We've long said that taking the NCIDQ multiple choice is like running a marathon – you have to train for it. So, just like in a race, be aware of your time when taking the exam.
We’ve updated this to include information about the section breaks and the CIDQ break policy. Make sure you download and review the CIDQ Exam Day Rules.
Tips For Taking the NCIDQ Computerized Exams
Pace yourself – keep an eye on the time.
You’ll have three hours to complete the 125-question multiple-choice exam for the Interior Design Fundamentals Exam. One hundred questions count towards your grade for the IDFX; 25 questions are experimental questions that don’t count towards your score. But you won’t know which are which, so give all questions your best shot.
With 180 minutes to take 125 questions, that’s 1.44 minutes/question. You have an optional 10-minute break, but that counts as part of your 180 minutes time. Flag anything you can’t immediately answer that may require calculation, and revisit it before your section break.
The exam is broken into two sections which are how we suggest you pace yourself. Practice this in a trial run at home:
- FIRST SECTION 90 minutes, questions 1-65
- 10-minute break if necessary
- SECOND SECTION remaining 80-90 minutes, remaining 60 questions
The Interior Design Professional Exam is a four-hour multiple-choice exam. You will take 150 scored questions and an additional 25 experimental unscored questions for the IDPX. At 240 minutes for 175 questions, that’s 1.37 minutes /question.
You need to know the content to work fast; that’s not enough time. This is why getting a feel for the exam scenario is crucial by first understanding the content and taking practice tests.
- FIRST SECTION 120 minutes, questions 1-90
- 10-minute break if necessary
- SECOND SECTION remaining 110-120 minutes, remaining 85 questions
Work systematically by making several passes through the NCIDQ Exam
So for both IDFX and IDPX tests, you have a little over 1 minute per question, and you’ll need to practice this to stay on track. Keep moving and flag anything you can’t immediately answer or that may require calculation. Be sure to revisit your flagged questions before your section break. Once you move on to the next batch of questions, you cannot return to the first section.
Strategy For IDFX or IDPX
- Answer the easy questions first before tackling the more challenging questions. One example is when you know or can predict the correct answer while still reading the question – before seeing the choices. This improves confidence, saves time, and prevents stress that can negatively affect your performance on the rest of the exam.
- Read carefully and understand what NCIDQ asks for in each question and answer option.
- Rule out obviously wrong answer options.
- Select the answer that is “most” correct. Often several solutions could seem right, but only one is the “most” or “more” correct than the others. Sometimes, it’s simply a more specific answer than others which are 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 your notes.
You’ll have only 4 hours for 114 case study questions for the Practicum Exam. Nine questions (3 per case study) are not scored. This includes your time reviewing the program, schedules, and other resources, so you’ll have about 2 minutes per question and 80 minutes per case. Similar to section breaks on IDFX and IDPX, you can work on one case at a time, and once you move on to the next one, you cannot return to a previous case.
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 the Practicum Exam is to practice ahead of time. You may wish to allow less time, an hour, for a case study type that you have more experience with. Then plan to spend a bit more on another. For many test-takers, the large commercial case study is the most time-consuming case.
Answer but flag any questions that you’re unsure of and keep moving. Depending on how much time you have left, you can address these before moving on to the next case. You cannot return to a previous case once you move forward to the following case study.
Each question is worth 1 point. This is the same for a question you can answer quickly vs. one you’ll spend 10 minutes on.
Strategy For the Practicum
- Answer easy questions first or questions that you’re sure of the correct answer
- If you can’t immediately answer a question, don’t waste time — select and answer and flag it.
- Flag questions that you need to spend time thinking about or more time calculating the answer. You’ll have to select a solution to move forward, but you can flag or mark these questions and return to them only during the current section or case. Be sure to review the new exam rules.
- If you don’t know the answer – guess strategically.
How to Guess
Remember, even if you have no idea of the answer, you have about a 25% chance of getting the answer right if you guess.
- Pay attention to keywords, 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 your second pass at the test. Let yourself brainstorm, and 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 making 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 the best.
You’ll still hear stories where someone made a correct choice, changed it afterward, and was wrong. We’ve listened to these exact situations 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. As a result, 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? You know it when you don’t know the answer, and you’re just guessing.
This scenario is metacognition (thinking about thinking). How you know when you’re guessing vs. when you know that you know.
Students had to judge their confidence ratings for each question in a multiple-choice exam in an experiment. Thus, they could tell whether or not they would get the answer correct.
Keep track of this feeling and flag questions when you aren’t sure. Then, you can use this awareness to decide 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. But, 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 you decide.
Revising and sticking with original answers during college exams resulted in more correct than incorrect answers.
Only the self-tracking of confidence levels predicted when each was more appropriate. 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 can flag a question to come back to it later. Of course, you’ll still have to choose an answer. But the key is to make a mental note about your confidence in the scratchpad or other resources at the testing center.
Decide at the moment how confident you are in your first choice. This could be as simple as rating yourself from 1 to 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 helpful for more than test-taking. But unfortunately, memory is notoriously unreliable, and we are subject to fallacies and biases in decision-making.
Most problems stem from our personal beliefs about ourselves and our history. Our thoughts are usually formed long before or after a decision, not “in the moment.” Then after reflection, things often seem much different than they 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.