The CWI Exam

A look into the 3 parts of this challenging examination

If you want to become a certified welding inspector, you will have to take a three-part exam. The three parts are fundamentals, practical and code.  The topics you’ll encounter in each are detailed below.

AWS D1.1 is one of the codes to which you can decide to base your CWI exam on.

AWS D1.1 is one of the codes to which you can decide to base your CWI exam on.

Part A – Fundamentals

This section of the exam will test your knowledge in a wide variety of subjects related to welding and weld examination.  Even experienced professionals that have been in the industry for many years are challenged by this section.  The bottom line is this: don’t think you don’t need to prepare for this part. You have to put in the time before the exam and, if possible, attend the one-week seminar that is typically offered before the exam.  It is important that you do as much studying before the seminar as possible.  This is a fast-paced seminar that will overwhelm you if your knowledge on the topics below is poor or non-existent.

The topics you’ll encounter in Part A of the CWI Exam are below.

  • Destructive testing
  • Welding performance
  • Duties and responsibilities
  • Weld examination
  • Definitions and terminology
  • Safety
  • Welding and non-destructive examination Symbols
  • Non-destructive test methods
  • Welding processes
  • Heat control
  • Metallurgy
  • Mathematical conversions and calculations

Part B – Practical

This part has 46 questions.  You will need to measure weld replicas with measuring tools that will be provided for you.  It is very important that you are familiar and can use weld gages, calipers, micrometers, dial calipers and machinist scales. You will need to evaluate the measurements according to a supplied book of specifications.  Some questions will need to be answered based on practical knowledge review to the topics below.

The topics for Part B of the CWI Exam are below.

  • Welding procedures
  • Welder qualifications
  • Mechanical tests
  • Mechanical properties
  • Welding inspection and flaws
  • Non-destructive tests

Part C – Open Book Code

This part is extremely challenging, mainly due to time constraints.  This section has 46 questions  which are on the code that the candidate has selected for the examination.  The choice are:

  • AWS D1.1 Structural Welding Code – Steel
  • API 1104 Welding of Pipelines and Related Facilities
  • AWS D1.5 Bridge Welding Code
  • AWS D15.1 Railroad Welding Specifications – Cars and Locomotives


In order to pass the exam, you must achieve a score of at least 72% in all three parts.  If you achieve a passing grade, you’ll need an eye examination to insure that you have adequate vision (with or without corrective glasses).

To properly prepare for this exam the American Welding Society suggest you study the following AWS publications:

  • AWS QC 1-88 Standard for AWS Certification of Welding Inspectors
  • ANSI/AWS A3.0-94 Standard Welding Terms and Definitions
  • The code book to which you will be testing on Part C

Have you already taken the CWI Exam?  Please share experience, thoughts and tips in taking this exam to help those readers that will take this challenging exam in the future.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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12 thoughts on “The CWI Exam

  1. I graduate from welding school on Dec. 6th. Now I would like to get a bachelors in welding technology so I do not have to have so much experience to take the CWI exam. Do you know of any online schools to get the bachelors degree in welding?

  2. I recently passed the CWI exam for D1.1. It was challenging but I did pretty well. I went to school for welding and worked both as a welder and in quality. I started reviewing the code book a year before taking the exam. I registered for the exam and seminar as far out as I could. AWS sent me all of the study material a few weeks later and gave me online access to there code clinic and a schedule for studying. I studied about half of the material over the next 4 months. The seminar helped to answer most of the questions I still had. I also talked to everyone I could find who were CWI, Instructor, or engineer in welding industry. Most people in the seminar had not even looked at the study material and seemed lost through the next week. The new computer based testing for part A and B was really convenient and gave more time to review for each section.

    • Congratulations on getting your CWI Dave! And thanks for sharing how you went about studying for this exam. You are right, many people think that going to the seminar will be all they need. The preparation beforehand is crucial. I’m glad to hear the computer based testing was beneficial. I know I spent a lot of time filling out the bubbles on the answer sheet. When you do that over 150 questions that eats up a lot of your time. Best of luck with your career!

    • I have not found anything online that is reputable. AWS has online code clinics, but they only do D1.1, D17.1 (Aerospace) and API 1104 (Pipelines and related facilities). Even on the CWI Seminar D1.5 is not covered. The principles of D1.5 mimic D1.1, it just has more stringent requirements. There are D1.5 code clinics at major events such as Fabtech. Unfortunately we are long ways away from this show (November). If you do happen to find something please let us. Also, if you have specific questions about D1.5 I would be happy to help.

    • Hello James. The American Welding Society publishes a document called “Body of Knowledge” for the CWI examination. These are all the material you need to get started. There are a lot of books and some are quite expensive. We have recently started developing a course to help prospects pass the CW?I exam, but it will be a while before it is ready.

    • The CWI exam is pretty tough. One of the biggest challenges is the time limit, especially for parts B & C of the test. As we develop more information we will consider creating resources to help pass the CWI exam. Unfortunately we do not have something at this time. When are you hoping to take this exam?