Pass the ICF CKA – Coach Knowledge Assessment is EASY!

Posted On: August 20, 2020

ICF CKA Test Basics & General Information

Overview of the Coach Knowledge Assessment:

    1. “The Old 11 Core Competencies” would be on the assessment until mid to late 2020 when it will switch over to “the new 8 Core Competencies.”
    2. 155 Questions
    3. 3 hours time limit (complete in one sitting)
    4. Some questions can be marked to check back later
    5. Questions are organized by competency area (see top of screen while answering questions)
    6. Score is given upon completion
    7. At least a 70% mark must be awarded to pass
    8. Certificate and Level (ACC, PCC or MCC) badge is shared via email as early as the next business day (Mine are below!) 


2021 ICF Branded PCC Completion Badge awarded to the blog author.
ICF Completion Badge


2020 ICF Branded PCC Completion Badge awarded to the blog author.
I am a PCC Certified Coach by the ICF!


(For those who do not pass, you will receive information from the ICF on how you can retake the assessment.)

Requirements to apply for the test:

      1. Varied number of training hours
      2. Varied number of mentor coaching hours
      3. Varied number of coaching hours logged (paid and pro-bono)
      4. Coach recording/transcribed
      5. Fee to have materials assessed/sit for exam**


Once you submit your fee and application materials, note that there will be a wait of 1-3 months for your materials to be assessed and a response shared granting you permission to attend the exam. (For most people I know, including me, the response was given within a month.)

See the ICF website for the details based on the level – ACC, PCC or MCC – that you need to apply for.

**Note: There is a “discount” applied to your assessment/test fee if you pay a little extra to join the ICF. Initially, I was skeptical, but there is quite a lot of resources and helpful information in the ICF website that one gains access to by becoming a member, so it is worth considering.

AND, please don’t forget to attend the welcome webinar after joining ICF. That webinar was really good in that it helped me to understand how to navigate the website, the ICF resources and gave a good overview to what the ICF dues cover. (Jennifer Kumar, the author and Authentic Journeys is not receiving any royalty for mentioning the ICF or sharing links to the website.)


My Experience Attending and Completing the CKA

One of the last steps one must take to gain their first ICF (International Coach Federation) certification is to take and PASS (with a mark of 70%) the Coach Knowledge Assessment (CKA) multiple choice test.

I recently passed this test for a PCC (Professional Certified Coach) qualification on August 16, 2020 after three weeks of preparation.


ICF PCC Certificate


I understand why the ICF requires the number of training hours, mentor coaching hours, coach recordings and other preparations to take this online exam – it does help one get prepared. Of course, everyone prepares for tests and assessments a little differently, and some of us may have test anxiety!

The good news is that all the preparations up to this point DO help. Also, a thorough study of the ICF ethics, core competencies and coaching fundamentals doesn’t hurt. If you are curious, all 155 questions are multiple choice, and one gets 3 hours to finish answering all the questions. If you are curious how some of the questions are worded, you can answer five practice questions on the ICF website.

In my case, I had completed my training and mentor coaching hours 6 months to a year before I took the exam, so I had to really take time to brush up on the fundamentals. Of course, I apply the fundamentals in my coaching sessions, but applying them in real life is a bit different than answering theoretical questions about them! So, I relied on watching a lot of YouTube videos and reading a lot of articles online by coaches who examined the core competencies from different angles. I spent about 3 weeks doing this. After examining a competency or competency area, I’d also write about it on this blog to help me really imbibe and become one with the concepts, intellectually. It also helped me understand where and how I applied the concepts in my coaching as I not only reflected on coaching examples from my over 750 hours of logged coaching, but I used a few examples in the blogs as case studies against select core competency markers.

So, when it was time to take the test, I did the following:

      1. I made sure I was *somewhat* fresh, awake and alert (I attended the test from about 2-5pm in the afternoon on a Sunday).
      2. I made sure I was sitting at a desk, upright and near an outlet so my laptop could stay plugged in the whole time.
      3. I had some water/snacks near me, as I felt I’d be sitting in one place for three hours straight.
      4. Nearby I kept a printout of the ICF competencies and a few other study materials handy for reference (there is a list of a few more materials to refer to at the end of this blog).
      5. As I went through each question, I took other’s advice, “cross off two answers” and pick the best out of the remaining two – which in many cases was pretty easy to do.
      6. The system lets you mark for review the ones you want to review before you submit your test. I took advantage of this by marking quite a few (too many, it turned out, as in the end I couldn’t review them all).


The number one thing I did not do to prepare for this exam was to memorize any definitions or exact wordings. There is no need to do that for at least two reasons. Firstly, I can’t remember any question specifically asking me to define a word or phrase as the questions are more or less case study type questions. Secondly, if it does ask for a definition, you can **shhh** refer to your study materials!

When it was time to submit the test, I did so, and within minutes it gave me my score. Though, the system will not give you your certificate or ICF badge (as you see here in the post). That will be delivered by email the next business day after the ICF staff review your test scores and manually send it to you.

I wish you all the best for your CKA – you will ACE it for sure!

If you’re interested to see the blogs I wrote on the [old] ICF core competencies, review the links below:

      1. Area A: Setting the Foundation: Ethics and Professional Standards, Establishing the Coaching Agreement 
      2. Area B: Co-Creating the Relationship: Establishing Trust and Intimacy, Coaching Presence, 
      3. Area C: Communicating Effectively: Active ListeningPowerful Questioning and Direct Communication 
      4. Area D: Facilitating Learning and Results: Creating AwarenessDesigning Actions, Planning and Goal Setting, and Managing Progress and Accountability


Take a moment to listen to our insights into the NEW ICF Core Competencies (2021):

      1. Demonstrates Ethical Practice 
      2. Embodies a Coaching Mindset 
      3. Establishes and Maintains Agreements  
      4. Cultivates Trust and Safety (part 1) (part 2
      5. Maintains Presence 
      6. Listens Actively
      7. Evokes Awareness
      8. Facilitates Client Growth

Jennifer Kumar, author and ICF PCC credentialed coach initiated the Coach 2 Coach Mastermind through the ICF High Country Chapter in 2021. Members who join the chapter can get a great deal on attending future cohorts, or look to this page for more information. The Coach 2 Coach Mastermind deep dives into the 2021 updated ICF Core Competencies 3 through 8 through discussion, application, peer coaching and feedback. Upon completion, you will receive a certificate of 7.5 CCEUs from the International Coaching Federation (ICF). We hope you can join us.

Browse some more study materials for the ICF CKA:
More on the CKA from the ICF website

More on the 11 core competencies from The Academies 
Code of Coaching Ethics
ICF Core Coaching Competency Behaviors Chart
Hacking the Core Competencies
Coaching Changes Lives YouTube Channel
Corporate Sponsored Coach Training YouTube Channel


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