ICF Coach Credentialing Exam

ICF Credentialing Exam: 10 Tips to Pass the Exam in 2024

Passing the ICF Credentialing Exam is required to earn your ICF coaching credential. It can be a difficult exam to pass. Statistics provided by the ICF indicate that only 73% of candidates succeed on their first attempt. However, iNLP Center’s students have an 84% first-attempt success rate and a 90% success rate at their second attempt.

Because of this, we’d like to share a few tips for passing the ICF Coach Credentialing Exam. 

Understanding the New ICF Credentialing Exam

The ICF Credentialing Exam is 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.

– International Coaching Federation

Since August 1, 2022, there is a new ICF credentialing exam. The revamped evaluation tests your ability to interpret a coaching scenario and make decisions that align with the updated ICF Core Competencies, ensuring alignment with the evolving coaching landscape.

This computer-delivered exam is offered in two formats:

  • In-person proctoring: Conducted at a Pearson VUE testing center, providing a familiar testing environment.
  • OnVUE remote proctoring: Offering the convenience of taking the exam from the comfort of your home or office under live online supervision.

The exam remains a three-hour assessment, but it now incorporates a scheduled five-minute break within the allotted time. Here’s a breakdown of the format:

  • Two sections: Each section tackles various aspects of coaching knowledge and application.
  • Five-minute break: A designated period to refresh and refocus between sections.
  • Approximately 200 scenario-based, multiple-choice questions: Designed to assess your ability to apply ICF core competencies in real-world coaching situations. Each situation has four possible answers. For each scenario, you must choose the best and worst answers. This implies several answers may be right or wrong. But your goal is to identify only the best and worst.

The new exam is mandatory for all applicants seeking an ICF Associate Certified Coach (ACC), Professional Certified Coach (PCC), or Master Certified Coach (MCC) credential after August 1, 2022. This requirement applies even if you previously completed the Coach Knowledge Assessment (CKA) for an earlier ICF credential. However, individuals renewing their existing ICF credential are exempt from taking the new exam.

10 Tips to Pass the ICF Credentialing Exam

1. Deep Dive into the Core Competencies

The foundation of success lies in a thorough understanding of the updated ICF Core Competencies. Don’t just memorize definitions. Focus on grasping the essence of each competency and how it translates into practical coaching actions.

Compare the statements in the Core Competencies with the PCC Markers. The PCC Markers are observations of coaching behavior and may provide insights into the practices mentioned in the Core Competencies.

Explore the ICF website’s resources to delve deeper.

2. Leverage Practice Makes Progress

Numerous resources offer practice tests mirroring the actual exam format. Take advantage of them! These practice tests familiarize you with question styles, timing, and exam structure, building your test-taking confidence.

3. Shift Your Perspective: Coach, Not Test-Taker

The exam isn’t just about recalling facts. It’s about applying coaching principles in real-world scenarios. When faced with an exam question, imagine yourself coaching a client. What action would you take as a coach, considering core competencies and ethical guidelines?

For each question, to find the BEST possible answer, think about which answer partners with the client the most. Such as:

  • Client-centred rather than your opinion
  • Inviting and acknowledging
  • Empowering the client to choose and be in control
  • Being transparent and responsive to the client

To find the WORST answer, think about which answer is most coach-focused (as opposed to client-focused) and misaligned with the Core Competencies. Such as:

  • Coach controlling the session (advising, directing, choosing)
  • Coach judging the client (parent/child, dismissing, not supporting)
  • Coach showing a lack of trust in the client (telling, choosing)
  • Coach is more concerned with the coaching process than being present and responsive to the client

The WORST answer is usually the answer in which the coach makes the choices, judges the client, does not provide acknowledgment of the client, leads/forces the coaching process, or ignores the needs of the client.

4. Master Time Management

This is a timed exam, so a strategic approach is crucial. Start by skimming the entire test to gauge its scope. Prioritize questions you feel confident about, ensuring enough time for thorough answers. Utilize the “flag for review” feature for tricky questions and revisit them later.

5. Leverage Review Tools

Many exam platforms allow you to mark questions for review. Use this to your advantage! Flag any questions that cause hesitation or take longer than expected. After completing the initial round, revisit flagged questions with fresh eyes. A second look might spark the insights you need for a confident answer.

6. Open Book Doesn’t Mean Chaos

While the exam allows reference materials, don’t overwhelm yourself with a mountain of notes or textbooks. Focus on having key concepts and definitions readily accessible. Create a concise study guide summarizing key points from your coaching training materials for quick reference during the exam.

7. Trust Your Coaching Instincts

You’ve dedicated time and effort to honing your coaching skills. Trust your gut feeling when approaching exam questions. Often, the answer that most aligns with ethical coaching principles and resonates with your coaching experience will be the correct one.

8. Optimize Your Test Day Performance

The exam is a mental marathon. The very thought of taking the exam can send shivers through the most adept individuals. And for some of you, it will have been a long time since you put yourself through such a process.

So work on a resourceful exam state. Prepare yourself both physically and mentally.

Ensure you’re well-rested and hydrated before the test. Create a quiet, distraction-free workspace. Taking breaks and maintaining a positive mindset will keep you focused and energized throughout the exam.

9. Explore Additional Resources

The ICF website offers a wealth of resources to support your exam preparation. Explore the ICF’s website for detailed exam content information and sample questions. Additionally, consider attending ICF-approved coaching training programs or workshops that delve deeper into the core competencies.

Also, consider reviewing the ICF Code of Ethics and the ICF interpretative statements

10. Seek Coaching Support

Working with a certified coach experienced in preparing candidates for the ICF credentialing exam can be invaluable. They can provide personalized guidance, answer specific questions, and hold mock coaching sessions tailored to the exam format.

If you haven’t enrolled in ICF Coach Mentoring yet, choose one that includes test prep. The ICF Mentor Coaching that iNLP Center provides is $999 and includes 3 available clinics per week to prepare for the test and 3 private mentor sessions for your coaching demo. You can begin anytime!

Final Tips and Resources

The ICF is not mean-spirited and deliberately trying to fail you and delay your coaching career. The credentialing exam is a genuine attempt to have you demonstrate your 100 to 500 hours of coaching experience.

Embrace the challenge and work consistently to integrate the best practice model demonstrated in the competencies and your Life Coach Training program. No single source will provide you with a guaranteed pass. You must incorporate the teachings into your practice and seek continuous improvement in everything you do.

And if you need help preparing for your ICF Credentialing Exam, consider one of the following ICF-accredited courses from the iNLP Center:

Steve McVey