I don’t know about you, but lighting design is not one of my strengths. So when it was time for me to prepare for and practice the lighting problem for the PRAC, I was a little nervous and overwhelmed! But with patience and perseverance, I was able to bust out a passing solution the day of my exam in 30 minutes!
Read on for my practicum tips for the lighting exercise.
Practicum Tips: Lighting Exercise Basics
The lighting design exercise is worth 11% and should take you under an hour to complete. One of the biggest challenges about this exercise is that you have to complete it in Part A of the exam, immediately after the space planning exercise.
You have a total of 4 hours to complete both the space planning and lighting problems, so it is important to note that part of your success in completing the lighting problem is being good enough to get the space planning problem completed in as close to 3 hours as possible. If you take too long space planning, you simply won’t have enough time to dedicate to the lighting problem.
You MUST pass the space planning to pass the exam, but you can fail the lighting problem and still pass the exam. But let’s not think like that…let’s pass ALL of the exercises!
My Experience on Exam Day
Okay, so I took about 3 and a half hours to complete my space planning exercise the day of the exam. I knew how important the space planning problem was to get right, so I took a little extra time to check my work…and I’m glad I did!
I was a little panicked about getting the lighting done in only 30 minutes, but the good thing for me was there was absolutely no time to second guess my work. I just put my head down, stayed calm, and quickly worked through the problem.
That’s where my hours of preparation came in handy. I was confident in my process and knew exactly what I needed to do before I even read the design description & required solution. I not only passed both the space planning and lighting design exercises, but was able to enjoy my lunch break on testing day, knowing that I had rocked it!
Here’s how I did it with Qpractice:
Preparation & Practice
Get familiar with your strengths and weaknesses, be honest about how you process information and take your time working through the material. If you try to rush, you will get overwhelmed and freak out. I definitely freaked out few times too…It’s all part of the experience, I guess.
Just take a deep breath, know that you are awesome and capable, and follow these steps:
Step 1: Understand where your strengths & weaknesses are
Get as many practice tests as you can! I wanted to get a sense of my abilities before I began studying by trying a practice exercise, but I didn’t want to “waste” one of the practice test sets that I purchased from NCIDQ. I was saving those for after I studied and completed office hours, etc.
So I used trace paper and tried my very first lighting exercise. I gave it my best introductory shot, and WOW! I was horrible the first time around. Pretty much failed with flying colors.
Step 2: Understand the foundations
I did this by reading through the appropriate chapters in the new Ballast book (Interior Design Reference Manual).
And I mean READ. Don’t skim, watch TV while you flip through the pages, or only look at the pictures. You have to READ, take notes, digest, reflect, and understand how to APPLY.
I took notes, made flash cards, and learned all of the vocabulary terms relating to lighting. Keep in mind, that this information is also going to help you pass the IDFX and IDPX. The book is helpful as a tool for laying a foundation of knowledge. I found that the Qpractice content areas and office hours were more helpful in preparing me in how to actually approach provide a successful solution.
Step 3: Complete all of the Qpractice modules
This is where you combine your experience and the foundational information to pass the lighting exercise. Here you will learn HOW to approach the problem and fully understand what the exercises are asking you to show the graders.
Pay attention to tips about what fixtures are dimmable, low voltage, etc. Take the Qpractice building code quizzes to help you memorize these so you can recall them quickly and easily.
Step 4: Review the practicum drawings in office hours, and coordinate with your own practice sets.
Complete a practice drawing and submit it for the office hours discussion that week! Following along to see how other members solved the design problem was an invaluable tool. Take notes as you go, and re-watch the video later if you need to.
The key is to UNDERSTAND how to apply all the information you’ve learned to any drawing. Learn the “why” behind the correct way so that you can achieve a passing solution in the time allotted.
Later, sometime before you sit for the exam, be sure to complete the drawing again. Practice what you learned with a different solution in hopefully less time. Keep track of this in you practicum progress tracker, so you can see how far you’ve come!
Step 5: Practice, practice, practice!
And then practice some more. The more times you complete a lighting exercise, the more comfortable you will be drawing the solution in under an hour.
Don’t forget to practice a lighting exercise immediately after (or before a space planning exercise). Some people like to get lighting out of the way first, so if you’re doing that, practice in that order. Qpractice has several full day practice exams planned so you can keep yourself on track.
Do this with a drawing that you don’t have the solution for, so that you can get a sense of what it’s going to be like the day of the exam.
It’s about a step-by-step approach
So, like I mentioned above, having a knowledge of lighting (even being an expert lighting designer) is not enough for you to pass the lighting exercise of the NCIDQ exam.
You have to understand HOW to approach the problem so that you can create a passing solution in the amount of time allotted to you. This is the key to your success!
Here’s a summary of the time-saving approach that I learned and what worked for me:
- Read carefully through the project description & requirements and highlight anything important
- Start with the light fixtures that you are confident about and are the easiest for you to place first
- Do a quick tally of your wattage (total watts divided by square footage) to see how close you are to the required energy allowance
- Go through and add your general, ambient lighting
- Calculate the energy allowance again, and adjust fixtures as needed to get watts/sq. ft. required.
- Be sure that you have written the fixture tag next to the symbol on the plan and that you have noted the height AFF for all pendants and sconces
- Don’t forget to add dimensions for the light fixtures that called out in the instructions
- Complete the switching solution
Remember, you’ll be tired when you get to the lighting exercise! Be sure to keep at least 45 minutes to complete it, but keep in mind that I busted it out in 30 minutes the day of the exam.
I did this successfully because I learned about types of lighting fixtures required in this problem. Because I understood the exercise, I knew how to approach the design solution efficiently and accurately. My combination of preparation and Qpractice techniques, along with a calm and confident approach was my key to success.
You can do it too!
Just take one step at a time, use common sense and make sure you complete the exercise.
This is a guest post by Qpractice graduate, Sarah Campernel