Have you ever wondered how the NCIDQ test questions are created? Or scored?
These are common questions we receive here at Qpractice and in the study group, especially during exam season.
Learn about the CIDQ Practice Analysis
Every five years, CIDQ conducts a practice analysis.
First, a panel of testing and industry experts works 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 essential daily job tasks. This knowledge distinguishes an 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.
All NCIDQ test 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 or Items are Developed
Writing questions is an involved and time-consuming process. So CIDQ assembles a team of volunteer interior designers who work together with testing and subject matter experts to ensure that the questions are valid and fair.
I was selected to serve on a prior Item Writer's Workshop, and I can attest that creating the questions is a laborious task.
One's initial thought for a question may come relatively easy, but the steps involved in ensuring 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.Bradley Moore, NCIDQ Item writer
He also noted that a relatively small percentage of questions that passed the criteria required to 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.
Experimental pretest questions
CIDQ also pretests new questions on all exams as experimental or pretest questions. These questions aren't scored, and may not fit the weight and content distribution for the current exam, so don't let this throw you off. If you took the NCIDQ Exam before, you've taken an experimental pretest question.
On the spring 2021 testing administration, CIDQ pretested 25 questions on IDFX, 25 on IDPX, and 15 questions for PRAC.
Pretesting is crucial 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. For example, CIDQ may find that an item they thought was suitable for IDFX might actually be more difficult. Or it may be worded in such a way that it doesn't otherwise generate the expected results from test-takers.
Keep in mind that a variety of professionals working in different types of firms and specialty areas collaborate on these questions. These interior design subject matter experts may also have vastly different work experience than you. Therefore, even when you meet the minimum work experience requirements, you often need more exposure to other systems and processes.
The test questions must meet the highest standards to be included in the NCIDQ Exam. 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.
- It is essential and appropriate knowledge for a competent interior designer.
- The correct answer distinguishes one designer from another who is not qualified.
- The correct answer or solution is defensible, which means an outside source can document it. 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 unqualified designer. This is why you might sometimes feel like a question is deliberately tricky. The purpose is to weed out those people who don't truly understand the subject.
Fun fact: 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!
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.
After the passing point or cut score is determined, the exam is scaled to fit a range 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 (the cut score or passing point)
This is not the same as 50%. And the pretest questions don't count, and don't make up for missing a graded question.
You want to aim for as high a score as possible. Remember the exam has different questions or drawings each year, but each exam and testing administration must be equally difficult for everyone. Meaning that it should be:
- just as hard as last season
- just as hard as the exam that designers took two years ago
- equally difficult for those who take next year
Prometric uses statistical analysis to account for this by using psychometric analysis to compare scores across different testing administrations. It's not just your raw score, each exam's performance needs to be compared so that every administration of the exam is rated to be equally difficult.
The key to success
Once you understand this process, it can help you frame test questions in your mind so 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, if required
- is sustainable and not wasteful of natural resources
- is not necessarily the way you do things in your firm or practice, but again — it 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.
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. So that's why we're working with these designers to add 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 precisely where your shortcomings are.
Beef up your work experience
Take the Qpractice Work Experience Assessment, to see your exposure to different tasks and skills that you may be tested on. Go to your boss, and ask to work on a project where you can develop those skills.
The best way to prepare is to connect what you're studying to your work. It can be challenging to learn something from a book without any actual practical experience, so do this now. This is why approximately two 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.