ICF Credentialing Exam - International Coaching Federation
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ICF Credentialing Exam

This page includes information regarding the new ICF Credentialing Exam, which is the final examination based on the updated eight (8) ICF Core Competencies.

If you submit a Credential application on or after August 2, 2022, at Noon EDT (New York), you will be required to pass the ICF Credentialing Exam, even if you have previously passed the CKA.

If you submitted a Credential application prior to July 27, 2022, at 11:59 p.m. EDT (New York) and have not yet passed the Coach Knowledge Assessment (CKA), the CKA will be your required assessment. However, if you have not passed the CKA by January 31, 2023 – even if you submitted your application prior to July 27 – you will be required to take the new ICF Credentialing Exam.

The ICF Credentialing Exam is a tool designed to measure a coach’s knowledge of and ability to apply the ICF definition of coaching, the updated ICF Core Competencies, and the ICF Code of Ethics against a predetermined standard. The exam is informed by coach practitioners from around the world who served as subject matter expert volunteers in its development and in the establishment of the exam scoring standard.

ICF Credentials and Standards has partnered with Pearson VUE to deliver the new ICF Credentialing Exam. Through its global network of testing centers and OnVUE (Pearson’s online service), candidates may either complete the exam at an on-site Pearson VUE testing center or in their home or office while being monitored by an online proctor. All candidates for an ICF Credential must complete the ICF Credentialing Exam as part of the Credential process*.

The ICF Credentialing Exam contains 81 situational judgment items. Each exam item contains a realistic scenario describing a coaching situation, followed by four response options. For each scenario, candidates are asked to select the best action and the worst action among the options provided for that scenario.

There is only one correct best action and one correct worst action for each coaching scenario. Although more than one response may represent a reasonable response to the scenario presented, candidates will receive credit only for selecting the best possible action or the worst possible action.

The passing score and all exam results on the ICF Credentialing Exam are reported as scaled scores. The range of possible scores is 200 to 600, with a passing score of 460.

The ICF Credentialing Exam is offered in English with language aids in other languages.

*If you submitted a Credential application prior to July 27, 2022, please refer to the information at the top of the page regarding which exam you are required to take.

More on the ICF Credentialing Exam

  • Legal Restrictions

    As U.S.-based organizations, ICF Credentials and Standards and Pearson VUE are subject to and must comply with international trade sanctions laws and regulations imposed by the U.S. government (Office of Foreign Assets Control). These sanctions regulations prohibit ICF Credentials and Standards from providing certain products and services—including exam administration—to individuals or organizations in designated countries subject to comprehensive U.S. sanctions, or to individuals identified on the U.S. Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control List of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons.

    As such, ICF Credentials and Standards is prohibited by law to administer its Credentialing exams in the following countries and regions subject to comprehensive U.S. sanctions, which currently includes: Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia, Sudan, Syria, and the Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine.

    NOTE: The list of countries may change based on OFAC requirements.

  • FAQs

    Question: Why is ICF changing the way it delivers the ICF Credentialing Exam?

    Answer: ICF Credentials and Standards is committed to improving exam security as an important mark of quality for our Credentialing process, and we’re equally committed to supporting our global community of candidates. The new exam meets the highest global standards for high stakes certification exam development. That’s why we’re pleased to offer the new ICF Credentialing exam through the global network of Pearson VUE testing centers, as well as through Pearson OnVUE—a live, remote proctoring service. Delivered on a secure platform, live remote proctoring provides the same high quality and security in the testing process, all from the convenience of a candidate’s home or office!

    Transitioning to a more secure delivery format for the ICF Credentialing Exam means that each candidate will have a fair, equal opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and skill in coaching. By securely delivering the exam, it also means that the ICF Credentialing Exam will be better protected from any potential misuse or malpractice, including copying and distribution of exam questions, that could prevent an equal and fair examination process for future candidates.

    The biggest benefit of these changes is to applicants and ICF Credential-holders – improving the security on the exam, raising the validity, integrity and, ultimately, the value of the credential. A more secure setting for the taking the exam ensures that it is truly the applicant’s knowledge that is being tested.

    Q: How will the updated ICF Credentialing Exam be delivered?

    A: ICF Credentials and Standards is pleased to offer the ICF Credentialing exam through the global network of Pearson VUE testing centers, as well as through Pearson OnVUE — a live, remote proctoring service. Delivered on a secure platform, live remote proctoring provides the same high quality and security in the testing process, all from the convenience of a candidate’s home or office!

    The test is comprised of approximately 81 scenario-based items that will test the candidate’s knowledge of the ICF Core Competencies and how to apply them in realistic coaching scenarios. Each item contains a realistic scenario describing a coaching situation, followed by four response options. For each item, candidates will be asked to select the best response and the worst response among the options provided for that scenario. There will be one “correct” answer for each question.

    Q: When/how does an applicant receive an invitation to complete the ICF Credentialing Exam?

    A: Once an applicant’s credential application is reviewed, ICF staff will contact the applicant via email with a status update containing the next step in the review process. The steps for a credential application review vary depending on the path in which the applicant applies for the credential.

    Q: Once I receive an invitation to complete the ICF Credentialing Exam, how long do I have to take the exam?

    A: You are given 60 days to schedule and complete the ICF Credentialing Exam. During the exam appointment, you will have three hours to complete the exam.

    Q: How did ICF determine that three hours is sufficient to complete the test?

    A: The total exam time is based on exam completion time data collected through a pilot of the ICF Credentialing Exam and is consistent with other situational judgement certification exams of similar length.

    Q: What is the question format?

    A: The test is comprised of approximately 81 scenario-based items that will test the candidate’s knowledge of the ICF Core Competencies and how to apply them in realistic coaching scenarios. Each item contains a realistic scenario describing a coaching situation, followed by four response options. For each item, candidates will be asked to select the best action and the worst action among the options provided for that scenario. There will be one “correct” answer for each question.

    Q: What do the exam questions cover?

    A: All questions are based on the ICF Core Competencies, ICF Code of Ethics and ICF’s Definition of Coaching. Questions are of varying levels of difficulty.

    Q: Who created the ICF Credentialing Exam?

    A: The exam was developed by ICF using globally accepted practices for test development, including a comprehensive job analysis of the knowledge, skills and abilities required of coaches. Experienced ICF coaches served as subject matter experts throughout an extensive process to develop, validate and review each exam item.

    Q: Are there sample questions available for review?

    A: Yes. Sample questions can be viewed on the Exam Content page.

    Q: How should I prepare to take the test? 

    A: By completing an ICF-accredited coaching education program, you will have received instruction that is in alignment with the ICF Core Competencies, ICF Code of Ethics and ICF’s Definition of Coaching. Reviewing the education you receive, along with your coaching experience, is the best way to prepare for the ICF Credentialing Exam.

    Q: If I miss my appointment or deadline to take the ICF Credentialing Exam, can I still take the exam, or will I need to reapply?

    A: Candidates who are unable to take the exam at their scheduled exam appointment time are requested to cancel or reschedule their appointment at least 48 hours prior to the original appointment time, in alignment with Pearson Rescheduling and Cancellation policies. Those unable to cancel or reschedule at least 48 hours in advance will be subject to the forfeiture of exam fees. Candidates who miss their exam appointment will not be required to reapply, but may be subject to the ICF Credentialing Exam retake fee to schedule a new appointment. The retake fee is $105 USD.

    Q: How is an applicant notified of their results?

    A: Once an applicant completes the ICF Credentialing Exam, results are compiled and provided immediately to the applicant via the testing site. One week after completion of the ICF Credentialing Exam, applicants will receive official notification from ICF Credentials and Standards regarding the status of the credential application.

    Q: What score is required to pass the ICF Credentialing Exam?

    A: The passing score and all exam results on the ICF Credentialing Exam are reported as scaled scores. The range of possible scores is 200 to 600, with a passing score of 460.

    Q: Is feedback provided regarding the questions missed?

    A: A score is provided for each of the four exam domains along with an overall score. Feedback on incorrect individual exam items is not provided.

    Q: What happens if a candidate does not pass the ICF Credentialing Exam on their first attempt?

    A: A candidate can retake the exam for a fee of $105 USD.

    Q: Who needs to take the new ICF Credentialing Exam? Do I need to take the exam when I renew my ICF Credential?

    A: Those who submit a new or upgraded ICF Credential application after August 1, 2022, will be required to complete the ICF Credentialing Exam, even if they previously completed the CKA for a prior ICF Credential.

    Individuals renewing an ICF Credential will not be required to take the exam as part of the renewal process.

    Q: If I previously passed the Coach Knowledge Assessment (CKA) for a prior Credential, why do I have to take the new ICF Credentialing Exam when applying for a higher level Credential?

    A: The Coach Knowledge Assessment (CKA) has been delivered since 2015 through an online, on-demand format with limited security measures. Because of this, the exam has accumulated high exposure since its original release.

    To comply with global standards for certification bodies and to ensure consistency, fairness and equity in the Credentialing process, it is important that each candidate applying for an ICF Credential complete each requirement. Given that ICF is launching a new ICF Credentialing Exam, it will be important for each candidate applying for a Credential to complete the same exam. This allows all candidates to be held to the same standards and requirements for the Credentialing process.

    Q: Once I take the updated ICF Credentialing Exam, will I need to take it again if I apply for another Credential?

    A: At this time, the ICF Credentialing Exam must be taken with each new application for a Credential, even if the exam has already been passed. The ICF Credentialing Exam is part of the credential process. In alignment with the highest standards for credentialing bodies, each credential is a stand-alone achievement and the applicant must complete all requirements for the Credential for which they applied.

    ICF Credentials and Standards will be supporting ongoing updates to the ICF Credentialing Exam. ICF Credential-holders who apply for a higher level credential in the future may see different forms of the exam to be completed at each Credential level.

  • Support

    If you need support regarding the ICF Credentialing Exam and you do not find the answer to your question in the FAQ section above, please visit the ICF Support page.

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