Interior design as a career choice has really taken off with exposure from HGTV and the new online media explosion where anyone with an internet connection and a following can build a lucrative audience. We’ve gone from watching “designers to the stars” to a new reality where designers are the stars. So, how do you establish your credibility and professionalism without a TV show, a hosting gig, a book deal, or a public relations team? You get credentials.
The Goal: Getting Your Credentials
If you’re committed to building a career as a professional interior designer, you’re likely aware of and already a member of ASID [American Society of Interior Designers] or IIDA [International Interior Design Association] and know about the NCIDQ Exam. Passing the NCIDQ Exam is a necessary first step in becoming a Professional member of either organization, and in many states a pre-requisite for even calling yourself an Interior Designer.
Successfully passing the NCIDQ Exam takes a lot of work, and for many – multiple tries before they pass, as evident in the pass rates for first-time takers of the spring 2012 NCIDQ Examination:
• Section 1: 80 percent
• Section 2: 77 percent
• Section 3: 48 percent
My Experience: What Motivated Me To Look For A Better Way To Study
When I first registered for the NCIDQ Exam, I knew I was going to have to put in some serious study time in order to do well. I knew plenty of designers who were either afraid to take the exam or had taken the exam multiple times and failed one section or another. Some of those designers were required to pass as a condition of employment, a source of additional stress.
In my job as a senior designer for a hotel developer, I routinely dealt with much of the same design criteria covered in the exam – factors affecting the safety and welfare of hotel guests. Implementing design solutions that adhered to building codes and accessibility standards was part of my job.
But in the real world, you have access to references, the resources of a team, and time for research and revisions. During the exam you basically have one shot to:
• Know the material in order to answer the questions correctly
• Solve and draw a design solution that meets all the program requirements
• Provide a functional, rational solution without consideration for decorative elements
And, do all of the above quickly!
I had spent the past couple years with my head stuck in the computer – I drew using AutoCAD, and hadn’t hand drafted anything since the first couple semesters in school. Sound familiar” So I signed up for a local 3-day review class.
The first review class I signed up for was cancelled. So I ended up having to take a day off work, travel 4 hours, and stay in a hotel to take another. After doing poorly – especially in the practicum, I felt so overwhelmed, I even considered not taking the exam.
The Process: Developing A Preparation Plan
By the time they are eligible to take the exam, most designers are busy working full time, and have lots of family responsibilities. Between work and home – not a lot of free time to study. Many put it off until a workshop, or the last few weeks before the exam.
I talked to a lot of other designers who had taken the exam, some passing, some failing – to get an idea of what worked and what didn’t. I kept hearing a lot of the same problems over and over. What it boiled down to was time management – either not planning enough time for review and/or not managing their time well during the exam.
The only way I’ve ever been able to successfully get things done is to plan well in advance. So, working backward from the test date, I set up a “curriculum” to cover all of the content in each section of the exam.
For the practicum, I used a set of study drawings and saved one full set of NCIDQ drawings for a full day practice exam. I practiced drawing multiples of each type of drawing, took way too long, so repeated drawing them over and over until I could get them finished on time.
Even when I knew the solution to the problem, it really helped to draw the same plan over again to get up to speed. I found shortcuts and tricks that saved time – the less templates, and tools, and the less steps the better.
Once I got it down to a bare bones system, I found that I could easily solve the problem and finish the drawing with time to spare – it just took repetition.
The Result: A New Resource To Help You Pass
After my success, I wanted to pay it forward. Others had told me about their tips, tricks, secrets and downfalls, and it made a difference. That’s why we created Qpractice – to help make a difference for other designers.
Taking the NCIDQ Exam is like running a marathon – to pass the exam you have to train for it. This means following a study/training schedule that systematically covers all the material, so you can master each section.
At Qpractice we’ve developed an NCIDQ study plan delivered by email to help you schedule your review by breaking all the content areas into manageable chunks.
We’re seeking designers studying for the NCIDQ to use our system and give us your feedback on which areas of the exam you need the most help with.
The plan stands alone, and also works great as a supplement to any other workshops or study groups. So give us a shot, and we’ll provide you a method to study for “The Q” systematic, succinctly, and successfully.