How is the examination developed?
NCIDQ works with a professional testing company that specializes in the development of certification and licensure examinations to develop, administer and score the examination. NCIDQ carefully documents each step in the test-development process. Multiple reviews by subject-matter and testing experts strengthen the validity of the examination. Continuous evaluation of the examination's quality and reliability maintains the validity of the examination as a measure of knowledge and skill in interior design.
Review the Exam Development page for details.
What is covered on the exam?
The exam covers a broad range of knowledge and skills interior designers use in their daily practice. The exam tests only knowledge and skills that protect public health, life safety and welfare; it does not test knowledge that is not critical to public safety, such as design history and furniture styles.
Review the Exam Content page for details.
How many sections are there on the exam?
There are two multiple-choice sections (half-day each) and one practicum section (full day). You must pass all of them to complete the exam.
Is the exam offered in paper-and-pencil or computer format?
The exam is offered in paper-and-pencil format only.
Can I take Section 3 (Practicum) on a computer using drafting software?
No. Section 3 (Practicum) is offered as a paper-and-pencil exam only. The paper-and-pencil format provides a level playing field for all candidates, some of whom do not have access to drafting software in their daily practice.
Is passage of the NCIDQ Examination a requirement of interior design licensing statutes?
Yes. The NCIDQ Examination is recognized in the United States and Canada as the qualifying examination for the interior design profession. As such, states and provinces with registration (licensing) statutes have stipulated, among license eligibility criteria, successful completion of the NCIDQ Examination.
How often does NCIDQ update its examination?
The multiple-choice sections are updated with new questions for each exam. New practicum exercises are given on each exam. The underlying "blueprint" of subject areas covered on the exam is updated approximately every five years to reflect changes in interior design practice.
What is the cost of the NCIDQ Examination?
Click here to see current exam fees. All prices are in U.S. dollars and are subject to change.
I passed some sections of the old exam before it changed. Can I apply credit from those sections toward the current exam?
No. You must pay for and pass all three sections of the current NCIDQ Exam to complete the exam and receive the NCIDQ Certificate. Certification and licensure examinations represent to the public that the individuals who hold their credential have been determined to be at least minimally competent at the time the credential was issued. When candidates are allowed to take individual test sections over many years or decades, it is harder to claim that at one point in time these individuals possessed all of the knowledge, skills and abilities required for minimum entry-level competence. There are no exceptions to this policy.
Is there a time limit on how long I have to take the exam?
Yes. You must pass all sections of the examination within a five-year window or retake any sections you have not passed.
If you started taking the exam in 2009 or earlier, you must complete all sections by the end of 2014. At that time, any scores more than five years old will be voided, and you must retake those sections.
If you started taking the exam in 2010 or later, you must complete all sections within five years. Scores more than five years old will be voided, and you must retake those sections.
Read more here.
I am starting school this semester to pursue an interior design degree. Can you tell me what courses will be accepted toward my eligibility?
NCIDQ does not pre-approve courses on candidate transcripts. We are looking for well-rounded interior-design-related curriculum.
What are the eligibility requirements to take the NCIDQ Examination?
Candidates for the NCIDQ Examination must meet education and work experience qualifications. NCIDQ provides candidates with six suggested routes—combinations of education and experience—to determine when they are eligible to apply for the exam.
Click here to view the NCIDQ eligibility routes.
I have a Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA) degree but my program only required 116 hours to graduate. Do I have to take more classes to meet your education requirement?
No. If you graduated from a program accredited by CIDA, you have met the NCIDQ education requirements, regardless of the number of hours your program required. Your program must have been CIDA accredited within two years of your graduation.
Can I take the exam even if I don’t have a degree accredited by the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA)?
Yes, but if you plan to work in a regulated jurisdiction, you should check your board’s requirements—which may differ from NCIDQ’s.
Can I use distance learning to satisfy the education requirements for the exam?
Distance learning is acceptable, provided that the institution meets our requirements.
Applicants for the NCIDQ Certificate must earn a certificate, degree or diploma in interior design from a college or university that is accredited by a regional accrediting body in the United States that is approved by the U.S. Department of Education; or a provincial ministry of education in Canada; or by the national post-secondary educational accrediting agency in other countries. For more information on accreditation or to find out if your institution is accredited, visit the Council for Higher Education's web site.
Read more about this policy here.
Does NCIDQ accept education completed overseas?
We review overseas educational transcripts on a case-by-case basis. You must arrange and pay for your transcript to be translated and converted to U.S. standards. Your converted transcript must show course titles, grades earned and credits awarded (in semester or quarter units). Two companies that offer this service are Educational Credential Evaluators and World Education Services. You would need to submit your transcript and the converted transcript as part of your supporting documentation with your application.
If you have a degree in architecture from an institution outside of the United States or Canada, please read our policy here. If you do not qualify under that policy, you may qualify under a different eligibility route depending on the content of your degree program. You would need to submit a translated/converted transcript with your application.
Application review fees are non-refundable.
I am a sole practitioner. How do I document my experience?
You will complete the Sponsored Work Experience Verification Form and have your experience validated by someone who can attest to it. This can be a client, contractor, vendor, etc.
What does a sole practitioner have to provide to prove employment?
In addition to the Sponsored Work Experience Verification Form described above, you must submit at least one document that serves as proof of ownership of your firm at the time you claimed work experience. We will accept copies of a business license, your company's articles of incorporation or a tax return for the business during the period of self-employment. Pay stubs are not acceptable.
I have been practicing interior design for many years, and I don’t have a formal interior design education. Can I take the exam based on my experience?
No. In order to meet the mandate of our member boards and to ensure the public protection, everyone who takes the exam must qualify under one of our established paths of education and experience.
If I have a Bachelor's or Master's in Architecture, will that be enough education to qualify me to take for the exam?
Education alone is not enough to qualify to take the exam. We realize that some people went to architecture school but practice interior design.
If you have a degree in architecture from a program accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) or the Canadian Architecture Certification Board (CACB), then you would qualify to take the examination once you have met the experience requirements.
The only degrees that meet this requirement are B. Arch and M. Arch. If you completed four years of a five- or six-year program and earned a B.S. or B.A. in architecture, you do not qualify under this route. If you have a B.S. or B.A. in architecture, architectural studies, architectural technology, architectural history, environmental design or other field, you would have to complete a formal program in interior design that contains at least 40 semester hours of interior-design-related coursework to meet our educational requirements.
What is the process for applying and taking the NCIDQ Examination?
When you have completed the eligibility requirements and met any additional requirements of your jurisdiction, you may submit your application to NCIDQ (or, in some cases, to your jurisdiction). The application deadline is approximately four months before the next examination administration. Please note: application review fees are not refundable.
Click here to review application instructions and apply online.
Can an experienced interior designer pass the examination without preparation?
It is possible, but preparation is always recommended. The exam may cover subject areas that you learned about in school but aren’t exposed to in your daily practice.
Does NCIDQ have classes I can take to prepare me for the exam?
No. Because we write the examination, we must follow certain standards regarding fairness for everyone, so we cannot teach candidates what they need to know to pass the test. We publish information on our Web site that outlines the content areas of the examination. We also publish practice design problems for the Section 3 exam that candidates can purchase to simulate the practicum examinations.
We also recommend textbooks and publications that are often used as references for multiple-choice questions.
Can I order one Practice Design Problem and make copies of it for an exam study or student group?
No. All NCIDQ study materials are copyrighted and cannot be duplicated without permission. We do provide bulk discounts if you purchase more than 10 copies of the printed problem. Call us for more information at (202) 721-0220.
Which set of codes do I need to study?
Code-related questions on the multiple-choice sections reflect current codes in general use in the U.S. and Canada. We use the International Building Code, 3rd edition (2009) and the National Building Code of Canada, 2005 as general guidelines. We also reference multiple-choice exam questions from several handbooks that are listed in our Exam Reference Materials. However, you are NOT expected to memorize the codebook. A typical multiple-choice exam question will provide sample code information and ask you to analyze it. The practicum exam section will provide a complete set of codes you must follow in executing your solutions.
Do I need to take a workshop to pass the NCIDQ Examination?
No. The exam tests a common body of interior design knowledge, acquired through education and work experience. However, some candidates do find it helpful to take a study workshop—particularly for your weak performance areas. Please note that NCIDQ does not review workshop content or endorse any workshop provider. Workshops are provided by private organizations with no connection to the NCIDQ Examination development process.
Does NCIDQ use David Ballast's Interior Design Reference Manual to create exam questions?
No. Ballast’s Interior Design Reference Manual is published by a private company with no connection to the NCIDQ Examination development process.
Review our list of references for current resources you can use to prepare for the exam.
What is the deadline to register?
Click here to review the current exam calendar.
Where is the exam given?
Click here for a list of exam centers for upcoming test administrations. Exact locations (street addresses, room numbers) are not provided until registration is complete and exam admission letters are issued.
Do I have to take the exam in my home state or province?
No. You can take the exam at any available exam location. Results will be sent to your home jurisdiction regardless of where you take the exam.
How much does the exam cost? Do I have to take all the sections at once?
Click here to see the current exam fees. When you register, you may choose to take one, two or all three sections.
What happened to the option to "defer" my exam to the next administration?
We eliminated the option for paid deferral with the Spring 2012 exam. Now, if you do not register for any sections, your account does not become inactive like it used to. If you choose not to register for any sections, we will simply email you when it's time for register for the next exam. There is no charge. You can read more about this change here.
I thought I already paid for the exam when I applied. Now the registration form asks me to pay for the exam sections I want to take. Didn’t I already pay?
No. You paid the application review fee when you submitted your application. When you register for the exam, you pay the exam fee for the section(s) you select. Click here to see current exam fees. Your registration is not final until all payments have been received. If you pay by check, allow time for your check to arrive by the deadline.
When should I expect confirmation that my registration form and payment have been processed?
When you complete the online registration process and submit your payment, you receive an e-mail confirmation from NCIDQ indicating the section(s) you have registered for and the location of your exam center. Approximately, four weeks before your exam date, you will receive an e-mail from ACT, our exam partner, with a link to your personal admission letter. You must access your letter online and bring a print-out of it to the exam center. Without this letter of admission and a valid ID, you will not be allowed to test.
How do I cancel my exam registration?
You must give NCIDQ adequate notice of your wish to cancel your registration in order to receive any refund or credit for exam fees paid. You must do so in writing using the Exam Cancellation Form. The cancellation deadline is noted on the form.
Once you have registered, you must officially cancel your registration, following the cancellation process and paying the cancellation fees.
Review the full cancellation policy for more details.
If you are registered for the exam and do not show up at your assigned test center, you will forfeit all registration fees.
How long do I have to pass the exam?
You must take at least one section within five years of becoming eligible to retain your eligibility status. In addition, you must pass all sections of the examination within a five-year window or you will lose credit for the section(s) passed more than five years earlier.
In case of a medical or family emergency, can I request cancellation after the cancellation deadline has passed?
Cancellation requests made after the cancellation deadline must include documentation of a personal medical emergency or a family medical emergency that prevents you from taking the examination. The deadline for emergency cancellation requests is noted on the Exam Cancellation Form.
When and where is the exam given?
The exam is given every spring and fall. The two multiple-choice exams are given on a Friday and the practicum exam is given on a Saturday. Click here to see the current schedule.
The exam is given in more than 60 locations in the United States and Canada. Click here to see the locations for upcoming administrations.
How many sections are there on the exam?
There are two multiple-choice sections (half-day each) and one practicum section (full day). You must pass all of them to complete the exam.
Is the exam offered in paper-and-pencil or computer format?
The exam is offered in paper-and-pencil format ONLY to provide a level playing field for all candidates, some of whom do not have access to drafting software in their daily practice. You may complete your Section 3 (Practicum) drawings in pen as well, but most candidates use pencil.
When will the examination be given on computer? We’re all taught CAD in schools.
One of the reasons NCIDQ has not made this shift is cost. If we were to make this change in our delivery format, there would be significant expenses, and we would have to pass on those costs to our candidates. We feel that our candidate population is not large enough to absorb this kind of increase right now.
NCIDQ has started studying the feasibility of moving the multiple-choice sections of the examination to a computer-delivered format in such a way to minimize the additional cost to the candidate while maximizing convenience.
The practicum exam is still hand-drafted. We recognize that many candidates use computer drawing packages in school, but we also recognize that there are many programs being used. We do not want to choose a program that may be unfamiliar to someone and thereby disadvantage him or her in the testing environment. Interior designers will always need to have the ability to sketch a drawing, and that is what the practicum exam is—a sketch. It is not a test of your drafting ability.
Can I get additional time to take the test if I have a learning disability?
NCIDQ does not discriminate against candidates with disabilities as described under the applicable laws of the United States and Canada. Reasonable accommodations are made to provide access to those who provide documented evidence for the accommodation. You must submit an application for the accommodation along with all required supporting documentation by the deadline indicated in the Registration Guide. Please note: this is a separate application from your application to qualify for the examination.
Applications received without documentation will not be considered. Complete applications received after the published deadline will be considered for the next administration. Please carefully read all the instructions regarding how to apply for an accommodation.
Test anxiety, English as a second language (in and of itself), slow reading without an identified underlying cognitive deficit or failure to achieve a desired outcome on a test are not covered under the ADA Amendments Act of 2008.
I am diabetic and I need to eat at certain times. Can I bring food into the test center?
We provide courtesy accommodations for those who present a need for it, such as a medical need, pregnancy, etc. You must request the accommodation in writing by the late registration deadline.
I am traveling to the exam center. Can you recommend a hotel?
NCIDQ does not maintain a list of recommended hotels. You can check with local schools or tourism offices for recommendations. If you need to book a room before you know the exact exam location, we suggest you stay in a central location with good access to highways, as exam centers are sometimes located in suburban areas. You may need a car to get to the exam center.
What supplies can I bring to the exam center?
Sections 1 and 2 (Multiple-Choice)
- #2 (HB) pencils
- Eraser (not electric)
- Battery-powered calculator*
Section 3 (Practicum)
- Eraser (not electric)
- Battery-powered calculator1
- Drafting pencils, including mechanical pencils and lead holders
- Manual pencil sharpener
- Tracing paper
- Graph/grid paper
- Architectural scale
- Templates (see exercise descriptions for appropriate scale)2
- Portable drafting board or flat illustration board3
- Related small drafting equipment/tools
- Post-it notes
- Silent clock/timer with a silent alarm4
1Calculators with single memory are permitted. Calculators with advanced memory storage, programming, communicating or printing capabilities are NOT permitted.
2Homemade templates (drawn or printed with a computer) are NOT allowed.
3Boards must fit within the 30" D X 48" W work surface provided for Section 3.
4If your clock makes a noise (ticking, alarm, etc) that disturbs others, you cannot use it.
Are furniture templates permitted for Section 3 (Practicum)?
Yes, provided they are not homemade (drawn or printed with a computer. Click here to see practicum exercise descriptions with scales.
Do testing facilities have drafting tables?
No. Drafting tables will NOT be provided at the exam center. If drafting tables are present in your testing room, they will be laid flat and the parallel arm(s) will be taped down. Because we cannot provide drafting tables to all candidates at every location, we must level the playing field by providing a flat surface without parallel arms to all candidates. You can bring your own portable drafting board and rest it on top of the work surface, but it must fit within the 30"D x 48"W flat work surface area provided. If you bring your own board, you may use the mayline/parallel arm that is integrated into your board. However, many candidates successfully complete the exam without a drafting board.
If you do not have a portable drafting board, we recommend you bring a blank piece of posterboard to lay on the tabletop; many of the tables do not have smooth surfaces.
Can I bring my cell phone or PDA?
No. You may not have your cell phone, PDA or any other electronic device with you in the exam room. If you bring such devices with you, you must turn them off and give them to the proctor at the beginning of the exam. They will be returned to you when you complete the exam.
Can I bring a dictionary or reference materials?
No. You may not bring any books or reference materials, including dictionaries (English, technical or language) to the exam center.
Are food and beverages permitted during the exam?
No. In order to provide a clean and quiet environment for the exam, you will not be allowed to consume food or beverages in the testing room during the exam. Food and beverages may be consumed in a break area outside the testing room, as designated by the test site administrator. You can also bring your lunch for the break between exam sections. Be sure to bring secure containers for your food and beverages, as open containers will not be permitted in the testing room.
If you have special needs, such as pregnancy or diabetes, which are not generally covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act, click here for more details.
How many questions do I have to get right to pass the multiple-choice sections?
The NCIDQ Examination is not scored like tests you took in college. Rather, scores are reported on a range from 200 to 800, with the passing point anchored at 500. Because NCIDQ is committed to fair, valid and reliable exams, each version of the exam is put through rigorous psychometric and statistical analyses after each administration to ensure that it is equivalent in its level of difficulty to all other exam administrations.
How is Section 3 scored?
Section 3 is graded by specially trained interior designers who evaluate whether a candidate has demonstrated his or her competence in the area being tested. Although criteria for individual attributes of the project are considered by the rater, these criteria are not assigned a numerical value or combined through a scoring formula. The focus of the scoring is the overall impression of the project.
Who scores Section 3 (Practicum)?
Each examination is scored by two independent graders. These graders are interior design professionals who have successfully completed a rigorous training process. The training process includes specific criteria with which all graders are required to understand and comply. Graders must demonstrate their agreement with ratings established by NCIDQ for each exercise. This last step demonstrates to NCIDQ that graders will score in a consistent and uniform manner.
When will I receive my examination results?
Exam results are issued within 14 weeks of the exam date, although NCIDQ makes every effort to issue results sooner. All results for all three sections are released at the same time.
What is the pass rate for each exam section?
Pass rates for first-time takers of the spring 2012 NCIDQ Examination:
- Section 1: 80 percent
- Section 2: 77 percent
- Section 3: 48 percent
What are the most common reasons for failing the examination?
Failure to properly prepare and lack of relevant experience are the most common reasons. Other reasons include failure to follow instructions, correctly analyze the project requirements and/or allocate time properly.
Are there any errors on Section 3 (Practicum) that lead to an “automatic fail” on the section?
No. Exam graders are trained to score all work that is completed directly on the drawing sheets. Click here to learn more about the grading process.
Can I have my examination returned to me after it is scored?
No. NCIDQ Examination materials are not returned to examination candidates and reviews of exam and grading materials are not permitted. Exam materials are stored securely for three years and are then destroyed.
I failed Section 3 (Practicum). Can I request that my exam be rescored?
No. Special reviews and rescoring are not permitted. An important part of the scoring process is an automatic third grading, which occurs for all exercises where scores diverge across the pass/fail line among the first two graders. The third grading is done by a grading coordinator, and that score replaces the divergent score from either of the first two graders. The two final scores on each exercise will then be multiplied by the weight assigned to that exercise (weights equal percentage of overall contribution to total score).
Read more about grading process here.
Can I appeal my failing score on the exam?
No. If you feel that the testing procedures or environment seriously affected your performance, do not wait until you receive your test results to express your concerns. You must document your concerns with the testing procedures or environment by the date specified in the Registration Guide for your exam administration. Your concerns must be mailed in writing directly to NCIDQ. Candidate comment forms filled out at the exam center are not sufficient to open an investigation of your comments. NCIDQ will investigate your complaint to determine if you will be permitted to retake the section(s) at no cost.
How are the multiple-choice sections changing in 2013?
There will still be two multiple-choice sections of the NCIDQ Examination. The content of these examinations will not change; the exams will just be organized differently.
Who is affected by the changes?
Candidates who have passed EITHER Section 1 OR Section 2 (but not both) of the paper-and-pencil exam must pass the remaining paper-and-pencil exam section in 2013 or lose credit for the previously passed section. These candidates will need to retake both of the new computer-based sections to receive the NCIDQ Certificate.