NCIDQ Exam Study Guide Resources

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Here’s an overview of the NCIDQ Exam to get you started, along with some of the basics of interior design registration and licensing to get you moving forward in your career.

About the NCIDQ Exam

Why do I need to take the NCIDQ Exam?

Not everyone needs to take the NCIDQ Exam, and not everyone who wants to take the NCIDQ Exam is eligible to take it.

An interior designer who passes the NCIDQ Exam has the minimum level of competency in professional level skills to protect the public health, safety and welfare.

So it’s just a test, right? Not if your job depends upon it.

Interior design laws in about half the United States, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, and the Canadian provinces, may even restrict you from either practicing interior design or calling yourself an “interior designer” without a license.

Licensing requirements, rights and responsibilities vary by jurisdiction.

Your local, state, or provincial chapter of your professional organization listed below is a great place to start to find out about the interior design legislation in your area.

An NCIDQ Certificate is also a requirement for professional level memberships in the American Society of Interior Designers, the International Interior Design Association  and the Interior Designers of Canada.

How can I apply to take the NCIDQ Examination?

1. First, determine your eligibility.

You will have to pass all 3 Sections of the NCIDQ Exams within a 5 year period, but you don’t have to take them all at once.

  • IDFX – Interior Design Fundamentals Exam (multiple choice)
  • IDPX – Interior Design Professional Exam (multiple choice)
  • Practicum – hand drawing exercise solutions

You can apply to take the Interior Design Fundamentals Exam (IDFX) after you have completed your education, but before you have completed all your required work experience.

You can apply to take the Interior Design Professional Exam (IDPX) and Practicum, after you have completed your required work experience.

The number of hours credit you earn for your qualified work experience will vary depending upon who you work for.

*If you are not supervised by a licensed or registered interior designer, architect who provides interior design services, or NCIDQ Certificate holder; or if you are self-employed – your work experience may only count for 1/4 to 1/2 the hours than if you were sponsored by an NCIDQ Certificate holder and/or licensed interior designer. 

Contact us for details on how we can help you earn more hours for your work experience.

2. Next, know how to apply.

Start the required application process by creating a MyNCIDQ account online.

3. Collect your supporting documents.

Make sure you have all the required transcripts, references, and work experience verification forms, and are prepared to pay the application fee.

Learn more about the application process on the NCIDQ website. Once your application is approved, you’ll register for each exam section you plan to take.

4. Make a plan to prepare.

There’s an old saying :

Fail to plan, plan to fail.

Work with us, and we’ll keep you on track. If you have any questions about what plan you should follow, just contact us. We’re here to help.

When can I take the NCIDQ Exam?

NCIDQ gives the test twice each year – in the Spring and the Fall.

There are several ways you can learn about upcoming dates and deadlines for upcoming test administrations. You can visit the NCIDQ website.

You can also subscribe to our calendar for the NCIDQ dates and deadlines.  Change the view to suit your needs, and subscribe using the buttons at the bottom left. These dates are provided for your convenience and reference with our study schedule. Always confirm your eligibility and the exact dates and locations in your MyNCIDQ account.

Interior Design Fundamentals Exam (IDFX)

The Interior Design Fundamentals Exam  (IDFX) tests your knowledge of:

  • Building Systems
  • Construction Standards
  • Design Application

You’ll have three hours to complete the 125 question multiple-choice exam IDFX.  100 questions count towards your grade. 25 questions are experimental questions and don’t count towards your score.

You can apply to take the IDFX once you meet NCIDQ’s educational requirements, even before you complete your required work experience. Pass this exam to get started on your professional interior design career. This is an excellent opportunity to test what you covered in school while it is still fresh.  Pass the IDFX and add an achievement to your resume to make you a much more desirable job candidate.

Follow the Qpractice Study Plan to thoroughly review the seven (7) NCIDQ content areas. This will not only help you pass the test, but also build proficiency in key skills and knowledge that employers are seeking.

Here are some examples of the types of topics covered per content area on the Interior Design Fundamentals Exam:

NCIDQ IDPX Content Area 1

Knowledge of and skill in programming, sustainability and site analysis

The NCIDQ tests design communication methods and techniques

bubble diagram

sustainability

sustainability

Review the different research methods used for programming. Know the standards used determine the functional needs of the space and the project site.

For example, as part of the schematic design phase, designers can use block diagrams. These are typically drawn to scale after bubble diagrams and prototype sketches.

Get double-duty from your study of sustainability in the Interior Design Fundamentals and Interior Design Professional Exams. You’ll cover some of the same content that’s in the LEED Green Associate Exam. Consider testing for it to add as a second credential after you pass the IDFX.

NCIDQ IDPX Content Area 2

Knowledge of and skill in application of design theory and the relationship between human behavior and the designed environment

Ergonomics

Ergonomics

Design for seniors to stay in their home as they age

Aging in Place

The relationship between human behavior and the designed environment includes a variety of topics like accessibility and aging in place.

Aging in place” describes a senior living in the home of their choice as they age, while able to have the services and support they need over time as their needs change.

A whole new market is opening that will need professionals who understand the special needs of “aging in place”. The aging population needs professionals who are able to create designs that respond to the needs of a growing aging consumer population.

NCIDQ IDPX Content Area 3

Knowledge of and skill in integration with building systems and construction

One of the most important aspects of interior architecture is close integration with building systems and construction.

On the NCIDQ Exam you will also apply your knowledge of this on the Practicum, especially on the Lighting Design and Systems Integration Problems.

NCIDQ IDPX Content Area 4

Knowledge of and skill in sourcing and research as it relates to manufacturers’ and vendors’ information regarding furniture, fixtures, and equipment

Furniture, Fixtures, and Equipment–aka FF&E, is a big part of the designer’s responsibility.

It’s not enough to select FF&E is that just looks good. Designers must understand how to get the correct product information and use it to evaluate, select, specify and procure the FF&E most appropriate for the specific project.

FF&E Specifications

FF&E

NCIDQ IDPX Content Area 5

Knowledge of and skill in development and use of construction drawings, schedules, and specifications

and

NCIDQ IDPX Content Area 6

Knowledge of and skill in measuring, drafting and technical drawing conventions

Construction drawings

Construction drawings

ceiling molding detail

Detail drawing

Construction drawings communicate information to the contractor, subcontractors, consultants, and suppliers. The interior designer coordinates the construction drawings with the specifications and the consultant’s drawings.

Also referred to as working drawings, construction drawings are one of the most important parts of the contract documents and are legal documents.

To pass all sections of the NCIDQ exam, you must be able to produce, read and interpret construction drawings.

NCIDQ IDPX Content Area 7

Knowledge of and skill in visual, written and verbal design communication methods and techniques

NCIDQ Exam interior design fundamentals covers visual presentation

3D Rendering

The NCIDQ Exams test designers on their knowledge of Interior Design Presentation Methods and Techniques.

Rendering in 2D or 3D, especially rendered perspectives, help a client understand a project. Renderings add color, interest, and a sense of reality to drawings.

Master the content for the Interior Design Fundamentals Exam with the Qpractice Study Plan.

Get a comprehensive review program organized to help you cover the NCIDQ Content Areas, online quizzes with explanations, and unlimited 24/7 access to the Qpractice NCIDQ IDFX Practice Test online. Learn More Here.

Are you taking the NCIDQ IDFX or IDPX? You can try a sample NCIDQ practice quiz.

You can print your results at the end, and you will also receive our NCIDQ study plan by email.

Interior Design Professional Exam (IDPX)

The NCIDQ Interior Design Professional Exam (IDPX) is a 4-hour multiple choice exam that tests your knowledge in the content areas of:

  • Building Systems
  • Codes
  • Professional Practice
  • Project Coordination

You will take 150 scored questions and an extra 25 experimental unscored questions in the following eight (8) NCIDQ content areas. Here is an example of some of the topics covered:

NCIDQ IDPX Content Area 1

Knowledge of and skill in analyzing and synthesizing the programmatic information

First a designer will complete a site analysis and gather the programmatic information. The next step in the design process is to analyze and organize this information to understand the project constraints, requirements, and goals.

Once the analysis has been completed it is time to synthesize this information into a design concept and space planning solution to solve the client’s problem.

NCIDQ IDPX Content Area 2

Knowledge of and skill in application of design theory and the relationship between human behavior and the designed environment

Life Safety and Building Codes

Life Safety and Building Codes

NCIDQ emphasizes life safety on all three NCIDQ exams–IDFX, IDPX, and the Practicum exam.

You must understand and build a working knowledge of life safety as the most critical piece of the NCIDQ exam puzzle. One major aspect of life safety is exiting — also referred to as means of egress.

NCIDQ IDPX Content Area 3

Knowledge of and skill in integration with building systems and construction

and

NCIDQ IDPX Content Area 4

Knowledge of and skill in selection, specification, use and care of furniture, fixtures, equipment, interior finishes, materials, and lighting

Lighting is an important piece of the interior design puzzle–without it, would you truly be able to see the rest of the design?

As the interior designer, it is your responsibility to balance functional requirements with design and the wattage budget.

The designer also has to coordinate the lighting with many other building systems including: climate control, fire protection, data, security, acoustic, and structural systems.

Lighting Design

Lighting Design

NCIDQ IDPX Content Area 5

Knowledge of and skill in development and use of construction drawings, schedules, and specifications

An interior designer may spend only 10 – 25% of their time “designing”. They spend the rest of the time working behind the scenes to make their designs a reality.

A designer’s skill in developing specifications and drawings determine how successful the design is.

NCIDQ IDPX Content Area 6

Knowledge of and skill in interior design documentation and contract administration

The NCIDQ Interior Design Professional Exam covers the bidding process and contract administration phase of the design process.

All exam candidates must understand both phases. It’s especially important to review if you don’t work with purchasing or this phase of design.

NCIDQ IDPX Content Area 7

Knowledge of and skill in project coordination procedures and the roles of related design professionals

Consultants & Other Design Professionals

Consultants & Other Design Professionals

Many experts must work together to complete a successful interior design project.

The interior design firm works with many professionals to coordinate all the moving parts to make the project come together for the client.

The interior designer must understand the role of all related professionals in the project.

NCIDQ IDPX Content Area 8

Knowledge of and skill in application of professional ethics and business practices

The designer must understand the roles and business obligations of the contractor, owner, and others during the administration of the project.

Maximize your review for the Interior Design Professional Exam with the Qpractice Study Plan.

Get a plan to help you master the NCIDQ Content Areas, online quizzes with explanations, and unlimited 24/7 access to the Qpractice NCIDQ IDPX Practice Test online. Learn More Here.

Are you taking the NCIDQ IDPX? Try a sample NCIDQ practice quiz.

Print your results at the end, and you will also receive our NCIDQ study plan by email.

Practicum

The NCIDQ Practicum is a full day long exam divided into 3 parts. Part A has 2 drawing problems given together in the morning.

Parts B & C consist of 5 drawings given in the afternoon. You can do the drawings in Parts B & C in any order you wish.

Practicum Part A

Practicum Part A

Space Planning

The space planning problem is worth more than any other part of the NCIDQ Practicum, 23%.  You must pass this one.

This 3 hour problem is drawn at 1/4″ = 1′-0″ scale, and may be either residential or commercial.

NCIDQ space planning

You must design a floor plan the solves the program requirements and meets required:

  • Adjacencies
  • Accessibility
  • Plumbing
  • Egress
  • Specified power/voice/data

Lighting Design

The lighting problem is recommended to solve in 1 hour, and is drawn at 1/4″ = 1′-0″ scale, and may be either residential or commercial.

If the space planning problem is commercial, the lighting will be residential and vice versa.

Design a lighting plan solution on the reflected ceiling plan.

  • Show wiring and switching diagram
  • Complete a lighting schedule
  • Calculate energy use not to exceed the given wattage budget
  • Specify lighting fixtures from provided cut sheets
  • Provide rationale for lighting selections

Lighting design solution

Practicum Part B

Practicum Part B

Egress

Egress uses many of the same skills as the space planning problem. The plan is at 1/8″=1′-0″ and it’s recommended you use 1 hour to complete it.

Your challenge is to subdivide the upper floor in a multi-story building around 1 existing tenant space. This problem may include residential or commercial spaces.

  • Block out suites & create common egress corridor
  • Figure occupancy load for each suite
  • Calculate occupant load for each exit stair
  • Create correct number of exit doors in large suite
  • Show common path of travel from existing suite and travel distance to exit stairs

Learn Means of Egress for the NCIDQ Exam

Life Safety

Life Safety is an important problem that focuses on the difference between interior design and decorating. The drawing is at 1/8″=1′-0″ scale and should take about 1/2 hour with practice.

Locate life safety equipment on the floor plan of a commercial tenant suite, and in the elevator lobby, public restrooms [washrooms] and public corridors, including:

Lighted exit sign

  • Exit signs
  • Wall-mounted emergency lights
  • Audible/visible fire alarms
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Smoke detectors

You’ll also:

Complete a partition schedule for specified partitions
Complete a door/frame/hardware schedule for specified doors

Restroom (or Washroom)

The restroom problem drawing deals with accessibility codes in a public men’s room. It is a 1/2 hour problem at 1/4″ = 1′-0″ scale and is worth 9% of your grade.

  • Draw and dimension the required plumbing fixtures
  • Indicate accessible clearances
  • Draw required restroom accessories
  • Complete a plumbing fixture and accessory schedule
  • Indicate mounting heights
  • Indicated forward and side reach range

mens restroom sign

Practicum Part C

Practicum Part C

Systems Integration

Systems Integration is a 1 hour problem at  1/8″=1′-0″ scale. Your job is to check the mechanical and reflected ceiling plans to find and resolve the conflicts between:

Be able to spot and resolve conflicts between furniture and building systems

  • Structural Systems
  • Plumbing
  • Lighting
  • Electrical Systems
  • Mechanical Systems
  • Furniture

Millwork

The millwork drawing may either be residential or commercial and requires 3 drawings demonstrating a solution that is build-able and accessible.

The plan view is 1/4″=1’0″ scale and the elevation and section are drawn at 3/4″=1′-0″ scale.  This exercise may or may not include plumbing.

Draw, dimension, and annotate for construct-ability:

  • Plan View of a required millwork solution
  • Elevation(s)
  • Section at an accessible element
  • Indicate joinery and finishes

Joinery

The Qpractice Practicum Blueprint includes step-by-step strategies and how-to videos to help you master the skills it takes to get through any drawing.

Get answers to your questions and the support you need. Learn more.

Interior Design Licensing and Regulation

About half the states in the US, Puerto Rico and the Canadian Provinces have some form of Interior Design Legislation.

Contrary to popular belief, interior design legislation does not restrict business for unregistered designers. Instead, design laws expand business opportunities for registered interior designers.

Registered, licensed, or NCIDQ certified interior designers in some states can sign, seal, and submit drawings for permitting.

It’s a good idea to learn about your state’s interior design legislation when you begin your prep for the NCIDQ Exam. Then you can start to prepare your paperwork to meet any requirements.

Even if your state does not require registration, other states you work in may – so it’s always a good idea to make sure you meet the highest standards. Besides, having your NCIDQ Certificate can help you earn more.

Places you can start for information:

  • ASID
  • IIDA
  • State Board of Architecture and Interior Design
  • State Department of Business and Professional Regulation

Read our guide with sample application processes so you can learn what to do next.


Interior design licensing

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