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NCIDQ Exam Resource Center

To be a certified interior designer, you must take and pass all three divisions of the NCIDQ exam. Through certification, you show a high level of commitment to the interior profession, a thirst for achievement, as well as proven knowledge of current standards established to protect public health, safety and welfare, and mastery of aesthetic considerations.

Candidates who are certified are usually the first ones to be hired, the most sought-after, and the best paid. Choose an article below to begin learning more about the NCIDQ exam and the interior design workforce.

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About the NCIDQ Exam

Investing in your interior design career by taking the NCIDQ exam is a big decision.  Here is information you need to know to get started down the path to being a certified interior design professional.

What is the NCIDQ exam?

To become a certified interior designer in the United States, you’ll need to take the NCIDQ (National Council for Interior Design Qualification) exam. The NCIDQ is administered by the CIDQ, which stands for Council of Interior Design Qualification, and is currently the only nationally-recognized competency exam for interior design. Obtaining your NCIDQ certification recognizes your proficiency in interior design principles, and your commitment to the profession.

The NCIDQ ensures the safety and wellbeing of the public by requiring that design professionals are held to the highest standards in the industry. The content of the exam represents the foundational knowledge you need to be able to branch out into a specialty design area afterwards. The NCIDQ exam consists of three sections: the Fundamentals exam (IDFX), the Professional exam (IDPX), and the Practicum exam (PRAC 2.0). Each section focuses on public health, safety, and welfare.

What are the benefits of taking the NCIDQ exam?

Passing the NCIDQ opens doors for you professionally. You'll likely receive a salary increase and a promotion and be able to branch out into specific areas of interest that you may not have had the opportunity to explore before. Your design firm might even offer bonuses for passing the exam. Through certification, you show a high level of commitment to the interior profession, a thirst for achievement, as well as proven knowledge of current standards established to protect public health, safety, and welfare and mastery of aesthetic considerations. Candidates who are certified are usually the first ones to be hired, the most sought-after, and the best paid.

Who administers the NCIDQ Exam?

The NCIDQ exam is administered by the Council for Interior Design Qualification (CIDQ)—the certifying organization for interior design professionals.

What is the NCIDQ exam structure?

The NCIDQ exam is divided into three sections: the Interior Design Fundamentals exam (IDFX), the Interior Design Professional exam (IDPX), and the Interior Design Practicum (PRAC 2), which are all administered by computer and machine graded. All three exams are available to take throughout the entire month of April and October. Learn more about each exam here:

What are the current NCIDQ pass rates?

NCIDQ Exam 2019 Pass Rates:
IDFX—65%
IDPX—61%

Practicum—63%

Wondering where to start?

Check to make sure that you've fulfilled all requirements to qualify to take the exam. Then let your employer know your plans. They might offer you mentorship from a certified designer on your team or even reimburse your exam fees or costs of preparation. You’ll also want to review important dates and deadlines for applying and signing up for exams.

If you’re ready to start preparing for your NCIDQ exam, start by selecting review materials and setting time aside for studying.
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Posted by PPI - May 1, 2021
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Eligibility Requirements for the NCIDQ Exam

There are a few different routes that you can take in order to qualify for the NCIDQ exam. The CIDQ has identified several paths that candidates can take towards eligibility, making the exam accessible for a wide variety of interior design backgrounds. Even if your background doesn't fall within one of the categories they specify, the CIDQ offers phone assistance (202.721.0220) to help identify a method of qualification that works for you. 

Take a look at your options in this chart provided by the CIDQ that makes it easy to see the best route for you. 

NCIDA Exam Eligibility Paths for Interior Design and Architecture Image

Next Steps

Once you qualify to take the NCIDQ exam, you'll need to submit your official transcriptions in addition to the Work Verification form. Then you're ready to apply! Start preparing for your exam by picking out your review materials here and reading up on more exam tips in the NCIDQ Resource Center.

More Information on the NCIDQ Exam

Find all the information you need to pass your NCIDQ exam in the NCIDQ Resource Center

NCIDQ Exam Tips for All Three Divisions

"The NCIDQ exam covers a very broad range of interior design subjects. This means your study most likely can’t include every practice area that could possibly come up."


What to Expect from IDFX

"Aim to finish each question in no more than 1 minute 15 seconds. This will leave a reserve of about 20 minutes to guess unanswered questions at the end of the exam session."


What to Expect from IDPX

"If a question appears to be fundamentally flawed, make the best choice possible under the circumstances. Flawed questions do not appear often on the exam, but when they do, they are usually discovered by the council in the grading process."

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Posted by PPI - April 27, 2021
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About the PRAC 2.0 Section of the NCIDQ Exam

Are you ready to take the PRAC 2.0 section of the NCIDQ exam?  To help you prepare, here is some important information about the format and question types of the PRAC 2.0 exam.  

Q. WHAT FORMAT IS PRAC 2.0?

A. Starting October 2017, the NCIDQ Practicum Exam changed to computer-based testing. The new PRAC 2.0 eliminates paper and pencil testing.

Q. HOW IS NCIDQ PRAC 2.0 ORGANIZED?

A. PRAC 2.0 has 120 questions organized into three case studies that test your abilities as an interior designer. The case studies include information that you’ll use to solve problems and answer questions related to plans, programs, codes, specs, or schedules.

The three case studies in PRAC 2.0 represent these project types:

  • Large-scale commercial
  • Small-scale commercial
  • Residential
All problems relate to the three case studies, and each case study is worth between 30% and 35% of the exam.
 
PPI Pro Tip: For all divisions, the questions do not need to be answered consecutively. Sometimes working the exam backwards might help you with another area of the test.

Q. WHAT TYPES OF QUESTIONS ARE ON NCIDQ PRAC 2.0?

A. The new test questions for PRAC 2.0 apply to each case study. The question types are:

Multiple Choice

  • Select one correct answer from four given options
  • If you are unsure of what the correct answer is you should make an educated assumption. You will not be penalized for a wrong answer
Multiple Choice (Check-All-That-Apply)

  • Select all the correct choices from the list by clicking on each one
  • All of the correct answers (and only all of the correct answers) must be selected; there is no partial credit
  • If you change your mind, click on a choice to de-select it
Point-and-Click (Hot Spot, or Mark Location)

  • Click on a single target, or hot spot icon, to place on the base image in the correct location or general area
  • If you change your mind, click again on your choice to unselect, or click on the new preferred answer
Drag-and-Place

  • These questions may ask you to sort, rank, place, or label items. Confirm whether all items need to be chosen or moved, then be sure to sort, rank, place, or label each one
  • After you have decided the proper sorting, ranking, placing, or labeling, click and drag an object to the target spot
  • If you change your answer, you can move an object to a different open spot in the target area, or you can move it back to the starting area
Fill-in-the-Blank

  • Read the answer specification carefully; it should state the number of decimal places for your numeric answer
  • Compute your answer, then round if needed to the required number of decimal places (0-4, round down; 5-9, round up)
  • Do not enter the units for your answer
  • Do not spell out a number, like “four”
  • If you change your mind, blank out the entire field before you enter another answer
Each question will be worth one point, and must be answered completely. No partial credit is given for partially answered questions.

PPI Pro Tip: You should try to answer all questions, even with a guess. All unanswered questions are counted as incorrect answers, so reserve the last five to ten minutes of the test to make your best guess for the remaining questions.

Q. HOW MUCH TIME DOES IT TAKE TO COMPLETE NCIDQ PRAC 2.0?

A. You have four hours to complete the exam, which includes time for an introduction to help you get familiar with the software

PPI Pro Tip: Make sure to monitor your time during the exam so you are not unexpectedly caught off guard and unable to answer remaining questions.

Q. WHEN IS NCIDQ PRAC 2.0 OFFERED?

A. This exam is available to take throughout the entire months of April and October.

Q. HOW DO I APPLY FOR THE THREE EXAMS?

A. To apply, go to MyNCIDQ and under “Applications,” click “Apply/Schedule.” Passing IDFX is not a prerequisite to taking IDPX and the practicum. However, you must receive passing scores on all three exam sections to earn the NCIDQ certificate.

PRAC 2.0 is available to approved candidates who have completed both their education and the required amount of work experience, which you can find more information about in our "About the NCIDQ Exam" page.

PPI Pro Tip: Submit all materials by the relevant deadline, which you can find on the CIDQ website, because the council will not review a partial application or an application submitted after the deadline has passed.

Q. HOW DO I REGISTER FOR NCIDQ PRAC 2.0?

A. If your application is accepted by the council, you’ll get a notification through MyNCIDQ. Then, within MyNCIDQ, click “Exam Registration.”

PPI Pro Tip:  Make sure to print your letter of admission and have the letter, as well as your government-issued photo ID, with you on the exam day.

Q. WHAT PREP MATERIALS CAN HELP ME STUDY FOR NCIDQ PRAC 2.0?

A. We suggest starting with the Interior Design Reference Manual, and downloading our updated study schedule, which outlines which chapters to tackle for each exam topic.

PPI Pro Tip: The best way to familiarize yourself with the review materials and the exam format is through practice. After reading the concepts, writing the concepts, reading the concepts out loud, and doing more practice problems, the exam will no longer feel like an exam but more like another exercise.
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Posted by PPI - April 20, 2021
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About the Interior Design Fundamentals (IDFX) Exam Division of NCIDQ

Making the decision to become a certified interior design professional by the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) is a big step. Learn about the first section of the NCIDQ, the IDFX (Interior Design Fundamentals) exam.

IDFX Exam Format and Length

The Interior Design Fundamentals Exam division of the NCIDQ Exam is three hours long with 125 questions.

One hundred of these interior design topic questions are scored, and the remaining 25 are used for developmental purposes and not scored.

IDFX Exam Test Taking Tips

We recommend reviewing our interior design study books, as well as using the following tips for taking the NCIDQ IDFX exam:

  • Aim to finish each question in no more than 1 minute 15 seconds. This will leave a reserve of about 20 minutes to guess unanswered questions at the end of the exam session.
  • Eliminate obviously incorrect options before you attempt to guess, because the chances of guessing correctly are better between two choices than among four.
  • Look for an exception to a rule or a special circumstance that makes the obvious, easy response incorrect. Although there may be a few easy and obvious questions, it’s more likely that a simple question has a level of complexity that is not immediately obvious.
  • Take note of absolute words such as “always,” “never,” or “completely.” These words usually indicate some minor exception that can turn what reads like a true statement into a false statement, or vice versa.
  • Watch for words like “seldom,” “usually,” “best,” or “most reasonable.” These words often indicate judgment will be involved in answering the question, so look for two or more options that may be similar.
  • If a question appears to be fundamentally flawed, make the best choice possible under the circumstances. Flawed questions do not appear often on the exam, but when they do, they are usually discovered by the council in the grading process. These questions will not negatively impact your score.

IDFX Exam Content Areas

Programming and Site Analysis (15 questions, 15%)
For example:

  • Research methods (interviewing, surveying, case studies, benchmarking/precedent)
  • Analysis tools (e.g., spreadsheets, site photographs, matrices, bubble diagrams)
  • Project context (e.g., space use, culture, client preference)
  • Site context (e.g., location, views, solar orientation)
  • Existing conditions
  • Sustainable attributes (e.g., indoor air quality, energy conservation, renewable resources)
Human Behavior and the Designed Environment (10 questions, 10%)
For example:

  • Influences (environmental, social, psychological, cultural, aesthetic, global)
  • Human factors (e.g., ergonomics, anthropometrics, proxemics)
  • Sensory considerations (e.g., acoustics, lighting, visual stimuli, color theory, scent, tactile)
  • Universal Design
  • Special population considerations (e.g., Aging in Place, pediatric, special needs)
Building Systems and Construction (15 questions, 15%)
For example:

  • Building construction types (e.g., wood, steel, concrete)
  • Building components (e.g., doors, windows, studs)
  • Mechanical systems
  • Electrical systems
  • Lighting systems (e.g., zoning, sensors, daylighting)
  • Plumbing systems
  • Structural systems
  • Fire protection systems
  • Low voltage systems (e.g., data and communication, security, A/V)
  • Acoustical systems
Furniture, Finishes, Equipment and Lighting (15 questions, 15%)
For example:

  • Life safety (e.g., flammability, toxicity, slip resistance)
  • Textiles
  • Acoustics
  • Wall treatments
  • Floor coverings
  • Ceiling treatments
  • Window treatments
  • Lighting (e.g., flight sources, fixtures, calculations, distribution color rendering)
  • Furniture and equipment (e.g., types, uses, space needs)
Construction Drawings and Specifications (20 questions, 20%)
For example:

  • Demolition plan
  • Floor plan (e.g., partitions, construction, dimensions, enlarged)
  • Reflected ceiling plan
  • Lighting plan
  • Power and communication plan
  • Furniture plan
  • Finish plan
  • Elevations, sections, and details (e.g., partition types, millwork)
  • Schedules
  • Specifications (e.g., prescriptive, performance, and proprietary)
Technical Drawing Conventions (15 questions, 15%)
For example:

  • Measuring conventions (e.g., scale, unit of measure, dimensioning)
  • Construction drawing standards (e.g., line weights, hatching, symbols)
Design Communication (10 questions, 10%)
For example:

  • Functional parti diagrams
  • Models (e.g., physical, virtual)
  • Rendering (e.g., 2-D, perspective)
  • Material and finish presentations (e.g., boards, binders, digital)
  • Bubble diagrams
  • Adjacency matrices
  • Charts (e.g., flow chart, Gantt chart)
  • Stacking/zoning diagrams
  • Block plans/square footage allocations
  • Floor plans
  • Mock-ups and prototypes
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Posted by PPI - April 5, 2021
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NCIDQ Exam Tips for All 3 Divisions

Taking the NCIDQ exam is a big investment in your career.  Follow these tips to learn more about the NCIDQ exam subject matter, study schedules, and how to seek out additional study materials.

Familiarize Yourself with the NCIDQ Subject Matter

You should consider starting your exam review by quickly skimming each chapter of our Interior Design Reference Manual. This will help you understand the exam’s general emphasis, as well as the NCIDQ exam areas that previous candidates found difficult.

The NCIDQ exam covers a very broad range of interior design subjects. This means your study most likely can’t include every practice area that could possibly come up. Your prior interior design work experience and knowledge, as well as your brief review of the manual chapters, will help you determine which knowledge areas need more review.

Commit to an NCIDQ Study Schedule

We recommend using Table 4 in our manual or downloading our study guide to plan your NCIDQ exam study schedule before tackling the individual subject details.

Begin with the subjects you are less familiar with, and factor in extra study time for these subjects.

Creating and sticking to your study schedule is arguably the most difficult part of the process to becoming an interior designer, and it requires a lot of self-discipline. You can make this process easier by starting your studies early and creating a schedule that allows time for your personal life.

Seek Out Additional NCIDQ Review Materials

Once your schedule is mapped out, you’re ready to begin your actual NCIDQ exam review.

PPI suggests exploring additional resources to help review subjects you find challenging. Including the use of our three practice exam companion books, NCIDQ IDFX Sample Questions and Practice Exam, NCIDQ IDPX Sample Questions and Practice Exam, and NCIDQ PRAC Practice Exam Problems into your study schedule, is a great way to help you prepare for the exam.


Rest Before Exam Day

Regardless of how much you’ve studied, the NCIDQ exam can be tiring simply due to its length and the amount of concentration needed to get through it.

Consider stopping review a day or two before the exam. Get plenty of sleep the night before, and give yourself plenty of time to get to the exam site on the day of the exam.

Bring Everything You Need on Exam Day

Make sure to bring the following items to your exam. Please note the name on your ID’s must exactly match the name on your confirmation exactly.

  • exam confirmation letter
  • a current (unexpired) government-issued ID with your signature and photograph on it
  • a second piece of identification with your name and signature on it
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Posted by PPI - March 1, 2021
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Examinee Study Tips for the NCIDQ Exam from Interior Designer, Courtney Collins

Courtney Collins is an Interior Designer at Scheid Architectural in Buffalo, NY, and she 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 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?

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, because 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.
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Posted by PPI - October 2, 2020
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About the Interior Design Professional Exam (IDPX)

Making the decision to become a certified interior design professional by the National Council for Interior Design Qualification(NCIDQ) is a big step.  Learn about the second section of the NCIDQ, the IDPX (Interior Design Professional) exam.

IDPX Exam Format and Length

The Interior Design Professional Exam division of the NCIDQ Exam is four hours long with 175 questions.

One hundred fifty of these interior design fundamentals questions are scored and the remaining 25 are used for developmental purposes and not scored.

IDPX Exam Test-Taking Tips

We recommend reviewing our interior design study books, as well as using the following tips for taking the NCIDQ IDPX:

  • Try to complete each question in no more than 1 minute 15 seconds to leave a reserve of about 20 minutes to guess at unanswered questions at the end of the exam session.
  • Eliminate any obviously incorrect options before attempting to guess. The chances are better between two choices than among four.
  • Look for an exception to a rule or a special circumstance that makes the obvious, easy response incorrect. Although there may be a few easy and obvious questions, it’s more likely that a simple question has a level of complexity that is not immediately obvious.
  • Take note of absolute words such as “always,” “never,” or “completely.” These words often indicate some minor exception that can turn what reads like a true statement into a false statement, or vice versa.
  • Watch for words like “seldom,” “usually,” “best,” or “most reasonable.” These words generally indicate that some judgment will be involved in answering the question, so look for two or more options that may be very similar.
  • If a question appears to be fundamentally flawed, make the best choice possible under the circumstances. Flawed questions do not appear often on the exam, but when they do, they are usually discovered by the council in the grading process. These questions will not negatively impact your score.

IDPX Content Areas

Project Coordination (15 questions, 10%)
For example:

  • Critical path (e.g., design milestones, sequencing)
  • Project team dynamics
  • Project budgeting/tracking during design phases
  • Architects
  • Engineers (e.g., electrical, structural, mechanical, civil)
  • Specialty consultants (e.g., landscape, lighting A/V, acoustical, food service, graphics/ signage)
  • Contractors/construction managers
Real estate professionals (e.g., realtor, landlord, leasing agent, developer, property owner)
Codes and Standards (27 questions, 18%)
For example:

  • Universal/accessible design
  • Life safety (e.g., egress, fire separation)
  • Zoning and building use
  • Environmental regulations (e.g., indoor air quality, energy conservation, renewable resources, water conservation)
  • Square footage standards (e.g., code, BOMA, lease)
Building Systems and Integration (24 questions, 16%)
For example:

  • Building construction types (e.g., wood, steel, concrete)
  • Building components (e.g., doors, windows, wall assemblies)
  • Mechanical systems
  • Electrical systems
  • Lighting systems (e.g., zoning, sensors, daylighting)
  • Plumbing systems
  • Structural systems
  • Fire protection systems
  • Low voltage systems (e.g., data and communication, security, A/V)
  • Acoustical systems
  • Sequencing of work (e.g., plumbing before drywall)
  • Permit requirements
Product and Material Coordination (21 questions, 14%)
For example:

  • Cost estimating
  • Product components (e.g., types, assembly, methods)
  • Material detail drawings (e.g., custom products)
  • Lead time (e.g., manufacturing time, delivery)
  • Installation
  • Life safety (e.g., flammability, toxicity, slip resistance)
  • Technical specifications
  • Maintenance documents (e.g., warranties, manuals)
  • Existing FF&E inventory documentation
  • Procurement procedures (e.g., purchase orders, prepayment requirements)
Contract Documents (24 questions, 16%)
For example:

  • Cover sheet (e.g., General Conditions and Notes, drawing index)
  • Code required plans (e.g., egress, accessibility, specialty codes)
  • Elevations, sections and details (e.g., partition types, millwork)
  • Consultant drawings (e.g., MEP, structural, security, specialty consultants)
  • Specification types (e.g., prescriptive, performance, and proprietary)
  • Specification formats (e.g., divisions)
Contract Administration (27 questions, 18%)
For example:

  • Project management (e.g., schedule, budget, quality control)
  • Forms (e.g., transmittals, change orders, bid/tender, addenda, bulletin, purchase orders)
  • Punch list/deficiency lists
  • Site visits and field reports
  • Project meetings/meeting management/meeting protocol and minutes
  • Shop drawings and submittals
  • Construction mock-ups
  • Value engineering
  • Project accounting (e.g., payment schedules, invoices)
  • Contractor pay applications
  • Project close-out
  • Post-occupancy evaluation
Professional and Business Practices (12 questions, 8%)
For example:

  • Scope of practice
  • Proposals (e.g., time and fee estimation, RFP process, project scope)
  • Budgeting principles and practices (project specific)
  • Contracts
  • Phases of a project
  • Business licenses (e.g., sales and use tax, resale certificates)
  • Accounting principles (office/business)
  • Legal considerations (e.g., liabilities and forms of business)
  • Insurance
  • Professional licensure, certification, registration
  • Economic factors
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Posted by PPI - October 1, 2020
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Interior Design Firm Hiring Insights from Fuchsia Design

We asked Fuchsia Design Owner Autumn Fuchs to share some of her company’s recruiting preferences, as well as advice for recent interior design graduates.

About Autumn Fuchs and Fuchsia Designs: Autumn Fuchs is the founder of Fuchsia Design, a full service residential interior design firm in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Since starting her business, she has designed homes beginning-to-end ranging between $500,000-$15,000,000+.

Even since she was a little girl designing bedrooms for her Barbies and sketching out floor plans in notebooks, Autumn knew she wanted to create homes. She always assumed architecture was the direction for her until she read a pamphlet while in high school about the NCIDQ Exam that sealed the deal on interior design.

Always looking for a new challenge, Autumn is currently studying to get her Michigan Builder’s License. Long term, she looks forward to growing her company and expanding design services outside of the state of Michigan.

Autumn graduated from Central Michigan University in 2010 with a BAA in interior design and a double minor in construction management and leadership. After eight combined years of education and experience, she went on to pass the NCIDQ Exam in the fall of 2014.

Q: Do you offer internships? If so, how many?

A: I do! I typically have one internship opening per summer that I post in February.

Q: What specific qualities and experience do you look for in an intern candidate?

A: Being a high-end design firm, we work with a great deal of small details. First and foremost, an intern must be detail-oriented, organized, and personable. Experience with Excel spreadsheets is also required, and expertise with SketchUp and Photoshop are an extra bonus.

Q: Do you recommend students take the NCIDQ Exam?

A: Absolutely! In the state of Michigan, it is not required that a designer must pass the NCIDQ to practice interior design; anyone can wake up and call themselves an interior designer. Passing the NCIDQ shows clients and other industry professionals that you are well-qualified for the job and you are credible. Because it is not required, very few residential interior designers in Michigan take the initiative, so passing the exam helps you stand out in the industry.

Q: What advice would you give recent graduates about to enter the interior design workforce?

A: There are so many different directions that you can go in the design industry. I would say to be open to wherever your career takes youespecially during the first few years of learning outside of college. When I graduated, I wanted to work for a large commercial firm. I said I didn’t want to work in Michigan, work for a small company, or work in sales, but I ended up working for a small business in Michigan doing furniture sales, and I loved it! I learned so much about fabric, furniture construction, and how to sell a product.

In any form of design, you are typically selling something—whether it be an idea or a product—so gaining experience on how to work with clients and how to listen to what they need was instrumental with my transition into a residential interior designer. I also realized through that experience that my heart was in residential design, not commercial as I originally thought; I may have never known that if I wasn’t open to all opportunities and directions after college.

Q: What is a common mistake recent graduates make while applying to your business?

A: Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer a formal email with a resume attached and either a one-page portfolio or a link to a website that shows samples of their work. It’s only been 8 years since I graduated from college, but there is still a bit of a generational gap; I get a lot of one-sentence emails or messages on Instagram asking if I’m hiring, and that really doesn’t make the candidate stand out. Because I’m such a small company, if I’m going to hire someone, they need to wow me!

Q: What do you find recent graduates are most surprised by when they enter the workforce?

A: Interns and recent graduates are often surprised by just how much paperwork there is in design. I sometimes joke that I spend 99% of my day in Excel. With the caliber of custom design that we do at Fuchsia Design, there are a lot of spreadsheets, detailed drawings, spec sheets, and product orders. Only about 1% of the job is picking out the fun finishes and materials. After that, it’s a whole lot of screen time at the computer.

Q: What do you think will be the major changes in the interior field in the next five years?

A: The industry is becoming increasingly electronic. More and more interior design companies are offering 3D renderings as a standard service. Also, there seems to be a surge of clients hiring interior designers for e-design services; this is a newer concept where you don’t ever meet one on one with your clients, and everything is done digitally. I imagine this will only continue to grow as technology becomes more advanced and widely used in the interior design industry.

Q: How would you suggest recent graduates interested in interior design maximize their time with their mentors?

A: If given the opportunity, I would encourage all recent graduates to have at least one internship where they can observe a design from conception through completion. In design school, they’re assigned a project, they design the space, and then they’re given a grade. In the real world, it goes so much further, and who you know is a huge part of a successful project. Do they know trade professionals to execute the ideas? Do they have a source on where to get the materials they’re looking for? Having a mentor or working under a designer with solid industry connections can help new designers to start forming these critical trade relationships.

Autumn Fuchs, NCIDQ

Owner, Interior Designer

Fuchsia Design

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Posted by PPI - October 1, 2020
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Examinee Study Tips for the NCIDQ Exam from Interior Designer Veronica Ryskalczk

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 ofI 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 to 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 enoughmake 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.
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Posted by PPI - October 1, 2020
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