California Interior Design | Interior Designer Requirements

Chastity Fabry

FAQ IDEX® California Exam

Q: When is the IDEX® California exam be given?

A: The IDEX® California examination will be given for a month in the Spring (May 1 – 31) and for 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 $600 for Path 2 and Path 2; and $500 for Path 3 and Path 4. International candidates fee is $800.

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 get in all paperwork’ (as you already have an application and file with CCIDC). The cost is $450.00  to take the exam a second time.

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’ per se.

There is no open book portion of the IDEX® California examination. Whenever there is a question on codes that require a book or table, that will be included on the screen with the question, so no books in the examination room will be required.

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 will the study materials be 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 comes out it has to be adopted by local jurisdictions. Once everyone has had a chance to review the changes CCIDC 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. Once an updated code is introduced it is normally a 2 year cycle to update exams and study related materials.

Q: Where do I take the IDEX® California exam?

A: There are over 35, IDEX® California test center locations throughout California. Additionally, there are more than 1,000 test center locations in over 95 countries that provide Internet-based testing in a proctored environment. You can find specific site information at: Castle Worldwide Internet based testing sites.

Q: How much study time is needed to prepare for the exam?

A: A lot has to do with what you already know and don’t 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. If you don’t, then you will require a lot more and we would recommend you attend some of the prep classes that will be given. If you look at the examination classification system it gives you a good 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. Also, if you have a good education in interior design it would be a great help, but if you are applying under experience only there may be a deficiency in your knowledge base so you’ll have to study and prepare well for the exam.

Q: What do I need to know about taking the exam?

A: Here are Instructions on Taking the Exam

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, all you need to become Certified in California by CCIDC is passage of IDEX® California.

Q: I am already certified by CCIDC. Will IDEX® California have any impact on my credential?

A: No, those who are already Certified, or have been Certified in California in the past, will not be affected and will not have to take IDEX® California.  However, those who have allowed their certification to expire for 4 years or more will have to take the IDEX California in order to reactivate their certification and by paying the penalty and fees.

 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: No, you may not take IDEX® California on your personal computer. Candidates must go to a proctored test center. (See test center cities). Proctored test centers are used by other professions such as the architects.  This is how the NCARB’s ARE and the online portion of the CQRID are handled. Proctored test centers are available all over California and help to prevent someone from cheating.

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 doesn’t heavily test on design?

A: The design ability of a Certified Interior Designer comes from their education and/or experience, all of which has to be met before one gets to use the title of Certified Interior Designer, not because they merely passed an exam.  When they pass IDEX® California, a client or an employer will be assured 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 will be no different than any other profession which tests for “minimum competency at entry level”. 

It goes without saying that a CID with 5 years of experience isn’t going to have the depth and breadth as a CID with 25 years of experience. Consumers or employers wishing to hire a CID will assess that designer’s education, experience, and design portfolio and make their choice accordingly. For example, one wouldn’t hire an inexperienced lawyer (right out of school) who just passed the bar exam to represent them at a murder trial. Likewise you wouldn’t hire an architect who just got his or her license to design a 50-story high-rise or a hospital.  

Q: You mention 5 years diversified interior design working experience as the minimum requirement for those without education in order to take IDEX ® CaliforniaWill self-employment or employment under a mentor count?

A: Yes, we will allow self-employment, mentored or otherwise, as we have done all along under the current CID program. Interior design experience is recognized, and, unlike other organizations, California is a vast state and in some of the out-lying areas it would be difficult to work under a specific type of professional or mentor that might be hundreds of miles away. 

Q: If you do accept self-employment, how does CCIDC verify it?

A: Proof of experience is verified through copies of tax returns also letters from CPAs or attorneys attesting to their professional services, i.e. bookkeeping, tax returns, setting up corporations, etc., for these individuals. Also, a list of clients with contact information and the work performed can also serve as verification, although the former method is preferred. Whatever it takes to prove they have been active and in business as interior designers for the required amount of time

Q. Will new CIDs be as qualified as those took one of the old exams?

A: Yes, because examinations are not the only requirement for certification. Specific education and experience are also necessary to become a CID, and these requirements have not changed. IDEX® California will emphasize public protection and safety as its emphasis will be on codes and regulations. By contrast, “design” exams although they touch on codes, do more to test a candidate’s design ability as opposed to public protection which is the purpose of certification.

Q. I’m 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 or have taken and passed the CQRID, NCIDQ, or both parts of the NKBA. There is a streamlined application process and fee discount for Path 3 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 & 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 doesn’t California require the NCIDQ to 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” which is required by California law, Section 139 of the B&P Code. “Minimum competency at entry level” is 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. See our Comparison of Examinations in California in left column.

Q. What should I do if I have other questions about IDEX® California?

A:  For specific questions, contact us.

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