Updated vs. Old ICF Core Competencies

Posted On: April 3, 2021

Back in 2019, the International Coaching Federation (ICF) updated the core competencies one needs to master to pass the credentialing exam (Coach Knowledge Assessment- CKA). Though that happened in 2019, the “new” competencies will not go into effect on the CKA until sometime in the third or fourth quarter of 2021. 


As I have had the unique opportunity to facilitate a Core Competency Mastermind through the ICF High Country Chapter since January 2021, I would like to share in this post how the new competencies match up against the “old” ones and some insights I have into these competencies from a cross-cultural perspective.


As you review the chart below, click on the links to read our insights into the competencies.


Comparison Chart: Updated vs. Old ICF Core Competencies

The competencies left-justified in bold are the NEW 2021 competencies. Those which are left justified and in italics are the older competencies (relevant for the CKA until later in 2021).


If you ever wondered, “How many ICF core competencies are there?” we can see here that in the old model, there were 11 ICF core competencies, while there are only 8 ICF core competencies in the updated core competency model. Due to this, it’s important to deep dive into the PCC markers that help us to benchmark the competencies.



NEW 2021 ICF Core Competencies

Former ICF Core Competencies



1. Demonstrates Ethical Practice (relates to old 1)

1. Meeting Ethical Guidelines and Professional Standards


2. Embodies a Coaching Mindset (no related competency)


3. Establishes and Maintains Agreements (relates to old 2)

2. Establishing the Coaching Agreement


4. Cultivates Trust and Safety (relates to old 3) (part 1) (part 2

3. Establishing Trust and Intimacy with the Client


5. Maintains Presence (relates to old 4)

4. Coaching Presence


6. Listens Actively (relates to old 5) 

5. Active Listening


7. Evokes Awareness (relates to old 6, 7, 8)

6. Powerful Questioning

7. Direct Communication

8. Creating Awareness


8. Facilitates Client Growth (relates to old 9, 10, 11)

9. Designing Actions

10. Planning and Goal Setting

11. Managing Progress and Accountability


Take a look at the same information in a chart form: 

Comparing the old and new ICF Core Comptencies

PCC Mentor Coach - Helping Coaches Excel in English

What are ICF Core Competencies and why are they important?

ICF core competencies are a set of standards and skills used to assess the coaching mastery of a coach as they apply for the ICF certification. In order to be eligible for a certification (ACC, foundational level, PCC, mid-level, or MCC, master level coach), an ICF Credential aspirant needs needs to attend training, log a particular number of coaching hours, attend mentor coaching, and submit a coaching recording vetted by a mentor coach. After the basic materials and information has been collected, it is submitted to ICF along with an application fee for review. Once the application materials are reviewed and approved by ICF, the aspirant will attend a Coach Knowledge Assessment (computer based). Upon successful completion of this CKA, the aspirant will be awareded an ICF Credential.

In going through this process, the ICF core competencies are vetted at every step- along side the coaching program philosophy, in mentor coaching, and in the CKA (through testing scenarios). Assessing alongside competencies help professionalize the coaching by offering a set of standards that all aspiring coaches must achieve the mastery level akin to their coaching credential level.


Learn more about some of the ICF Core Competencies as discussed by Jennifer Kumar in relation to cross-cultural leadership coaching.


Author of this post, Jennifer Kumar, a PCC certified ICF coach, provides mentor coaching and coaching to those learning to coach in English (as their second, third, fourth or other language), to help you master the content as you continue your studies, how to analyze the content, apply the content while improving your confidence and fluency in English. Our coaching helps you focus on the content-  not your English skills. Contact us at +1 385 218-0947 (SMS/Voice in the USA), +91 95 393 47 529 (India, WhatsApp only). We can work with you regardless of where you live! 

Join Jennifer Kumar as she facilitates the Core Competency Mastermind (if you are an ICF High Country member sign up between August 1- Sept. 22 for the next cohort starting on Sept. 23, 2021).  


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