How to Prepare Students for the CSWA Exam Using xDesign


This summer, SolidProfessor hosted a Virtual Education Summit for instructors, CTE directors, and administrators in engineering, architecture, and manufacturing education. The summit included 19 sessions from industry experts and educators at Microsoft, Purdue University, SOLIDWORKS, Project Lead the Way (PLTW), and many more.

One of the most-attended sessions was led by SolidProfessor president and co-founder, Pedro Santana. Before founding SolidProfessor in 2002, Santana worked for a leading value-added reseller of SOLIDWORKS engineering and design software. While there, he became a Certified SOLIDWORKS Instructor and a Certified SOLIDWORKS Professional (CSWP).

Since getting students access to SOLIDWORKS software during distance learning remains a challenge, Santana’s breakout session focused on how instructors can prepare their students for the Certified SOLIDWORKS Associate (CSWA) without ever downloading SOLIDWORKS.

As access to SOLIDWORKS remains a concern during distance learning, educators look to web-based xDesign

To access SOLIDWORKS, students need a high-powered machine. These processors are often found in school computer labs. However, the devices students most commonly have at home are Macs, Chromebooks, or tablets. None of these devices are powerful enough to run SOLIDWORKS.

During distance learning, many engineering educators are turning to SOLIDWORKS xDesign, a browser-based CAD platform to teach their students CAD. To access the platform, all students need is a WiFi connection.

While they are two different platforms, SOLIDWORKS and xDesign share many of the same functionalities, which is what makes it appealing to teachers using a SOLIDWORKS curriculum. In Santana’s session, he highlights the functionalities you can and can’t find in both SOLIDWORKS and xDesign.

Functionalities included in both SOLIDWORKS and xDesign:

  • Sketching, dimensions, relations
  • Extrudes, revolves, sweeps, lofts, fillets
  • Assemblies, mates
  • Mass properties

Functionality included in SOLIDWORKS but NOT included in xDesign:

  • 2D drawing creation

How teachers can move forward with CSWA-driven curriculum when students can’t access SOLIDWORKS at home

Some teachers and CTE directors have been reluctant about switching from teaching their students CAD with xDesign because the platform doesn’t have any certification opportunities. For many school districts, the transition poses a challenge because their engineering programs are set up to get students software certified.

Preparing students to earn a certification, also known as an industry-recognized credential (IRC), is important because, in many states, schools can receive funding for each student who earns an approved certification. Not to mention, students who graduate from high school with a SOLIDWORKS certification are more marketable to employers.

This conundrum got Santana thinking: is it possible for students to pass the CSWA exam by learning xDesign? As outlined above, the two platforms share many of the same functionalities. The primary difference is that you can’t create 2D drawings in xDesign. The good news: creating 2D drawings is not part of the CSWA exam.

Case study: Is it possible for a student to pass the CSWA exam by preparing with xDesign rather than SOLIDWORKS?

To test his hypothesis, Santana recruited his high-school-aged children to be his guinea pigs. Neither of his children has ever been in an engineering program at school but both have taken a few STEM classes.

Here’s the program Santana created for his children to see if they could pass the CSWA without ever using SOLIDWORKS software.

Step 1: Take SolidProfessor’s online SOLIDWORKS Beginner to Certification course while following along in the xDesign platform. This course includes step-by-step guided lessons, 32 practice exercises, and a CSWA practice exam.

Step 2: Complete practice exercises and take CSWA practice exams.

Step 3: Take the CSWA exam under supervision with no external resources.

The results: Both of Santana’s children passed the CSWA exam by using xDesign and online tutorials from SolidProfessor.

SOLIDWORKS Beginner to Certification Course

SolidProfessor’s SOLIDWORKS Beginner to Certification course

Watch Santana’s full presentation to learn more about how you can still have a CSWA-driven curriculum without needing SOLIDWORKS.

Since running this experiment, SolidProfessor has launched an online course in xDesign for distance learning.

SolidProfessor’s new learning path Beginner to 3D Designer with xDesign will help your students go from novices to skilled designers. This learning path includes:

  • 3 hours and 54 minutes of expert-guided video lessons in the following topics:
    • Spatial visualization
    • Engineering graphics
    • Introduction to xDesign 2020
  • 47 practice exercises
  • A self-grading comprehension exam
  • Technical Certificate in Beginner to 3D Designer with xDesign

Madie Norris Forcier
About the Author

SolidProfessor content writer and self-appointed World’s Greatest Dog Mom