The Quiet Coach – 14

May 15, 2023

Preparing for the Credentialing exam when applying for an ICF credential

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. This is the final step of the credential process and you will reach it once your application has been reviewed for the other elements. You will have 60 days from the time you receive the application to take the exam. You can find more details about the exam process here:

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.

Important facts to remember before you get started

  • The passing score is reported as a scaled score. The range of possible scores is 200 to 600, with a passing score of 460. What this means is that out of 81 questions, you need to get 62 right.
  • The total time you are given is 172 minutes (excluding a five minute break); that means you have a little over 2 minutes per question. You can flag off questions to return to later.

Preparing for the exam

The best way to ace the exam is to become really familiar with the ICF Coaching Competencies (which should have been covered in detail in the training program you attended to prepare – you can find them here:

The best answer will be one which meets these criteria

  • The coach puts the client’s interest ahead of theirs: which means the coach is focusing on what the client needs instead of being pre-occupied with their own performance
  • The coach demonstrates the highest standard of ethics possible and is scrupulously transparent with the client
  • The coach creates a completely safe space for the client; they avoid judgement of any kind, pay attention to what is being not said; empathize appropriately etc.
  • The coach trusts the client to think for themselves; which means they do not make decisions on the client’s behalf; do not lead the client to a solution etc.
  • The coach uses inquiry and stays out of advocacy

Identifying the worst action a coach could take is a little more tricky. I think the best way is to compare the options in terms of the potential for harming the client that each has.

Based on our analysis of the 6 sample examples that the ICF has shared, here are some questions to ask to determine the potential for harm that a coach’s intervention could have:

  1. Does it violate the ethical code of conduct? Breaking confidentiality; not navigating conflict of interest in a transparent manner, seeking to gain more than contracted for at the client’s expense. If there is a violation of ethics in any of the options, that would definitely be the worst one.
  2. Does it make the client feel judged? Coaching is predicated on the coach creating psychological safety for the client so if there is an option where the coach’s actions are reducing safety, that has high potential for harm
  3. Is the coach putting their needs ahead of the client’s? Being pre-occupied with the coach’s own performance or their own internal processes instead of those of the client.
  4. Is the coach taking over control of the session? Deciding what the client should work on; how they should think or act.
  5. Is the coach insensitive to the needs/emotions/beliefs of the client, whether stated or not? Not being empathetic; not responding to what the client needs at that point.
  6. Is the coach telling and not asking?

The ICF has provided 6 sample questions (with the correct answers for the best and the worst option for each). These do appear to be significantly more challenging than the questions in the CKA (the exam that has been replaced with this new one) however with enough preparation and a methodical approach, you should not have a problem.

  1. Take your time to read through the situation and the options carefully – given average reading speed and average number of words (based on the sample questions), it would take you less than a minute to read so you will have a little more than a minute to answer each question. In general, remember that this exam has been tested with a number of people to make sure it is appropriately challenging.
  2. In some cases, the best or the worst answer or both will be very clear (eg when there is a clear ethical violation) – move more quickly on those so you have more time to spend on the others.
  3. Practice using the questions above as you’re thinking through any coaching situation you are facing. For the exam, the worst option is likely to be the one with the higher number of yes’s to the six questions above. And the best option the one with the least number of yes’s
  4. .

I will share the analysis of the sample scenarios the ICF has provided in the next post. For now, take your time to internalize this post and to read through the behaviours that define the ICF competencies carefully.

And then go off and try out your thinking on the sample scenarios here –

We’ve set a timer of 13 minutes for 6 questions so you get a sense of what the time pressure on the exam would be like. If you finish early, take the time to review your answers (like you would in the actual exam) before you hit submit.

For more information about our ICF accredited coach training programs, please click here –
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