Courtney Collins is an Interior Designer at Scheid Architectural in Buffalo, NY, who successfully passed all three sections of the NCIDQ Exam in early 2017.

About Courtney: Courtney feels it’s important to set yourself apart and positively affect the public through interior design in their everyday life. The NCIDQ Exam assures competence in meeting industry standard not only for aesthetics but also for public health, safety, and welfare. NCIDQ certification is the highest standard and benchmark for a professional interior designer in the Industry. For these reasons, Courtney strived to have the NCIDQ appellation after her name.

Her journey began while at Buffalo State College where she earned her Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Interior Design. After graduation, she worked for a high-end residential interior designer before starting at Scheid Architectural. In the future, Courtney hopes to be a well-recognized designer in her region.

Q: What do you know now about studying for the exam that you wish you had known when you initially began studying?

A: I would probably say the time commitment it really takes to be successful. I read all the blogs and reviewed tips and tricks and still thought it wouldn’t really take up that much time. But I was wrong and it did. The most important part of studying for the exam is making sure you listen to these blogs/tips and tricks and allot the correct necessary amount of time. In my case, I started earlier enough where this wasn’t an issue but if I kept pushing it off it could have been detrimental.

Q: What was the most challenging aspect of your studying experience and how did you work to overcome it?

A: I am only two-and-a-half years into my professional career so I would say the most challenging aspect was my inexperience in the industry. To overcome this, I asked questions daily while at work and it also helped that my co-worker is NCIDQ certified. I am also lucky to work in a small enough company where I am exposed to many different topics and tasks that someone in a strict interior design based company or larger architecture firm might not be exposed to.

Time is another challenge. Everyone is busy and you really have to make the time. Who wants to study after putting in eight hours at work? I know I had nights where I didn’t want to read a chapter or review flashcards for one to two hours but you have to get some coffee and power through it. It’s worth it in the end.

Q: Were there any study materials that really helped you/that you would recommend?

A: For the first two NCIDQ Exams, IDFX and IDPX, I exclusively used the Interior Design Reference Manual: Everything You Need to Know to Pass the NCIDQ Exam by David Kent Ballast. “The Ballast Book” as it’s affectionately referred to was my “Bible” to study for the exam. I read the book from cover to cover twice before taking the first two exams. All the information you need to know is in this book by PPI.

Q: Do you have any tips for optimizing one’s study environment?

A: I would recommend a quiet place with no phone, computer, TV, or any other type of distraction. I study best in dead silence with a notebook, pen, and highlighter. I do recommend a comfy seat selection because you will be there for a couple hours.

I like to read through a chapter and then re-read the same chapter while taking notes and strategically highlighting. I found it very helpful to relate a topic to a real life situation, whether you’ve come across it at work or out on the weekend, to help you remember the topic come test day.

Q: Do you have any advice for how to schedule taking the exam divisions?

A: The exams cover A LOT of information and it can be daunting when starting. I would recommend taking the IDFX and IDPX together because it’s mostly the same information. The IDPX has a couple more added sections than the IDFX. Both IDFX and IDPX topics are covered in great detail in the Ballast book.

I suggest taking PRAC 2.0 separately. That way you can focus fully on this exam and it’s also a different format than IDFX or IDPX. It also gives you time to build on the information you previously studied to help you further.

Q: What advice would you give to an examinee who feels overwhelmed by the studying/testing process?

A: Make a study schedule for yourself. It’s the easiest way to ensure you stay on track and don’t fall behind. It will also help break down all the material into smaller chunks of information instead of one big overwhelming piece. Schedule in some “break” days too, studying everyday can get exhausting. It’s okay to give yourself a mental rest day.

Q: Was there any content on the exam that surprised you?

A: I felt very prepared for all three exams. I don’t recall there being information that I didn’t expect. I may have been fuzzy on the topic but it wasn’t because I didn’t expect the information.

Q: What was the most challenging aspect of the exam?

A: The most challenging aspect of the exam was keeping my nerves in check. The exams are timed and there is always the thought of “am I going fast enough” or “am I going to have enough time to complete the exam.” If you don’t know an answer, skip it and come back to it. Another question may prompt your brain to know the answer to the question you didn’t.