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NCIDQ 101: Everything You Need to Know About the NCIDQ

Posted on: July 14, 2016

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Hi! I’m Julianne, IIDA NC Board Member & founder of Creative Confidante, a blog dedicated to helping architects and designers pass the NCIDQ exam. In this post, I will be giving you a crash course in NCIDQ 101, and covering everything you need to know about the NCIDQ: What it is, why its important, and how to get started. I will also go over important dates and deadlines, eligibility requirements; as well as how I can help you prepare for the exam. This is a long post, but it is my hope that it will serve as your one stop shop for the NCIDQ.

While it can feel intimidating and overwhelming to start the exam process, it doesn’t have to. I am here to help. So, keep reading and let’s get started.

You’ve got nothing to lose but excuses.

What is the NCIDQ?

The NCIDQ stands for the National Council for Interior Design Qualification, and is an exam developed and administered by the CIDQ: Council of Interior Design Qualification, which was founded in 1974. It is currently the only nationally recognized professional competency exam in the United States and Canada. Currently, 27 states in the US require the NCIDQ certificate in licensing and regulating the Interior Design profession. You can learn more about that here.

The exam tests the minimum entry-level competence in Interior Design and focuses on those specific aspects of interior design that affect the public’s access, health, life safety, and wellbeing. Translation: you are going to be a #bossbabe (or #bossman) in Life Safety & ADA codes, sustainability guidelines, FF&E selections/specifications, CD’s, and Contract Administration by the end of this.

Why is the NCIDQ important?

Currently, legislation for the regulation of Interior Design varies by state. The NCIDQ Certification serves at the highest standard of competency for Interior Designers. It’s what sets you apart from uncertified Interior Designers and Decorators.

By becoming a NCIDQ Certified Interior Designer, you are proving that you have the skills to design and execute interior environments that protect the safety, healthcare and well-being of its inhabitants. While all Interior Designers can (and need to) design environments that accomplish the goals above, having the NCIDQ appellation sets you apart from other designers in the design field.

Now for the fun stuff: becoming a NCIDQ Certified Interior Designer will give you the potential to increase your salary and earn more money. Most design firms will even offer bonuses for each certification you earn. What’s more motivating than a little extra cash money in your pocket? Additionally, most firms require professional certification in order to be promoted to an Associate, Senior Designer, etc.

What I’m telling you, is that your hard work will pay off in more ways than you can imagine. Think of the NCIDQ as giving yourself the raise you deserve.

What is on the NCIDQ Exam?

The NCIDQ is comprised of two multiple-choice exams, the IDFX and IDPX, and a hand-drafted Practicum Exam. Each of the exams focus on the following seven content areas, as developed by the CIDQ:

  • Building Systems
  • Codes
  • Construction Standards
  • Contract Administration
  • Design Application
  • Professional Practice
  • Project Coordination

Stay tuned for more in-depth posts about each of the three exams!

Interior Design Fundamentals Exam (IDFX)

This is the first exam of the NCIDQ, and available to candidates who have completed their education, but may or may not have fulfilled their work experience requirements.

  • Eligibility: Most commonly, an Interior Design degree from a CIDA or Non-CIDA Accredited school. Candidates with an Associates Degree in Interior Design, as well as our friends who have Architecture Degrees are also eligible. Click here for all of the details.
  • Exam Format: Comprised of 125 multiple choice questions: 100 are scored, and 25 are unscored, experimental questions (these questions could potentially end up on the exam next year). If you read a question that is totally out in left-field, its most likely an experimental question, and won’t be scored. Don’t panic.
  • Content Areas: Building Systems, Construction Standards, Design Application. More details can be found here.
  • Exam duration: 3 hours
  • Passing Score: The scores are weighted, and scored on a scale of 200-800. You need at least 500 to pass.
  • Cost: $295 exam fee + up to $220 in application fees. Cost breakdowns can be found here.
  • Exam Dates: This exam is only offered twice a year: April 14-23 and October 13-22.
  • Study Materials: Here are all of the study materials you need to pass the IDFX exam.

Interior Design Professional Exam (IDPX)

This is the second exam of the NCIDQ, and is available to candidates who have completed both their education and work experience requirements.

  • Eligibility: The aforementioned education requirements (found here), and the following work experience requirements:
    • Interior Design degree from an Accredited/Non-Accredited School: 3,520 hours (approx. 3 years of work experience)
      • 1,760 of those hours can come from qualified work experience (internships) if your supervisor meets the following requirements listed here
    • Associates Degree (60 Hours) in Interior Design: 5,280 hours in qualified Interior Design experience
    • Associates Degree (40 Hours) in Interior Design: 7,040 hours in qualified Interior Design experience
    • NAAB or CACB Degree (Architecture Degree): 5,280 hours in qualified Interior Design experience
  • Exam Format: Comprised of 175 multiple choice questions: 150 are scored, and 25 are unscored, experimental questions.
  • Content Areas: Building Systems, Codes, Construction Standards, Professional Practice and Project Coordination. More details can be found here.
  • Exam duration: 4 hours
  • Passing Score: The scores are weighted, and scored on a scale of 200-800. You need at least 500 to pass.
  • Cost: $345 exam fee (you only need to pay the $220 application fee once). Cost breakdowns can be found here.
  • Exam Dates: This exam is only offered twice a year: April 14-23 and October 13-22.
  • Study Material: Here are all of the tools you need to pass the IDPX exam.

The Practicum Exam

This is the final exam of the NCIDQ, and is available to candidates who have completed both their education and work experience requirements.

  • Eligibility: The aforementioned education requirements (found here), and work experience requirements (found here & here).
  • Exam Format: You will need to produce hand-drafted (yep, that’s right) solutions to the following 7 exercises:
    • Space Planning
    • Lighting Design
    • Egress
    • Life Safety
    • ADA Restroom
    • Systems Integration
    • Millwork
  • Content Areas: Interpret a program into schematics, produce plan drawings and develop appropriate specifications and schedules. All solutions must be code compliant. More details here.
  • Exam duration: 8 hours
  • Passing Score: Each of the 7 exams will receive a score ranging from 0 (Completely Blank Solution) to 5 (Pass). You must get at least a 4 (Borderline Pass) or 5 (Pass) on nearly all of the 7 Practicum Problems. You could potentially fail one of the problems, and still pass, but let’s shoot for success, shall we? 😉
  • Cost: $450 exam fee (you only need to pay the $220 application fee once). Cost breakdowns can be found here.
  • Exam Dates: September 24, 2016.
  • Study Material: Here are all of the tools you need to pass the Practicum.

How do I apply?

First, register for an account with myNCIDQ. To do so, click here. Once you do that, you will need to usethis link to create a new password to login (yes, it’s a bit backwards). If you get really stuck, give our fine friends at NCIDQ headquarters a call: 202-721-0220 or send them an email: inquries@ncidqexam.org. Depending on which exam you are applying to, follow the steps below:

Interior Design Fundamentals Exam (IDFX)

  1. Complete the online application form within your myNCIDQ profile.
  2. Submit the following documents through your myNCIDQ profile:
    • Candidate Consent & Application Form
    • Call up your school’s Registrar and ask for an official copy of your transcript. Then, upload your official transcript
  3. Celebrate! You officially committed to the IDFX exam and are in it to win it.

Interior Design Professional Exam (IDPX) & Practicum

  1. Complete the online application form within your myNCIDQ profile.
  2. Submit the following documents through your myNCIDQ profile:
    • Candidate Consent & Application Form
    • Call up your school’s Registrar and ask for an official copy of your transcript. Then, upload your official transcript
  3. Work Experience Verification Form
  4. Direct Supervision Work Experience Verification Form
  5. (3) Letters of Reference

note: application acceptance by NCIDQ could take up to six weeks

How do I schedule my exam?

After notification from the NCIDQ that your application has been accepted and approved, you are eligible to register for the exam. This is a two step process: first you must apply for the exam, then you must register/schedule your exam. Don’t forget to do this second step!

  • Register for the IDPX and IDFX here
  • Register for the Practicum through myNCIDQ

How long do I have to take the NCIDQ?

If you started taking the exam in 2010 or later, you have a five-year window to take all three sections of the exam or retake any sections that you have not passed. If you do not complete and pass all three sections within the five year window, you will have to start over and take all three. It sounds intense, but who wants to be taking these exams for more than five years? Not me! Let’s work together to help you pass these exams on your first try.

When do I need to apply?

Now! Actually, you really do. The application deadline for the Fall 2016 exam is July 15, 2016. Click here for more details.

Don’t panic – simply follow the steps I listed above, call your Registrar’s office to get your transcript, and get moving. They are changing the format of the exam in the Fall of 2017 (aka all of my tips & tricks, and your friend’s advice may no longer be valid) so let’s pass the exam before they change it!

We did it! 

Whew! If you are reading this, you made it through my post which covers what I thought to be one of the most confusing parts of the entire NCIDQ: how to get started and apply.  Congrats!

As always, if you need help or have questions, let’s chat! I am happy to help and also offer 1-on-1 NCIDQ tutoring to teach you exactly how to pass the NCIDQ. You can reach me at creativeconfidante@gmail.com or through my website, Creative Confidante.

Stay tuned for more posts about the NCIDQ and how to achieve your interior design licensing goals.

Have a great week, Everyone!

Posted in: San FranciscoNews


2 thoughts on "NCIDQ 101: Everything You Need to Know About the NCIDQ"

  1. Brigid Leedom says:

    Hi Julianne,

    My name is Brigid Leedom and I was wondering if you would be able to answer a question and concern for me or if you would be able to point me in the direction of someone who could advice. I have tried to reach out to the NCIDQ call in number and that hasn’t been the most helpful.

    I have a Bachelor’s degree in arts and a 2 year Associates degree in Interior Design. I am in the system and am taking the IDFX exam this April. I understand they are getting rid of route 5 which includes my degree and the cutoff date is December 18, 2018. What I would like to know is if I am in the system, am I locked in to the 5 year timeline of getting the 3 exams done or does this mean that I need to have the 3 exams finished by December 31, 2018? From my understanding, I thought I was locked in for 5 years but I wanted clarification on this. If you could let me know when you have a chance I would really appreciate it!

    Thanks so much Julianne, I look forward to hearing from you!

  2. Madeleine McKenzie says:

    This was so helpful and encouraging! Unfortunately I missed the sign up date so this site wont apply for me anymore when I go to register but hopefully I can find some more information that is this helpful and understanding!

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