Remember when we said that taking the NCIDQ multiple choice is like running a marathon – you have to train for it? Just like in a race, be aware of your time when taking the exam.
How to Improve Your Odds
Pace yourself – keep an eye on the time.
For the Interior Design Fundamentals Exam – you’ll have three hours to complete the 125 question multiple-choice exam. 100 questions count towards your grade for the IDFX, 25 questions are experimental questions that don’t count towards your score. So with 180 minutes to take 125 questions, that's 1.44 minutes / question.
But you won't know which are which, so give all questions your best shot.
The Interior Design Professional Exam is a four-hour multiple choice exam. You will take 150 scored questions and an extra 25 experimental unscored questions for the IDPX. At 240 minutes for 175 questions, that's 1.37 minutes /question.
So for both tests, you have a little over 1 minute per question. You need to know the content so you can work fast, that's not a lot of time. This is why it's so important to get a feel the exam scenario by taking a practice test first.
For the new computerized Practicum, you'll have only 4 hours for 120 case study questions. This includes your time for reviewing the program, schedules and other resources, so you'll have 2 minutes per question or less.
Keep moving! We recommend you use a different strategy than with IDFX or IDPX. The question review system is slow, and you don't want to run out of time and miss answering any questions. Instead of making multiple passes through the exam, you'll want to give your best answer as you go. The best preparation for this exam is to practice ahead of time.
Work systematically by making three passes through the NCIDQ exam
- Answer easy questions or questions that you’re sure of the correct answer
- Skip questions that you need to spend time thinking about or more time calculating the answer. You'll have to select an answer to move forward, but you can flag or mark these questions and come back to them later.
- If you don’t know the answer – guess strategically.
Follow this strategy
- Answer the easy questions first before tackling the harder questions. One example is when you know or can predict the correct answer while you’re still reading the question – before you even see the choices. This improves confidence, saves time, and prevents stress, which can negatively affect your performance on the rest of the exam.
- Don’t rush – read carefully and be sure you understand what NCIDQ is asking for in each question and answer option.
- Rule out the obvious wrong answer options.
- Select the answer that is “most” correct. Often several answers could be correct, but only one is the “most” or “more” correct than the others. Sometimes, it's simply a more specific answer than another answer that may also be correct, but more general.
- When in doubt, choose the answer that meets public health, safety, and welfare requirements. Focus on the NCIDQ building codes, including accessibility codes and environmental and sustainability guidelines.
- Visualize your study material; you can often use your visual skills to “see” the answer in the book or in your notes.
How to Guess
Remember, even if you have no idea what the answer is, you have about 25% chance of getting the answer right if you just guess.
- Pay attention to key words, phrases, plurals, and tenses to help you understand each question and answer.
- Number agreement – if the question is singular, but one of the answers is plural, it likely can be eliminated
- Verb tense agreement – if the question is present tense, and an answer is in the future or past tense, it can usually be eliminated
- If one answer is significantly longer, it might be the correct response.
- If there are two exact opposites, the correct answer might be one of them
- Relax when going through the second and third passes of the test. Let yourself brainstorm, doodle on a scrap of paper, keep your mind open – if you can relax, the answer may come to you.
What if you're not sure of the answer? Should you change it?
Should you rely on first instincts when answering a multiple choice exam? Should you go with your first answer choice, or come back and spend more time before you make your final choice?
Many people believe that your first instinct, your gut instinct — is the best.
But your first choice is not always better. Your first choice can even be worse than if you spent some time figuring it out. Many psychological experiments have found that your first choices are not always best.
You'll still hear stories where someone made a correct choice, then changed it afterwards and was wrong. We've seen these exact situations retold in the Qpractice study group. Why is this?
Beware of Loss Aversion
(AKA fear of missing out)
Because of a phenomenon known as endowment bias, we are most strongly attached to our first instinct. We tend to remember these examples more readily, and the loss is more painful.
Sometimes your first instinct is correct.
So how do you know when to trust your gut, and when to change your answer?
The key is to know when you don't know.
What? When you really don't know the answer, and you're just guessing — you know it.
This is metacognition (thinking about thinking). How you know when you're guessing vs. when you know that you know.
In an experiment, students had to judge their confidence ratings for each question in a multiple choice exam. They were able to tell reliably whether or not they would get the answer correct.
Keep track of this feeling, and flag questions when you really aren't sure. You can use this awareness in deciding whether you need to change your answer or not.
Another experiment observed whether sticking with original answers was more accurate. As it turns out, both knowing that you don't know and sticking with your first answer are both correct.
How to Track Confidence
If your only choice is “always trust your instincts” or “always change your mind”, you won't be able to make sense of your assessment of each question when you go on to the next one.
But if you rate your confidence on a question by question basis, you can make better choices on each and perform better overall.
Unfortunately, people are notoriously bad at judging their overall performance. At the same time, we are also surprisingly accurate at judging our response to an individual situation.
So the key to knowing when to stick with your first instinct and when to change your mind, is to track your feelings of confidence during the actual moment that you make the decision.
During college exams, both revising and sticking with original answers resulted in more correct than incorrect answers.
Only the self-tracking of confidence levels predicted when each was more appropriate. By using simple metacognition, students identified which questions to revise and which were better left alone.
How Can You Apply This to the NCIDQ Exam?
During the NCIDQ Multiple Choice Exams, you have the ability to flag a question to come back to it later. You'll still have to choose an answer. But the key is to make a note about your confidence on scratch paper, whiteboard, or other resource given at the testing center.
Decide in the moment, how confident you are of your first choice? This could be as simple as rating yourself from 1-3:
1: “I'm pretty close”
3: “I have absolutely no idea.”
Use this when you come back to these questions to help you make an informed decision.
Tracking your feelings is useful for more than test-taking. Memory is notoriously unreliable, and we are subject to fallacies and biases in all kinds of decision making.
Most problems stem our personal beliefs about ourselves and our history. Our beliefs are usually formed long before or after a decision, not “in the moment.” Then after reflection, things often seem much different than they actually were.
Tracking exactly how you feel at first when making a decision can provide valuable information later. It can help you make more informed choices and better prepare you to revise your initial decision when necessary.