IDEX® California Exam Basics

IDEX® CALIFORNIA – THE ONLY INTERIOR DESIGN EXAMINATION REQUIRED IN CALIFORNIA

  • To become a Certified Interior Designer (CID), candidates must have a minimum of six years combined accredited interior design education and experience (or) a minimum of 8 years combined interior design education and experience
  • All candidates must pass the IDEX California® Exam.
    • Designers are examined for competence in Commercial as well as Residential Interior Design, including:
      • California Codes and Regulations
      • Design synthesis
      • Schematics
      • Programming
      • Space planning
      • Design development
      • Working drawings
      • Construction documents
      • Furniture and finish specifications
      • Lighting layout and specifications
      • Contract documents
      • Contract administration
      • Business law
      • Ethics

IDEX® California Exam Revised and Updated!

The Updated version of the IDEX® California Exam was introduced at the October 2021 testing period.

Revisions to Include:

  • Updated Questions in All Domains
  • Most Recent Codes/Regulations Used
  • Code Related Questions Revised by International Codes Council (ICC)
  • Updated Study Guide Available!

IDEX® California Requirements

Everything you need to know to take the IDEX® California Examination

FAQ IDEX® California Exam

  • Q:    When is the IDEX® California exam given?
  • A:    The IDEX® California examination is given one month in the Spring (May 1 – 31) and a month in the Fall (October 1 – 31).
  • Q:    What is cost to take the IDEX® California exam?
  • A:    The cost to take the IDEX® California is $700 for Path 1 and Path 2; and $600 for Path 3 and Path 4.
  • Q:    What if I failed the IDEX® California? What is my cost to retake it, and when is my registration deadline for the next exam?
  • A:    For those who already took the IDEX® California and failed, their deadline to register is the next exam’s scheduled  deadline to pay their fees. The cost is $350.00  to take the exam a second time (Candidates who No-Show to the exam, must pay the $500, no-show fee).
  • Q:    Do you have a study guide? Also, the IDEX® California exam open book?

  • A:    Yes, the “Official” IDEX® California Study Guide” is a free download that provides background and important information on the exam schedule, rules, release of results, exam format and content. It also contains 22 sample questions and an extensive FAQ section; it is NOT a ‘study manual.’
    • There is no open book portion of the IDEX® California examination. Whenever there is a question on codes that require a book or table, included on the screen with the question, so no books in the examination room are necessary or allowed.
  • Q:    I am thinking about taking the IDEX® in the future. If I were to purchase the study materials now, would they become obsolete? How often are the study materials updated?
  • A:    The IDEX California examination is based upon the most recently adopted version of the California Building Code. When an updated California Building Code is adopted, by local jurisdictions, The CCIDC examination committee will determine what has to change in the examination. It is possible that those parts of the code that affect interior designers will not change and therefore the exam and the study materials will not change.
  • Q:    Where do I take the IDEX® California exam?
  • A:    There are over 35, IDEX® California test center locations throughout California. You can find specific site information at: Scantron Internet based testing sites. CCIDC also offers a Live Remote Proctoring (LRP) option for taking the IDEX® California Exam. You can learn more about it at: Scantron Live Remote Proctoring
  • Q:    How much study time is needed to prepare for the exam?
  • A:    A lot has to do with what you already know and do not know. If you already use and know the California Building Code and Title 24 in your day-to-day practice, then you will require less studying time. Less experienced candidates may require more, and  prep classes may be helpful. The classification system,  gives an idea of the topics that will be covered in the IDEX® California. From this list you should be able to determine your knowledge base and make a suitable decision.
  • Q:    What do I need to know about taking the exam?
  • A:    There are general instructions for the testing centers and the Live Remote Proctoring provided. Detailed information is also available on the CCIDC website, on the Candidates menu, under IDEX Information.
  • Q:    I am already Certified. Do I need to take IDEX?
  • A: No, the exam is for new applicants.
  • Q:    Can CIDs take the IDEX® California if they want to?
  • A:    Yes, it is completely optional, but NOT mandatory. CIDs who take IDEX® receive 10 hours of CEU credit (1.0) from CCIDC.
  • Q:    Do I need to take IDEX® AND a national exam?
  • A:    Only if you are planning to become a “professional member” of an association such as ASID, IIDA or NKBA (or for regulatory reasons in another state). If not, the only exam required to become Certified in California is the IDEX® California.
  • Q:    If IDEX® California is available online, does this mean I can take the exam at home on my personal computer anytime I like?
  • A:    Yes, Candidates have a Live Online Proctoring option for taking the IDEX® California Exam. You can learn more about it at: Scantron Live Remote Proctoring or if they prefer they may go to a proctored test center. (See test center cities).
  • Q:    Does IDEX® California have any design questions or is it only on codes?
  • A:    Yes, the IDEX® California has approximately one-third design standards questions; one-third codes and California rules and regulations including the Civil Code (as it affects interior designers) and one-third business practices and ethics.
  • Q:    How will the public, or an employer know they are hiring a good designer if IDEX® California does not heavily test on design?
  • A:    The design ability of a Certified Interior Designer comes from their education and/or experience, all of which must be met, before using the title of Certified Interior Designer, not because they merely passed an exam. Passing the IDEX® California Exam assures a client or an employer that the CID knows the law and the codes. All designers prove their design ability with their project portfolio which they build through their education and/or experience. It is important to remember that certification is “minimum competency at entry level” as required by California law. IDEX® California is no different than any other profession which tests “minimum competency at entry level.”
  • Q:    Will self-employment or employment under a mentor count towards the five (5) years diversified interior design working experience minimum requirement for those without education
  • A:    Yes, self-employment, mentored or otherwise, Interior design experience is recognized
  • Q:    How does CCIDC verify self-employment?
  • A:    Proof of experience is verified through copies of tax returns also letters from CPAs or attorneys attesting to professional services, i.e. bookkeeping, tax returns, setting up corporations, etc., for these individuals.
  • Q:    I am licensed in another state and moving to California. Is there reciprocity?
  • A:    There is no direct reciprocity however, Path 3 is for those who have taken and passed one of the national interior design or architectural examinations.
    • Anyone who wants to become a CID in California will have to take the IDEX® California exam and pass it, whether they are licensed, registered, certified in another state. There is a streamlined application process and fee discount for Path 3 and 4 Candidates.
  • Q:    Is IDEX® California easier than national exams (CQRID, NCIDQ, NKBA)?
  • A:    No, because IDEX® tests candidates on specific subjects confined mostly to Health, Safety and Welfare (HS&W) issues and California codes to protect the public. It is a vigorous and thorough examination of one’s knowledge on these issues which are specific to California.
  • Q:    Why is the NCIDQ not required in California, become a Certified Interior Designer?
  • A:    The difference between the IDEX® California and the national exams is that the national exams are interior design exams, and the IDEX® California is a “certification” exam.
    • None of the national exams test candidates on the California Building Code or Title 24 which is different from all other states. Only the IDEX tests for the CBC and Title 24 plus all other laws and codes relevant to interior designers in California.
    • The NCIDQ does not conform to California law, because it does not allow “experience only” candidates to apply (those with 8 years or more of diversified interior design experience). It also does not meet the definition of “minimum competency at entry level” required by California law, Section 139 of the Business and Professions Code. “Minimum competency at entry level” defined as working five years under a licensed or registered (in our case Certified) practitioner. It also does not allow graduating students to sit for the exam until they have a proscribed amount of working experience. The latter also applies to both the CQRID and the NKBA exams.
  • Q:    Is there a deadline to turn in my application for the IDEX® California Exam?
  • A:    CCIDC, Inc. accepts applications 365 days per year, but there are specific registration deadlines for each exam period. Completed application packets, must be received, by the deadline dates in order to take the exam during that testing period.
    • Anyone needing to re-take the IDEX Exam, must pay their re-testing fees prior to the registration deadline to qualify for the corresponding exam-period.
      • Registration Deadline for the Spring IDEX California Examination is March 1st
      • Registration Deadline for the Fall IDEX California® Examination is August 1st
  • Q:    What should I do if I have other questions about IDEX® California?
  • A:    For specific questions, contact us.

GENERAL INSTRUCTIONS ISSUED TO EACH IDEX EXAM CANDIDATE UPON CONFIRMATION: 

To be admitted to the examination you must:

Submit your CONFIRMATION NOTICE to the proctor.
Bring current photo identification (Driver’s license, immigration card, passport, State ID card, etc.).You will NOT be admitted without proper identification.
Report on time. 


General Instructions:

  • Smoking is NOT permitted in the examination site.
  • Food and beverages are NOT allowed in the examination area.
  • All personal items including books, notebooks, other papers, all electronic equipment (i.e. cell phones, cameras, etc.), book bags, coats, etc. will NOT be allowed in the exam room and must be left outside of the exam room AT YOUR OWN RISK.
  • Friends and relatives, including children, will NOT be allowed in the examination building.
  • Computer-based testing facilities offer exam services to multiple agencies.
    • There may be other individuals in the testing room with you who are sitting for exams from different organizations.
    • The rules for their exam may be slightly different than the rules for your exam in terms of exam time, and what is and is not allowed at their station.
    • Computer-based tests are delivered via secure internet connections. Internet connections are subject to the local internet providers in the area.
    • While it is not the norm, internet connections can, on occasion, be lost momentarily, requiring the proctor to log you back into your examination.
    • If this occurs, inform the proctor that your connection has been lost and they will assist you in logging back in to your exam.
    • Your exam time remaining will be exactly the same as it was when the internet connection was lost.

Prohibited Items: 

Candidates are expressly prohibited from bringing the following items to the test site:

  • Devices that include the ability to photograph, photocopy or otherwise copy test materials:
    • Cameras, smart/cell phones, tablets, optical readers, etc.
  • Notes
    • Books, dictionaries or language dictionaries
  • Bags
    • Book bags, backpacks, purses, luggage, handbags, etc.
  • Electronic devices
    • Smart/Cell Phones, iPods, mp3 players, headphones, or pagers, calculators, computers, PDAs, watches, etc.
  • Personal writing utensils
    • (i.e., pencils, pens, and highlighters),
  • Food and beverage,
  • Hats, hoods, or other headgear
  • Coats and jackets.
    • Please note that sweaters and sweatshirts without pockets or hoods are permitted.

If the proctor determines that you have brought any such items to the test site, they may be demanded and held by SCANTRON testing staff. SCANTRON reserves the right to review the memory of any electronic device to determine whether any test materials have been photographed or otherwise copied. If the review determines that any test materials are in the memory of any such device, SCANTRON reserves the right to delete such materials and/or retain them for subsequent disciplinary action. Upon completion of the review and any applicable deletions, SCANTRON will return your device to you, but will not be responsible for the deletion of any materials that may result from our review, whether or not such materials are test materials. By bringing any such device into the test site in contravention of our policies, you expressly waive any confidentiality or other similar rights with respect to your device, our review of the memory of your device and/or the deletion of any materials. SCANTRON, the examination site, and the test administration staff are not liable for lost or damaged items brought to the examination site. 

Environmental Distractions
: Examination room temperature can be unpredictable; therefore, we suggest that you bring appropriate clothing with you (e.g. sweatshirt) to help you adapt to a cooler or warmer climate in the examination room. Bring ear plugs if you are sensitive to noise. With any computer or Internet-based program, temporary connection failures or other temporary technical issues may occur. If they occur, summon the proctor and she or he will assist you. Please note that PASS will save your responses and stop the timer during any connection failure so that you do not lose any examination time.

Note: Not every site will be available for every testing window. Once you are approved to take the IDEX® California you will receive a web link with your notice to schedule that lists specifically which sites, dates, and times are available during the testing window for which you are scheduling.

Live Remote Proctoring Guidelines

Download: IDEX Study Guide

A free booklet prepared by CCIDC. Provides background information on the IDEX® California exam, including the schedule, rules, release of results, exam format, content, sample questions and an FAQ (not intended to be a ‘study manual’).

IDEX Study Materials


The “Official” IDEX® California Study Guide 
A free booklet prepared by CCIDC. Provides background information on the IDEX® California exam, including the schedule, rules, release of results, exam format, content, sample questions and an FAQ (not intended to be a ‘study manual’).

Third-party classes and materials

IDEX Prep.com The Original IDEX CA Prep Class
Online Class On-Line and In-Person Classes
by Deni Mosser, CID by Mollyanne Sherman, CID

Books

California Codes and Regulations for Interior Designers Resource Manual

California Legislative Coalition for Interior Design (CLCID)

Available in Digital and Hard Copy Versions


Disclaimer:  CCIDC is not affiliated in any way with any third party exam preparation company or organization.  CCIDC does not endorse or recommend any third party exam preparation company or organization. The contact and other information provided by CCIDC is only intended as a courtesy to those interested in utilizing the service of such third party exam preparation companies and organizations.  CCIDC received no compensation or other benefit from such third party exam preparation companies or organizations for providing such contact and other information to future or prospective exam takers. No guarantee, warranty or representation is made by CCIDC that any exam taker will pass any exam as a result of using its study guide or the study materials of third party exam preparation companies or organizations. CCIDC is not responsible for, and expressly disclaim all liability resulting in or for, damages of any kind arising out of use, reference to or reliance on such materials.  While the information contained within this site and CCIDC’s study guide materials is believed to be accurate, no guarantee is given that the information provided on this website is correct, complete and up-to-date. The study material found on this website has been prepared by the best efforts and knowledge of all parties involved. If you believe that any of the information contained herein is inaccurate or requires updating, please feel free to contact us. CCIDC values your feedback.  Use of CCIDC’s study materials constitutes your review, approval and acceptance of these terms and conditions.  CCIDC reserves the right to make changes to this disclaimer at any time, without notification. It is therefore recommended that users review our disclaimer and associated terms and conditions on a regular basis. For any questions regarding our policies, disclaimers or conditioners please contact us.

Candidate Satisfaction Survey
The CCIDC Board strives for excellence and we want to make sure you are satisfied with our performance and meet your expectations. Please help us serve you better by filling in this CONFIDENTIAL SURVEY.

We appreciate your interest in Certified Interior Designers and CCIDC.

Sincerely,
CALIFORNIA COUNCIL FOR INTERIOR DESIGN CERTIFICATION – CCIDC, Inc.

EXAMINATION FACT SHEET

The following is in response to the question, “Why doesn’t CCIDC require national interior design examinations, such as the NCIDQ examination, for the certification of interior designers in California?”

CCIDC MISSION STATEMENT

To establish and implement professional standards and educational requirements, educate the public, and facilitate interior design professional’s compliance with our standards and code of ethics in order to provide for the protection, health, safety and welfare of the public.

STATUTORY STATEMENT

Statutory requirement for all certified interior designers: CBPC § 5800 (a) and has demonstrated by means of education, experience, and examination, the competency to protect and enhance the health, safety, and welfare of the public.

In conjunction with the two statements above, the CCIDC board is charged with the responsibility to ensure that all designers who become Certified Interior Designers (CID) in California have been thoroughly tested on all of the requirements necessary to ensure for the protection of the California public. To test candidates for certification on elements not relevant or pertinent to practicing interior design in California is to fail in that responsibility. The only way to ensure the competency of CIDs for the California consumer is to test candidates on the California codes and Title 24.

REASONS CCIDC DOES NOT REQUIRE NATIONAL EXAMINATIONS

  1. Do not test on California codes.
  2. Do not test on California Title 24 accessibility and energy codes.
  3. Do not allow for experience only candidates as required by California law.
  4. Do not meet Section 139 of the California Business & Professions Code.
  5. Cannot take the examination right after graduation.
  6. No government or regulatory oversight.
  7. Very expensive compared to other licensing and regulatory examinations.

MYTH vs. FACT

Myth: CCIDC does not recognize or accept other examinations.

Fact: CCIDC does accept the national interior design examinations in California, such as the NCIDQ examination along with all other interior design and architectural examinations, namely the NKBA (both parts CKD and CBD), CQRID, ARE (Architects examination),  NCBDC (Building designers examination) and the RIDQC.

Whether a candidate possess a national examination or not, because none of the national examinations test candidates on the California Building Codes (CBC) or Title 24 as they relate to interior design in California, the CCIDC board of directors requires all candidates to take a California specific examination.

For candidates who have already taken and passed a national examination CCIDC has created a special path for them that allows them to reciprocate the California application process by providing proof of passage of such an examination and in return receive a $100.00 discount from the CCIDC application fees.

It should be noted that none of the national interior design examinations, other than NCIDQ, object to their members having to take a California specific examination if they want to become certified in this state.

HISTORY

CCIDC created and required a California specific supplemental examination known as the “California Codes and Regulations Examination” (CCRE) in 1994. This examination was required in addition to a national examination (NCIDQ).

1999: CCIDC accepted two additional national interior design examinations, namely NKBA and CQRID, as well as the California specific supplemental examination, the CCRE.  At that time the CCRE was updated and expanded from 25 multiple choice questions to 75.

2001: CCIDC was directed by the Joint Legislative Sunset Review Committee (JLSRC) through statute that all examinations utilized by CCIDC were to be required to conform to CBPC § 139 of the California Business and Professions Code (CBPC § 5801.1). Both NKBA and CQRID complied with CCIDC’s requests for psychometric evaluation data, but CIDQ refused.  CCIDC was required by statute to report on the examination process and evaluation by September 1, 2008 (the date was extended by statute from 2002 to accommodate data collection and analysis).

2007: CCIDC board could no longer justify the expense, time and effort of two examinations for certification candidates in California. The board resolved to go to one examination that would test, specifically, on California codes and Title 24, as well as ethics and business practices, California civil law that affects interior designers, and common design standards, specific to the practice of interior design in this state.

An offer for producing this “California” version of the examination was made to the CIDQ by way of creating an additional exam that would update their existing national examination to meet California standards, but CIDQ refused. The IDEX® California examination, developed by CCIDC, Industry Subject Matter Experts and Castle Worldwide Testing Psychometricians (now Scantron), was created as the single test for certification candidates.

FACTS REGARDING THE NCIDQ EXAMINATION

  1. Does not test on California Codes, which are different than any other state.

Section 5805 of the California Business and Professions Code (CBPC) states as follows:  Nothing in this chapter shall preclude certified interior designers or any other person from submitting interior design plans to local building officials, except as provided in Section 5538. In exercising discretion with respect to the acceptance of interior design plans, the local building official shall reference the California Building Standards Code.

The California Building Code is clearly defined in this statute and this is the code that all certified interior designers must be tested on in order to ensure that the interior design plans they are submitting conform to the laws and codes of this state.

  1. Does not test on Title 24 accessibility and energy conservation requirements, which are exclusive to California, and far exceed the requirements of the ADA.
    1. Title 24 is an integral part of the CBC and therefore the same applies as noted in item 1 above.
  1. Does not allow for applicants with “experience only” as required by the certified interior designers statute.
    1. Section 5801 (d) of the California Business and Professions Code (CBPC) states as follows:  He or she has at least eight years of interior design education, or at least eight years of diversified interior design experience, or a combination of interior design education and diversified interior design experience that together total at least eight years. None of the national “interior design” examinations allow candidates to apply for registration without an education requirement.
    2. NCIDQ allows candidates who do not possess or are unable to document the minimum educational requirement to apply using the Alternative Review Process (ARP). The ARP option is available to evaluate applicants who possess the same competencies as measured by traditional application routes, but took an unconventional path to gain that experience and education. ARP applicants must have a minimum of 8,800 hours of work experience in interior design and be able to document competencies based on current Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA) standards This option costs an additional $595 and still requires post secondary education.
  1. Does not meet CBPC § 139 as contained within the California Business and Professions Code CBPC § 5801.1.
    1. CBPC § 139 through the OER Examination Validation Policy requires all examinations under the jurisdiction of the DCA should ensure that passing standards are based upon “minimum competency criteria at an entry level to the profession.”
  2. Candidates cannot take the NCIDQ examination right after graduating from school, unlike the IDEX California, and other certification and licensing examinations used in California such as the Architects Registration Examination (ARE) and the Bar examination.
    1. NCIDQ candidates are required to have a minimum work experience* between 2 and 3-1/2 years of working experience under a specified eligible supervisor before applying. The education and supervised work experience matrix for the NCIDQ is too complex and convoluted to explain in this document.
    2. Since 2016, individuals in their final year of a Bachelor’s or Master’s Interior Design program have been able to take the Interior Design Fundamentals Exam section (IDFX) prior to graduation with no work experience required. Those following other educational pathways (e.g., Associates Degree) may take the exam immediately after completing their educational requirements, again with no work experience prerequisite. All candidates must gain work experience before completing the IDPX and Practicum sections of the exam.
  3. The NCIDQ examination is administered by a private non-profit 501(c) 6 corporation and has no California government or regulatory oversight. Whenever a private examination is written into statute without legislative oversight, the application and qualification requirements can be changed at any time, by the private entity that owns that examination, creating a de facto change in the statute without public or legislative input. The IDEX® California administered by CCIDC, is regulated by the California Department of Consumer Affairs through the Sunset Review Process Section 5811 CA BPC.
  4. The NCIDQ examination is more than double the cost of the IDEX® California examination, which is $600.00 ($450.00 registration plus $150.00 application), at over $980 in application and exam fees* and it still does not test on California codes or Title 24. Add to this the cost of preparation classes, reference books, etc., the costs could climb to over $1,700.00. This places a burden and undue hardship on those trying to enter the profession and obtain a professional title.

* https://www.cidq.org/fees

SUMMARY:

Requiring a national interior design examination, that does not test on the relevant codes and laws for California for certifying interior designers would be like using the Bar exam from another state to license attorneys in California, as an example.  The civil and criminal laws in California are different than in other states, so logically California should and does have its own Bar exam. The building, accessibility, and energy codes in California are also different than in other states, so logically California should and does have its own interior design certification examination, the IDEX® California.