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WELL Blog Series Part II: The Leadup to the WELL Exam

January 10, 2019

WELL Blog Series Part II: The Leadup to the WELL Exam
Written by Conor McGuire

The decision was made. I am committed to becoming a WELL Accredited Professional. Now that I’ve studied and prepared for the exam, I will walk the plank...ready to sink or swim! Did I do enough? What strategies did I use? Am I feeling confident?

Registering for the WELL AP Exam

Optional goals have a way of being, well...optional. If I began my studying without a firm exam date, I believe much of my ‘dedicated’ study-time would have slipped due to seemingly more pressing needs that tend to come up for us all. Important matters like making sure I’m caught up on my Elon Musk tweets, or checking my email for the 150th time that day. It would be so easy to delay taking the exam at all.

I spoke with a friend who had already passed the exam, and I asked for his opinion on a realistic timeline for studying. He said a few weeks study time had worked for him. I decided to be extra prepared and register for the exam date eight weeks out to give myself adequate time for focused and deliberate study. The plan worked, sort of. Eight weeks is a long time, until there are only two weeks left -- then things have to get serious.

Study Materials

When I registered for the exam, I purchased the WELL AP Exam Prep Bundle, which is offered at the time of registration and includes the WELL AP Exam Preparation Guide and access to an online account of WELL practice exams. I used these purchased study materials in addition to The WELL Building Standard and WELL Building Certification Guidebook. The Exam Prep Bundle was helpful, and I’m not sure if there is really any other practical way to study for the exam. The online practice tests give you a feel for what to expect in both the format of the questions and how information in the WELL Features is pulled out to create rather difficult multiple choice questions.

Approach to Studying

As mentioned, eight weeks quickly evaporated down to two weeks. In retrospect, allowing this to happen was a big mistake. I really should have made a better effort to set aside two hours of studying after the kids were in bed during that eight weeks. It would have been the sane thing to do. 8 weeks X 2 hours/day X 5 days/week = high quality of life. Preparing for the exam would have been much more pleasant using that strategy, which was my original intention. Instead of that measured and balanced approach, I realized about two weeks out that I still had a LOT of content to get through. Sure, I’d skimmed through the content a few times, but I hadn’t really settled into any real studying yet. With the help of my wonderful wife, who agreed to solely handle our typically shared parenting and domestic evening duties, I was able to cram for about 2 weeks X 6 hours/day X 6 days/week. Yes, I recognized the irony of studying WELL while sacrificing my quality of life and not getting enough sleep. Don’t make the same mistake I made!

If you’re like me, long format reading can’t be done on a glowing screen, so I printed The WELL Building Standard (double-sided of course!) and put it in a binder. I read through it slowly and completely one time without taking notes or highlighting any items for conceptual comprehension and understanding. Then I read through it a second time, highlighting and noting items and details that I presumed would be good content for multiple choice questions. After doing this, I felt ready for the online practice tests, which I took with my hard copy of the standard within arm’s reach. For every question I got wrong, I flipped to the relevant WELL Feature and re-read and noted my mistake and how that specific question was asked and formatted. The exam questions involved a lot of rote memorization, which I find more difficult than conceptual or reasoning questions (was it 100 or 200 equivalent Melanopic Lux?). Initially I made many mistakes, but through repeated hours of this iterative process, I made progress.

Day of Exam

I intentionally scheduled the exam for a Friday afternoon. I wanted the free time after the exam to celebrate (or sulk) and give myself some time before diving back into my usual work on Monday morning. I had the option of postponing the exam, but after my two week (not-recommended) cram session, I felt ready enough. At times like this, right before a potentially high-stress event, I tend to recall the advice of an engineering professor I once had. He had mentioned during the last week of class that he’d give us a great strategy for passing the final exam. On the day of the last class, we were just doing typically work and class was nearly over when a student reminded the professor of his promise of delivering a great exam strategy. He apologized for the delay and uttered without hesitation, “Oh yes, of course! Be sure to get plenty of sleep tonight!” Predictably, the entire class groaned and wasn’t very happy with him. But through the years I’ve grown to appreciate this advice. With the work of the studying done, come to the exam well rested and with a clear head. The day of my afternoon WELL AP exam I treated myself to a nice lunch and tried to remember to breathe calmly more than peek at my notes. Fingers crossed I will have good news to report….

WELL Accredited Professional

"The WELL Accredited Professional (WELL AP) credential demotes expertise in the WELL Building Standard and a commitment to advancing human health and wellness in buildings and communities." -

*Stay tuned for Part III*