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8 Steps to Master the ICF Credentialing Exam

Updated: Jun 20

In May 2024, I completed my ICF (International Coaching Federation) exam and became a Master Certified Coach (MCC)! This is a significant milestone for me, as obtaining an ICF credential is increasingly important in this unregulated and booming industry.


If you're aiming to become an Associate Certified Coach (ACC), Professional Certified Coach (PCC), or Master Certified Coach (MCC), you must pass this "new" exam (introduced in 2023 to replace the former Coach Knowledge Acknowledgment CKA), which is identical for the three credentials.


Let’s be clear: this exam is much more challenging than the CKA I passed some time ago. Preparation is key. But if you follow our 8-step approach, there is no reason you should fail. Today, I’d like to share what I've learned to help others achieve it more easily.


Understanding the New ICF Exam Structure


When applying for an ACC, PCC, or MCC credential, you will need to submit all necessary documents and receive an invitation to the "ICF Credentialing Exam," which you must schedule within 60 days of your notification. The exam now consists of 81 scenarios, arranged as follows:

  • Exam Instructions: 3 minutes

  • Section 1 (41 items): 87 minutes

  • Scheduled Break: 5 minutes

  • Section 2 (40 items): 85 minutes


Best and Worst Actions

For each scenario, you will be presented with four possible answers. You must 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, candidates will receive credit only for selecting the best and worst actions correctly.


Your Score

It is based on successfully identifying each correct best and worst action. You will receive credit for each correct action identified. You are not penalized for incorrect responses. 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 (76%). Until the results, I didn’t know whether I had passed or not. I received a good score of 519/600, which almost surprised me.


Test Centers or Online with a Proctor

The exam is administered by Pearson VUE and can be taken either at one of their test centers or online with a proctor, who watches you through your webcam while you take the test at home. To avoid any issues with the strict proctor, it is best to take the exam in a quiet and private space and remain silent throughout the duration of the exam. If you have the choice, we recommend booking at a Pearson VUE center.


English Language

If English is not your native language, you will get an extra hour. Note that the scenarios are written inclusively. Instead of "he" or "she" referring to the 'client', you will find 'their'. This might be utterly confusing for non-native English speakers like me.


8 Steps to ACE the exam


1. ICF Core Competencies

The ICF Core Competencies were developed to support greater understanding about the skills and approaches used within today’s coaching profession as defined by ICF. They serve as the foundation of the Credential process, including the ICF Credentialing Exam.


2. Watch YouTube videos on the ICF core competencies

This is a series of videos from ICF coaches who were involved in the the Core Competencies updates in 2020 and 2021.


This is what the ICF assessors evaluate in relation to each ICF Core Competency when reviewing a recorded coaching session. They are designed to support coaches in their professional development and growth and include the specific criteria and skills used to assess Performance Evaluations at each credential level. A must read for any coach!


4. Read the ICF Code of Ethics

The ICF Code of Ethics describes the ICF core values, ethical principles and ethical standards of behavior for all ICF Professionals. Also read the Ethics FAQs, Insights and Considerations for Ethics.



5. Watch the ICF interpretative videos of the Code of Ethics

To give you a greater understanding of what the ICF Code of Ethics is and what it says about working ethically, watch a video series highlighting each section of the revised ICF Code of Ethics.


6. Practice with mock exams

Test your knowledge with this comprehensive mock exam.


7. Embrace a coaching mindset

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?


8. Use the CARE vs CAN’T model


CARE Model for Best Answers:

  1. Client-centered: Prioritize the client’s unique needs and goals, not the coach’s.

  2. Acknowledging: Value the client inputs, feelings, and experiences.

  3. Reflecting: Demonstrate curiosity enabling the client to reflect deeper.

  4. Empowering: Enable the client to make their own decisions and take control of their journey.

CAN’T Model for Worst Answers:

  1. Controlling: The coach directs, advises, or makes choices for the client.

  2. Assuming: The coach adopts assumptions or predetermined conclusions instead of being curious.

  3. Neglecting: Answers where the coach ignores or overlooks the client’s feelings or needs.

  4. Telling: Answers where the coach tells the client what to do, think or feel.


All the Best with Your Preparation!

Achieving an ICF credential not only enhances your credibility as a coach but also opens doors to global opportunities in life coaching and leadership coaching. With the coaching industry becoming more competitive, certifications from recognized bodies like the ICF (International Coaching Federation) set you apart.


Start Your Journey Today!

Ready to elevate your coaching career? Explore our ICF-accredited life coaching programs online. Whether you're aiming for life coach certification in Singapore or career coaching globally, we provide the resources you need to succeed.


And remember, enjoy the journey - you will learn so much - not just the destination!

Note: I've kept a good news! If you pass the ICF Credentialing Exam for an initial credential (such as ACC) and you apply for a higher-level credential within 12 months of earning the passing score, you will not be required to re-sit the ICF Credentialing Exam.


Geraldine GAUTHIER

Master Certified Coach

Founder of GoMasterCoach

Follow me on Linkedin for more Coaching Tips




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