One of the biggest challenges I see with NCIDQ Exam candidates is mindset. Perhaps a designer has taken the exam before and not done well, or they've seen others they know have a difficult time.
If someone believes they're a poor test taker, they've unfortunately just trained their brain to repeat that outcome. Watch this video with Brittany to see how her positive thinking not only helped her pass the exam but to overcome a difficult physical challenge.
I share a technique towards the end that anyone can use to examine and correct their thinking. Your mindset can either be your biggest asset or your biggest hurdle. I'd like to help you choose the first option.
Lisa: Well, welcome everyone. I am here today with Brittany, who took and passed her final exam of the NCIDQ just this past spring. And we're gonna talk to her today about some unusual setbacks that she faced while studying and what she did to overcome them. So first, tell me, like, when did you start preparing for the exam, which exams did you take, and how did that go?
Brittany: Yeah. I started in January of 2016 started on the FX and PX. I thought I would knock those two out first and do them together since they were multiple choice. I took them in April of 2016 and passed right away. It was quite an accomplishment.
Lisa: Good job.
Brittany: Yeah, thanks. Yeah. I used Qpractice for the last half of studying during that year. I had worked with a colleague earlier who actually taught… NCIDQ classes and she helped too. So, I had real-world experience with my job and Qpractice that really helped with this.
Lisa: Yeah. I think that's important that you mentioned the real-world experience that you could get because sometimes, some people are missing some of that, so we look for ways to find and get them exposure to those things, especially if they're gonna be tested on it. All right?
Brittany: Yes. Yeah, so then, passed that FX and PX, got them knocked out of the park. And then I figured I should have a full year to prepare for the PRAC because, at that time, it was the written hand-drawn PRAC. And I heard rumors that it was going to be online, but I didn't know. I don't think it was announced until 2017 for sure.
Brittany: So, I planned on taking that in the spring of 2017.
Brittany: Yeah. So, then in December of 2016, I got diagnosed with a progressive eye disease, and I mean just out of the blue, I was at a routine eye exam. I went in; I had a huge presentation that afternoon, did not make it to that presentation.
Lisa: And the doctor told you what?
Brittany: He just literally sat back. He looked at my eyes, sat back; I will never forget those, and was like, “You're going blind.” That's it. And I was just like, “No, no, no, I'm not.”
Lisa: That is horrifying.
Brittany: “I have a presentation.” Oh, yeah. So, “No, I'm not going blind.” There's a treatment for it. It's a pretty common disease for people like me. I have type 1 diabetes.
Brittany: So, it's pretty common. So, I went to a specialist for it. And at that point, I was like, “I need to focus on my health and put this NCIDQ aside. I have five years to take it, and I'll be fine. We can do this.” So then, I had several treatments through the winter of 2017 to spring, and I was responding well to these treatments, so I thought I might as well just start studying again, see if I can do it in the fall. So I signed up. And then July of 2016, I woke up one day, and I could not see out of my left eye. I knew something was off; something was just not right when I was looking out. And then I closed one eye, did the eye test, and then closed my right eye, and it was just blurry. I can't even explain it.
Lisa: Oh my gosh.
Brittany: Let me go up…yeah. It's just blurry. I wish I could take a picture of what I saw. So, I had emergency surgery for that, and within a week, was off work for about a month, and just had to heal, had to stop life, and stop studying, and just kind of focus on me. So I paused my Qpractice accounts and just had surgeries for the rest of the year, essentially for treatment.
Lisa: Okay. So, you took a break; you got your health back on track.
Lisa: And then tell me when you came back?
Brittany: So I came back in January of this year, 2018.
Lisa: All right.
Brittany: I came back knowing, so I had both eyes treated. I still could not see out of my left eye. I could read the second line down on the eye chart if you can picture that. So, it's not very good eyesight. I think it's legally blind at that point, and then I could read 20 / 30 out of my right eye, which is good. I mean, “I'll take it from nothing to what it is.”
Lisa: Did you just start studying with the one eye, kind of like?
Lisa: All right.
Brittany: Yup. Yup. So January, I knew I had a vacation in there, and I knew I needed to have another surgery on my left eye. And I knew I was functioning just fine with my right eye. It's pretty amazing what your body can do when you… It's incredible. So, I knew those two things were happening, and I needed to set myself a goal for the year. I needed something to work towards because if I don't have anything to work towards, what is there to do?
Lisa: So that's kind of major, yeah.
Brittany: Yeah. So, I started studying in January. I knew I had about two or three weeks of “I wouldn't be able to study” time and just dedicated myself. I took lunch breaks and studying during lunch breaks. I studied after… started to say after school, after work. After work, almost every night. I couldn't stay up very late because of this eye stuff. If I get tired, they don't work very well. It was very helpful, of course, to go kind of stick to the time schedule.
Lisa: And to get enough sleep, so the stuff that you did learn stayed. That's an unexpected benefit right there. Okay. So you went through, and you got it all up. You studied, and you took care of yourself, and you got good rest. So that's actually really important to help your body heal and to help your mind retain everything. And so, you went full steam ahead and…
Brittany: Yup, full steam ahead, scheduled the exam for the middle of April because it never snows. I'm in Wisconsin. It never snows in the middle of April, and the day of my exam happened to be, like, the largest blizzard ever in this area. So it got rescheduled again in May. So, imagine like the…this is like the build-up. “I'm gonna do it. I've got to make it. I'm gonna take this exam,” and it was just a snow dump.
Lisa: Oh my Gosh. I know. When I read this when you wrote this to me, you're like…and you could have made this up. But it's really enough to unnerve anybody to have all of that. And then you go to take your exam on that day and you can't.
Brittany: Right. Right. Right. There's so many tears. But it's all right; I got an extra week of relaxing. I really didn't study that week before the next exam. I was like, I learned what I learned, what I could've learned.
Lisa: So important…
Brittany: I know what I know.
Lisa: Yeah, so important to relax and just call it… draw a line, and say, “I stop here. I need to take a break. It's there; I'll do it.” Awesome.
Brittany: Yeah. Yeah.
Lisa: So, you did it.
Brittany: Yes, I did. And I could not see out of my left eye when I was taking it. I could see. I should refrain from saying that. I could see out of my left eye. I could not read computer screens with my left eye if that makes sense. So, I could see farsighted. I can't see nearsighted.
Brittany: I could see nearsighted with my right eye, so I just used my right eye.
Lisa: Wow. Wow, that's amazing. So, this brings me to something that you posted about in the study group where you talked about mindset and how that is so important.
You basically said, “I'm gonna do this.” And it was kind of like no matter what, like, “No, I'm not gonna go blind.” That was the first thing, okay, and you beat that. And “Yes, I'm gonna take this exam. And, yes, I'm gonna pass it.” And so, I think that is just an example, and this is why I want to talk to you because everybody's got something. Different people have more challenges than others. Everybody's got issues with the work in their life and the schedule.
And just the fact that you told yourself, “This is important to me, and I am gonna do it.” And you had the mindset that, “No matter what gets in the way, snowstorm, whatever, nothing is gonna stop me. I'm gonna take and pass this exam.” And I think that is just so highly critical to have that thought pattern. So, I think that's one of the things I really wanted to share with everyone.
Lisa: So, when you're preparing, was there something that you did that was particularly helpful for you?
Brittany: Yeah. So, those practice tests where you went through each of the questions and had the answers, like, the answers have why you got it wrong and why got it right below. So, every other day at lunchtime, I would take a practice test. The next day, I would read every single answer, whether I got it right or wrong, and go through that. I barely opened my book, honestly. I maybe skimmed a few things that I just couldn't grasp, but it was practice tests. And then the office hours as well. I could not get the Central versus Eastern time frame for the first few; it took a lot of catch-up.
Lisa: But you've got a recording. You got the replay.
Brittany: Yes. Yes.
Brittany: So, I still watched the replay. I was present in a few of them, a couple of them. And then the actual CIDQ practice test live workshop; it was like six hours, I think, or like four or five.
Lisa: Yeah. When we did that one, it was like a four-hour meeting, you know. I thought, “Oh, I'll knock out two or three hours.” We go through it like question by question live. It ended up being long, and I broke it up into three videos. We're doing that again, coming up. We have one next week, and then the weekend after, and the weekend after. I think they were a lot of fun. They were really good to do.
Brittany: It was easier to learn.
Lisa: I'm glad you stuck through that. As long as it was, I'm glad you stayed through that.
Brittany: Yes. Yes. And I was the one that commented, so I have about; I wish I had them find me. I had bought, like, plus-five reading glasses that you can only get online, and they're like super thick. And that's what I was using because if I needed to see something closer, hold it up to the screen. And I was just using it like a magnifying glass essentially to read.
Lisa: And that worked for you.
Brittany: And that worked for me, yes.
Lisa: That's great because I can remember taking, like, the hand-drawn exam, I wore contacts and the like. I still would look down. I go, “I can't see.” It's all those layers and stuff, and I had a room where the lighting was bad. I had to take glasses and wear them on top. And I was kind of that, “I'm gonna do what I can do.” Of course, I did not have it like what you have, but I was, like, I can understand some of the challenges we've heard from people, like, sometimes there's a lot of detail in those drawings, and it's hard to see on the screen. And it's just, like, “Do what you got to do. Get a pair of reading glasses.” Yeah.
Lisa: And I'm glad that worked for you.
Brittany: Yes, it worked very well. And they let me actually take it into the exam too. I took them with me. I did use them a couple of times when the text is so small in, like, the areas. I wanted to make sure that I put the top spot on the right spot.
Lisa: Yeah. Yeah, very important. Okay. Awesome. I am so glad that you were able to make it through that whole process and that you did really well. I know it's a long time. I would say we had to wait about five weeks, a little bit less than the six weeks normally, to hear everything. And so, when you walked out of this on the test day, how did you feel? Did you know that you did it, or you didn't know?
Brittany: I did not know. So, I was thrown off. So, in Qpractice, it's always residential, small commercial, large commercial, and that was like how I studied. And then I got to test day, and it was small commercial first, then residential, then large commercial. That threw me off. For some reason, that just like amped up the anxiety.
Brittany: So, I took longer on the small commercial than…I was timing myself 80 minutes per exam, and I think I took almost two hours on that small commercial, or almost…yeah, 90 to 200 minutes-ish. Then I kind of started freaking out a bit, as in, like, “Oh, I'm not gonna finish.” And so, it's all about mindset. I was “No, you're gonna finish. You're gonna figure it out. Take a deep breath. You know what, just sit down.” And then I just buzzed through. Residential was pretty easy, in my opinion, and then large commercial. Utilized what I've learned on the job and what I learned through Qpractice and made it. I got it done. But I didn't feel either way. I didn't feel like I failed it, and I didn't feel like I passed it. It's kind of in the middle.
Lisa: You got it done.
Brittany: Yeah, I got it done.
Lisa: I think that's the way to walk away from it, is like, “I got it done.” And that's kind of the way it used to be on the hand drawing. If you got it done within that time frame, it's like, [SIGH] you could take a deep breath, but yeah. So, it is very challenging, and time is a factor. And that is like early, something that people struggle with, which is why I think it's so important to practice. Even if they do something, like, change up the order, you knew what to expect. And that, I think that will be something that I'll have people do because we have them in a certain order, but they're separate. Just like they are in the actual exam, you can only review, and flag, and mark, and correct them. If you have any questions that you want to come back to, you can only do it one at a time. So, I think that what we'll do is suggest to people that they take them, mix up the order sometimes, so that if that should happen that they feel comfortable with doing them in any order.
Brittany: Yes. Yeah.
Lisa: Yeah. Thinking about your whole situation and talking to people today brought me back to this issue of mindset, something I want to share with everybody.
When they're thinking about starting the process, and they're studying for the exam, I'd like to have people start in the beginning, and kind of like, make a list, and do it on paper, not just a mental list. But I want somebody to go, “Okay. What is every possible reason that I can't pass this exam?” Because we have a lot of people that are doing this anyway, it's just mental. And I want people to start listing them all out on paper. And then look at that list and determine if what they wrote down is a circumstance or is it a thought? So an example of a circumstance would be like, “I can't see. I have one eye.” That's a circumstance. It's a situation. It's a fact. It is what it is. Whereas if you had a thought, it's like, “I can't pass because I can't see.”
That belief is a thought. It's different than the actual circumstance. I want people to start to identify what's a circumstance. “I work 60 hours a week.” And what's a thought? It's, like, “I don't have enough time to study.” So, you can change the thought. You can't always change the circumstance. And so, when you start listing all of those out on your paper, and you have those, and you look at them all, I want people to look at each of those as like, “This is the step that you need to get to. It's the next rung on the ladder. Once you can achieve and overcome this one, you move up to the next one. Once you achieve and overcome this one, you move up to the next one.”
I think sometimes people look at those, and they realize some of them are thoughts and that they're not necessarily true. It's, like, neither true nor false. It's only what you believe. They might take that off your list. And then they have fewer steps on the ladder to get to the top rung.
So, that was what something that came to me when I was thinking about the whole situation, but I am really grateful for you to get back to me by email, and pop into the study group and share your stories, so much that I wanted to share it with everyone. And I thank you so much, Brittany, for coming on today.
Brittany: Thank you.
Lisa: I'm so glad that you stuck with it, and I'm so glad that you passed.
Lisa: And now, what's the next step for you? Anything interesting? Relax?
Brittany: I think a promotion.
Lisa: Well, great.
Brittany: Yeah. I don't know. Someone else asked me that, and I was like, “I don't know. I need a new goal, something else to work towards.”
Lisa: That's great.
Brittany: This one took me about three years.
Lisa: That is awesome. Okay. Well, thank you. Brittany.