on the practical components of the exam, so don’t rely too heavily on the availability of SOLIDWORKS Help to get you through the part and assembly modeling challenges.

9) Read through the entire exam before starting

While taking the exam, about 80% of your time will be spent on the practical components, even though that may only make up about 50% of the questions. Because of this, when you first begin your exam, it is a good idea to go through and answer the theoretical questions first. Getting 50% of the questions out of the way quickly will help you to focus on the more time-consuming problems while cutting down on the stress of answering all questions before time is up.

If you have any significant amount of experience creating part models and assemblies in SOLIDWORKS and you follow my advice, you should have no problem successfully achieving your CSWA certification. By keeping a cool head, reading each question thoroughly and answering the questions you know first so that you can focus on the harder questions later, you too can become a Certified SOLIDWORKS Associate. Good luck!

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