Do You Know What Questions are on the California Supplemental Exam?

What to Study for the California Supplemental Exam for Landscape Architects

For those of us preparing for the California Supplemental Exam (CSE) for landscape architects, there is not a lot of study material available. Here is some information that I’ve culled from a Land8 discussion thread and other places on the web:

The LATC produced a candidate guide that you can download at

The LATC Candidate Guide is really vague and confusing.

LATC also recommends reading a list of books. You can find the list at

Unfortunately, most of the books are out of print and hard to find (even on

Topics on the CSE

I’ve summarized some topic areas that come up in the discussion most often:


Be familiar with ADA guidelines pertaining to landscape architecture. Guardrail, grating, ramp surface, landings for ramps and stairs are all covered on the exam.

  • What kind of concrete finish is appropriate at ramp?
  • Which of the following does not require ADA access: sports fields, restrooms, playgrounds, or a parking lot?
  • Know the requirements for accessible guardrails. Know that a 4″ sphere cannot pass through the rails. A guardrail is required when the drop is more than 30″.
  • If you are locating a tree in an ADA accessible courtyard what would you look for in the tree to ensure compliance. My answer was branching structure. I could have been wrong though.
  • Maximum grating opening in path of travel is 1/2″.


  • Fire issues in landscape architecture.


  • Know the responsibilities and limitations of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, California Coastal Commission, US Army Corps of Engineers, California Department of Fish and Game.
  • If you are constructing in a wetland which agencies might be involved?
  • Various levels of guidelines: land use plan, subdivision plan, zoning ordinance etc.?
  • Which agency is responsible at various scale and location of projects.
  • Be familiar with CEQA, Coastal Commission, California Department of Fish and Game, USFWS.


  • How do you calculate pressure gain or loss due to elevation?
  • What info do you need for MAWA (water application) calculations?
  • What info do you need to calculate precipitation rate?
  • Why do irrigation systems require backflow preventers?
  • Where do you get your water pressure info from?


  • Be familiar with the plant communities of California, especially with what plants can be planted under native oak trees and in riparian areas
  • What plants should not be planted next to equestrian trail?
  • What are some names of some plants with culinary value that can be used in the landscape in California?
  • What is Anthracnose?
  • Be familiar with the most notorious and common invasive plant species.

Project Management

  • Project close out requirements.
  • What should be in a contract between a landscape architect and client
  • If an architect is the prime consultant and landscape architect is a sub-consultant and architect says he is responsible for ALL code compliance issues, what is your response?
  • How do you ensure sub consultants will comply to schedule (deadlines)

Miscellaneous Topics

  • In the Sierra Nevada mountains, what is the best aspect to site a cottage?
  • Where do you get a site’s 100 year flood elevation from?
  • If you are doing a project in the San Joaquin valley, which is more important: water conservation or fault line study?
  • What are the legal light requirement for self-parking lot?
  • What info does a mechanical engineer need to be provided for coordination regarding water feature?
  • What info do you need to calculate the maximum span of wood beam?
  • Why is steel used to reinforce concrete?
  • How do you identify a sites landslide potential?
  • What method would you use to restore a concrete paving that is currently finished with a different color in a historic preservation project?

More Resources

Pass the California Supplemental Exam (CSE) for Landscape Architects e-book study guide

I hope this information really helps. Good luck preparing for the California Supplemental Exam for landscape architects.

If you are looking for a study guide for the CSE, please consider Pass the California Supplemental Exam for Landscape Architects. This is the only third-party study guide that can lower your stress level and increase your confidence on test day.


John is a landscape architect who is currently preparing to take the California Supplemental Exam to become licensed in California. He is currently a licensed professional landscape architect in Georgia and Florida. John graduated from California State University, Pomona with a BSLA degree in landscape architecture in 1997 and has extensive practice experience in residential and commercial landscape design.

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You are in the right place. Learn what you need to pass the California Supplemental Exam for landscape architects the first time. This site is dedicated to aspiring landscape architects who want to get a California landscape architect license. I'll share my research for the CSE as I prepare for the exam.

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