The NCIDQ Practicum Exam is widely considered one of the most difficult parts of the NCIDQ Exam, consisting of a full day long exam, divided into two timed sessions.
The Best NCIDQ Exam Tips for the Practicum
Get to know the practicum design problems. All seven drawing problems in the NCIDQ Practicum Exam are independent of each other, not part of the same design problem, and each are graded separately.
We've listed the recommended order in which to complete these drawings on exam day, based upon ease of completion and score weight. You'll find more information in our articles for each drawing, and you should adjust this based upon your strengths and weaknesses discovered during practice.
Part A – AM
- Lighting Design: 11%
- Space Planning: 23%
Parts B & C – PM
- Restroom Design: 9%
- Egress: 18%
- Life Safety: 18%
- Systems Integration: 12%
- Millwork Design: 9%
Practicum Space Planning Tips
Prepare for the NCIDQ practicum by mastering one design problem at a time. We recommend using a combination of practice problems for both residential and commercial design problems.
You can use drawings from training workshops given by your local professional organization – ASID or IIDA, published practice exams, but you should always include at least one set from previous NCIDQ Exams. Get used to drawing on the vellum sheets – mistakes do not erase easily.
Try several practice design problems without timing yourself.
Once you figure out the solution to one drawing, draw it again – timed, several times – until you can draw the passing solution quickly.
Next, try drawing different versions of the same problem within the recommended times, until you are very comfortable with a variety of scenarios of the same problem. Repetition builds skill. Do this over and over to help increase your speed, so you can move quickly and confidently through each drawing on test day.
Practice drawing standard spaces, like accessible restrooms and accessible lavatory sections and elevations.
Practice calculating spatial requirements using 1/4″ scale graph paper, so you can figure dimensions quickly without picking up your scale each time.
Use the method that works best for you –
- A quick bubble diagram of the functional areas on trace paper before you transfer to the final vellum drawing sheet
- Block out a rough draft of your layout with sticky notes. Peel away as you draw in the final space.
Space Planning Method Using Sticky Notes
Many designers used to working in AutoCAD may prefer this method – you can move the sticky notes around like blocks in a CAD drawing. This is similar to creating a block plan or blocking diagram.Use a variety of sizes and/or layer the notes one on top of the other to block out critical spaces like corridors and restrooms. Label the notes with the name of the space and the required square footage.
First, locate critical spaces according to the program requirements – note plumbing trenches and adjacencies required in the program. Sticky notes make it easy to quickly move these spaces around until the solution “fits”. Plan out the other requirements around these areas.
If you get comfortable using this method, it can save a lot of time on exam day – you plan your layout and leave the sticky notes on as you draw around them – no need to plan on trace and then redraw on the vellum exam sheets.
Always Use Latest Version of the NCIDQ Building Codes
Even if you are using a set of PDP from NCIDQ that includes a previous version of the codes, always practice with the latest version.
Throw out the codes that come with any practice problems, and use the most current versions from the website.
Review the building codes provided specifically for the exam.
Memorize them, so you just need to quickly review them during the exam. These may vary from the state or local codes you normally use. If you have to look up everything during the test, you might not have the time to complete your drawings.
Just remember, an incomplete drawing is almost always a failing drawing. Finish the drawing, and even if you do not meet all of the criteria, you can still pass.
Get Your Drawing Tools and Templates in Order
Set up a practice area in your home in the same amount of space you'll be provided to take the exam – 30″ x 48″. Make sure that all your supplies fit neatly within that space. Whittle your tools and templates down to the essentials – the less stuff you have to fumble through to find what you need, the faster you'll work.
Practice setting up your grid on your drawing board or illustration board and so you can line up your drawings as quickly as possible. If you're using a drafting board, see how quickly you can line up your grid using a T-square vs. the parallel bar.
We prefer using a drawing board with a T-square (borrow one from a friend who has already passed the exam), but you can do just fine with a flat illustration board with a square edge. Drafting dots often stay in place easier than drafting tape, but either will work.
Practice with the same tools you will use on exam day
Use as few templates as possible to do the job – basic furniture and shapes in standard sizes. Mark frequently used items with a small dot using a Sharpie so you can find them fast. For example, use a 60″ diameter circle for a wheelchair turning radius.
We partner with ASID to offer the Washington State ASID templates because so many of our members have used, recommend, had terrific results with these. Flipping through 5 or 6 templates to find the one item you need will slow you down.
While you go through the practice exams, if you don't use it – take it out of your kit.
Use dual purpose products – triangles with built-in furniture templates or scales on the edge of a template.
Even though you've been trained not to do this – go ahead and use your architect's scale as a straight edge during the exam.
Save time putting one tool down and picking another up.
Pay attention to how you work during practice, and look for ways you can save a few steps – over time, it adds up.
Do you have any special tips, or any questions about the prep and supplies you need? Join the discussion in the study group here.