NCIDQ talks to a lot of exam candidates who take outside prep classes for the exam. What they always ask us is, “How am I supposed to pass the exam when the questions on the actual exam were not anything like the ones I got in my prep class?” It’s important to understand that NCIDQ develops and administers the actual NCIDQ Exam. Other organizations develop preparatory programs. These are two separate activities by completely unrelated groups—and they do not compare their work. NCIDQ volunteer committee members who develop the NCIDQ Exam are not permitted to be involved in exam prep activities, and, likewise, people who develop and teach prep courses are not involved in the NCIDQ Exam. NCIDQ volunteers must attend a comprehensive training in the science of creating questions so that the questions are all fair and relevant to the practice analysis [PDF download] that is the exam blueprint.
We often hear complaints about the “trick” questions we put on the exam, and like all professional licensing examination programs, it’s absolutely false. First of all, it would violate the testing standards and render our exam invalid or indefensible, and second, the public is not protected by a “trick” question. The public is only protected when an interior designer is able to adequately demonstrate his or her competence. That is the purpose of the NCIDQ Exam. It is 100% health, safety and welfare. No tricks or hidden agendas.
Multiple-choice questions are given a trial run as unscored questions on exams before they are first scored on an exam. Some never make it. After each exam, our testing consultant, ACT, performs a series of statistical studies on the performance of each question as it relates to each candidate. If a question—whether scored or unscored—performs poorly, it is removed from the pool of test questions, and if necessary, it is not scored.
For example, let’s say that a disproportionate number of people miss question 18 on Section 1. We know that is statistically impossible if the question were doing its job. So we throw out that question completely and we do not factor it into the final score. This ensures that we maintain fairness to the candidate and reliability to the public.
Many things and many hours of work go into a question that you see on the examination. If what you see on the exam seems different from what you saw when you were practicing, it is probably due to the differences in how NCIDQ develops exam questions and how others prepare them. If you want to see NCIDQ’s sample multiple-choice questions, you can take a practice test.
The practice test will tell you what the answers are, but it won’t tell you why one answer is right and why is wrong. Want to know why? Tune in to PLiNTH & CHiNTZ next month, and we’ll tell you.
NCIDQ® is an organization of regulatory boards and provincial associations in the United States and Canada whose core purpose is to protect the health, life safety and welfare of the public by establishing standards of competence in the practice of interior design. More information about the organization may be found at ncidq.org.