NCIDQ Exam Study Guide
Clearly see the big picture overview of all you need to know to apply, register, and take the NCIDQ Exam.
About the NCIDQ Exam
Our one stop guide is newly updated for Spring 2020. Learn everything you need to know to apply, register, and take or write the NCIDQ Exam, including most frequently asked questions about getting started with the exam process.
Looking for NCIDQ Exam study books? Find those including our Qpractice NCIDQ Exam Study Guide in our shop.
Everything You Need to Know About the NCIDQ Exam
The NCIDQ Exam is focused on protecting the public health safety and welfare. Interior designers do more than select furniture, finishes, and paint colors. Competent interior designers include function, accessibility, life safety and building codes into their design solutions.
Interior designers create spaces for hospitals, businesses, restaurants, hotels, gyms and schools. They design environments anywhere that people work, live, play and learn.
The NCIDQ Exam is updated approximately every 5 years based upon research by the Council for Interior Design Qualification, called the CIDQ Practice Analysis.
A new Practice Analysis report from CIDQ is due in October 2019, and will go into effect for the fall exams in October 2020. The results determine the most important skills and capabilities for a competent interior designer, as relevant to current industry job responsibilities and practice.
The current NCIDQ IDFX and IDPX Exams were last updated in Spring 2016, according to the 2014 CIDQ Practice Analysis. The computerized version of the NCIDQ Practicum Exam (PRAC 2.0) was administered for the first time in the fall of 2017.
These are the three sections of the NCIDQ Exam*
- Interior Design Fundamentals Exam (IDFX)
- Interior Design Professional Exam (IDPX)
- Practicum (PRAC)
*Prior to 2013, the different sections of the NCIDQ Exam were called different names, for example Sections 1, 2, & 3.
Exam candidates must pass all three sections of the exam in order to complete the NCIDQ Examination and become NCIDQ Certified. Candidates must also pass all three sections of the exam within 10 exam administrations or approximately 5 years.
This window of time to pass the exam begins when the candidate is approved to register for all three sections of the exam.
Want a cheat sheet of everything you need to study for?
NCIDQ Exam Statistics
More designers are taking the NCIDQ Exam because they recognize the impact on their career. Recognition of the value of the NCIDQ Certification and interest in the NCIDQ Exam itself has been trending upwards.
Number of Exam Registrations
This continued and expanding recognition of NCIDQ Certification as the standard for professionalism and competency is exciting to see, and makes earning your certification even more important.
NCIDQ Exam Pass Rates by Exam Section
People are always interested in understanding how individuals perform on the various sections. Here are the passing rates for 2018, which vary by less than 2% per exam section from 2017.
We’ll share the 2019 passing rates soon after final scores are released in December 2019.
Why should I take the NCIDQ Exam?
Not everyone working in interior design needs to take the NCIDQ Exam, and not everyone who wants to take the NCIDQ Exam is eligible to take it. But by passing the NCIDQ Exam, an interior designer can prove they have the minimum level of professional skills to protect public health, safety and welfare.
The exam isn’t easy but with some focused and dedicated preparation, it is attainable.
Get an edge on your competition by having the NCIDQ Certificate, so you can work on top tier projects and earn more money — you deserve it.
NCIDQ Certification is a significant achievement. It represents your inclusion with a group of more than 30,000 certificate holders. It’s a pretty exclusive group with less than 1,000 very committed and dedicated people achieving this credential each year.
Where do I learn about regulations in my state or province?
It's important to check with your local jurisdiction regarding their requirements before beginning your application process. See the resources listed below in our licensing and regulation section.
Interior Designer Salaries
Even in times of high employment, in today's competitive economy, there aren’t enough qualified designers for the types of projects that require them.
The most recent report from the U.S. Census Bureau showed that professionals who get certification (apart from their college and university-awarded degrees) can earn 21.38% more than their counterpart with only an educational certificate.
They also do better by 33.9% than those without any educational certificate.
The NCIDQ Certificate can help you earn more
- Degree + certificate
- Degree + certificate
How can I apply to take the NCIDQ Exam?
How do I submit my application?
First, start the required application process by creating a MyNCIDQ account online. Collect your supporting documents. Make sure you have prepared all the required transcripts, required documentation, and work experience verification forms, and are prepared to pay the application fee.
All applications, including payments, are submitted online only through your MyNCIDQ Account.
Here’s what you need for each application, depending upon which exam section you are applying for.
You must pass all 3 sections of the exam — IDFX, IDPX, and PRAC — within a specified time period to earn your certificate. Learn more about the exam sections and questions later in this article.
Interior design graduates without work experience can apply during their final semester of school to take IDFX after graduation.
- Send official, sealed copies of your educational transcript(s), as issued by the school. Transcripts should be mailed along with CIDQ’s Transcript Submission Form to ensure the correct transcript is uploaded to the correct account.
- Pay $95 Application Fee
- Submit Application
IDPX + Practicum Exams
Follow these directions only if you previously submitted the IDFX Exam Only application.
- If your previously submitted transcript does not show your degree, you will need to mail in an official sealed copy of educational transcript(s), as issued by the school, which shows the degree awarded. Transcripts should be mailed along with CIDQ’s Transcript Submission Form to ensure the correct transcript is uploaded to the correct account.
- Upload your completed work experience as documented on the appropriate Work Verification Form. CIDQ does not accept other verification items, including but not limited to, pay stubs, timesheets, offer letters, or reference letters. A separate form must be completed for each employer you are claiming work hours for.
- Pay $145 Application Fee
- Submit Application
All 3 NCIDQ Exam Sections
- Mail in official, sealed copy of educational transcript(s), as issued by the school. Transcripts should be mailed along with CIDQ’s Transcript Submission Form to ensure the correct transcript is uploaded to the correct account.
- Upload work experience as documented on CIDQ’s Work Form. CIDQ does not accept other verification items, including but not limited to, pay stubs, timesheets, offer letters, or reference letters. A separate form must be completed for each employer you are claiming work hours for.
- Pay $225 Application Fee.
- Submit Application.
How do I document interior design work experience hours?
Work experience hours must be documented on CIDQ’s Work Verification Form. CIDQ does not accept other verification items, including but not limited to, pay stubs, timesheets, offer letters, or reference letters. A separate form must be completed for each employer you are claiming work hours for.
Can my interior design internship count towards my work experience hours?
Yes. Up to 6 semester or 9 quarter credits earned as an internship as part of your education may be counted towards the overall interior design work experience requirements.
Can my school send my transcript directly to CIDQ?
Yes, but it’s better for you to send it in directly with the official Transcript Submission Form, so that you can make sure it’s correctly associated with your account, and request a delivery confirmation when mailing.
What does the NCIDQ Exam cost?
As of October 2019 these are the fees in USD:
- Application $225 (for all 3 exams)
- IDFX $295
- IDPX $350
- PRAC $455
When applying for IDFX first:
- Application $95 (IDFX)
- IDFX $295
- Application $145 (IDPX, PRAC)
- IDPX $350
- PRAC $455
What’s the difference between the Application Fee and the Registration Fee ?
The Application Fee is paid to submit your application to CIDQ for review. It is generally a one-time fee as applications are valid for several exam administrations.
The Exam Fee (registration fee) is a separate fee paid each time you take or write the exam. It can be thought of as an exam appointment fee – this fee must be paid in order to book an exam appointment for the upcoming exam administration.
Don’t pay the exam fee unless you intend to take that specific exam during the upcoming exam administration. Exam fees are only valid for the exam administration they are purchased for and do not carry forward. Cancellation fees apply per each exam.
Is there a fee to reschedule my exam?
Depending on how far in advance of your exam appointment you process the rescheduling, you may incur a fee. You may only reschedule your exam for another date/time/location within the same exam administration, based on availability at Prometric.
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.
How can I afford to pay for the exam?
Don’t make the mistake of looking at the exams as an expense, but consider it an investment in your future earning potential.
You may also be eligible to receive funds from ASID, IIDA, IDC, IDEC, or others to pay for your NCIDQ Examination fees. Many employers also reimburse exam fees or help pay for study materials, so be sure to save all payment receipts. You can download a copy of your Qpractice invoice for all orders in your account.
Contact your local professional organization to find out what financial assistance they may offer.
ASID – First Year of Professional Membership is free upon earning NCIDQ Certification — $495 value
IIDA – NCIDQ Tuition Reimbursement Fund – Up to $1100 reimbursed
IDC – Wayne Thomson Bursary and other scholarships may be available.
When can I take the NCIDQ Exam?
In the US and Canada, NCIDQ gives the test twice each year – during the months of April and October at Prometric Testing Centers. The exam is now also available outside of the US and Canada once per year in the fall. Appointments may be scheduled at Prometric test centers based on availability.
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 visit our NCIDQ Study Schedule for study plan dates and deadlines, and add these to your personal calendar.
These dates are provided for your convenience and reference with our study schedule. Always confirm your eligibility and the exact dates and locations within your MyNCIDQ account.
Can I see the dates/times/locations before I schedule?
Yes. Visit Prometric’s website and click on the Locate a Test Center button. Availability at a specific locations is subject to change as appointments are booked. The early you register, the more choice of availability you have, so schedule early!
Do I have to pay the exam fee by a certain date to take the exam?
Yes. There are two separate exam payment and scheduling periods each year. The spring (April) exam payment and scheduling period is January 3 – March 31.
The fall (October) exam payment and scheduling period is July 1 – September 30.
You must purchase the exam(s) you wish to take in the upcoming exam administration during this time. Once purchased, you may schedule your exam(s) with Prometric. Don’t purchase or pay any exam fees until you are ready and committed to take the exam during the upcoming administration.
How long do I have to pass the exams?
The same exam timeline is given to all candidates and is based on the type of application submitted. Your exam timeline will start with the first exam administration following application approval.
It does not matter which location you you take your exam in, and you do not have to take all 3 exams in the same location. The NCIDQ Exam is based on US and Canadian codes, and is not specific to any jurisdiction.
- IDFX Exam Only – 4 exam administrations
- IDPX + Practicum Exams (if you previously submitted the IDFX Exam Only application) – 10 exam administrations
- All 3 Exams – 10 exam administrations
If you fail an exam, you may retake that specific exam the following exam season. You may only take each exam once per exam administration.
What happens if I cancel my exam or don't show up?
You will lose 1 chance (administration) out of your timeline. If you cancel, cancellation fees may apply depending upon how much notice you give.
If you don't show up, or if you pay the exam fee but don't schedule, you lose that chance and forfeit the entire exam fee.
What types of questions are on the NCIDQ Exams?
Both the IDFX and IDPX Exams contain only multiple choice questions.
The Practicum Exam has three different question types: fill in the blank, hot spot, and drag and place.
Watch a demonstration video showing the Practicum Exam format, which shows the exam layout and different question types. The Practicum Exam consists of 3 case studies: small commercial, large commercial, and residential.
If you want to learn more about exam content and questions, read on below, take a look at our NCIDQ study blog, or join Qpractice and get access to all our practice tests, resources, and study group. All available to you 24-7!
Have a question we didn’t cover? Send it over!
The Interior Design Fundamentals Exam
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 CIDQ’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 Interior Design Fundamentals Exam and add an achievement to your resume. Show that you're the type of job candidate that employers are looking for.
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 you'll use on the job.
Here are some examples of the types of topics covered per content area on the Interior Design Fundamentals Exam, and some recommended study resources:
Want a cheat sheet of everything you need to study for IDFX?
The Interior Design Professional Exam
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
- Professional Practice
- Project Coordination
You will take 150 scored questions and an extra 25 experimental unscored questions. Here is an example of some of the topics covered in the IDPX Content Areas:
- P1 Project Coordination 10%
- P2 Codes and Standards 18%
- P3 Building Systems and Integration 16%
- P4 Product and Material Coordination 14%
- P5 Contract Documents 16%
- P6 Contract Administration 18%
- P7 Professional and Business Practice 8%
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.
Want a cheat sheet of everything you need to study for IDPX?
NCIDQ administered the first computer based Practicum, (PRAC 2.0) in fall 2017. The exam covers the same competencies as the previous hand drawn exam, but is organized differently and uses several new question types.
The PRAC Exam content is organized into 3 case studies or collections of plans, programs, codes, and specs or schedules to solve a design problem. Each case study has 40 questions for a total of 120 scored questions.
Case studies represent the most common project types that interior designers deal with, including residential, small and large commercial spaces.
The Practicum tests the designer's application of knowledge in the following areas:
Learn what you need to study for the Practicum:
Interior Design Licensing and legislation
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:
- American Society of Interior Designers
- International Interior Design Association
- Interior Designers of Canada
- Your State Board of Architecture and Interior Design
- Your State Department of Business and Professional Regulation
Read our guide with sample application processes so you can learn what to do next.