When you attend an Accredited Coach Training Program (ACTP) such as Coach Training World, your final step in your ICF certification process is to complete your Coach Knowledge Assessment (CKA) with the International Coach Federation.
Earning an International Coach Federation credential is a crowning achievement. It’s also a hiring requirement for many employers and coaching firms. As for your individual clients it’s assurance that you’ve been professional trained and vetted as a coach by the global gold standard in the coaching profession.
We’ve offered the following information to help you prepare for your exam and know what to expect. At Coach Training World our mission is your success. Training to become a coach is an important step to becoming a professional changemaker and we’re here with you every step of the way. Renewing your coaching credential is also an essential step to maintaining the credibility you’ve earned.
What are the requirements to Earn an ICF Credential?
ICF Associate Certified Coach
Requires you to attend a minimum of 60 hours of ICF Accredited/Approved Coach Training, 100 hours of coaching experience, and 10 hours of mentoring over a period of 3 months. PLUS, you’ll not only take the ICF CKA exam, you’ll also need to submit a sample of your coaching (and its transcription) to the ICF.
NOTE: Before submitting your final coaching sample to the ICF, you are encouraged to speak with your ICF mentor about how to choose your best sample.
The current fees for this process are $750 for non-ICF members and $500 if you are an ICF member. Please check the ICF website for the most current information.
ICF Professional Certified Coach
Requires you to attend a minimum of 125 hours of ICF Accredited/Approved Coach Training, 500 hours of coaching experience, and 10 hours of mentoring over a period of 3 months. You will then take the ICF CKA exam.
The current fees for this process are $300 for non-ICF members and $100 if you are an ICF member. Please check the ICF website for the most current information.
Regardless of the track you’re on, the International Coach Federation Coach Knowledge Assessment (CKA) tests everyone on the same material. This article was written to help prepare you for it.
What is the ICF Coach Knowledge Assessment (CKA)?
The CKA measures your understanding of the knowledge and skills related to the practice of coaching. This short guide is designed to help you prepare through the following:
- Exam Logistics
- Focal Topics
- Study Tips
- Sample Questions
- Helpful FAQs
What should I expect when I take the ICF Coach Knowledge Assessment (CKA)?
The Coach Knowledge Assessment is administered with the following parameters:
- You will receive an email from the ICF to take the CKA after they review your application.
- ICF ACC applicants who have completed our 60-hour training are required to submit a sample coaching session to be reviewed first. Typically, the turnaround for review is 14 to 16 weeks. After passing, you should receive your test invitation via email.
- If you are an ICF PCC applicant and have completed our full 125-hour training, you should receive your test invitation via email typically within 1 week.
- Once you receive this email, you have 60 days to complete the CKA.
- To take the CKA, simply go to the ICF’s website and login with the information contained in the email you receive.
- Prepare in advance! Once you log in to the test portal and select your preferred language, you must complete the CKA within 3 hours. (NOTE: according to data published by the ICF, “most applicants complete the test in just over two hours.”)
- The CKA consists of 155 multiple-choice questions.
- Each test question has only ONE correct answer.
- You must answer 70% or more of the questions correctly to pass. (This means you can miss or skip 46 questions and still pass the CKA.)
- You will receive your score immediately after you complete the test. You can either print the results or save them as a PDF. (NOTE: the CKA is not a learning tool, so you will not be informed which – if any – of the questions you answered incorrectly.)
What does the the Coach Knowledge Assessment test on?
The CKA assesses your understanding of coaching methodologies and best practices. You will be tested on your knowledge of:
- Setting the foundation
- Co-creating the relationship
- Communicating effectively
- Facilitating learning and results
- Coaching foundations and knowledge base
Questions are taken from the ICF’s Definition of Coaching, Core Competencies and Code of Ethics. In brief, the ICF defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”
Review the material we’ve covered throughout training, distinguishing between basic coaching skills, general coaching tools, and niche-specific tools. The ICF will test only on the concepts and tools that enable you to establish and remain in partnership with your clients.
TIP: Pay attention to core competencies, the core competencies comparison table, and the code of ethics. They don’t need to be memorized. However, do spend time reflecting on and internalizing them.
Review the full definitions via the embedded links above. Be aware some questions may be taken directly from these definitions while others may require a more analytical answer. In other words, you apply your understanding of the concepts to choose the most appropriate response.
Review the Core Competencies Comparison Table. Familiarize yourself with how the ICF expects coaches to progress from ACC to MCC. Several of the test questions may focus on the differences within these levels.
One of the ICF’s central goals is to help its coaches succeed in their chosen specialty. Like your Coach Training World family, they want you to be successful in your business! For this reason, you can expect to find questions related to professional and contractual issues – in other words: administrative topics.
If these concepts are new to you, review the ethics section on the ICF website to ensure you understand their philosophy. Focus on how coaching contracts and arrangements work.
How can you study and prepare for your ICF CKA?
One of most important things to be aware of is the ICF Coach Knowledge Assessment is open-book and open-notes. This means you can print out the topics mentioned above and have them handy. It’s also a good idea to keep a spare laptop or smartphone within reach to search anything you are not sure of when taking the test.
Even though you are permitted to have these supplementary materials handy, you still need to prepare and be ready with a thorough understanding of the concepts. Focus on the definitions of concepts as well as the meaning and application of those concepts.
Here are a few study and test-taking tips to guide you:
Manage your environment.
Before you begin the test, turn off all ringers and alerts. This means close or log out of any social media software or email programs that could push alerts, updates or new items. Some people find background music or other ambient noise such as fountains calming. If that’s your preference, it’s up to you. However, a quiet space is probably best.
If you live with others, let them know in advance you need 3 uninterrupted hours. Then at the appointed time, you will ideally close yourself off in a room with the door shut against any distractions.
Have water, coffee, tea and any snacks you may want prepared and close by.
TIP: Make sure your Internet connection and the computer you’re using are both reliable. Then have a backup plan. For example, “If my web access or power goes out, I will go to ________ and finish the test.”
If you experience any technical problems during the CKA, the ICF prefers you contact them via email at su*****@co*************.org. You can find more information, as well as the phone number for ICF Headquarters, under the FAQs on the last page of this guide.
Read questions more than once.
As with any multiple-choice test, it’s a good idea to read each question through at least twice – in its entirety – to ensure you understand it. If you are taking the test in English and it’s your second language, this will be especially helpful.
Do not expect “gotcha” questions in the CKA. However, our eyes and minds sometimes play tricks on us when we’re under time constraints. Reading questions more than once helps minimize the potential for misunderstanding.
Multiple readings can also help you puzzle out a question you’re unsure of. In this scenario, read the question through out loud and complete it with each of the available answers. Which makes the most sense in context?
Focus on the most relationship-centric answer.
Test questions will have 3 or 4 possible answers. However, there is only one correct answer to each question.
In some cases, you may discover one of the provided answers is obviously incorrect. Another may be focused solely on the coach. A third may be focused solely on the client. And a fourth answer may represent the partnership between coach and client.
At its core, coaching is about the revolutionary relationship that exists between coach and client. Keeping this in mind can guide your decisions when analyzing scenarios pertaining to goals and outcomes.
TIP: When you log in and begin the exam, take note of the top right of your screen. Here you will find the “Domain.” This is the ICF Core Competency the current question refers to. Use these hints to determine the correct answer.
“Mark for review.”
Do not spend too much time overthinking any one question. Once you begin the test, the clock is counting down. If you come up against a question that is worded in a confusing way or addresses a topic you’re unfamiliar with, skip it.
You will find a “Mark for Review” check box in the upper right of the screen above each question. Checking this box flags the question and lists it on the Summary page. You can access the Summary page by clicking the button next to “End Test” on every question page.
The Summary page displays the entire exam, listing questions in order and on one screen. It includes:
- Question numbers
- The first few words of each question
- Whether each question has been answered or skipped
- Questions you flagged for review
This gives you the opportunity to review any questions you skip once you work your way through the exam. Skipping the occasional question is smart strategically. Move through the material you are most comfortable with then return to any skipped questions with your remaining time.
Remember: you only need a passing score of 70%. If you run out of time to revisit a few of the questions you marked for review, no big loss.
TIP: Do not flag everything you’re not 100% sure on – this can lead to self-doubt. Instead, take a minute or two to think the question through. You’ve got plenty of time. If you’re still puzzled, mark that question for review and move on.
Trust yourself but remember your training.
You have been well prepared throughout your coach training with solid mentorship, coaching experience and heart-centric learning. All of this contributes to the body of knowledge that prepares you to take the CKA.
If it has been a while since you completed your coach training, you will have developed your own coaching style in the interim. This is especially true if you are working within a specialized niche. While this serves you in your day-to-day practice, the CKA is designed to test you on the ICF’s recognized knowledge, theory and best practices. Use this as the basis for your preparation.
TIP: When taking the test, your best option is to adhere to the ICF’s published guidelines and recommendations when answering questions.
Be well rested.
Listen to your biological clock. Are you a morning person or a night owl? Take the test at the most opportune time for you.
Ideally this is the point when you are rested from a night’s sleep, an afternoon nap, or an invigorating hike on your favorite trail. Taking the test following a light meal may also help get your neurons firing.
At what time of day do you feel calm and mentally alert? That’s probably your best bet. Perhaps a weekend when stress levels tend to be somewhat lower?
If something comes up and you feel tired or unsettled right before you had planned to sit down, consider postponing to another day. Remember: you have 60 days once you receive your email from the ICF.
Your goal: pass.
Don’t worry about racing through the exam, blocking off three hours but intending to finish in two. Don’t worry about not answering every question correctly. Some concepts naturally make more sense to us than others.
Your goal is to pass, not be the fastest or best. That said, it can easily be argued that simply by taking the test and working toward your credential, you have already committed yourself to be the best within the niche you’ve chosen!
Are there sample questions for the ICF Coach Knowledge Assessement (CKA)?
Yes! The following five questions are reprinted from the ICF website and represent the types of questions that may be on the test. Correct responses are shown in bold. Note the Domain included with each. These are the Core Competencies that can be used as hints within each question.
Domain: Setting the Foundation
QUESTION #1: The client is a high-energy manager with a generally positive outlook. Just before coming to the coaching session, the client was told that their responsibilities are about to drastically change and will no longer be doing the work they are passionate about. The client has come to the session in a particularly negative mood, and has expressed the desire to address this situation during today’s session. What is the BEST way for the coach to proceed?
- Ask the client about all of the potential positive outcomes from this situation.
- Remind the client that the agenda for this session was set at the end of the last session.
- Explore the outcomes for the session and ensure that the client and coach are both clear on them.
- Point out to the client how extremely important it is to be passionate about the work we do.
Domain: Co-Creating the Relationship
QUESTION #2: A client is explaining a situation to a coach, who senses that there is more that the client is not sharing. How should the coach approach the situation?
- Interrupt the client and ask for greater disclosure.
- Give the client the “bottom-line” read on the situation.
- Ask the client’s permission to probe a little deeper.
- Give the client feedback on the importance of honesty in coaching.
Domain: Communicating Effectively
QUESTION #3: When dealing with a client who brings many issues to the table, it is best for the coach to pick the option
- where the coach has the most expertise.
- of asking what the client would like to start with.
- that looks most likely to be handled in the time available.
- that the coach thinks can do the most good for the client.
Domain: Facilitating Learning and Results
QUESTION #4: An appropriate role for a coach in goal setting, planning, and prioritizing with a client is
- critiquing and embellishing a client’s goals.
- letting the client self-determine the need for goals.
- taking charge of the process to ensure it is completed accurately.
- facilitating a process around the client’s goal setting, planning, and prioritizing.
Domain: Coaching Foundations and Knowledge Base
QUESTION #5: Every coaching conversation should include
- an action plan.
- an agenda identified by the client.
- review of fieldwork.
- a summary by the coach of the client’s progress.
What happens when you apply and take the CKA exam online?
Q: How long does an applicant have to take the test?
A: Applicants are given 60 days to login and take the CKA. Once logged in they have 3 hours to complete the exam.
Q: How is an applicant notified of their results?
A: Once an applicant completes the Coach Knowledge Assessment, results are compiled and provided immediately to the applicant via email from the testing site. One week after completion of the CKA, applicants will receive official notification from the ICF Credentialing department regarding the approval status of the credential application.
Q: What happens if an applicant doesn’t pass the Coach Knowledge Assessment on their first attempt?
A: An applicant can elect to retake a different version of the test for a fee of $75 USD. The test can be taken twice per quarter.
Q: Once I pass the Coach Knowledge Assessment, will I have to take it again when I apply for another ICF Credential or renew my credential?
A: No. Currently, you are only required to take and pass the CKA one time.
Q: If I encounter a problem during the Coach Knowledge Assessment whom should I contact?
A: ICF will not provide assistance regarding the content of the test, including answers to or clarification around test questions. For technical problems with the test platform, applicants should contact ICF by email. ICF business hours are 8:30 a.m. through 5:00 p.m. (New York). The ICF office is closed on weekends and US holidays throughout the year.
In addition to this guide, past graduates may offer supplementary advice on subject matter, study methods and techniques for taking the exam. Connect with these individuals and their wisdom inside the CTW Facebook groups.
Despite our familiarity with the material, some of us become nervous when taking a test. There are third-party vendors that offer additional support for test takers. That being said, Coach Training World has a 100% pass rate on the CKA thus far.
All this brings us to one final bit of advice: Relax! With the right preparation, this is going to be a lot easier than you think.