All About The ICF Credentialing Exam

In this article we will cover the credentialing exam all coaches have to take when applying to an ICF credential. 

The ICF Credentialing Exam was designed to measure the coach’s knowledge of the ICF definition of coaching, the Core Competencies, and the ICF Code of Ethics, and how they apply this ICF framework to concrete coaching situations.

The competency “Embodying a Coaching Mindset” is one that is for instance difficult to fully assess while listening to a recording of a coaching session. The exam is there as a way to confirm the applicant’s ability to act according to the ICF vision of coaching.

How the exam is structured

The exam consists of 81 coaching scenarios. For each of the scenarios, you will be asked to identify the BEST action and the WORST action to take as a coach. So you will have to provide 2 answers for each scenario.

The exam is structured as such:

  1. You will have 3 minutes to read the exam instructions.
  2. You will then have 87 minutes (almost 1.5 hour) to go through 41 coaching scenarios.
  3. You will have a break of 5 minutes.
  4. You will go through the remaining 40 scenarios in 85 minutes.

The logistics

The ICF Credentialing Exam is 3 hours long. That is very long time to remain focused and to manage your energy level as you go through each of the questions. It means you have a little over 2 minutes per scenario.

You can take the exam online or in person in an assessment centre. When you receive the link to book your spot, you’ll be asked to choose which option you prefer. If you opt for in-person, you’ll see which exam centres are closest to you.

One thing to notice is that it is a closed-book exam. You will not be able to have anything on your table while you take the test. If you choose to take it online, you will have to completely clear your desk and show the proctor that you have done so.

The passing grade is 75%. You need to reach a score of 460 minimum. The score ranges from 200 to 600.


The ICF shared a few sample exam questions on their website. Here are two.

Question 1

A coach is meeting with a prospective client who is growing a new business. The coach and potential client quickly establish an easy connection. The coach is excited about the opportunity to work with the client. As the coach and client are ending their conversation, the prospective client briefly mentions the name of their new business. The coach recognizes the business, as the coach is an investor in a more established competitor business in the same community. What should the coach do?

What is the BEST action and what is the WORST action?

  1. Not say anything. Try to keep their role as an investor in a competing business separate from their role as a coach.
  2. Share that the business name sounds familiar and make a mental note to determine whether it is a competitor business later that evening.
  3. Share their role as investor in the competitor business only if the potential client follows up to pursue coaching with the coach.
  4. Share their role as an investor in a competing business and acknowledge the possibility of a conflict of interest with the client.

(Answer keys: BEST is #4, WORST is #1)

Question 2

A client comes to a session appearing stressed. When the coach asks what the client wants to talk about, the client frantically lists a major event they are planning at work, a large family gathering they are organizing, and caring for their aging parents. What should the coach do?

What is the BEST action and what is the WORST action?

  1. Ask the client if they need to take a moment before starting the coaching sessions, since they seem stressed.
  2. Ask the client to share more about their aging parents.
  3. Acknowledge that the client has shared three significant challenges that they are facing, and ask the client which one they would like to explore first.
  4. Ask the client to begin with the major event they are planning at work, since they mentioned it first.

(Answer keys: BEST is #3, WORST is #4)


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International Coaching Federation. (2022). ICF Credentialing Exam. Link:

Photo by Nguyen Dang Hoang Nhu on Unsplash

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