Examinee Study Tips for the NCIDQ Exam

Veronica D. Ryskalczk, NCIDQ is the Director of Interior Design at Scheid Architectural in Buffalo, NY, who successfully passed all three sections of the NCIDQ Exam.

Veronica was hired two years ago to help grow and develop the design department as the Director of Interior Design at Scheid Architectural. Scheid had added confidence in hiring Veronica because her NCIDQ certification shows that she has the knowledge and drive to be successful in this industry.  Additionally, both designers on staff hold NCIDQ certifications which helps to distinguish their company from the competition.


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

A: I wish I wasn’t so hesitant to get started and I wish I knew there was nothing to be afraid of – I just had to jump right in.  I had a combination of nerves and hesitation which culminated into a whole bunch of procrastination.  By the time I started studying I was on a very tight schedule.  I had to read at least one chapter a day from the Ballast book in order to get through all of the material by exam day. 

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

A: Procrastination was my biggest enemy.  The best thing I did was create a study schedule that was realistic and something I could actually stick to.  I had dates set for when I had to read each chapter of the Ballast book, make note cards and quiz myself on the material.  Once I had the schedule set out in front of me I followed it pretty strictly.  I just wish I developed the schedule sooner.

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

A: My favorite place to study for IDFX and IDPX was my work office in the early morning.  I went into work an hour to an hour and a half early before anyone else was there.  The office was quiet and I had very few distractions.  I purposely left my computer off so my attention wouldn’t be diverted to email or anything else work related.  This gave me time read one or two chapters in my Ballast book before anyone else arrived at the office.   

When I was studying for the practicum I hijacked my dining room table for two full months.  I kept my drafting board and drawing materials out and ready for use.  This meant I had no excuses to just sit down and study.  While practicing for the practicum I would listen to classical music which helped block out distractions.  It was also very helpful that I spent a full Saturday doing a “dry run” of the exam.  I had a blank practice test that I completed start to finish while keeping within the allotted time for each section.  This showed me if I needed to make any adjustments in time management.

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

A: Personally, I liked taking the two multiple choice tests first and then the practicum in the next session.  Also, I took the IDFX and IDPX just a couple days apart from one another so I could study for them simultaneously.  Ideally, I would have taken the IDFX and IDPX in the Fall and the practicum in the Spring so I could have studied for the practicum over the winter.

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

A: I cannot say it enough – make a schedule!  This becomes the road map to get you from the first study session on through exam day.  It not only forces you to stay on track but also helps clear your mind so you can focus on the content and not figuring out what to do next.  

It was also helpful to use color coded tabs as I was reading through my Ballast book.  Each color tab stood for an action I needed to take later – whether it was to reread a section, ask someone for help or to make note cards for definitions.  I would place the color tab on the side of the page and then highlight the specific line or section I was looking at.  This allowed me to keep reading through the chapter without really stopping but still set tasks for later.  My Ballast book was quite colorful by the time I was done reading!

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

A: The content didn’t really surprise me; everything I needed to know was in the Ballast book so I was happy I read every chapter.  The one surprising thing was how the questions were phrased.  The exam looked for a lot of application and not just definitions.  They also asked for the “best” answer, meaning every option was correct but there was one that made the most sense.  Again, the Ballast book helped prepare me for these types of questions, I just wasn’t expecting them.

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

A: At first, the most challenging aspect of the exam was time management.  With my nerves heightened I kept reading and rereading each question and perseverating over the answers.  This slowed me down quite a bit so I didn’t have much time to look over the test at the end.  It got better when I took the next test a few days later.  I would flag questions I was unsure of and just move on.  This helped me get through the questions much faster and left plenty of time to review at the end.

Q: Anything else you'd like to add?

A: While I was taking the exam I also served as my city center’s IIDA Professional Development Committee Chair.  I was planning on creating NCIDQ study groups after I passed the exam.  This helped me immensely because I would study as if I were going to teach the material back to others.  My retention increased because I would try to understand the content and not just rely on straight memorization.