How To Prepare For The ICF Credentialing Exam

The ICF Credentialing Exam is a mandatory step to take for any coach who applies for an ICF credential. It is drastically different from its previous version, the Coach Knowledge Assessment. Even though it has more or less the same length, the content of the exam has changed. It is also more structured and is taken in a much more controlled environment. This can be a source of stress for coaches as it brings many people back to their school or university days, when they had to take formal exam.

This article is intended to help you prepare for the exam and feel empowered and confident about your ability to pass it on your first try.


First things first. You should have a very good understanding on what to expect the day of the exam: not just about the content, but also how the exam is structured, and the logistics of it.

This will allow you to come prepared, in the right mindset, and not to have to do too many things at the last minute in order to be able to take the exam.

Things you should know about:

  • You can take the exam online or in-person.
  • It’s a closed-book exam.
  • If you take it online, you will be observed through your webcam by a proctor.
  • You need to arrive 30 minutes before the start to have enough time for identification and setup.

Read our article on the ICF Credentialing Exam to learn more about its purpose and structure.

Know the icf core competencies

Out of the 4 options you will be given for each scenario, you will have to choose which one is the best action and which one is the worst action to take as a coach.

The way you will need to evaluate which is best and which is worst is based on the ICF framework. What do we mean by framework? We talk about three things:

  1. The ICF definition of coaching,
  2. The ICF Core Competencies,
  3. And the ICF Code of Ethics (more on this below).

To prepare for the exam, we advise you to be more than familiar with these resources because the answers the ICF expects of you are solely based on the vision of coaching described in these documents.

What is the ICF definition of coaching? You can find it here.

ICF defines coaching as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. The process of coaching often unlocks previously untapped sources of imagination, productivity and leadership.

What about the ICF Core Competencies? You can download them here. There are 8 competencies. You should know what they are about and the behaviours that demonstrate each competency. For additional information on these behaviours, you can have a look at the PCC Markers. Even if you’re not applying for PCC, it will give you a very good understanding of what the ICF expects of coaches in sessions.


The ICF Code of Ethics is a very important document to include in your exam preparation. It states the behaviours expected of a credentialed coach with regards to their clients and the coaching profession.

Reviewing the ICF Code of Ethics will allow you to get a refresher on how to approach confidentiality, conflict of interest, coach-client relationship, and any other aspect of the work of a coach. Some of the scenarios of the exam may be ethical dilemmas the Code of Ethics directly addresses, so make sure you know the code before the exam.

Learn more about the importance of ethics in coaching in this article.


The ICF shares 8 sample exam questions on their website. These questions and their answers are very important to go over several times as they are concrete examples of the content of the exam, but also the type of answer expected of you.

We advise you to start by answering each scenario with a time limit of 2 minutes for each without looking at the answer.

Then, you can compare your answers to the answers the ICF provides.

  • Look for answers you got right: what were the clues that made you answer correctly?
  • Look for answers you got wrong: what is it about the right answer from the ICF that differs from the one you chose?


The Institute organises regular virtual study groups where we cover the logistics of the exam. We also prepare unique scenarios and discuss the results with coaches who attend.

This is completely free.

Check this page to sign up for the next one.

ask for advice to coaches who passed the exam

Finally, make sure you connect with coaches who have already taken the exam so they can share their experience with you. Reach out to people from your coach training or on Linkedin, and simply ask what it was like for them, and if they have any tips to give you. This is the perfect excuse to connect with coaches and build your community.


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Photo by Alissa De Leva on Unsplash
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