10 Tips to Prepare for Your ICF Coaching Exam

  • 10 Tips to Prepare for Your ICF Coaching Exam

    No matter what level of ICF credential you are applying for (with the one exception being an ACC via the ACSTH path), you will be required to submit a performance exam. This exam is submitted in the form of an audio recording and transcript of your coaching to either your ACTP school or, if you have completed a different type of coach training program, directly to ICF.


    Here are our top 10 tips for preparing yourself to succeed.


    1.    Plan Your Strategy: It is important to think ahead about how long you will take to prep for your exam and how many clients you will need. A suggestion is to offer 8-session pro bono coaching packages to 3 or 4 clients in exchange for allowing you to record them. This means you will have at least 25 sessions to choose from. Allow yourself at least 4—6 months to make the recordings so that you can spend time practicing demonstrating the coaching competencies in your sessions.


    2.    Know the Skills Requirements: Assuming you have already become intimate with the ICF Core Coaching Competencies, you will also need to be very familiar with the Minimum Skills Requirements for the credential you’re seeking. These minimum skills requirements will give you an idea what an assessor is listening for and scoring in your recording(s). For ACC click HERE. For PCC, click HERE. For MCC click HERE. One suggestion is, no matter what level of credential you seek, to study the MCC skills requirements and shoot for those. After all, even if you’re applying for an ACC or PCC, why not aspire to mastery right off the bat? We become what we reach for.


    3.    Use Good Recording Equipment: One of the hardest things assessors face is bad quality recordings. If we can’t hear you or there are distracting sounds in the background, you will have points taken off your exam. Make sure your tech setup is as high quality as possible. That way you will retain the points you have received for your hard-earned coaching skills.


    4.    Coach a Non-Coach: If you have ever coached a coach, you will know that they often coach themselves! Coaching a coach for your exam will not allow you to fully demonstrate your coaching competencies and your assessors will not be given the chance to observe what you are capable of. ICF only allows a coach-client in an exam recording if you have already been working with them long-term, and we do not allow coach-clients at all. We want to hear you coaching your client, not your client coaching themselves.


    5.    Don’t Use a First Session: The initial session with your client will be about you and your client getting to know each other and setting the stage for the engagement. To earn an ICF credential you will be required, at any level, to have established some rapport and trust with your client. I suggest you still listen back to the first session, but don’t ear mark it for the exam submission. Record multiple sessions with each client and make sure you help them establish an overall coaching goal, as well as goals for each session. Then choose from your second sessions onward.


    6.    Listen Back to Every Recording: Even if you feel a session didn’t go as well as you’d hoped, I suggest you still listen back to it. You never know what gems you will find in there, both as lessons and victories. You will learn from hearing yourself and can use that to enhance your next session, building on your skills. Be your own teacher and stay conscious about your learning path.


    7.    Work with a Qualified Mentor Coach: In order to apply for any ICF credential, you will need to complete at least 10 mentor coaching hours first. If you’re serious about earning a credential, go with someone qualified. At the very least your mentor coach must have an ICF credential at the same or higher level that the credential level you seek. The ideal mentor coach is someone who teaches coaching at an ICF Accredited school and who is up to date on all the ICF competency requirements. It may cost you more money up front, but you will be giving yourself the best chance of passing the exam if you work with those who make it their business to mentor other coaches.


    8.    Immerse Yourself in Coaching: While you are preparing for your ICF performance exam (and, perhaps, beyond), take a soak in the coaching world. If you’re not already a member, join a local ICF chapter so you can be around other coaches who will support and celebrate your progress. Sign up for the many webinars different ICF chapters offer. ICF-LA offers a great online lineup. You may also enjoy read some of the many good coaching books, like “The Completely Revised Handbook of Coaching” and “Co-Active Coaching”.


    9.    Be Kind, Be Kind, Be Kind: Coaching is a personal mastery skill. We are each the primary tool of our trade and we don’t have anything outside of ourselves to blame when the work isn’t going as we’d hoped. It is essential to be in a resourceful state for your own learning, as well as for your clients’ successes. You create value for yourself and for your clients when you are relaxed, kind, and loving with yourself as you hone your craft.


    10. Focus on Your Clients: Even though your goal is to pass an exam, it is essential to remember that your ultimate focus needs to be about your client’s agenda, not how well you are coaching. It’s a win-win when you let go of the outcome and stay present with your clients’ process. In the end, their success becomes your success, and your success becomes theirs. Enjoy the journey!

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