Passing the Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) L1, L2 and L3 exams are no simple tasks. Each test presents a unique set of challenges, requiring a distinct set of knowledge. But in the end, adding one or more of these certifications to your resume is well worth the effort.

I should know. As an ASE Certified Master Tech, L1, L2, and L3 Advanced Level Specialist, I have taken and passed all three exams. Now, I want to provide some insight and tips that can help you do the same.

What’s the difference between the ASE L1, L2, and L3 exams?

The ASE L1, L2, and L3 exams are vastly different from one another. Let’s take a look at a brief overview of each of the tests.

L1 Advanced Engine Performance Specialist

The L1 exam covers driveability and emissions failures on computer-controlled, gasoline-powered engines. Before taking the L1 exam, you must first take and pass the prerequisite, the ASE A8 Automobile Engine Performance exam. Both the L1 and A8 exams cover similar material. In fact, you can think of the L1 as a ramped-up version of the A8.

When taking the L1 exam, you’re provided a pamphlet that outlines the composite vehicle – a fictional car referenced throughout the test. Many questions throughout the L1 exam reference the composite vehicle and its wiring diagram. So, be sure you’re comfortable reading schematics before sitting for the exam.

L2 Electronic Diesel Engine Diagnosis Specialist

The L2 exam focuses on the diagnosis of computer-controlled diesel engines. Because the test covers medium and heavy-duty vehicles, it seems a little out of place in the test series hierarchy. After all, the L2 is squeezed in between the L1 and L3, both of which cover light-duty vehicles.

But since the advanced level tests follow one another consecutively, it’s nice to have all three on your resume. And even if you don’t specialize in heavy-duty vehicle repair, the L2 is passable as long as you understand diesel engines and electrical systems.

That’s why in order to take the test, you must first pass one exam on diesel engines (the A9, T2, S2 or H2) and one exam on electrical/electronic systems (the A6, T6, S6 or H6).

Like the L1 exam, many of the L2 questions reference a fictional, composite vehicle. The specifics of the vehicle are outlined in a pamphlet, which you have access to during the test.

L3 Light Duty Hybrid/Electric Vehicle Specialist

One of the newest ASE offerings is the L3 Light Duty Hybrid/Electric Vehicle Specialist exam. As the title implies, the test covers the diagnosis and repair of hybrid and electric vehicles. Before registering for the L3, you must first pass two prerequisite exams: A6 Automobile Electrical/Electronics Systems and A8 Engine Performance.

Unlike the other advanced level tests, the L3 exam does not reference a fictional, composite vehicle. Instead, the exam includes a Certification Test Reference document that identifies key hybrid and electric vehicle concepts. You have access to the document while taking the test.

All three of the advanced level tests, including the L3, have plenty of wiring diagrams. Be certain that your schematic-reading skills are up to part before taking this test.

Tips for passing the ASE advanced level exams

In many cases, the thought process behind the ASE questions is different from what you might use in the field. Therefore, the most important piece of advice for anyone is to study before attempting the L1, L2 or L3 exam. Even seasoned professionals should spend a sufficient amount of time studying and preparing for these exams. Take advantage of the ASE study guides.

Also, if you haven’t taken a multiple-choice exam in many years (possibly since high school), you may want to reacquaint yourself with the test-taking process. To get an understanding of the procedure and formatting, it helps to take a look at the practice tests on the official ASE website and quiz yourself when you aren’t at your computer, using a mobile study tool like Pocket Prep.

Finally, try not to let yourself get stressed out about the exam. If you fail, you can always retake the test. You just have to wait 30 days before you can register again.

Benefits of passing the ASE advanced level exams

According to the ASE website, there are currently 182,228 ASE certified technicians. Of those professionals, only 32,566 are L1 certified and only 3,906 have an L2 certification. And there are just 1,602 L3 certified technicians.

Obviously, having one or more advanced level certifications helps set you apart from other automotive professionals. That can open the door to better job opportunities and higher pay. According to Simply Hired, the average salary for an ASE Master Technician with an L1 certification is $77,000 per year.

But the most important benefit of passing an advanced level test is the sense of accomplishment you earn. Once you have L1, L2 or L3 certification, you’ll know you’re a top-tier automotive professional. And that’s a fantastic feeling.