If you're a professional interior designer, have one under your employ or are currently in school with the aspirations to become one, then you know that passing the NCIDQ exam is a very valuable step in your career path. Like the NCARB, which Architects take and pass to become registered members of their profession, the NCIDQ is an exam that tests an Interior Designer's fundamental abilities in Business Practices, Building Systems, Project Coordination, Contract Documents, Codes and Standards, Contract Administration, Design Communication, FF&E, Lighting, Construction Drawings and Programming/Site Analysis. It's a tough test but with the right knowledge in your hands and a positive outlook, you WILL pass! So, once you meet all the qualifications to take the exam (click on NCIDQ exam qualifications here), then it's time to put together a top-notch plan of action.
1.) Enlist a Great Support System
This exam takes a great deal of focus and priority. So the first thing you will need is a team of cheerleaders. Surround yourself with people that realize how important this exam is to you and will encourage you to hang in there whenever you're feeling overwhelmed. These may be people that are there to listen to you vent, offer their help studying, pick up the slack in your everyday tasks when you need to study, or even fellow test-takers that know exactly what you're going through.
I had my family and colleagues there for me offering encouragement, prayers and help with the littles as often as I needed. Another really great help for me was a great friend I had graduated college with that was also taking it. She was a tremendous help as a sounding board and encourager. So definitely go and find you one of those!
2.) Get an Organized Study Plan
For me, one of the most important components of my battle plan was to get super organized in my studying. If you know your areas of study (see Areas of Study here) you can layout a plan of what needs to be studied and decide how much time needs to be devoted to each section. And IF you're a super organized person, you may be able to pull it all together yourself. My college friend was one of these. She did it all on her own with just her books and her amazing test-taking skills.
I however, needed a system with a step-by-step list of what to study and when. The one I used and found most helpful was Qpractice (check them out here). But whatever works for you, get organized and stick with it. There's a great deal of information, so getting it all organized is very important.
3.) Make Sure You Have all the Right Tools
Get the book. You know the book. It's the "Interior Design Reference Manual" by David Kent Ballast (aka The Ballast Book). Buy it, borrow it, steal it (not really). But get it. The information is invaluable. There are other supplemental reading options, but I managed to pass without most of them. I did read the suggested AIA contracts, ADA codes and a couple others, but read whatever extras you feel you need. Also, get your note taking tools together; highlighters, pens, post its, composition books, etc. Having the right tools is half the battle. You wouldn't take on the task of a new design project without your computer, resource library, and winning personality, right? So be prepared with all the right tools to study for the NCIDQ.
4.) Location Location Location
Where will you study?! Find the right place. Good lighting, a comfortable seat and plenty of quiet. If you're anything like me, you will spend countless hours in that study den. It may as well be a place that makes you feel focused and comfortable. But not too comfortable. You need room to spread out your study materials and find everything easily.
5.) Take Practice Tests
One of my favorite aspects of QPractice is the ability to take their practice tests as many times as you need to. They give you the ability to see what the right answers are and why they are right. It also gives you the ability to see why your choice was wrong. Love this! Practice is so important. Taking the NCIDQ IDFX and IDPX can be stressful. The material often has multiple correct answers and you have to be trained to understand how to distinguish which is the best option. Familiarizing yourself with the testing style will help you with this tremendously.
6.) Keep Your Cool
Finally, stay calm and find a point of confidence. I took the multiple-choice portions of the test a few times before I realized how to adequately study for it. But if you're prepared, and I mean REALLY prepared, you can walk into that testing site with complete confidence that you are there to pass. If I had been truly prepared from the beginning, I believe I would have done so much sooner. But you live and learn.
Happy Studying and please feel free to contact me via email, social media or in the comments portion of this blog if you have any questions. Because once you do pass this exam, the best thing you can do is pay it forward with any help you can give!