How To Pass The ICF Coach Knowledge Assessment (CKA)

The Coach Knowledge Assessment is an assessment the International Coach Federation uses to measure coaches’ understanding of the knowledge and skills important in the practice of coaching. If you have good coaching training, with these tips, you should pass the ICF CKA with flying colors! 

Coaching has turned into a $2 billion a year industry. The International Coach Federation (ICF) is the largest coaching association in the world with more than 34,000 members in 145 countries. The ICF began in 1995 and has created rigorous coaching and ethical standards. It certifies individual coaches and coach training programs. 

The Coach Knowledge Assessment (CKA) assesses coaches on their understanding of the body of knowledge that includes the ICF definition of coaching, the ICF Core Competencies, and ICF Code of Ethics.

To prepare for your ICF coach credential you must meet training, coaching experience, and mentor coaching requirements. Read more on How To Become An ICF Certified Coach. There are 3 levels of ICF coach credentials as outlined here:

Associate Certified Coach 

  • 60+ hours of qualified coaching instruction.
  • 100+ hours of practice with coaching clients.
  • 10 hours feedback (mentor coaching) with a qualified coach.

Professional Certified Coach 

  • 125+ hours of qualified coaching instruction.
  • 500+ hours of practice with coaching clients.
  • 10 hours feedback (mentor coaching) with a qualified coach.

Master Certified Coach 

  • 200+ hours of qualified coaching instruction.
  • 2500+ hours of practice with coaching clients.
  • 10 hours feedback (mentor coaching) with a qualified coach.

The ICF CKA Process

Once you are ready and apply for a credential, the ICF will review your application and then contact you via email with a status update containing the next step in the review process. The steps for a credential application review vary depending on the application path you choose for the credential.

You will receive an email invitation to complete the CKA once your application review is complete. When you are ready to take the exam, go to the website and use the login information the ICF sent. You have up to 60 days after receiving the email to begin the exam, but you must complete it within 3 hours of logging in and starting it.

There are 155 multiple choice questions. Only one answer is correct for each question. You need to score 70% to pass.

It takes two and a half to three hours to do this online exam. Most people who have completed ICF-approved coaching training are reported to pass this assessment.

How To Prepare for the ICF CKA

The CKA is based on 3 things:

  • The ICF definition of coaching
  • The ICF Core Competencies
  • The ICF Code of Ethics

Here are a few best practices to prepare for and pass the ICF Coach Knowledge Assessment.

  1. Your ICF-approved coaching training will prepare you to successfully pass the ICF CKA. By taking ICF-approved courses you’ve learned the ICF definition of coaching, the ICF Core Competencies, and the ICF Code of Ethics.
  2. Read through each of these documents again prior to taking the CKA. You don’t need to memorize them, but really read these and reflect on what’s written.
  3. Be rested. Remember, the CKA usually takes two and a half to three hours to complete.
  4. Be somewhere you can concentrate and have reliable Internet connection while taking the CKA.
  5. Once you begin, you have 3 hours to complete 155 questions. Move through the questions with your best answers. You can mark questions you want to return to.
  6. During the CKA, the top right of your screen indicates which of the ICF Core Competency domains the question is referring to. Being aware of which domain the question is asking about can help you better determine the correct answer.
  7. Before submitting your answers, the assessment allows you to review questions. Review any questions you didn’t answer.

You will receive your score immediately after you finish the CKA. After you pass, you will receive final approval of your credential by email in a few weeks depending on your application type. If you don’t pass, you will receive information for how to retake the CKA.

Good luck!

Sample CKA Questions

The ICF posted the following sample questions on their website. They are reproduced below without the correct answer. At the end there’s a link to view the correct answers.

Domain: Setting the Foundation
1) The client is a high-energy manager with a generally positive outlook. Just before coming to the coaching session, the client was told that their responsibilities are about to drastically change and will no longer be doing the work they are passionate about. The client has come to the session in a particularly negative mood, and has expressed the desire to address this situation during today’s session. What is the BEST way for the coach to proceed?

a. Ask the client about all of the potential positive outcomes from this situation.
b. Remind the client that the agenda for this session was set at the end of the last session.
c. Explore the outcomes for the session and ensure that the client and coach are both clear on them.
d. Point out to the client how extremely important it is to be passionate about the work we do.

Domain: Co-Creating the Relationship
2) A client is explaining a situation to a coach, who senses that there is more that the client is not sharing. How should the coach approach the situation?

a. Interrupt the client and ask for greater disclosure.
b. Give the client the “bottom-line” read on the situation.
c. Ask the client’s permission to probe a little deeper.
d. Give the client feedback on the importance of honesty in coaching.

Domain: Communicating Effectively
3) When dealing with a client who brings many issues to the table, it is best for the coach to pick the option

a. where the coach has the most expertise.
b. of asking what the client would like to start with.
c. that looks most likely to be handled in the time available.
d. that the coach thinks can do the most good for the client.

Domain: Facilitating Learning and Results
4) An appropriate role for a coach in goal setting, planning, and prioritizing with a client is

a. critiquing and embellishing a client’s goals.
b. letting the client self-determine the need for goals.
c. taking charge of the process to ensure it is completed accurately.
d. facilitating a process around the client’s goal setting, planning, and prioritizing.

Domain: Coaching Foundations and Knowledge Base
5) Every coaching conversation should include

a. an action plan.
b. an agenda identified by the client.
c. review of fieldwork.
d. a summary by the coach of the client’s progress.

Answers to the CKA quiz are here.

For more details on the CKA, visit the ICF’s website.

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    Keith is President of Creative Results Management. He helps busy leaders multiply their impact. Keith is the author of several books including The COACH Model for Christian Leaders.

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