Interior designers who wish to further their careers can get the NCIDQ certification, which is the penultimate designation in the field of interior design. Getting the NCIDQ isn’t easy – you need to pass an interior design course and get supervised work experience first. The exam is constantly updated by the NCIDQ to meet industry standards and public health laws.
The NCIDQ exam is only given every six months, so there is a very small window of opportunity. There are three sections to the test. The first section is composed of building systems and codes. You must know about construction standards, contract administration, and state codes. There are 100 questions for this section alone. The second section asks you questions about professional interior design practices, project coordination, and design applications. There are also 100 questions in this section. You are supposed to take these two sections in one day and come back for another section the following day.
The last section is a clinical portion that contains exercises. You must know all about safety, bathrooms, millwork, lighting, and more. There are seven exercises in this section. This last section is unique because it is a full-day exercise.
You need to get your education and work experience requirements out of the way before you can even apply for the NCIDQ exam. There is an online application for simple registration purposes, but first make sure you are eligible to take the exam. Fees are nonrefundable if you are denied. Once the NCIDQ approves your application, they will send you an email that tells you about the registration process. You have up to five years to take the full NCIDQ exam.
The two parts of the NCIDQ exam are taken on a computer at a testing center. The computer scores your test and gives you a grade between 200 and 800. You need at least a 500 to pass. The practicum portions are scored by volunteers who work with NCIDQ. These volunteers are professionals with years of interior design experience. They also must complete a training program to standardize the grading procedure. The volunteers are allowed to use some of their own judgment when determining a student’s grade. This allows for more creativity from the students. For example, a student that draws a single window opening the wrong way might not fail if the window is not dangerous. He or she is given more leeway.
Once you are accepted into the exam process, you must register for each individual exam section. The company gives you a lot of freedom to decide how many sections to take at once. You can also choose to take the sections in any order of your choosing. In case you fail a section, you must register for it all over again. The best way to stay “active” in the NCIDQ database is to register and take at least one section. All sections should be completed by the end of five year’s time. After that, you must re-register for any courses you missed.
Advice on Taking the NCIDQ Exam
There is no doubt that the NCIDQ exam is extremely rigorous. It’s a two-day exam that includes a practicum and hundreds of multiple-choice questions. There is no “right” way to prepare for an exam, but you can start by reviewing the basic facts about the test. The best course of action is to do as well as you can in school and save your notes. Much of the material you learn in school will be on the NCIDQ exam.
The NCIDQ does not offer any classes or study guides for sale. The reason is that they are the creators of the exam, and offering study guides would be unfair. They do not specifically tell students what is on the exam, but they do publish some content and practice questions on their website. For this reason, it is important to purchase study items like flashcards in preparation for this intensive exam.
Study groups are useful, but you are not allowed to order a “practice design problem” and then distribute it to other students in your study group. NCIDQ study guides and materials must not be copied without express permission from the company.
Building codes are a great concern for new graduates. The NCIDQ uses the most up-to-date codes on the exam. Buy the International Building Code book or the National Building Code of Canada to find your most recent building code laws. The exam does not require test takers to memorize any codes. For example, a test question may write out a building code and ask you to break it down.
NCIDQ does not recommend any specific workshops for students, since the exam is designed to test your body of knowledge gained over the course of several years. However, it doesn’t hurt to add some study tools to your arsenal to make sure you have the knowledge down cold.
There are two multiple-choice sections on the exam that you must take in a single day. There is a new organization for these questions: Section 1 includes building systems, codes, construction, and contracts. The second section covers professional practices, project coordination, and application of design principles.
It can take quite a long time to receive your scores, which are graded by hand. It takes up to 14 weeks to receive your scores in the mail, but it comes a lot sooner for many students. You will get your scores for all the exam sections at the same time, plus a “pass/fail” grade. Somewhere around 59 percent of students pass the exam in its entirety. The number one reason why students fail is due to a lack of preparation. This is why it’s so important to start studying now for this difficult test.
The NCIDQ exam is offered in pencil-and-paper format for cost reasons and to level the playing field for students who do not have drafting software. You will also draw out your designs for the practicum using a pencil and paper. Not enough students take the NCIDQ exam each year to justify the expense of converting to a software exam, according to the NCIDQ.
How the NCIDQ Exam is Graded
The NCIDQ exam has several sections. The first two sections are graded by a computer. These sections are multiple-choice in format. Once you are done the test, you get your score, which ranges from 200 to 800. The average score is 500, and that is the passing grade you must attain. Every five years, the NCIDQ creates new exam questions for its test takers. The questions are updated according to new interior design laws, building construction, code, and aesthetics. Special equating procedures are put in place to make sure that no new versions of the test are harder or easier than previous versions.
The third section of the exam is a little more difficult and subject to grade since it’s a practicum. Students must complete the practicum over the course of a single day. The exercises involve building codes, planning spaces, and generally showing competence with interior design and planning. Students are not judged by a computer for this section; rather, there is a panel of judges that grades each student individually. The judges are volunteers with NCIDQ that have taken special training courses for the purpose of grading students.
It is possible to defer the exam if you are not ready to take it. You can do this by logging into the NCIDQ system and clicking on “Deferral” under the “Exam Candidate” section. Fill out the forms and submit them to the company. You will have to pay an additional fee. If you do not receive an email accepting your deferral, contact the NCIDQ. Your deferral must say “completed” rather than “pending” in order for you to defer your exam correctly.
In the past, the volunteers had to adhere to strict guidelines about grading student’s work. Now, they are given more leeway in determining a pass/fail situation. They are taught to examine the student’s body of work and overall planning competence rather than a few minor errors. Even if a student makes a small design error or two, he or she can still pass the NCIDQ exam as long as the overall performance is solid. Above all, safety codes are more important than a small design flaw.
Two graders, independent of each other, work on each student’s projects. They do not share reviews or look at the other grader’s notes. Overall, each student’s work is looked at by six different graders. If there is a disagreement about whether a student should pass or fail the NCIDQ exam, another grader is brought in to make the final decision.
Students do not write their names on their exams – only numbers. This ensures complete privacy and anonymity for the graders. All bias must be eliminated when grading the NCIDQ exam. In addition, graders use a number rather than a name to keep their privacy. These rules might seem daunting, but they provide the best way to even out the playing field between all students. Graders and students cannot use any type of prejudice when working on the exam, so it’s fair for everyone.
Qualifying for the NCIDQ Exam
Not everyone is eligible to take the challenging NCIDQ exam. Only those who have achieved an adequate level of education and work experience are allowed to apply for this test. A NCIDQ certification is highly respected in the field of interior design. The NCIDQ panel only wants highly skilled professionals that have excellent design techniques to take this exam and become NCIDQ certified.
The NCIDQ does not necessarily require a certain course load. As long as your degree is in interior design, the panel is not concerned with specific courses. In fact, they prefer exam candidates that have taken a wide variety of classes in all subjects, since it makes for a more well rounded professional.
There are six pre-approved routes for students who are considering the NCIDQ exam. Overall, the minimum acceptable level of education and work experience is about six years. The NCIDQ considers six years to be the foundation for a professional interior design career.
Students who have degrees in architecture accredited by CACB or NAAB meet the NCIDQ requirements. The only degrees that they will not accept are the M. Arch. and B. Arch. If you have a bachelor’s degree in architecture, you still need to have at least 40 credits of interior design classes to meet the NCIDQ educational standards. Many foreign architecture degrees are accepted by the NCIDQ, but these are special circumstances that must be taken up with the board.
Work experience is another qualifier for the NCIDQ exam. You can have full time or part time interior design experience. You do not necessarily need to work under a NCIDQ certified supervisor, but they recommend it. Teaching interior design does not count toward the work experience requirement. If your supervisor is indeed NCIDQ-certified, all of your work hours count toward the minimum requirement. If not, only part of your work hours counts for credit.
Multiple Routes to Eligibility
The NCIDQ board accepts six different routes for exam eligibility. Firstly, your bachelor’s or master’s degree must be from a CIDA-accredited program. If your school is accredited, you still need 3,520 hours of work experience under a NCIDQ-certified designer. The work hours must be spread out over two years.
If you do not have a CIDA degree, you need to have at least 60 credits of interior design class work. You also need the same amount of work experience described the above paragraph.
If your degree is in something other than architecture or interior design, you can still meet the requirements as long as you have at least 60 credits of interior design. Then, meet the work experience requirement of 3,520 hours.
If you have an associate’s degree in interior design, your work experience will have to make up for the rest. You will need 60 quarter credits and 5,280 hours of interior design work experience under a NCIDQ-certified designer. You have four years to complete the work experience requirement, which is two years longer than what a bachelor degree holder gets.
If you have a bachelor’s degree from a CACB or NAAB-accredited degree program, you need at least 5,280 work experience hours to qualify.