UPDATED 2021

The NCIDQ Test Guide

The National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) Exam tests aspiring interior designers on issues that are critical to public safety, including public health, public welfare and safety. A passing score is a requirement for licensure in 23 states, Washington, D.C, and Puerto Rico, as well as in seven Canadian provinces. It also grants the test-taker the NCIDQ Certificate, which is considered an important credential in the industry and proves the certificate-holder has met minimum competency standards in interior design. Finally, the test is considered a qualifier for interior designers who wish to become members of professional industry organizations.

The Test
The NCIDQ exam is a paper-and-pencil exam and uses three sections to cover six main areas:

  1. Contract administration
  2. Contract documents
  3. Design development
  4. Professional practice
  5. Programming
  6. Schematic design


Candidates must pass all three sections to pass the exam. The first section, Principles and Practices of Interior Design, includes 150 multiple-choice questions. Test takers are given three-and-a-half hours to complete this part of the exam.

The second section, Contract Documents and Administration, includes 125 multiple-choice questions that must be answered within three hours.

Finally, Schematics and Design Development is the practicum section in which test takers are asked to offer a design solution for a problem involving a multifunctional facility that will include three specialization areas from residential, corporate, retail, hospitality, educational, institutional or health care. Test candidates will have to produce schematics, plan drawings and specifications. Seven hours are offered for this section.

Scores in each section range from 200 to 800. 500 is the minimum passing score. Test takers receive their scores in the mail within 14 weeks after taking the exam.

Requirements for Test Takers
Both college coursework and supervised work experience are required before one can take the NCIDQ exam. There are three combinations of education and experience that render one eligible:

  • Bachelor’s degree holders with at least 60 semester hours in interior design coursework, and 3,520 hours (two years) of supervised interior design work experience are eligible; however, at least 1,760 hours of work experience must be completed after graduation.
  • Candidates with at least 60 semester hours in interior design and 5,280 supervised hours (three years) of work experience are also eligible, so long as all 5,280 hours are completed after the 60 semester hours have been completed.
  • Those who have 40 semester hours of interior design coursework are eligible for the exam after they have completed 7,040 hours (four years) of supervised work experience.


Cost and Registration
Candidates can find all registration materials at the NCIDQ website (ncidq.org). First, the online application form must be submitted with payment. If all three test sections are taken together, the cost is $730 (as of February 2009). If taken separately:

  • Section I: $245
  • Section II: $205
  • Section III: $380


Additional fees may be incurred for late registration, cancellation, deferral or reactivation.

Test candidates will also need to submit official transcripts, three letters of reference and a work experience verification form, which is available online. Each should be submitted separately in sealed envelopes that are either stamped or signed along the seal.

Exams are offered during the spring and fall of each year. To take the fall examination, test takers must apply by June 1. The deadline for the spring exam is December 1.

Exam locations are found in metropolitan regions throughout the United States and Canada, though test locations vary during each test period. Candidates are informed of the closest available test centers during the registration process.

Tests are administered on Friday and Saturdays. Sections I and II are offered on Fridays from 8:00 am through 5:00 pm, while Section III is administered on Saturdays from 8:00 am through 5:30 pm. An hour-and-a-half break is given for lunch.

Are you ready to start studying for the NCIDQ exam? Take a look at our NCIDQ Test Directory to get started today.

Sources: National Council for Interior Design Qualifications (ncidq.org) and American Society of Interior Designers (asid.org)