Coach Knowledge Assessment – CKA

Jan 10, 2018

For anyone currently participating in an accredited coach training program (ACTP), the Coach Knowledge Assessment (CKA) is the final milestone before achieving your ICF coaching credential. Here are some helpful guidelines for you as you prepare to take your CKA.

Since the CKA is an open book exam, so the following content can be printed and used when doing the test.

What is the Coach Knowledge Assessment (CKA)?

The Coach Knowledge Assessment (CKA) is a tool that can be used to measure coaches’ understanding of the knowledge and skills important in the practice of coaching. The CKA tests coaches on their understanding of the body of knowledge that includes the ICF definition of coaching, Core Competencies and Code of Ethics.

The Coach Knowledge Assessment content covers five broad domains:

  1. setting the foundation,
  2. co-creating the relationship,
  3. communicating effectively,
  4. facilitating learning and results, and
  5. coaching foundations and knowledge base.

All questions are based on the ICF definition of coaching, Core Competencies and Code of Ethics. Questions’ difficulty levels vary, with some intended to assess awareness of a concept or skill while others may present a scenario that requires deeper understanding.

Preparation Tips for Your Coach Knowledge Assessment

Whenever you do your CKA (a practice or the real deal), the first thing we recommend is to prepare your space. You should manage phones and other noise distracting you, have something to drink with you, and, most importantly, relax, stay calm, and answer as quickly as possible.

Some general advice:

  1.  Become comfortable with multiple choice tests. Do a few unrelated tests, especially if you have not attempted one so far.
  2.  There are 155 questions over 3 hours. Skip those you are not sure about and get back to them later. Don’t waste time by overthinking.
  3.  Each question has 3 or 4 answers. One is usually frivolous. One is coach centric. One client centric. One would relate to the coach/client partnership. Coaching is about coach and client partnered exploration to awareness.
  4.  Most questions will require in depth knowledge of ICF core competencies. Ensure knowledge both of competencies and PCC markers.

Links Essential to Coach Knowledge Assessment Preparation

Information on the following links is essential to you doing well on the CKA.

Coach Knowledge Assessment Sample Questions

The following five questions are representative samples of the types of questions that may be on the test. Correct responses are shown in bold.

Domain: Setting the Foundation

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?

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

Domain: Co-Creating the Relationship

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?

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

Domain: Communicating Effectively

When dealing with a client who brings many issues to the table, it is best for the coach to pick the option

  1.  where the coach has the most expertise.
  2.  of asking what the client would like to start with.
  3.  that looks most likely to be handled in the time available.
  4.  that the coach thinks can do the most good for the client.

Domain: Facilitating Learning and Results

An appropriate role for a coach in goal setting, planning, and prioritizing with a client is

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

Domain: Coaching Foundations and Knowledge Base

Every coaching conversation should include

  1.  an action plan.
  2.  an agenda identified by the client.
  3.  review of fieldwork.
  4.  a summary by the coach of the client’s progress.

CKA Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why did ICF begin requiring a Coach Knowledge Assessment for all applicants?
A: ICF believes it is vital for all ICF Credential coaches to demonstrate foundational knowledge of the ICF Core Competencies, ICF Code of Ethics, and ICF’s Definition of Coaching. Having a standardized and scientifically constructed test delivered by a credentialing organization is a globally recognized way to help ensure the fairness and strength of the ICF Credential. The exam is intended as an assessment of knowledge. Actual application of this knowledge is assessed by the review of actual coaching sessions as conducted by ACTPs or via the ICF Portfolio Credential process.

Q: When/how does an applicant receive the Coach Knowledge Assessment?
A: Once an applicant’s credential application is reviewed, ICF staff will contact the applicant 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 path in which the applicant applies for the credential.

  • ACTP and ACC ACSTH: Once the application review is complete, you will be sent a link to the Coach Knowledge Assessment.
  • PCC ACSTH and Portfolio Applicants: Once the application review is complete your recordings will be sent to ICF trained assessors for review. After the assessors complete the review, you will be sent a link to take the Coach Knowledge Assessment. Status updates will be sent after each step to keep you informed.

Q: Once I receive the link, how long do I have to take the exam?
A: You are given 60 days to login and take the CKA. Once you login you are provided 3 hours to complete the exam.

Q: How long does an applicant have to take the Coach Knowledge Assessment?
A: Once logged in to the online test portal, after an applicant selects their preferred language for the test, they will be given three hours to complete the test. Most applicants complete the test in just over two hours.

Q: How did ICF determine three hours was sufficient to complete the test?
A: Research based on “best practices” regarding multiple-choice tests was consulted to establish a fair and reasonable amount of time for completing a test of this type and number of questions.

Q: Can you start the Coach Knowledge Assessment and save to complete at a later time?
A: No. Once an applicant starts the test, the test must be completed within the three hour time limit.

Q: What is the question format?
A: The questions are in multiple-choice format only, with each question having four possible responses.

Q: How many questions are on the Coach Knowledge Assessment?
A: The current version of the test has approximately 155 questions. This number will vary slightly over time as new questions are added and older questions are removed. Also, different language versions of the test may have slightly more or less questions.

Q: What do the test questions cover?
A: The test content covers five broad domains: setting the foundation, co-creating the relationship, communicating effectively, facilitating learning and results, and coaching foundations and knowledge base. All questions are based on the ICF Core Competencies, ICF Code of Ethics and ICF’s Definition of Coaching. Questions are of varying levels of difficulty with some intended to assess awareness of a concept or skill while others may present a scenario that requires deeper understanding.

Q: Is the Coach Knowledge Assessment available in my language?
A: The test is available in several languages. For the most up-to-date offerings, please see the language information above.

Q: Who created the Coach Knowledge Assessment?
A: The test was developed by ICF using globally accepted practices for test creation, including a comprehensive role study of the knowledge required of coaches. All questions were written by experienced ICF coaches serving as subject matter experts and validated using an extensive review process.

Q: Are there sample questions available for review?
A: Yes. CKA sample questions can be viewed on this page.

Q: How should I prepare to take the test?
A: By completing an ICF ACSTH or ACTP, you will have received instruction that is in alignment with the ICF Core Competencies, ICF Code of Ethics and ICF’s Definition of Coaching. Reviewing the training you receive from an ICF ACSTH or ACTP is the best way to prepare for the Coach Knowledge Assessment.

Q: How is an applicant notified of their results?
A: Once an applicant completes the Coach Knowledge Assessment, results are compiled and provided immediately to the applicant via email from the testing site. One week after completion of the CKA, applicants will receive official notification from the ICF Credentialing department regarding the approval status of the credential application.

Q: What score is required in order to pass?
A: Currently, the passing grade is 70 percent (70%), but may change over time as ICF publishes new versions of the Coach Knowledge Assessment.

Q: Is feedback provided regarding the questions missed?
A: A score is provided for each of the five test domains along with an overall score. Feedback on incorrect individual test items is not provided at this time.

Q: What happens if an applicant doesn’t pass the Coach Knowledge Assessment on their first attempt?
A: An applicant can elect to retake a different version of the test for a fee of $75 USD.

Q: Once I pass the Coach Knowledge Assessment, will I have to take it again when I apply for another ICF Credential or renew my credential?
A: No. Currently, you are only required to take and pass the CKA one time.

Q: If I encounter a problem during the Coach Knowledge Assessment whom should I contact?
A: ICF will not provide assistance regarding the content of the test, including answers to or clarification around test questions. For technical problems with the test platform, applicants should contact ICF by email. ICF business hours are 8:30 a.m. through 5:00 p.m. (New York). The ICF office is closed on weekends and US holidays throughout the year. If you experience any problems with the test, please notify ICF Staff at

Good luck on your Coach Knowledge Assessment!

Smita Raghum
Smita Raghum


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