Have you ever wondered how the NCIDQ test questions for IDFX and IDPX are created?
It's a common question we receive here at Qpractice and in the study group, especially during exam season.
Learn about the Practice Analysis
Every 5 years, CIDQ conducts a practice analysis.
First, a panel of testing and industry experts work with interior design professionals to develop an overall plan for the exam.
Next, they conduct a survey of professional interior designers and NCIDQ Certificate holders. This survey determines the actual knowledge, tasks and skills used on-the job, so that the test reflects current interior design practice.
CIDQ uses this feedback to define which subjects or areas of practice are most important to measure. These topics align with skills relevant to current practice and important to daily job tasks. This knowledge distinguishes a NCIDQ certificate holder as a competent professional interior designer.
The NCIDQ Exam Blueprint
CIDQ uses the results of the practice analysis to develop the weight and scoring of different content areas on the exam, called a blueprint.
Questions are developed following standards and guidelines for professional certification exams. These standards include those set by the American Educational Research Association, the American Psychological Association, the National Council on Measurement in Education and the American Educational Research Association.
How NCIDQ Test Questions are Developed
Writing questions is an involved and time consuming process. CIDQ assembles a team of volunteer interior designers who work together with testing and subject matter experts to make sure that the questions are valid and fair.
From Bradley Moore, NCIDQ Item writer
I was selected to serve on a prior Writer's Workshop and I can attest to the fact that creating the questions is a laborious task.
One's initial thought for a question may come relatively easy, but the steps involved in insuring that it is both fair and well-documented can be most trying. An individual could easily spend in excess of two hours on a single item, have it judged, write a revision submittal and still not have it be approved for entry into the exam.
It was an extremely rewarding experience and at times a bit humbling. The one point I would like to make is how very proud I was to see the effort that went into the process and the high standards that were required. The result is an amazing exam.
He also noted that a relatively small percentage of questions that passed through the criteria required to finally be accepted.
The workshop process lasted about 3-5 months and can be exhausting due to
- creating the question
- putting into an accurate/fair multiple choice format
- assigning it to a particular category
- having it reviewed
- revising it for yet another review
- finally learn if it was one of few chosen for the exam
Most importantly, he said it was worth the effort.
Distribution of NCIDQ Test Questions
The tests are composed of questions in the quantity and weight as listed in the exam blueprint, or distribution of questions:
Test administrator Prometric estimates that this process may cost from $250 to $1000 per single test item*.
So for example, on IDFX and IDPX with 150 to 175 questions, this means the range can be from $37,500 – $175,00 per exam!
CIDQ also pretests new questions on the IDFX and IDPX exams as experimental questions. These questions aren't scored, and may not fit the distribution of content for current exam, so don't let this throw you off.
If you took the NCIDQ exam before, you've taken an experimental pretest question.
Pretesting is important because it helps them discover flaws in a question. But it may leave you feeling a little rattled when you come across something you don't know, or you haven't studied at all. CIDQ may find that a topic they thought was suitable for IDFX might actually be more appropriate for IDPX.
Keep in mind that a variety of professionals collaborate on these questions. These interior designers may also have vastly different work experience than you. Even when you meet the minimum work experience requirements, you often need more exposure to other systems and processes.
The test questions must meet 8 standards to be included in the NCIDQ Exam. Here's a simplified list:
They can only be used in the exam when all test writers agree that the question tests knowledge and skills that:
- Protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public.
- Is essential and appropriate knowledge for a competent interior designer.
- Getting the answer correct would clearly distinguish one designer from another who is not qualified
- The correct answer or solution is defensible which means it can be documented by an outside source. This is key, see some of the sources that we recommend here, and view the CIDQ reference list. Qpractice uses many of these verified references in our course material and to create our practice test explanations.
- The incorrect answers are written in such a way that might seem correct to an an unqualified designer. This is why you might sometimes feel like a question is deliberately tricky. The purpose is to weed those who really don't understand the subject out.
Once you know this, it can help you frame the question in your mind in a way that you are more likely to choose the same answer that CIDQ does.
The key is to think about how to best achieve the goal that the question is asking for (how do you do this, what should you do in this situation) in a way that:
- is protecting the occupants' safety
- is ethical and does not conflict with the client's best interest
- is most cost-effective of the given choices
- is sustainable and not wasteful of natural resources
- is not necessarily the way you do things in your firm or practice, but again — can be validated through outside sources
In all cases you want to choose the best answer of the given choices, the other answer options may not be 100% wrong, but only 1 is the very best choice.
Grading the Exam
If you took the LEED Exam and have gotten your scores right away, it can be hard to understand why it takes so long to get your NCIDQ Exam results. That's because there is just as much work that goes into processing your answers after the exam as there is before the exam.
Simply put, the IDFX and IDPX exams is scored from 200 to 800. This is NOT a 100 point exam, throw all your expectations out the window.
- 200 = 0% or none correct
- 800= 100% all correct
- 500 = the minimum passing point*
This is not the same as 50%. And the experimental questions don't count.
You want to aim for as high as score as possible, because you are also graded against others. Remember the exam has different questions or drawings each year, but the test must be equally difficult for everyone.
Meaning that it should be:
- just as hard as the exam that designers took 5 years ago
- just as hard as the one I took
- just as hard as last year
and will be equally difficult for those who take 5 years from now.
Prometric uses statistical analysis to account for that. They also use psychometric analysis to compare scores across different candidates. It's not just your raw score, it needs to be processed against others who took the same exam you did and those who took it before you.
The new PRAC 2.0 Exam will be scored and equated similarly. More detailed information about scoring will be available in the future, as the first exam is scored.
So, How Can You Do Better on the NCIDQ?
While talking with our Qpractice experts panel in the past, I noticed that designers who scored 100% in any of the NCIDQ content areas, had experience with that specific topic in their job — yep, they did this at work. That's why we're working with these designers to add on detailed exam questions reflecting the new exam changes.
So here's what you can do:
Review Your Past Scores
Review your past scores against the content blueprints or distribution of questions. You'll see exactly where your shortcomings are.
Beef Up Your Work Experience
Go to your boss, and ask to work on a project where you can develop those skills.
Yes, part of the best way you can prepare is to connect what you're studying to your work. It can be very difficult to learn something from a book without any actual practical experience, so do this now. This is why approximately 2 years of work experience are required before you are eligible to take the exam.
Know Your Why
You're much more likely to succeed when you get very specific about the steps you'll take to pass the exam, and your reasons for taking the exam.
When you connect this to an outcome — both positive and negative, this can be the missing piece of your NCIDQ Exam puzzle.
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NCIDQ test questions are reevaluated every 5 years when CIDQ conducts a practice analysis. After receiving the results of the practice analysis, CIDQ creates a blueprint, which determines the weight and scoring of the questions on the exam. Then, a 3-5 month workshop is held with volunteers from the industry to create the final questions and answers for the exams. To rule out flaws, CIDQ will pretest new questions within the exams, which are not scored for the test taker. The key to getting the questions right is to think about how to best achieve the goal that the question is asking for, keeping in mind that health, safety and welfare are the utmost important task of a designer. Knowing “your why” is one of the best ways to ensure success on the NCIDQ exam!
On a five-year cycle, a panel of testing experts and interior design professionals develop an overall plan for the test. This includes conducting a survey of professional designers regarding current practices (Lisa said she always participates in this survey). The panel uses this information to generate exam questions which are current and relevant. This also determines how much of each content area (a.k.a. the blueprint) will be on the exam such as programming versus contract documents, etc. A three to five-month workshop then ensues during which the panel generates the questions according to the plan and blueprint that was developed. It takes a few months because they ensure each question is correct, can be verified, is constructed in a way that accurately represents the information that it is meant to determine, and so on. The panel evaluates each question and decides which questions will actually be used for the exam and which ones will not be used because they do not meet all of the criteria for a fair and accurate question. One way the panel determines if a question is a valid candidate for the exam is that they include a small percentage of experimental questions on the exam which are not scored. Each question must meet a list of criteria, and everyone on the panel must agree that each question meets all of the criteria, i.e., does the question reflect the pertinent knowledge that an interior designer should possess, can the correct answer be defended, etc. Test takers should remember that the questions are looking for answers that represent the health, safety and welfare of a building's occupants, represent the client's best interest, represent cost-effective and environmentally sustainable solutions and represent industry standards which may or may not reflect the way things are done in one's specific firm. This is the overall process for developing NCIDQ test questions.