When you’re getting ready for the NCIDQ exam, things can get pretty boring. Between juggling work, reading, and all your NCIDQ study sessions — it can feel that all this time and energy you’re investing may not be worth it.
But the difference between people who perform well on the NCIDQ and everyone else comes down to practice. You need to show up every day and do the work. Embrace that repetition and routine are all part of it.
Passing the NCIDQ is not all that matters. It’s the process you'll go through along the way that will help you excel as a professional interior designer, which is why you can’t just memorize it and call it good.
Start by Creating Study Habits that Make Information Stick
To make the most of the time you’re spending preparing for the NCIDQ; you're probably going to need to learn some new study habits.
From a young age, you’re taught to focus on a single subject and study in one location. However, new research shows that you can better remember what you learn by studying related skills or concepts in one session and alternating your location.
While it may be tempting to cram the night before the exam, you'll likely forget the material that you learn in those conditions. Dozens of studies have found that spacing out your study sessions helps improve recall and means you don’t have to relearn the information later.
Think of your NCIDQ study sessions as building blocks. Each session should build on the next one. When you’re planning your study sessions, space them out, so your brain has to work to remember what you learned in the last session. By having to work to retrieve that information, you’ll be reinforcing your learning each time.
If your study sessions are too close together, your brain isn’t working hard enough. You’ll miss out on the benefits of having to remember what you’ve learned in your last session.
Maximize your NCIDQ Study Sessions: stop studying and start learning with a test or quiz
It's not all about studying. At the point where your brain feels full, it's time to test what you've learned.
This is where quizzes and pre-tests can be helpful. By testing your knowledge, you can cement what you know. You can find out what you don't know and determine where you need to increase your effort. This is a great way to motivate yourself to keep studying. Learn how one of our members did just this.
Here are some simple ways to test yourself:
- Explain the material to someone. You’ll see where you may need to study more and know which areas you have mastered.
- Test yourself on the subject matter before you start. Then you'll have a baseline of your knowledge.
- Quiz yourself as you’re studying or at the end of your NCIDQ study session.
This type of recall activity can make a big difference. In a study conducted at the University of Louisville, psychologist Dr. Keith Lyle used his students to show the effectiveness of quizzes. In one class, he asked students to complete a short quiz on the material they’d covered. In his other class, he didn’t do the quizzes. At the end of the semester, the group that did the quizzes outscored those that didn’t on the course’s four midterms.
Be Prepared to Fail
Getting ready for the NCIDQ Exam is no small undertaking, which is why as you’re studying, you should be prepared to fail. However, creating those opportunities to fail now can help you succeed on exam day.
It may send you in a bit of a panic if you fail a quiz or pre-test, but it’s actually a good thing.
Studies show that when students who make an
unsuccessful attempt to retrieve information before receiving an answer, they remember the information better than in a control condition in which they simply study the information.
Getting the answer wrong is an excellent way for you to learn as you’re studying. While you’re studying, build in opportunities for you to fail by taking an NCIDQ practice exam.
Even if you take the practice exam and fail, you’re creating an opportunity for you to succeed on exam day.
A recent study by UCLA psychologist Elizabeth Ligon Bjork found that pretesting raised performance on the final exam by an average of ten percent. I've seen plenty of situations where that can undoubtedly make the difference between passing the NCIDQ Exam or having to retake it.
Those incorrect answers now can help you maximize your NCIDQ study sessions and achieve better results on the final exam. So don’t shy away from taking practice tests at intervals as you prepare for the NCIDQ Exam.
Make this lesson stick.
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I remember hearing from a few designers about how discouraging it was to fail a practice test, even if it had content that they had not reviewed yet. I remember feeling the same after I took my first prep workshop and totally bombed.
(yet, an overwhelming majority of these same designers passed!)
How will you build failure into your exam prep?