(How to pass the NCIDQ Exam without hours of reading)
When I heard about Ginna's situation, I knew I wanted to interview her and have her share what helped her pass the NCIDQ Exam.
Ginna spent years in sales before coming back into interior design, and had started a new job, so she needed to come up to speed fast without wasting any time — plus, she's a busy mom.
Here's the transcript:
Lisa: Hello. This is Lisa League. I'm the founder of Qpractice and I am here with Ginna Dombroskas, who was one of our members this past fall, 2017 and took and passed the NCIDQ exam, all three sections, first time. Tell me about you, your job, and what was your situation before you signed up for Qpractice? What led you to take the exam and what led you to sign up with us to help you?
Ginna: Yeah, so my situation before Qpractice was I was in sales for 6 years and ready to go back into design, which I had practiced for nearly 15, 18 years and I always managed to find a job that didn't require having your NCIDQ, whether it was hospitality, healthcare, furniture dealership. But ready to make a change, and the change I wanted to make required an NCIDQ Certification to work on a government contract.
Go all out
Ginna: So I'm a mother of two boys, I commute an hour each way, morning and afternoon. Active boys, I should say, and I don't have a lot of free time to waste. So my situation before signing up for Qpractice is I wasn't in the design field but quickly made a change and talked to some designers who had recently passed or were in the middle of taking certain sections, and they recommended Qpractice, so I signed up and went ahead and signed up for all three tests right before I signed up for Qpractice. So, yeah.
Lisa: So you just jumped right in.
Ginna: I did. Both the people, the friends of mine who had taken it, were taking one exam at a time, you know, and they were newly out of school. I had been out of school since a long time, so I hadn't studied in a while and I hadn't test-taken in a while.
Lisa: So did you have any hesitations before you signed up or before about taking the exam?
Ginna: Hesitations all the way around. I had avoided taking the exam as much as I could and in order to get back into design, I had to have that certification. So my hesitation was you're out a lot of money to take the test, sign up, you know, to go get your transcripts, to get approved, to get all your paperwork. And then Qpractice, I was out another $900, so you know, that was my hesitation was the amount of money up front. But honestly, had it not have been something that affected my bank account, I probably wouldn't have put forth the effort that I did.
Lisa: Yeah, that's another thing I've thought about. Sometimes people feel like they will do more work when they have a little bit more skin in the game, so yeah, that is interesting.
Ginna: And I knew my work would reimburse me if I passed, so I didn't know how many times it would take me, but I went with “I gotta get this done.” I had 90 days and I did it.
Attend workshops and take practice tests
Lisa: Okay, so aside from passing the exam, which we know, that's why we're talking to you today, any particular results did you get from the course? Or is there a specific exam that you feel like we helped you with the most?
Ginna: Definitely the Practicum, the 2.0. I didn't know what to expect. I don't think Qpractice…many people did not know what to expect, but the sample exams, you guys did something with CIDQ, you did something for anybody, even if you weren't a member of Qpractice, you could take little sample exams to understand the format. So through that, I learned how important it was to place your cursor right where you needed, and little…the way the questions would be phrased on the actual exam. That's what it really helped me with.
Lisa: What about our case study Practice tests or Practice tests for FX and PX?
Ginna: Oh, yeah. All those were good, and then I went into the vault and looked back at old, you know, old videos, old office hours, just trying to absorb as much information as I could. I learn best by examples and by quizzes and hands-on. I don't learn well from reading. In fact, the book that came with the VIP experience, I didn't read it. I highlighted some things and I went back to use it to reference, but I learned specifically from the quizzes, from the VIP, there's like a group chat that I was constantly monitoring and reading everybody's posts and digging in deep to see what they had posted. And people would share study guides and questions and, you know, flashcards that they had been using, so it's a wealth of information that just took a little while to get used to, to just use everything on your iPad, your computer, your phone, that helped so I could study anywhere.
Lisa: That's good, that's good. I'm glad to hear that because we wanna make it very convenient for people. We know that people are busy and you, of course, definitely, because you said you had active boys. I don't know that they have any other kind, you know, it's just like they take a lot of energy.
So I'm glad to hear that that worked for you. Any other specific features that, like, really helped you out a lot?
Easily study for more than one exam at a time
Ginna: Some things that, you know, I mentioned the online group chats that, you know, you could dig into specific to the IDFX, IDPX, or the Practicum. Where I was taking all three, I pretty much just followed the ones that were for Practicum.
Everything overlapped so much. If anyone's hesitating taking all three at once, I would say go for it because nine days of studying is what I did, and I went, got in, got out, passed the test, and I wouldn't have been able to do it had the outline not been so detailed. There was not a time along the way where I doubted if I'm learning at all, because a little bit…what you're learning for Practicum, you're learning for IDPX, and what you're learning for IDPX sometimes falls over to IDFX. So you're maximizing your time by taking all three in one sitting, in my opinion.
Lisa: Yeah, you just hit on something that we made a major change in our program where we took three separate courses, we combined them all for that particular reason, because when I was putting together the course for Prac 2.0, I'm like, “Well, this is for FX and this is for PX, and…” You know? So we had this really good program, really strong program for Prac 2.0, and “No, everybody needs this.” And so that's why I lumped it all together.
Attend Office Hours
Ginna: Yeah, the Saturday office hours that you did, those had to go on my schedule. I had to put those on my calendar, I had to make time for those, you know, I think they were maybe two hours, hour and a half on a Saturday. You were a teacher and you were there, and you could chat and ask questions, and…very helpful.
Lisa: Yeah, we tried to have fun, too, with those. You know, a Saturday, so you might as well enjoy it the most that you can while you're learning. So you brought up something else that I wanted to talk about. You talked about the overlap, but you talked about learning by doing, by taking the quizzes, by chatting in the group, by actually, you know, kind of like a hands-on learning and not just, like, reading a book. And that is where I want to really continue to grow Qpractice, and I think it really applies to people who are in a situation like right now, we're getting into the last two months before the exam.
There's not a lot of time to be digging in and reading and starting now with all of that where it's really like I've set up our lessons to be something you can do in a half hour or less and take your quizzes and then some longer quizzes or half-length practice tests or full-length practice tests. And then do what you did, go back to your book, because I have it all broken out, go back when you need to do the research, when you need to find out a little bit more about why you missed something or where your gaps are. So it doesn't have to be a lot of time-consuming reading and reading.
Lisa: I know a lot of people come in and they go, “Well, I've read the whole book, I've taken the exam, and then I didn't pass.” You know? Because I feel like sometimes if you just look at it that way or you just approach it from that perspective, it goes in and most of it goes right out, whereas if you actually take a quiz and talk about it, ask questions, like, you know, you were saying, that it makes it stick.
Ginna: Yeah, I had some friends hand me their old flashcards from previous exams, you know, that they'd taken five years ago or so. I used that some just like whn I was in a car ride and just could not access the internet. I also downloaded some things from, I think, somebody in the group chat mentioned something about Quizlet and Chegg, some other sites that if you type in NCIDQ you'll get some questions. You know, that was good, more information.
But I bookmarked the Qpractice (study group). I went to it in the morning, I went to it. It replaced my Facebook and my Candy Crush addictions, so I went morning noon and night and checked that and that was my new instant message. I went there at lunch during work, and I had just started a new job, so I was learning a new job, I was trying to study for the exam and balance work-life. I had friends getting married, I had, you know, vacations planned, a lot of balancing. In the end, I'd say all of my studying ended up being on Saturdays and Sundays with an hour at most through the week each day.
Use the Qpractice Study Group
Lisa: Well, but you said you did stuff in the morning, you checked in the group in the morning…
Ginna: I did.
Lisa: And you'd do stuff at lunch and the evening and it replaced the time that people spend on Facebook that just goes and you have no, you know, it just disappears. So I've actually…
Ginna: Yeah, somebody had mentioned, and that was another tip that I got from one of the online group chats is they said, “I'm moving Facebook and all that stuff off my phone.” I was like, uh, I'll do it, okay. Somebody else mentioned using paper plates and paper cups and, you know, ordering dinner out and not…I thought that was kinda funny but I thought, “Okay, I'll try it.” It really did free up an extra hour a week to study. You know. So anything you can do.
Lisa: Yeah, and did your boys chip in and help with anything around the house, or?
Ginna: They knew their momma had a big test and if she didn't pass it, you know, her job was gonna be questioned. So they knew why there was sometimes I couldn't show up for their ball games because it fell right during an office hour and, you know, I'd be there for part of it, I'd come home. A lot of sacrifices you have to make if you're gonna do it quickly, but in the end, it all paid off. And having support of friends as well as a husband and kid that knew, okay, you can't go out at happy hour and I understand why you can't go away with this friend for the weekend. You know, that helped.
Lisa: Oh that's good. That's great. I'm glad you had the support, and then for people who don't necessarily have that, we have it all in the group. We're all in there to help each other, and so there's somebody around all the time and, you know, they're only as far as your phone, so that really, I think, helps a lot, pulls us all together as a community. So anything else that you would like to add or share, tips, anything that you would recommend to someone who is taking the exam now or to somebody who hasn't started their application process yet?
Ginna: I would say jump all in. Go for all three exams at the same time. If you're contemplating it now because your current place is gonna require it or you want a better job, you want more options, go on in. Sign up to take for the fall exam with NCIDQ and then wait to get on board with Qpractice. Take the sample quizzes.
Something else that helped me that I didn't realize until the last two weeks of studying was getting out of the house, getting out of the office. I went to our local library and, you know, hooked up to their internet and just took quiz after quiz after quiz after quiz. And it wasn't so much about getting the answers right as it was learning why I got them wrong and how to apply them.
Observe/ask questions at work
Ginna: And I work in an office of engineers. There's only 2 interior designers, 10 architects, and about 40 engineers, so I was able to one-on-one talk to them, the electrical engineer, the plumbing engineer, the mechanical, and just have them dumb down their day-to-day, and that helped. Because it's a lot of information to learn, but without Qpractice, I wouldn't have my NCIDQ right now and I would not be able to do the job that I am currently employed in.
Lisa: Wow. So that's another thing that you just brought up was talking with the people that you work with, different consultants, people in different jobs, and one thing that we did add this year is a work-experience quiz at the beginning. Have you done this, have you taken this. And then based upon your score, like if you're lacking in a certain area like you haven't done a lot of contract documents or you haven't done contract administration, that's what we recommend is go to your boss or whoever you work with and get together with them so that you can participate in a project where you're doing those tasks, or ask questions about that. Whatever you haven't done on the job, at least you can observe or connect what you're doing on the job with what you're learning. I think that really helps people a lot, so that is interesting that you brought that up.
Ginna: Yeah. Yeah, I had a wealth of information there at the office, so they were able to give me good examples. And I got that idea from one of the group chats, so, you know, that's where I got all that as well.
Lisa: Okay, so, well, congratulations.
Ginna: Thank you.
Lisa: Yeah. And now you have all your free time.
Ginna: I do. It's, I think I should join, probably, Beach Body or one of those things now and buff up. But yeah, now I have free time.
Lisa: Great, great. Well, thank you so much for sharing your experience with us and sharing your tips and tricks. And I'm glad that you now get to keep your job, you get to go on and use what you've learned and really make the most of it.
Lisa: All right, thank you.
Ginna: Thanks, Lisa.