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An Interview with Amanda Johnson on Taking the NCIDQ Exam

We caught up with our Project Manager, Amanda Johnson, NCIDQ regarding her recent certification that she earned. Here's what Amanda had to say about her experience taking the NCIDQ Exam. 

What made you get your NCIDQ certification?

For the longest time I have been wanting to take this test because I believe it shows one has a comprehensive understanding of a project cycle from start to finish from integration of finishes to mechanical systems.

When did you decide to sign up for this exam?

I actually registered two years ago. After initially getting all my paperwork in order, I signed up for a study group with other designers in the area with the intent of taking the exam that spring. At that point, the exam was still hand drafted for one section and I had limited experience in hand drafting. When studying for this portion I became more focused on learning how to draft than focusing on what was being asked of me. I ended up becoming so intimidated I never signed up for the spring exam even though I attended the 6-week study group. I really had a hard time gaining confidence to sign up again after that. 

So, what made you eventually take the exam?

I was speaking with former colleagues at an event and they were talking about sitting for the exam this past fall. They inquired if I was going to take it since they knew I signed up but never sat for the exam. Their encouragement was helpful, but a deciding factor was NCIDQ changing the format of the drafting portion from hand drafting to CAD.  

How much studying did you do to prepare for the exam?

I started studying in July for the October exam. I studied nearly every day for a minimum of an hour which seems excessive but there is so much material. It is very overwhelming. I ordered flashcards, signed up for an online study guide with practice tests for each section and joined a study group in the area. I felt like I had flashcards in every crevice of my life for those 4 months. I even found one in the side door of my car the other day when I was cleaning it out!

What does the exam entail?

The exam is divided into (3) sections:

  1. Practicum – this was the hand drafted portion that is now computer based tasting ones knowledge on Space Planning, Millwork, Lighting, Life Safety, System Integration and Restrooms.
  2. IDFX – this focuses on the fundamentals of interior design testing knowledge of building systems, codes and design theory.
  3. IDPX – this is similar to the IDFX but is more in depth in what they are asking. There is more focus on Project Management, Ethics, and Coordination.

After taking the exams, were there any areas that stuck out to you that you wished you focused more on?

I practice commercial design so I felt I struggled more with the residential items especially lighting design or space planning. It is completely different than what I do every day. If I had to do it again I would put a little more focus on this area and also commercial toilet rooms. There are so many toilet room questions.

What were your thoughts while taking the exam?

I was not as nervous as I thought I was going to be. Once I sat down and started the first session I found the first few questions difficult because I didn’t know what to expect but then once I settled down it became easier. I decided to take the two multiple choice exams back to back which was about 7 hours of questions. Because of all the practice tests I did, the multiple choice sessions where easier than I had anticipated.

The third session and longest was the practicum. I was part of the first group to use the new online test instead of the traditional hand drafting. This was more difficult for me than the multiple choice even though I did multiple practice tests prior

What is your advice for anyone taking the exam?

Take and retake the practice exams! The exam, I felt confident about how to answer the questions.

Finding time to study is hard but you need to find the time. I am a schedule person so I incorporated studying as part of my daily routine which can be hard to do especially in the summer. It took a lot of discipline and whenever I found that I had free time I would pull out flashcards or pull up a quick 20 minute practice test on my phone. I mean, I was floating in my pool this summer reading about lighting!