Credentialing Exam Content - International Coaching Federation
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ICF Credentialing Exam Content

The ICF Credentialing Exam is a three-hour exam, delivered by computer in a testing center or through Pearson’s OnVUE remote proctored testing service. The total exam time is organized into the following sections:

Section 1: Candidate Non-Disclosure Agreement (untimed)
Section 2: Introduction & Instructions (3 minutes)
Section 3: Exam Items (177 minutes)

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 response and the worst response among the options provided for that scenario.

There is only one correct best response and one correct worst response 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 response or the worst possible response.

Candidates will have the opportunity to “flag” items. Flagging items allows candidates to revisit those items again before exiting the exam. Candidates will also be able to review any unanswered items before exiting the exam.

Content Domains

The ICF Credentialing Exam content covers four broad domains: Foundation, Co-Creating the Relationship, Communicating Effectively, and Cultivating Learning and Growth. Exam questions cover the four domains accordingly as outlined below.

Domain: Foundation

  • 13% – Competency: Demonstrates Ethical Practice
  • 12% – Competency: Embodies a Coaching Mindset

Domain: Co-Creating the Relationship

  • 12% – Competency: Establishes and Maintains Agreements
  • 13% – Competency: Cultivates Trust and Safety
  • 13% – Competency: Maintains Presence

Domain: Communicating Effectively

  • 12% – Competency: Listens Actively
  • 13% – Competency: Evokes Awareness

Domain: Cultivating Learning and Growth

  • 12% Facilitates Client Growth

More on the Exam Content

  • Languages Available

    The ICF Credentialing Exam is offered in English with language aids available in the following languages:

    • Chinese (Simplified)
    • French
    • Spanish
    • Turkish

    Additional language aids are in development and estimated publication timelines are included below:

    • Japanese — December 2022
    • Arabic — Quarter 1, 2023
    • Italian — Quarter 1, 2023
    • Russian — Quarter 1, 2023
    • Swedish — Quarter 1, 2023

    To support candidates completing the ICF Credentialing Exam in English as a secondary language, candidates will receive an automatic time extension of 60 minutes if exam language aids are not offered in their primary language AND the candidate resides in a non-English speaking country.

    Requests for Bilingual Translation Dictionary 

    Candidates whose primary language is not English and for which an ICF Credentialing Exam language aid is not available may request to use a hardcopy bilingual translation dictionary to support them in taking the exam. Web-based translation dictionaries, software and smart device applications are not permitted.  

    The candidate must provide a bilingual translation dictionary that consists only of translations (no definitions may be included) and that is free of any markings or handwritten notes. For exam security purposes, the dictionary provided by the candidate will be subject to visual inspection by a Pearson VUE proctor at a testing center or via remote proctor service. Candidates approved for a bilingual translation dictionary will also be eligible for extended exam time, not to exceed one hour. This service is provided at no additional charge to candidates. 

    To request the use of a bilingual translation dictionary, candidates should complete the ICF Exam Language Support Request form and submit it to support@coachingfederation.org (include “ICF Exam Language Support Request Form” in the subject line) prior to scheduling an exam appointment. ICF is not able to add a language support service to an existing exam appointment.  

    Requests for Translation Support 

    Candidates may also submit a Request for Translation Support to complete the ICF Credentialing Exam. This service, provided by Pearson VUE, allows a candidate to complete the exam with translation assistance from a Pearson-approved translator. Candidates requesting this service will be charged a fee by Pearson VUE of $1,500 USD to support the translator’s services and related expenses. 

    For exam security purposes, candidates are not permitted to provide their own translator for assistance in completing an exam. 

    To request the Pearson Translation Support Service, candidates should complete the ICF Exam Language Support Request form and submit it to support@coachingfederation.org (include “ICF Exam Language Support Request Form” in the subject line) prior to scheduling an exam appointment. ICF is not able to add a language support service to an existing exam appointment. 

  • Candidate Non-Disclosure Agreement

    Before beginning the exam, all candidates will be required to complete the following Candidate Non-Disclosure Agreement. Candidates must agree to the statement before they will be allowed to access the exam items.

    CANDIDATE NON-DISCLOSURE AGREEMENT

    All test content is the property of the ICF and may not be copied or shared in any form without the express written permission of the ICF.  This test is to be completed by the candidate without assistance from any other person.

    By clicking on “YES, I AGREE”, you are consenting to be bound by the terms and conditions of this agreement and state that you have read this agreement carefully and you understand and accept the obligations which it imposes without reservation.

    YES, I AGREE

    NO, I DO NOT AGREE

Sample Exam Questions

The following eight items are representative of the types of questions that may be on the ICF Credentialing exam. For each item, the candidate is asked to identify the BEST action and the WORST action for the scenario. The questions are designed to measure a candidate’s ability to apply the updated ICF Core Competencies in realistic coaching situations, where more than one possible response may be reasonable. Correct responses are shown in bold and italicized.

  • Question 1

    A coach is meeting with a prospective client who is growing a new business. The coach and potential client quickly establish an easy connection. The coach is excited about the opportunity to work with the client. As the coach and client are ending their conversation, the prospective client briefly mentions the name of their new business. The coach recognizes the business, as the coach is an investor in a more established competitor business in the same community. What should the coach do?

    What is the BEST action?

    • Not say anything. Try to keep their role as an investor in a competing business separate from their role as a coach.
    • Share that the business name sounds familiar and make a mental note to determine whether it is a competitor business later that evening.
    • Share their role as investor in the competitor business only if the potential client follows up to pursue coaching with the coach.
    • Share their role as an investor in a competing business and acknowledge the possibility of a conflict of interest with the client.

    What is the WORST action?

    • Not say anything. Try to keep their role as an investor in a competing business separate from their role as a coach.
    • Share that the business name sounds familiar and make a mental note to determine whether it is a competitor business later that evening.
    • Share their role as investor in the competitor business only if the potential client follows up to pursue coaching with the coach.
    • Share their role as an investor in a competing business and acknowledge the possibility of a conflict of interest with the client.
  • Question 2

    A client struggles with delegating tasks at work to other team members. During the last session, the client shared that an important project they are leading is falling behind schedule. The coach supported the client in identifying strategies to delegate tasks to other team members. At the next session, the client reports back and shares, “In the end, I decided to complete all the tasks myself. That was the only way to get them done on time.” The coach feels disappointment that the client did not follow through on their plans to delegate. What should the coach do?

    What is the BEST action?

    • Immediately reflect back on their last session with the client and identify what they could have done differently to support the client in following through on their plans.
    • Take a breath and acknowledge that the client is responsible for their own choice of whether to follow through with their stated plans or not.
    • Set aside their disappointment for now and focus on the current session with the client. Decide to reflect on this situation during an upcoming session with their mentor coach.
    • Praise the client for meeting the project deadlines, but ask why the client failed to support their team members’ development.

    What is the WORST action?

    • Immediately reflect back on their last session with the client and identify what they could have done differently to support the client in following through on their plans.
    • Take a breath and acknowledge that the client is responsible for their own choice of whether to follow through with their stated plans or not.
    • Set aside their disappointment for now and focus on the current session with the client. Decide to reflect on this situation during an upcoming session with their mentor coach.
    • Praise the client for meeting the project deadlines, but ask why the client failed to support their team members’ development.
  • Question 3

    A client comes to a session appearing stressed. When the coach asks what the client wants to talk about, the client frantically lists a major event they are planning at work, a large family gathering they are organizing, and caring for their aging parents. What should the coach do?

    What is the BEST action?

    • Ask the client if they need to take a moment before starting the coaching sessions, since they seem stressed.
    •  Ask the client to share more about their aging parents.
    • Acknowledge that the client has shared three significant challenges that they are facing, and ask the client which one they would like to explore first.
    • Ask the client to begin with the major event they are planning at work, since they mentioned it first.

    What is the WORST action?

    • Ask the client if they need to take a moment before starting the coaching sessions, since they seem stressed.
    • Ask the client to share more about their aging parents.
    • Acknowledge that the client has shared three significant challenges that they are facing, and ask the client which one they would like to explore first.
    • Ask the client to begin with the major event they are planning at work, since they mentioned it first.
  • Question 4

    A university biomedical researcher is working with a coach to improve their interactions with colleagues. The client is a very analytical thinker and can easily explain detailed data points and complex graphs, but seems reluctant share anything personal with the coach. In previous sessions, the coach encouraged the client to describe how they felt at social events, but the client seems highly uncomfortable, answering only with short, one-word responses. When the client arrives to their session today, the client silently hands the coach a journal. The client has written several, detailed entries over the last week about their experience attending a university luncheon, a faculty party, and a staff development workshop since their last session. While the client says little to the coach in the moment, their entries show deep reflections about the anxiety the client experienced at these events and their desire to overcome social anxiety. What should the coach do?

    What is the BEST action?

    • Acknowledge the reflection work the client has done, and ask the client if they feel comfortable exploring some of the emotions they described in their journal.
    • Ask the client if they would summarize the entries they detailed in their journal for the coach.
    • Ask the client to identify some steps they can take to overcome the anxieties they wrote about.
    • Ask the client what new awareness they developed about themself through the journaling process.

    What is the WORST action?

    • Acknowledge the reflection work the client has done, and ask the client if they feel comfortable exploring some of the emotions they described in their journal.
    • Ask the client if they would summarize the entries they detailed in their journal for the coach.
    • Ask the client to identify some steps they can take to overcome the anxieties they wrote about.
    • Ask the client what new awareness they developed about themself through the journaling process.
  • Question 5

    A coach recently began working with a client to help them plan for retirement. The client is a well-respected teacher who has taught for 30 years at a local elementary school. The client consistently arrives highly prepared and organized for coaching sessions, routinely reporting progress between sessions and identifying specific topics to focus on during coaching conversations. The client shares they are looking forward to retirement, but they discuss their retirement plans in a very matter-of-fact way. During the current session, the client shares that they have two weeks left before their retirement begins. They would like to focus on a few remaining plans they need to make. Suddenly, the client begins to cry and says, “I’ve spent half my life at this school! I adore my students and my colleagues are my best friends. I can’t imagine what my life is going to be like when I no longer walk through the front doors of the school each morning!” What should the coach do?

    What is the BEST action?

    • Pause for a moment, then ask the client to identify the remaining plans they would like to focus on today.
    • Ask the client if they are sure they want to retire.
    • Acknowledge that retirement is a significant life transition and that emotional responses are normal.
    • Pause, then acknowledge the emotional impacts the transition seems to be having on the client, and ask if they would like to spend some time with those feelings.

    What is the WORST action?

    • Pause for a moment, then ask the client to identify the remaining plans they would like to focus on today.
    • Ask the client if they are sure they want to retire.
    • Acknowledge that retirement is a significant life transition and that emotional responses are normal.
    • Pause, then acknowledge the emotional impacts the transition seems to be having on the client, and ask if they would like to spend some time with those feelings.
  • Question 6

    A client is working with a coach to support them during an important career transition. The client currently holds a demanding role as Chief Operating Officer of a company, while also raising two young children and serving as primary caretaker for their aging parents, who live with the client. The client recently received job offers from three different companies, each requiring the client and their family to relocate. The client comes to the session excited about the new job opportunities and hopes to gain clarity through the session on which offer to choose. The client starts by discussing the things they are looking for in a new job, energetically listing opportunities for growth, challenging responsibilities, a talented team to lead, and the potential for travel. When the coach asks what the client’s children and aging parents may need in a new community, the client’s excited smile disappears and they are suddenly quiet.  What should the coach do?

    What is the BEST action?

    • Repeat the question to the client to give them another opportunity to respond to the coach’s inquiry.
    • Ask the client if they are okay to proceed with the session, or if they need a break.
    • Pause for a moment, then share with the client that they noticed a change in the client’s energy. Ask if the client would like to explore what they are feeling in this moment.
    • Support the client in weighing the offers they have received by inviting the client to explore each of the characteristics they listed for a new job.

    What is the WORST action?

    • Repeat the question to the client to give them another opportunity to respond to the coach’s inquiry.
    • Ask the client if they are okay to proceed with the session, or if they need a break.
    • Pause for a moment, then share with the client that they noticed a change in the client’s energy. Ask if the client would like to explore what they are feeling in this moment.
    • Support the client in weighing the offers they have received by inviting the client to explore each of the characteristics they listed for a new job.
  • Question 7

    A coach is working with a client who is an experienced marathon runner writing a book on training for endurance races. This is a long-held dream for the client. The coach notices that the client often uses running metaphors when talking about their challenges and progress in their writing. The client is typically upbeat and energetic, but they arrive at today’s session appearing tired and discouraged. They share with the coach that they have recently “hit a wall” in writing, with three chapters remaining. When they sit down to write, the client says they can barely come up with anything, and nothing that is worth publishing. The client says they are afraid they won’t be able to complete the book on time and that all of their work toward this goal will be lost. What should the coach do?

    What is the BEST action?

    • Ask the client if they would like to explore their fear of not finishing the book.
    • Remind the client that they have achieved extremely challenging goals in the past and can meet this big goal, too.
    • Ask the client if there was a time when they were running a marathon and felt like they couldn’t finish. Invite the client to share how they handled that challenge in the race.
    • Support the client in identifying strategies to help them move forward in writing the remaining chapters of the book.

    What is the WORST action?

    • Ask the client if they would like to explore their fear of not finishing the book.
    • Remind the client that they have achieved extremely challenging goals in the past and can meet this big goal, too.
    • Ask the client if there was a time when they were running a marathon and felt like they couldn’t finish. Invite the client to share how they handled that challenge in the race.
    • Support the client in identifying strategies to help them move forward in writing the remaining chapters of the book.
  • Question 8

    A coach has worked for one year with a client. The client has been identified by their supervisor as a potential leader in the organization based on their high-quality work, good relations with peers, and innovative ideas for future projects. However, the client rarely speaks up in meetings with senior leaders and when they do, they often downplay or diminish their ideas. The client’s supervisor recommended coaching to improve the client’s executive presence, with the ultimate goal of developing as a leader in the organization. At the start of coaching, the client was often self-critical. However, the client has made tremendous progress in recent months. During their closing session, the coach notices that the client has a confident, easy smile. When the coach shares their observation with the client, the client responds by saying, “I feel different, empowered, ready to take on new challenges.” The client adds, “And I was just nominated by the CEO to be part of a leadership development program for emerging leaders in our company!” What should the coach do?

    What is the BEST action?

    • Acknowledge the client’s growth in confidence over the past year, and invite the client to share how they plan to celebrate their selection for the leadership development program.
    • Invite the client to identify challenges they would like to take on next.
    • Ask the client what they may need to maintain their new confidence.
    • Suggest to the client that they extend their coaching engagement to work toward a new goal of being promoted to a leadership role.

    What is the WORST action?

    • Acknowledge the client’s growth in confidence over the past year, and invite the client to share how they plan to celebrate their selection for the leadership development program.
    • Invite the client to identify challenges they would like to take on next.
    • Ask the client what they may need to maintain their new confidence.
    • Suggest to the client that they extend their coaching engagement to work toward a new goal of being promoted to a leadership role.

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