A study by the ICF shows that over 52 percent of all clients will not hire a coach with no relevant credentials. Professional bodies exist to bind professionals and their professions together. In regard to life coaching, the ICF is the gold standard of certification, and every life coach is highly encouraged to start by obtaining their ICF certification. Apart from proving your competency, the certification promotes the expertise of your coaching services. Becoming an ICF certified life coach sends the following important messages to your prospective clients:
  • You have received training from an ICF credentialed program, which means you have mastered the core competencies of coaching and have committed to adhere to the ICF code of ethics in your coaching practice.
  • You have demonstrated full knowledge and understanding of how to use your coaching skills in real life coaching situations.
  • You are prepared to be accountable to the standards that have been mandated by the ICF.
To become ICF certified and to be enrolled as a member of the ICF, you must complete at least 60 hours of coach-specific training. You will also be required to pay a yearly membership fee and agree to abide by the ICF code of ethics. Coach specific training means that your training must come from an ICF accredited coach training program (ACTP) or a program with the ICF Approved Coach Specific Training Hours (ASCTH) credential, such as Aim Higher. The training program must be tailored to cover all the tenets of coaching as stipulated by the ICF core competencies guidelines. The full eligibility requirements can be found on the ICF website.
To become ICF certified and to be enrolled as a member of the ICF, you must complete at least 60 hours of coach-specific training. You will also be required to pay a yearly membership fee and agree to abide by the ICF code of ethics. Coach specific training means that your training must come from an ICF accredited coach training program (ACTP) or a program with the ICF Approved Coach Specific Training Hours (ASCTH) credential, such as Aim Higher. The training program must be tailored to cover all the tenets of coaching as stipulated by the ICF core competencies guidelines. The full eligibility requirements can be found on the ICF website.
Once you have completed the training and the required mentoring hours, your next step is to take the ICF Coach Knowledge Assessment (CKA) test. The CKA is an assessment tool that was designed by the ICF to gauge the skills and knowledge of life coaches interested in obtaining their ICF certification. This is why going through a competent ICF approved coaching program is so important. Passing this multiple-choice test (a minimum score of 70 percent is required) demonstrates that you can apply the knowledge you have acquired and are ready to receive your ICF certification.
Once you have completed the training and the required mentoring hours, your next step is to take the ICF Coach Knowledge Assessment (CKA) test. The CKA is an assessment tool that was designed by the ICF to gauge the skills and knowledge of life coaches interested in obtaining their ICF certification. This is why going through a competent ICF approved coaching program is so important. Passing this multiple-choice test (a minimum score of 70 percent is required) demonstrates that you can apply the knowledge you have acquired and are ready to receive your ICF certification.

Tips to Help Ace the Coach Knowledge Assessment Test

Tips to Help Ace the Coach Knowledge Assessment Test

1. Trust your experience

Before applying for your ICF certification, you will have completed your coach-specific training. As well, your coaching hours will have exposed you to real-life coaching. The credential you are applying for will determine the necessary number of coaching hours:
  • For the Associate Certified Coach (ACC), you must have completed at least 100 hours of coaching, 75 of which must be from paying clients.
  • For the Professional Certified Coach (PCC), you must have completed at least 500 hours of coaching, 450 of which must be from paying clients.
  • For the Master Certified Coach (MCC), you must have completed at least 2,500 hours of coaching, 2,250 of which must be from paying clients.
In addition to your hours of coaching experience, you will most likely have participated in webinars, tele-classes, conferences, and other events organized by your local ICF chapter. This combination will help prepare you to tackle the questions encountered on the CKA test and instill you with confidence.

2. Take time to review

There is a wise saying: The bluntest pencil is always sharper than the sharpest mind. Even though your experience will have prepared you well for the CKA, do not neglect the importance of reviewing your notes from your ICF approved program, and those you’ve taken from other ICF approved events. This is especially important if it has been a couple of years since you completed your training. However busy you may be in your life coaching business, create time to review, revise, and refresh your knowledge. As you do, ask yourself the following important questions:
  1. How well versed am I with the ICF code of ethics?
  2. Am I familiar with all the ICF core competencies?
Next, go to the ICF website to refresh your knowledge on the code of ethics and the core competencies. To make your work easier, you can download the PDF documents. This way, you can quickly refer to them as you continue to revise and prepare for the D-day.

3. Remember the basics

As you start revising and refreshing your memory, you may realize that you have drifted away from some of the things you have studied, due to unique situations in your practice. Even though taking such liberalities may be okay in your business, these same liberties will not help you when taking the CKA test. Remember, the assessment is not meant to examine how well you have adopted a new style of life coaching that your clients resonate with, but how well versed you are in the theory and application of life coaching as per ICF standards. Once you have experience in the real world, you might find some of the questions that are posed in the assessment seem to be subjective. In such a scenario, stick to the basics and the textbook answer.

4. Plan your time well

The ICF certification assessment test is three hours long. Plan this time well and be sure to utilize every second. Remember, there is no reward for being the overachiever that finished the assessment in record time. This is not a speed test. Slow down and take your time in answering the questions. The CKA test allows you to read a question and mark it as one to come back to. This allows you to answer questions that you are confident in first. The fact that this assessment is online can be a double-edged sword.
On one hand, it is easy to rush through it in order to finish it quickly and go on to something that you find “more interesting.” On the other hand, the online format enables you to choose the best time for taking the test. Choose a time when you have lots of energy and few or no distractions. Make sure you eat well before you start to avoid hunger pangs in the middle of the test.

5. Eliminate distractions

Before you begin taking the CKA test, be sure to remove or at least minimize any distractions. Turn your cell phone off. On the laptop, make sure you have only one tab open—the one with the test—and close every other browser window. Open your task manager and close any app with pop-up notifications such as emails, messaging apps, and VOIP program. If possible, take the test in your office or the library. If you take your test at home, ensure you are in a private space away from your kids, spouse, pets, and noises from appliances like the refrigerator. You need to be completely unplugged for three hours, so talk to your family about this in advance so that they understand how important taking the CKA test is for you.

6. Read each question at least twice

As a rule of thumb, don’t be in a rush to pick your answers. Read your question and the answers twice or three times before answering them. Many times, reading the question more than once comes naturally for non-native English speakers, because they want to be absolutely sure they understand exactly what is being asked. But test anxiety can make even a native speaker misjudge or misinterpret the questions.
Therefore, after reading a question the first time, even if you are sure you understand it, read it a second time before picking your answer. Reading the question more than once is actually a way of using your time well when taking the test. The test has 155 questions and you have 180 minutes to complete it. Therefore, you have an average of 1 minute and 16 seconds for each question. Granted, some questions are shorter and clearer and will take less than a minute to answer, while others may take up to two minutes. But if you stick to the plan, your time will balance out and you will finish the test in good time.

7. Use the mark for review option

If you are unsure about a question after reading it twice, you can use the “mark for review option.” This option allows go through the entire test then go back to those questions you have not answered. The mark-for-review checkbox can be found on the summary page, which is located on every question page. The summary page has a list of the questions on one screen with details of whether the question has been answered, skipped, or marked for review. This is a handy tool because it allows you to complete the questions you are sure of and come back those you are less sure of later. This saves time as you will not get stuck on one question and fail to answer the ones you know the answers to.

ConclusionJoin the International Coach Federation

Out of the 155 questions, you only need to get 109 of them correct (70 percent) in order to obtain a passing score for your ICF certification. If you come across a question you are unsure of, don’t let that dampen your spirits. You can get 46 questions wrong and still pass the test! Knowing this can be liberating, because it eliminates much of the pressure that comes with taking any test. So take a deep breath and relax; follow the tips suggested above and you should do great on the test.
Learn how to take the CKA test and get your ICF Certification. . .
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