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Testing Times: the new ICF Credentialing system

About to apply for ICF ACC credentials? 

ICF ACC badge

Here’s a quick overview of the latest process (Sep 2022), using the new Pearson Vue system. I had a load of questions when I started to apply and it was tricky to find answers. I hope this will answer some of yours, and help you avoid problems. I share my personal experience as well as the practical details – feel free to contact me if you have any questions!

NOTE: Where I talk about the audio review process, it might vary a bit with your training provider – I’ve referenced Barefoot Coaching, who did my ACTP training. And as I’d applied to do the exam before August 2022, I did the ‘old’ exam, though in the ‘new’ system – the process and experience are the same, there’s just a few differences in number of questions and which version of the competencies are used.

Here’s what I wished I’d known:

  • The audio recording performance assessment process takes up to 2 weeks
  • You need to do this to get the ACTP certificate before you apply to ACC – they don’t accept an ‘end of course’ certificate. 
  • But if you submit the wrong certificate – ICF just ask you for the correct one, and it’s fine if it takes a couple weeks.

Things we learn by doing, eh?

ACC Application Steps

Timings summary:

Allow about 4 weeks in total (mine took exactly 4 – I did the exam as soon as I could)

  • 2 weeks for audio recording review and ACTP certificate (for Barefoot; other providers may vary);
  • Then 2 weeks for ICF to review your application and send you the exam info; 
  • Then after you’ve done exam, it takes 2 days for exam review and ACC receipt

How to apply – main steps

Reference: ICF ACC application info – the ICF site is the source of truth for everything around the process.

Step 1 – Get ACTP certificate (audio review)

  • Send audio recording to your course provider
  • Have review call
  • Get ACTP certificate
  • Fill in the ICF creds path survey, to start on the ACTP route – this will give you the link to proceed with the ACTP application

Step 2 – ACTP application

  • The ACTP application process is simple on the ICF site, only takes a few minutes  – you just need to:
    • Fill in training details (and upload the Barefoot ACTP cert)
    • Tick boxes to say you have done 100h (of which, 75h were paid) – you don’t have to send lots of details!
    • Agree to ethics
    • Complete and pay for application ($100)
    • Then allow 2 weeks for ICF to review these materials and send you the exam information by email

If you need to get back to your application – go to your ICF profile > ‘Edit profile’ > ‘My applications’ > ‘Continue application’

Step 3 – CKA Exam

  • Use the link from the ICF email to do the CKA exam – you have up to 2 months from receipt of exam emails to do this
  • Then allow 2 days for exam review and receipt of ACC
  • You’ll get your CKA grade immediately from Pearsons, but the ICF takes time to send the certificate.
  • Note – when you have your ACC, the ICF use Credly for you digital badge for LinkedIn etc
  • Plus, long after, you’ll get a snazzy badge from them (it took 6 weeks for mine to arrive in UK)

more detail – Audio Recording

Reference: ICF info on ACC performance evaluation (audio recording) Note that this page is more for ACTH and Portfolio route, as the ACTP path includes this evaluation already. So while it’s useful reference, you can ignore several bits – you won’t need a transcript or written agreement (unless your provider asks for it); and you send the audio file to your provider, not the ICF.

  • What to cover in the recording:
    • The ICF competencies comparison chart gives excellent detail about stuff that’d mean you failed the audio recording at ACC, PCC and MCC levels.
    • Assume contracting re price, schedule etc all have been done.
    • Focus on confidentiality and what they want to get.
    • Ensure you clearly explain that your course provider will review this recording and ICF also might review.
    • Do regular check-ins re how it’s going, remaining time, etc.
    • Use first name only, no PII
    • They’re fairly strict about the time limits – I was called out for being very slightly over, but at least it didn’t mean an instant fail.
  • Practical tips on audio recording:
    • To record audio – use Zoom and the ‘record’ option. This will save several files to your computer, including a separate audio file in m4a format – this is the one you send.
    • For Barefoot – send the audio file via Dropbox (free version is fine) to their info@ email. If you’re using wetransfer or zoom, you need to password protect. Then they contact you to arrange the 1h discussion – expect this to take several days.

The ‘Final Performance Evaluation’ session with assessor

  • The assessor from your course will have reviewed your audio recording before you meet and will have prepared feedback on it.
  • They’ll probably recommend that you review the recording and assess yourself against the ICF guidelines. Do this! Your ability to assess your own performance in order to keep improving, is a large part of what’s reviewed.
  • I personally really enjoyed the session – it’s part mentor coaching as well as assessment. In the usual coaching way, there was plenty of reflection on what worked well as well as what could have been better, and I got some really useful suggestions and feedback on areas to explore. 
  • Your assessor will confirm on the spot whether you’ve passed, and will send feedback through. Barefoot then take a few days to send the ACTP cert.

CKA Exam (coaching knowledge assessment)

Note: I did the old exam, via the new system. 

If you applied for the ICF after 2 Aug, you’ll do the new exam – but in the system I describe below. Broadly similar, but main differences are:

  • New exam has 200 questions instead of 155
  • It’s focused on the new (-ish, 2019) competencies instead of the original ones – both here on ICF
  • The new exam is remotely proctored – video from Pearson Vue here on how that works. Or you can do it on-site in one of their centres. Mine wasn’t proctored.

How the exam works:

  • Follow the links from the email the ICF sent. You’ll be through to start the exam within a few clicks. You have 60 days to login and do the exam – once logged in, you have 3h. You can retake the exam for $75
  • It uses scenario-based MCQ questions with 4 answers each.  The old exam has 155 questions; the new has 200
  • The passing grade is 70% – so you can get 51 (old) or 60 (new) questions wrong and still pass 
  • You have 3h – the ICF mentions that 2h is enough for most; seemed fairly true. 
  • As you go thorough, you can flag questions to return to, or skip them – at the end, the review page lists all the questions, and whether they’re complete, incomplete or flagged
  • The old system used to list which domain the question was in – this isn’t the case any more; no domains were visible.
  • At the end of the questions, you get to the review page. There are handy links at the bottom to show only incomplete, flagged, or all – this is useful to narrow down your review, it’s a long page to scroll! Sadly, I only spotted this after a lot of scrolling.
  • After you’ve finished reviewing and you’re ready to submit, click ‘end review’
  • You’ll have to confirm you really want to end the review as you can’t go back after that point
  • Then you’ll get your score – broken down into each area of the competencies.
  • Then click ‘End exam’ to complete.
  • Pearson Vue will send you a link immediately with your score and breakdown
  • The ICF will take up to a week to send the ACC creds through after you’ve passed.

My experience of doing the CKA exam

  • Revision of a few hours is probably plenty. All questions are based on the ICF Core Competencies, the ICF Code of Ethics (plus the Code of Ethics FAQs) and the ICF Definition of Coaching
  • The ICF sample questions are useful even though they only give a few. You might even see them in the exam. They’re fairly representative of what you’ll get.
  • 3 hours is plenty of time. I’d done a first pass in about 1.5h, then reviewed the ones I’d flagged for about 30 mins, then did another pass through of every question for another 30 mins – spotted a couple of errors in my initial answers, so that proved worthwhile – though it gets difficult to concentrate by the end!
  • The questions are not too horrible. For me about half could be answered without hesitation, and a quarter were certain after a bit of thought. The last quarter included a few that I still would really love to know the answer to – far less obvious!
  • Do read each question twice – some ask for best thing, some for worst; it’s easy to misread or blip over some info.
  • No memorisation is required; you can refer to notes as you’re going through. I found it useful to have open tabs for the ICF Core Competencies, ICF Code of Ethics and Code of Ethics FAQs  – sometimes reviewing the precise wording of the longer description gave a useful hint.

Screengrabs from the CKA exam interface

Obviously, I’m not giving away any questions – the example below uses one of the sample questions that the ICF provide.

Typical question interface

Question interface example

After you’ve answered all questions, you go to this screen

Exam Item Review interface

Exam Item Review

Note the ‘review flagged’ and other options – makes it much faster to find the ones to review.

After you click ‘End Review’ on the above screen, you go to the final screen with your scores and breakdown

Final Screen

Final screen with scores