Previewing SolidProfessor’s Video Tutorials–The SOLIDWORKS CSWA Exam

SolidProfessor offers worthwhile video tutorials to learn CAD.

One of the most amazing things about the times we live in is the fact that so much information is at our fingertips. Now, I’ll concede that much of that info is a straight-up waste of time, full of click bait that’s of no use to anyone. On the other hand, there is a great wealth of valuable resources for learning something new or honing an existing skill in your professional repertoire. Take CAD, for example.  

One particularly useful avenue is SolidProfessor, an online learning platform that specializes in CAD/CAM education. Like other online learning portals, SolidProfessor uses well-crafted videos and industry experts to teach you everything from the simplest sketching techniques to complex surfacing. In addition, SolidProfessor can also get you prepped for your SOLIDWORKS exams, whether it’s the Certified SOLIDWORKS Associate (CSWA) or Certified SOLIDWORKS Expert (CSWE) exams.

Because I’ve been using SOLIDWORKS for several years, I feel pretty comfortable designing with the package. But, for one reason or another I’ve never bothered to prep for, or take, a certification exam.

Looks like it’s time to get prepped for my first CSWA exam. But before I dive into SolidProfessor’s preparatory courses, let’s take a look at the site itself.

The SolidProfessor Experience

First off, SolidProfessor’s site is very easy to use. After setting up a user ID, I was presented with a screen that listed all of the class options that were available to me. Beyond SOLIDWORKS, SolidProfessor has a suite of tutorials for a host of Autodesk products, including AutoCAD, Fusion 360 and Revit, as well as other popular CAD/CAM tools like Mastercam, SketchUp, Onshape and many more.

At the core of SolidProfessor’s educational methodology are video tutorials that are backed up with interactive projects. For every concept that’s illuminated in a course, a corresponding project reinforces presented concepts with practical experience. With this two-fold teaching method, users can gain confidence in their abilities through practice.

On the technology side of things, SolidProfessor also offers the option for its tutorials to be integrated into the SOLIDWORKS environment via a Task Pane add-in. With the add-in installed, users can search through tutorials to find the information they need.

But like I said, the backbone of SolidProfessor’s methodology is the videos. So, let’s see what they have to offer.

The Tutorials–An Overview of the Material and a Few Takeaways

SolidProfessor’s informative and well-paced video content.

SolidProfessor’s informative and well-paced video content.

To begin with, SolidProfessor’s tutorials are short and sweet. For people like me, with the attention span of a goldfish, that’s a blessing. SolidProfessor instructors get to the crux of the issue at hand and share only the information that you’ll need.

For my tutorial, the CSWA exam prep, the lesson plan began with the nuts and bolts of the CSWA exam. Using a clear well-spoken voice, the instructor walked me through everything from purchasing a test to setting the exam up on my machine. At the end of the approximately 15-minute video segment (conveniently broken down into seven parts), the instructor added a few time-saving hints that might make or break my score.

After completing the lecture of the CSWA process, my instructor transitioned into an extensive review of drawing views. Although that might see odd at first, on the CSWA exam, identifying drawing views makes up nearly the entirety of the test’s multiple-choice section. Although it’s not the most heavily weighted portion of the test, acing this part of the exam can help make up points that might be missed later.

Moving forward, the CSWA tutorial begins prepping students for the most critical part of the exam, the investigating, modeling and assembly components of the test.

During the CSWA exam, test takers are asked to model a conventional part and a revolved part and work through a series of problems based on an assembly. In each of these sections, users are given a series of drawings that will instruct them how to build the required model. Design intent, constraints, variables and parameters are all in play during this part of the exam. But have no fear, your SolidProfessor instructor will walk you through all of that.

To begin prep, each of these sections is given a rather in-depth overview of what the SOLIDWORKS examiners are expecting students to demonstrate in each section. After this explanation, users are prompted to give a practice test a shot. Have no fear, you can skip it if you’d like. But if you do give it a go, you’ll have the chance to come back to it later after reviewing strategies for successfully modeling a part, which is covered in a series of videos.

I’d recommend giving the test a go right off the bat, if only to expose your current weaknesses.

Toward the end of the CSWA test prep course, SolidProfessor’s instructor explains how test takers can retrieve their scores, print out certificates and get their names listed in SOLIDWORKS’ online directory of certified users.

What’s My Takeaway?

After spending nearly two hours running through SolidProfessor’s CSWA course, I’d say it was well worth my time.

Sample test summary.

Sample test summary.

As an example of what I’ve learned through SolidProfessor’s video courses, I’d like to share a few tricks that’ll definitely come in handy come test time:

1.       Once you start your exam, you can’t pause it. You’ve got three hours. Use them wisely.

2.       The associate exam is 14 questions long and consists of practical modeling exercises and multiple-choice questions about drawings.

3.       Scan through the question in the test before you do anything else. This could help you identify and establish the design intent for your model.

4.       Contrary to popular belief, the CSWA is not a speed-modeling test; however, it is necessary to move through problems efficiently.

5.       Do what feels natural to you. Don’t try and mimic best practices—model in your own natural way. There are always multiple ways to create the correct geometric solution to a problem.

6.       Use equations and global variables to update geometry from question to question without having to worry about mistakes.

7.       Make sure you’re comfortable will all types of sketch relations. Don’t let your model go wonky because you didn’t add the correct constraints.

8.       Practice assigning and modifying assembly variables. They’re going to be used in the assembly section of the test.

9.       Finally, save frequently to avoid losing your work in the event of a software or hardware failure.

After finishing SolidProfessor’s CSWA exam prep course, there’s no doubt in my mind that I’m much more prepared for the CSWA that I’ll be taking in the coming months. Because it’ll be some time before I actually take my test, I’ll definitely circle back to SolidProfessor’s tutorials just to get a refresher, especially when it comes to drawing views. All in all, I’m confident that the SolidProfessor course will help me finally secure that CSWA certificate. After that, I’ll be using SolidProfessor to help prep for the CSWP and possibly the CSWE.