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Recently I passed my Credentialing exam for ICF’s (International Coaching Federation) for my ACC credential. This credential by ICF isn’t easy to obtain. In fact, it was a four-year journey to get it as I was a coach only part-time, so it took a long time to acquire all the required hours necessary.

And I could never had done it without hypnotherapy! Because it wasn’t just the lengthy and involved application with many components, the recording of a coaching session to be assessed and approved (that itself took 14 weeks of waiting for the result), but also a new and very difficult exam. The real issue was there wasn’t any guidelines on how to study for this new Credentialing exam. I quickly realized that it wasn’t just knowing the material, but that I needed a very strong positive mindset to get through the 3 hour exam. I also needed to let go of a prior terrible test experience that was traumatic that happened years ago and that I was still carrying.

So I reached out to a hypnotherapist colleague, Sharon McWilliams, and we worked for a number of sessions just on increasing my positive mindset, visualizing successfully passing the exam and some specific skill rehearsal which is a very effective and powerful technique where under trance, you visualize whatever you are wanting to succeed in step by step from the beginning to the successful conclusion.

In my case, I needed to get 77% or more of all the answers to the 81 coaching scenarios correct.

The new aspect to this test was I had to pick out both the best and worst answers to each scenario. She also recorded our sessions, so that I could listen to them at night as I was drifting off to sleep so that my sub-conscious was working on my behalf. Also, before the exam, I was doing self-hypnosis daily to enhance all these hypnotic tools to ‘instill’ them into my psyche.

This was an invaluable part of my exam preparation and these tools are what I use for my own clients when needed because they are effective and work!

What to do in order to pass the new Credentialing exam from ICF

Find Support

Having a study partner was invaluable. Mine was Karyn Ezell. We studied together over Zoom for months. We went through every possible study option we could find online, but it was the debates and discussion about the answers that was so helpful.

Have a mentor coach: Mine was Kristine Perez-Foley. Not only for support, but also, she helped me prepare for the exam. My last session with her was the day before the test. By then, I was so ‘done’ studying but she asked me what is your approach for the exam. My answer came quickly: “I will be using the lens for all the answers being client-centered.” I took that framework into the test and used it for every answer. It made it so much easier to answer questions, especially for anything related to ethics.

Mind Your Workspace

Make sure that all your tech works if you are taking the exam online. Pearson VUE (the company proctoring in the US) has a whole protocol on how to pass their requirements. Two weeks ahead of the exam, my computer passed but three days before it failed! Thankfully, I was able to get it resolved with the help of my local IT guy. Review all their instructions in advance and follow them precisely. It really helped me to know what to expect and to be prepared and not get stressed out. Self-hypnosis also helped keep my stress levels manageable too on test day.

Clear off your desk completely except for your computer, keyboard, and mouse. I did this the day before my exam. You will have to take pictures that need to be uploaded to show your proctor. Even though Pearson VUE clearly states that your cell phone needs to be nearby in case your proctor needs to call you, my proctor insisted instead that I place it across the room from my desk. I then had to use my webcam to show her that I had moved it out of reach. Make sure your phone is on MUTE—you don’t want any disturbances. Also, you may be asked to remove a watch if you are wearing one. You also cannot have any other programs running on your computer. Once you start the test, if possible, ignore the proctor who is watching you during the whole exam like big sister or big brother. Of course, you know someone is there, but just make your focus 100% on the exam.

Take the Test in Silence

If you have pets, partners, roommates, or kids—Make sure they are all out of the house for the check-in (which can take up to 30 minutes) and for the whole exam. Again, you don’t want any disturbances. I was lucky that my proctor was on time, some aren’t, so be prepared to have everyone out of the house for most of the day. My pet went to my neighbors for the day and for a treat got a long walk by my dog walker.

You have an optional 5-minute break between Part I and Part II. Take it! Use the restroom, have a sip of water, then get back to your computer on time to take Part II of the exam.

Scheduling the ICF Exam

Schedule this exam at the best time of day for you. In my case it was the late morning on a Saturday. That gave me time to have a protein-filled breakfast, get caffeinated, listen to my hypnotic recording one last time for enhancing my positive mindset, and do some deep breathing at my computer to be energized, very grounded and ready for the exam. Get a good night’s sleep the night before too. You need to be at your very best. I didn’t even think how long 3 hours was! I completed the exam in less, but by the end, I was mentally exhausted which lasted for days.

How and what did I study?

The ICF Core Competencies and ICF Ethics – I reviewed them in writing many times, discussed them in depth with both my mentor coach and study partner, and reviewed them with any video I could find.

Tip: ICF has a YouTube channel, as do a few coaches (like Lyssa de Hart, Awaken Institute and Solutions Academy) who have seminars on how to study for the new exam. Solutions Academy even has a mock test:

If you do a search for ICF’s Credentialing exam, options will pop up. I reviewed all of them. Here are some of the main links that were helpful in preparing for both the Competencies and Ethics part of the exam I used:

The 8 sample exam questions on ICF’s website: It’s not much and they highlight the answers, but it is something. It gave me a sense of what the scenarios would look like, and I figured out that there were nuances in at least 2 of the 4 multiple choice answers for the worst answer and that was true during the actual exam. The best answer for the most part was very clear for the most part on the exam.

Join ICF ACC PCC MCC Journeys Facebook Group:

Not only for current information about the Exam but for support, resources and networking. Over 130 members also congratulated me after I passed it! It was so great to celebrate with other coaches.

Finally, celebrate your achievement and let all your supporters, clients, friends and family know so they can celebrate with you.  You deserve it! I planned a few fun things to do and have to admit, that I have been treated to quite a few meals too! I also didn’t realize how mentally drained I would feel after the test. That lasted over a week. If I had known, I would have taken a vacation! But I am certainly planning a few for later this year.

Above all, don’t be scared. Just be prepared as much as you can and trust that all of your training and coaching knowledge will be there when you need them during the exam. Oh, and answer every question! You can flag what you want to go back to if in doubt—but only within the time frame for Part I or Part II. This is a numbers game. You got this.