Like all credentialing and licensure exams, the NCIDQ Examination must be valid, reliable and fair. NCIDQ follows the same standards for developing, administering and scoring the exam as virtually all other exams of similar gravitas. We follow the guidelines published in The Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing (published jointly by the American Psychological Association, the National Council on Measurement in Education and the American Educational Research Association). These standards spell out policies that NCIDQ follows to ensure that we administer a valid, fair and reliable test.
To develop, administer and score the NCIDQ Examination, we work with a professional testing company that specializes in the development of certification and licensure examinations. We follow accepted procedures for developing reliable and content-valid licensure and certification examinations and carefully document each step in the test-development process.
- Practice Analysis. The NCIDQ Examination updated its practice analysis in 2008 to identify current knowledge and skills that define a minimally competent professional in interior design. During the practice analysis process, a panel of subject-matter experts defines the overall practice areas and distinct tasks, knowledge and skills required for competent performance. The job responsibilities developed by the subject-matter experts then are validated through a survey of 2,000 practicing interior designers who reviewed and rated the areas and tasks according to their importance and criticality to competent practice.
- Development of a Test Blueprint. The exam uses the results from the practice analysis to develop a “blueprint,” or a template, for the NCIDQ Examination. The information regarding the importance of each area of practice and task is translated into the percentage of questions on the area included in the multiple-choice sections and the weighting in the scoring formula for the design portion of the examination. This blueprint guides the question development and validation process to ensure that the examination reflects the correct balance and emphasis on the various practice areas and tasks. All practicum problems are developed according to appropriate strategies and standards for the design and scoring of this type of examination, which are developed by independent organizations that are concerned with the quality of certification examinations. (American Educational Research Association, American Psychological Association and the National Council on Measurement in Education, 1999; National Commission for Certifying Agencies, 1995).
- Item Development and Validation. The question-writing process uses both interior design and testing experts to ensure the appropriate content and form. All examination questions are written and reviewed by volunteer subject-matter experts in interior design. Each volunteer is trained in writing, reviewing, editing and validating questions and problems for the NCIDQ Examination. During and after development all questions are reviewed to ensure that they adhere to accepted principles for multiple-choice questions and design problems—as well as grammatical and usage conventions. Questions that are accepted for use in the examination are judged, by consensus of the volunteers, to meet the following standards:
- Mastery of knowledge tested by the question is essential for competent interior design and the protection of the health, safety and welfare of the public.
- The knowledge tested by the question is either moderately important or of great importance to the assessment of competent interior design.
- A correct response to the question would moderately or clearly differentiate adequate from inadequate performance for the competent interior designer.
- The question has a verified reference.
- The question is appropriate for the competent interior designer.
- The answer or solution is correct.
- The answer or solution can be defended if necessary.
- The other answer choices are incorrect, but plausible to the unknowledgeable.
- Pretesting of Test Questions. To verify the validity and quality of examination questions, the NCIDQ Examination pretests new questions and problems before including them as scored items on the examination. (That is why some of the questions you complete in the multiple-choice exams are considered “experimental.”) The pretest results are analyzed statistically to ensure the quality and reliability of the overall examination. Even though the test questions change, we use a statistical procedure to ensure that one test is no harder or easier than another test.
- Examination Assembly. Each part of the NCIDQ Examination is created by selecting the appropriate number of questions from each content area, as specified in the test blueprint. A panel of interior designers works with testing experts during test assembly and validation to ensure maximum quality (in accordance with the considerations listed above) and an appropriate mixture of content.
- Examination Review and Revision. The draft examinations are again reviewed by interior designers for technical accuracy and by testing experts to ensure integrity.
- Passing Point. An examination that is used for registration (licensure) must have a defensible, criterion-referenced passing score. The score that separates candidates who pass from candidates who fail must be based on the minimum competence required to protect the public from harm. The NCIDQ Examination works with our testing consultant to determine this passing point. The NCIDQ Examination uses a criterion to set the passing point: the level of ability that an interior designer can practice independently (without supervision) in a manner that will protect the public health, safety and welfare.
- Test Administration. Test administration procedures for the NCIDQ Examination ensure consistent, comfortable testing conditions for all candidates. Test administration guidelines specify a process for candidate admission into the room, verification of identity, seating charts, display of information signs, security, time allocation and other important considerations. Testing facilities meet NCIDQ guidelines for security, proper room size, ventilation, restroom facilities, accessibility and noise control. Test administration personnel are thoroughly trained in the requirements for test administration.
- Psychometric Analysis. Following each examination administration, the NCIDQ Examination’s consultant conducts systematic analysis studies to ensure the proper function of each question and problem and of the test as a whole. Psychometric analysis also includes extensive reliability analysis as well as other studies that evaluate the quality of the examination.