Understanding the NCIDQ and How it Benefits You as an Interior Designer

It’s that time of year again! Application review for the Fall 2019 NCIDQ exam has begun! Applications must be completed and submitted by July 15th in order to be considered to sit for the October 2019 exams. As a CIDQ Ambassador, this is an incredibly personal topic for me, and I’m on a mission to help other designers pass the NCIDQ exam and become Registered Interior Designers!

It’s officially been 1 year since I earned my NCIDQ certification and became a Registered Interior Designer in Illinois. This certification has benefited me in numerous ways, from opening my own business, to having the confidence and knowledge to effectively communicate on a job site. This exam is not just for commercial interior designers; I use my NCIDQ knowledge everyday as a residential interior designer and highly recommend all interior designers work towards this certification.

Over the last year, I have helped many aspiring designers work towards that certification as well. As the ASID IL NCIDQ Committee Chair, this spring I lead a study group of 5 designers towards NCIDQ success. Everyone in our study group passed their exams, with Meahgan Pearson and
Lauren Visco passing the first part of the exam, the IDFX and three people completing all of the exam sections this spring. Congratulations Kelly Somrek, Erin LeGate, and Candice Spotted Elk on becoming NCIDQ certificate holders!

Just starting to think about taking this exam can be daunting in itself! I’m here to help break down the requirements and get you on track for taking the exam this fall 2019! Keep reading below for step by step instructions on how you can become NCIDQ Certified.

Please note - the statements on this website are my own and not a reflection of CIDQ as an organization. This blog post is intended to be a supplementary guide for your NCIDQ journey. Please visit CIDQ.org for more information regarding qualifications, expectations, current prices, etc. Familiarize yourself with the CIDQ website, eligibility requirements, application process, registration process, and important dates and deadlines!

What is NCIDQ Certification and Who is CIDQ?

The NCIDQ exam stands for the National Council for Interior Design Qualification. This is a globally recognized exam and the highest standard an Interior Designer can earn. The NCIDQ Exam was created by the Council for Interior Design Qualification (CIDQ). Once you pass all three sections (IDFX, IDPX, Practicum) of the the NCIDQ Exam, you become an NCIDQ Certificate Holder. You can then use the NCIDQ appellation after your name: Sarah Schwuchow, NCIDQ. The exam is offered for the entire months of April and October at Prometric Testing Centers. All three sections of the exam are now computerized.


CIDQ History

CIDQ was created by the American Institute of Interior Designers (AID) and the National Society of Interior Designers (NSID) in the late 1960s. The group officially incorporated as a not-for-profit in 1974 and was the basis for issuing credentials to Interior Design professionals. The AID and NSID would eventually merge to become what is now the American Society of Interior Designers. CIDQ went on to run as an independent organization, which administers the NCIDQ exam

10 Reasons Why You Should Take the NCIDQ Exam

  1. NCIDQ Certification sets you apart from unqualified designers and decorators.

  2. It is an indicator of your proficiency and knowledge.

  3. NCIDQ Certification shows your commitment to the Interior Design profession.

  4. You’ll earn respect among your colleges, employers and clients.

  5. You’ll have the potential to earn more money and promotions, as many firms require NCIDQ Certification.

  6. Increasing the number of registered/licensed designers elevates our profession.

  7. NCIDQ Certification helps with legislation and Interior Design rights.

  8. In Illinois, you must be an NCIDQ Certificate Holder to become a Registered Interior Designer.

  9. Registered Interior Designers in Illinois now have the right to file liens. Unregistered designers and decorators do not hold this right.

  10. “To date, more than 30,000 people around the world have earned NCIDQ Certification, the goal standard for interior design professionals” (CIDQ.org).

What’s on the NCIDQ Exam?

“The strenuous requirements of the NCIDQ Examination give clients and employers added confidence in the caliber of work from NCIDQ Certified designers” (CIDQ.org).

The NCIDQ examination is no walk in the park. The level of difficulty proves that a NCIDQ designer possesses the knowledge and expertise for building systems, codes, construction standards, contract administration, design application, professional practice, and project coordination.

The exam is broken down into 3 parts: Interior Design Fundamentals (IDFX), Interior Design Professionals Exam (IDPX), and Practicum 2.0. Each section measures a candidate’s knowledge and proficiency on different topics related to health, safety, and welfare. All exams are taken during the entire month of April and October. Applicants have five years to complete all three exams. For the fall 2019 exam, you must have your application submitted by July 15th for review.

Fundamentals Exam (IDFX)

Eligibility: Candidates can take this part of the exam before completing their work experience hours. This exam can be taken as early as a student’s final year of school for a Bachelors or Masters program.

Exam Format: 125 multiple choice questions (100 scored and 25 unscored pilot questions)

Exam Length: 3 Hours

Application Fee for IDFX Only: $95.00

Registration Fee: $295.00

Passing Score: 500 (Scores are weighted and on a scale of 200-800)


Professional Exam (IDPX)

Eligibility: Candidates must complete their education and work hours before applying for this exam.

Exam Format: 175 multiple choice questions (150 scored and 25 unscored pilot questions)

Exam Length: 4 Hours

Application Fee for IDPX and Prac Only: $145.00

Application Fee for all 3 Sections: $225.00

IDPX Registration Fee: $350.00

Passing Score: 500 (Scores are weighted and on a scale of 200-800)


Practicum 2.0 (PRAC)

Eligibility: Candidates must complete their education and work hours before applying for this exam.

Exam Format: Interactive computerized exam consisting of 3 case studies: large commercial, small commercial, and multi-family residential

Exam Length: 4 Hours

Application Fee for IDPX and Prac Only: $145.00

Application Fee for all 3 Sections: $225.00

Practicum Registration Fee: $455.00

Passing Score: 500 (Scores are weighted and on a scale of 200-800)


Ready to Start Testing?

Step 1: Eligibility Requirements

First things first—are you qualified to take the NCIDQ Exam? Visit the CIDQ website below for eligibility requirements based your education and work experience.

Step 2: Create an Account

Before you can apply, you must create an account with CIDQ. Click below to register and then log in with instructions received in your email. If you have trouble, email inquiries@cidq.org for help.

Step 3: Applying for the Exam

There are two route options for applying for the NCIDQ Exam:

Option 1: Apply only for the IDFX. If you apply just for the IDFX now, you will need to submit another application for the IDPX and Practicum once you finish your work experience hours.

Application Fee for IDFX only: $95.00 (Second application for IDPX and Prac will be $145.00)

Option 2: Apply for all three sections.

Application Fee for all 3 Sections: $225.00

Applications are a one time fee. Your application will also require you to submit an official transcript from your institution and your work experience (for IDPX & Practicum 2.0). Make sure you leave enough time for your sealed official transcripts to arrive, as any incomplete applications will not be considered after the deadline and you’ll have to wait until the next testing season.

Step 4: Registering for the Exam

Once your application has been approved, you will receive an email notifying you that you that can register for the exam and schedule a date at a Prometric Testing Center. Make sure to register early so you can lock in your preferred exam date!

From this point, you have 10 testing windows to pass all three sections of the NCIDQ exam. If you are only taking the IDFX, you must pass that exam within 4 exam windows. The second stage (IDPX and Practicum) must then be completed within 10 testing windows. Any scores older than 5 years are automatically voided. Registration fees occur each time you take an exam.

Registration Fees

IDFX: $295.00

IDPX: $350.00

PRAC: $455.00

Step 5: Studying

Make sure you leave yourself adequate time to study for this exam. I recommend at least 10 weeks and join a study group. Qpractice is a great online resource to help you stay on schedule. For the fall 2019 Exam, The Qpractice Study Season begins July 1st. Stay tuned for my upcoming blog post on my tips and tricks for studying for the NCIDQ Exam!



Join the more than 30,000 people around the world that have earned their NCIDQ Certification!

Being NCIDQ certified has abled me to recognize potential possibilities and issues within areas of the technical design aspect, from space planning to material selection. Our industry is so unique & creative that everyone already stands out, but being able to understand the fundamentals of health, safety, and welfare adequately propels designers to the next level. I am now a go-to resource amongst my colleagues, and I understand a lot more details when speaking with reps, architects and general contractors on projects. Knowledge is power!
— Kelly Somrek