How to pass the new ICF Credentialing Exam

When you are applying for a credential, you need to submit all you documents and then you receive an invitation to the “ICF Credentialing Exam”, which you need to schedule within 60 days of your notification. ICF changed the multiple-choice exam last year. There are three major changes from the old “Coach Knowledge Exam”:

1. You need to take the exam at every credential level, for ACC, PCC again and MCC again. (You do not have to take it for renewals)

2. The exam is administrated by “Pearson VUE” and happens either in one of their test centers or online with a “proctor”, someone who is watching you through your webcam while you take the test at home.

3. The exam is still scenario based: you receive a short description of a coaching scenario and have to select and answer out of four. The old exam only asked you to select the best answer. The new exam asks you to select the best and the worst answer.

The test consists of 81 questions and you have 3 hours to complete it. There is a break in the middle of the test, so that you can go to the bathroom etc. The exam score is calculated by the number of correct answers that you gave. Basically each question has 2 points, one for the right “best” answer and one for the right “worst” answer and you need to get 70% of the points. Should you fail, you can retake the exam for a fee. Here is how you can prepare.

Prepare the exam environment

Check the respective ICF “candidate guide” (For PCC You can request permission to use a bilingual paper dictionary if your native language is not English and your language is not among those in which the exam is available. However, you have to do that before you register for the exam! (More information in the guide – it is VITAL that you read it!)

If you are going to a test center, book an appointment with Pearson VUE, read up on the required documents and procedures on the ICF website ( I cannot stress enough how important this is! An overview of the locations can be found here: On the day of the exam, arrive 30 minutes early. Don’t bring anything but your wallet – you will have to lock any items in a locker. I was even asked to show that my pockets were empty.

If you are taking the exam online, make sure to take the Pearson “test” exam to see if your computer is set up correctly. I had to go into my task manager and manually shut down a process before it would work. Do this as soon as you get access to the test exam. This should be with the first email from Pearson. Clear everything from your desk as they will want you to show them with your webcam that there is no material lying around. Also have a cell phone ready as you will be sent a code via which you need to upload pictures of your workspace.

A video of my experience is here:

Prepare good test taking strategies

The exam is 3 hours long (4 with language aids) and is now broken up in two segments (after someone almost had a bathroom accident). This means that you take the first segment of the test and will not be able to go back to it at the end. The best strategy is to answer all the “easy” questions first, flag the questions where you are not sure (there is a possibility to do that) and go back to the ones where you are unsure in a second round. Since you cannot go back to the questions in the first segment, you have to do that twice: once before the break, once before the end of the exam.

Always remember that it is ok to feel unsure. I teach ICF courses, I am an MCC and there were questions where I really did not know what they wanted from me. I still passed. Just do your best. I found that it helped to think about the Core Competency they were potentially asking about and answering the questions with that competency in mind.

Prepare your knowledge

You cannot really “cram” for this exam. However, I would recommend the following prep activities:

- Read the ICF code of ethics

- Read the ICF interpretative statements

- Read the ICF core competencies and watch the videos on the ICF website

- Watch our videos on the ICF core competencies

- Take our “mock exam”

- Write your own scenarios per competencies to imagine what the scenarios be and reflect

In my view, with an ICF accredited coach training program you should have all the information you need. It is best to read the scenario, think about how you could best serve the client in a partnering coaching way and what would be the opposite.

If you have any questions, just come to one of our free meetups and exchanges.

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