It's true! I passed all three sections of the NCIDQ exam on my first try, 1 week before the due date of my first baby last Spring!
This is a guest post by Qpractice graduate Sarah Campernel
It's all been such a blur since then, and I've barely had time to digest how proud I am of myself. And I am thankful to Qpractice for providing a study framework that was not only manageable, but flexible to my specific needs. I did it all in nine weeks, so it's not too late for you to get started! Here's how I did it:
Procrastination No More!
After graduating with my Masters in 2007, I chose a less conventional path for my career as an interior designer. I took a job teaching part-time at a local college right after graduation. This left my professional practice experience at about 2/3 time. I worked for an innovative small architectural firm where I was the only interior designer. So I didn't have many resources to help me prep for the exam.
Fast forward seven years (wow!) and I found myself teaching full time and running my own small design firm on the side. We had moved around a lot since 2009, trying to figure out where we wanted to settle down. Once we figured that out, my husband and I were ready to start a family.
I'm really good at procrastinating. Especially when it comes to large commitments like having a baby or taking the NCIDQ exam. As a woman in her mid-thirties, I figured it was about time to take the plunge and procrastinate no more!
All or Nothing (Let's Do This)
I guess I've always been an “all or nothing” kind of girl when I'm faced with a challenge. All hands on deck! Make it happen! Failure is not an option! (feel free to insert your cliché motivational phrase here)
I felt that I had to register for all three sections of the exams at once. I knew if I had to register for the exams separately at some point down the road, I would lose steam and probably take another several years to complete the whole process Plus, I knew that finding time to study after the baby was here was not going to happen….for a very long time!
I realize that this strategy may not work for everyone, and it might even freak you out a little – but it was the best way for me to motivate myself. Even if you don’t “go for broke” the way I did, you can still learn from my experience! If you are willing to commit, you can do this too!
Qpractice to the Rescue
I had only a limited idea of how to go about studying for the exam. The only advice I had was from one colleague at work who had passed the exam several years earlier. I thought I would just sign up for one of those 3-day intensive workshops to help with the practicum prep, and I could just study for the multiple choice on my own.
Boy, was I wrong!
I later found out that I needed someone to help me understand not only the content of the exam, but HOW the content was delivered. More importantly, HOW to choose the best answer or solution as quickly and accurately as possible.
I'm so lucky I found Qpractice!
When I found Qpractice, I instantly knew it was the best choice for me. I loved how there was a study schedule provided for me, and I was able to tailor it to my lifestyle and schedule. I found myself getting excited to start studying now that I knew I had an amazing system of support.
If you're going to study for all three sections at once, you’ll need to be extremely organized. Look over the study guides and the study schedule that Qpractice gives you for each exam section, then combine them into a master schedule that works for your specific lifestyle and learning style.
For example, I wanted to make sure that I completed the reading and practice tests for the IDFX and IDPX prior to studying for the PRAC. That's just how MY brain works. I needed to know that I had a strong foundation of knowledge before having to apply it to the practicum. So I took the study guides from Qpractice and created a hand-written version that I kept in my study folder.
I wrote everything out in pencil so that there was flexibility. Keep in mind that I was working a full-time job as an educator, had a large side project, and was planning for a baby during the time I was studying. So I had to really plan out when I was going to work on what. Writing it in pencil allowed me to rearrange things as needed without feeling like I messed up by having to look at crossed out items. I always felt in control and on top of things, which boosted my confidence and kept me going.
You don’t need to put off your exams if you’re expecting a baby right now! Qpractice has had quite a few members who passed all three parts while pregnant, and gotten certified.
Now I’ll dig into the details of how I tackled studying for all three exams at one time.
How I Studied: The Details
Interior Design Reference Manual
I organized the Interior Design Reference Manual with tabs according to whether the chapters pertained to information for IDFX, IDPX or PRAC.
Then I broke down which chapters to read together, according to the sequence of modules in Qpractice and added these as tasks to my calendar. I took notes, highlighted text, and made flash cards for important information.
Multiple Choice Practice Tests
After reading each module, I immediately took the Qpractice online multiple choice practice tests. I kept track of the questions I missed, then went back to review those sections. I continued reading and taking practice tests until I finished the book. I also took the practice tests in the Ballast books, which were given to me by a colleague who had taken and passed the exam.
The Qpractice videos are amazing! I love how you can set your own pace and use them when you need to. First, I went through all the videos and made notes about which videos pertained to which parts of the practicum.
Study Group & Office Hours
These tools were an amazing resource. It was so nice to have real live people to talk to about your studying experience and drawing solutions. It was so motivational to hear from others who had passed the exams, and it helped to build confidence when I knew the answer to other people's questions!
Taking (and Passing!) the Exams
Up First, PRAC
I took the Practicum first. Some of the best advice I got was to stay in a hotel the night before, and enjoy an evening of relaxation (easier said than done, right?)
Here's how it worked for me: I reviewed my notes for an hour or so, and spent some time in the study group. I made sure to stop studying early, and left time to decompress and EAT! (I was eight months pregnant, after all). A good night's sleep will do wonders, so make sure you spend a little more money to stay at a place that has comfy beds!
Be sure to either map out or drive to the testing site the night before, so you are confident in the morning about where you are going, where you are parking, etc.
Looking back, if I did it again, I'd also bring my lunch with me. You get an hour break for lunch, but getting in my car and driving around to find food stressed me out a little. During your break, take a walk, get fresh air, and re-hydrate!
I definitely got a lot of attention while taking the exams. I was HUGE! I got extra time to set up for the PRAC and a special seat by the door in case I had to use the bathroom often. They even let me have access to my water without having to leave the room (as long as I stood by the door) which is normally not allowed. If you have any special requests due to health issues, NCIDQ is receptive (just make your requests in advance).
Next Up, IDFX & IDPX
I not only took the IDFX and IDPX in the same season, but I took them on the same DAY! Again, all or nothing! I was a little worried that I would have my baby early, so I registered to take them both on the first day.
Looking back, I'm so glad that I got it done in one day – all of the information was fresh in my mind, and I was looking forward to celebrating when the day was over!
It was a LONG day, but since I was able to take the exams at a testing center 5 minutes from my home, I was able to recharge a bit for a lunch break after the IDFX before diving back in for the IDPX.
My Baby and the Post-Exam Blur
After the exams, I had a good feeling about the PRAC. I had finished everything in time, and could only think of a few minor details that I might have missed. The IDFX and IDPX were a different story! I had NO clue how I did on the exam. I'm not good with standardized testing and there are no opportunities to know how you are doing as you go, so I left feeling unsure.
Soon it was time to welcome our baby into the world. I almost immediately forgot about my studying and test-taking experience. Because of this, I can't remember how long it took to get the results, but I remember getting them earlier than I expected. You can also access your results online.
Hooray! I'm a Certified Designer (and a Mom!)
My daughter was born about a week late, and 2 weeks after I took the IDFX and IDPX exams. Talk about a life-changing spring season!
I was so happy when I found out I passed all three sections! And I mean jumping up and down, screaming at the top of my lungs happy. I feel so proud of myself and I owe a giant “thank you” to my dog and my husband, who supported my long days of studying and practicing all winter. I also want to thank my daughter, who graciously took the exams with me and patiently waited for this whole process to be finished before entering the world.
All in all, working with Lisa and the rest of the Qpractice family was one of the best investments I could have made for my career as an interior designer and educator.
I like to set my own pace and be in control of my schedule. Qpractice allowed me to do this while providing me with the guidance I needed to pass the exams. The content, study groups, and flexibility gave me the confidence and accountability I needed to succeed.
You can also pass the NCIDQ exam (in one try!) as long as you are dedicated, organized, and willing to use all of the resources Qpractice provides.
We are here to help you, and remember, if I can do it, YOU CAN DO IT!