How to Ace the ICF Coach Knowledge Assessment Exam (CKA)

I recently took the ICF’s Coach Knowledge Assessment exam (CKA).

This online multiple-choice exam was part of the requirement for me to receive my Associate Certified Coach (ACC) credential with the International Coaching Federation.

Several of my fellow coaches are also taking the exam, and a frequently asked question is “How do I prepare for this? How do I ace it?”

Here’s how I prepared for the exam and my experience in taking it.

First of all, the CKA Exam

It is an online exam consisting of 155 multiple-choice questions based on ICF’s definition of coaching, core competencies and code of ethics.

The questions’ difficulty levels vary. Some assess your awareness of a concept or skill based around these five broad domains:

1. Setting the foundation
2. Co-creating the relationship
3. Communicating effectively
4. Facilitating learning and results
5. Coaching foundations and knowledge base

Other questions probe for deeper understanding and right application within scenarios in these four areas:

1. Professional conduct at large
2. Conflicts of interest
3. Professional conduct with clients
4. Confidentially and privacy

You won’t need to memorize any definitions or lists. You simply choose the best answer among four options.

Most importantly for me, this exam is Pass/Fail. Currently, the passing grade is 70%. This means you can miss 46 questions and still pass the test!

As someone who used to obsess about “getting an A” in all my classes, knowing that this exam is Pass/Fail really freed me from over-preparing! Of course, as a professional, I want to do my best. However, for the purpose of receiving your ICF credential and passing this exam, there’s no difference between getting a 100% and a 70%. If you pass, you ace the exam!

How I Prepared for the CKA Exam

While there are exam prep courses available for purchase, I found that the following prepared me well for the exam.

Review The International Coaching Federation website

First and foremost, the ICF website provides abundant information for your prep.

Information about the Coach Knowledge Assessment (CKA) itself:

Material and Knowledge that the ICF will test around:

I found the core competencies, the comparison table and the code of ethics to be particularly helpful in reviewing for the materials covered by the test.

You can print out these resources and have them handy while taking the exam.

Review my coach training materials

I received my coaching training and my Certified Christian Leadership Coach designation from Coach Approach Ministries (CAM). Through their ICF accredited coach training program, I had more than 60 hours’ worth of Approved Coach Specific Training Hours (the so-called “ACC ACSTH Path“). Briefly reviewing my notes from those classes helped to refresh my memory and understanding of the material covered on the exam.

Review my feedback notes from mentor coaches

I also briefly looked over notes from my CAM group mentor coaching class. One of the ICF requirements for ACC credentialing is mentor coaching for a minimum of 10 hours over a minimum of 3 months by a qualified Mentor Coach. Reviewing what I learned from my time with a mentor coach also helped me in my preparation.

Browse resources on the internet

Finally, I googled resources on the internet. Here are some links that you may find helpful.

I’m glad these coaches shared their prep and exam taking experience. It lowered my anxiety in approaching the exam.

My Experience Taking the CKA Exam

About a month after I submitted my application for the ACC credential, I received an email with a link to the online exam and an assigned username and password.

Login Experience

For some reason, I had problems logging in using Firefox. When I tried with Chrome, I had no problems.

Once I was in using the provided username and password, I was asked to change my password and include a security question. For me, that was the most confusing part of the exam! 🙂

Taking the Test

The exam is designed to be taken in one sitting, for a total of three hours. I recommend finding a time and a place where you will not be disturbed or distracted.

The questions often consist of a case or scenario. Take your time in reading the question carefully. Some of the answers ask what’s the BEST to do. Others ask what NOT to do. Be sure you are clear what the questions are asking.

I found that I could easily eliminate two of the four possible answers. On some of the questions, it was more difficult to determine which of the other two was the right answer.

If I was stuck on a particular question, I flagged it to return to it later.

If I accidentally skipped a question, the system automatically notes it.

Reviewing My Answers

At the end of the exam, I was brought to a review page that lists the first few words of all the questions on the exam. On that review page, I saw whether I completed that question or whether I skipped or flagged it.

I found the review process to be clunky.

It was easy enough to go back to a question that I had skipped or flagged.

But after I completed my review of a question, I was sent back to the first page of the review.

That was fine when I was reviewing the first thirty questions or so. But for the questions towards the end of the exam, I found myself having to advance several review pages of questions before getting back to where I had left off.

I hope later versions of this test will just bring you back to the page where you last selected a question for review.

Final Score

After I completed the exam, I immediately received my score on the website. From that page I can print out my results or save as a PDF. I also received an email with my score.

Since this is an assessment and not a learning tool, I was not told which questions I missed.

Conclusion

I probably spent around three hours preparing for the exam.

I took two and a half hours to complete the whole process.

At the end of the day, I’m glad that I didn’t spend more time preparing for it.

For those of you preparing to take the CKA exam, here’s my takeaway:

  • Review the basics and core material from the ICF and your training.
  • Trust what you have learned.
  • Be focused and relaxed while taking the exam.
  • You will ace the exam!

For those of you who’ve already taken the exam, please feel free to share your thoughts and experience!

And if you thought this post was helpful, please consider signing up for future posts from me about coaching!

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  1. Love this to share with my leaders going through coach training. Great process write-up and links to your resources, Michael. Thank you!

  2. Thank you for sharing your way and how to prepare for the ICF CKA assessment.
    I will use this way of preparing all before I sit the assessment in the next month.

  3. Hello Michael!

    Thank’s very much for this article. It was very useful for me.
    Especially login experience and conclusion.
    Yesterday I passed CKA and I will always remember about Your help in this process 🙂

    Greetings from Poland!
    Dominika

  4. Thanks Michael. I am anticipating taking the CKA in the next month as I apply for my PCC (it wasn’t required when I got my ACC certification.)

    This was very helpful information. Others have said, “Don’t worry about preparing for it. If you’re actively coaching you’ll do fine.” That doesn’t really work for me (and my insecurities). What you wrote is both encouraging as well as a good roadmap.

  5. Hi Michael,

    Your post is so honest and simple…in addition to being helpful.
    Thank you for the links too!

    I loved your style of writing too…
    Applying for my PCC directly and have to take the CKA as well. This will be helpful!

    Many thanks!
    Mrunal
    Mumbai, India

  6. Thanks for your valuable advice , that is exactly what I was looking for.
    Greetings and blessings from Germany
    Christine

  7. Thanks for sharing your ICF knowledge test reflections as you helped me to figure out how I wanted to design my prep. strategy. I, too, feel that 3 hours of prep tiime, when combined with certification learning and experience, and integrating the material from the ICF website, created a solid sense of readiness going into the test. As you suggested, printing the Code of Ethics and the compentency table, provided handy, quick reference tools. I had a great outcome; I passed the ICF knowledge test!

    Carole