ICF Updated Designation Process

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Issue 01 / Gurkan Sarioglu

The coaching industry has been booming globally in recent years. ICF (International Coaching Federation) is also in a structural change parallel to this growth. In this context, it focuses on both the naming of coaches and the accreditation of coaching organizations, while working on the dissemination and shaping of the future of coaching.

With this new restructuring, ICF’s Family Organizations has begun to review and improve their processes to adapt to global practices. One of them is ICF Credentials & Standards, which we will refer to as ICF CS for short, that handles the naming process of coaches.

We wanted to illuminate some issues that may not be understood while repeating what was explained in the webinars and question-answer sessions held by both ICF Global and ICF Turkey.

The updates made by ICF CS are grouped under the following three headings

1. Updated Performance Evaluation criteria developed in parallel with the updated ICF Core Competencies,
2. ICF Credentialing Examination designed to measure candidates’ knowledge and skills against updated ICF Core Competencies.
3. Updated Designation Application Paths adapted to the updated ICF Accreditation structure

These changes are being implemented gradually to ensure a smooth transition for applications for ICF Credentials.

On July 27, 2022, the last applications were received within the scope of the current application paths and evaluations (Coach Knowledge Assessment (CKA) and Performance Evaluation standards for ACC, PCC and MCC) and the application system was temporarily suspended.

On August 2, 2022, ICF started accepting applications again. Applicants applying for designation on or after this date will need to successfully complete the new ICF Designation exam. Candidates who need to make a performance evaluation will be evaluated according to the updated Performance Evaluation criteria.

31 January 2023 – CKA and current Performance Evaluation criteria will be completely removed. Candidates who pass the Performance Evaluation after this date will be evaluated according to the updated performance evaluation criteria. Applicants still required to take the written exam will be required to complete the new ICF Credentialing Examination regardless of application deadlines.

Now let’s dive deeper into the three headings of the updates separately.

1. Updated Performance Evaluation Criteria As of August 1, 2022, ICF CS started to use updated performance evaluation criteria developed in parallel with the updated ICF Core Competencies for all new designation applications requiring performance evaluation.

The updated PCC tokens will be used in PCC performance evaluations of candidates applying for designation on or after August 2, 2022

For applicants applying for ACC and MCC designations on or after August 2, 2022, Minimum Skill Requirements consistent with updated ICF core competencies will apply as Performance Evaluation criteria.

Working with a Human Resources research organization, ICF CS has developed a new ICF Credentialing Examination that reflects and integrates updated ICF Core Competencies. This new designation exam will replace the Coach Knowledge Assessment (CKA)

The updated ICF Core Competencies still largely reflect the content and spirit of the original ICF Core Competencies. Therefore, the candidate applying for the designation is very likely to pass the performance evaluation against the updated criteria, even if the coaching training is towards the original 11 ICF Core Competencies. However, skills developed, and knowledge gained under the original model will be assessed on the basis of updated ICF Core Competencies. The new ICF Credentialing Examination will feature new questions, but the content will remain very similar. However, applicants who submit a complete ICF Designation application by 11:59 p.m. on July 27 will be assessed against their original ICF Core Competencies and will be tested with the current Coach Knowledge Assessment (CKA) until the candidate is ready to take the exam, even if the updated ICF Credentialing Exam has been published.

For those who submitted their application before 27 July 2022 and failed the performance evaluation, the repeat exam will be held according to the current criteria until 31 January 2023, when the current performance evaluation criteria will be abolished. The candidates who apply for the exam again on or after February 1, 2023, will be evaluated according to the updated performance evaluation criteria. In other words, anyone who qualifies to take or retake the CKA exam and wishes to take the CKA must do so before 31 January 2023, when the CKA exam ends. On and after February 1, 2023, anyone who must pass the written exam for the designation will be required to complete the new ICF Designation Examination.

The transition to the updated performance evaluation criteria and the ICF Designation Examination will be administered simultaneously. That is, candidates who apply for a complete ICF designation when or after the ICF Credentialing Exam begins will be assessed against the updated ICF Core Competencies and tested with the new ICF Credentialing Exam.

ompetencies and tested with the new ICF Credentialing Exam. The ICF Global Core Competencies page has a video and several webinars discussing the differences between the two models. Additionally, the ICF YouTube Channel features a series of webinars featuring expert coach practitioners on each of the updated ICF Core Competencies. These are excellent resources for understanding how the original competency framework has been translated into current competencies.

2. New ICF Designation Examination ICF CS has launched a new ICF Designation Examination reflecting the updated ICF Core Competencies from August 1, and applicants applying for an ICF Designation on or after August 2, 2022, are required to complete the new ICF Designation Examination. Candidates who are upgrading their designation must also complete the ICF Designation Examination, even if they have passed the CKA for a previous level ICF Credential. Persons who renew (but not upgrade) an existing ICF Credential will not be required to take the new exam as part of the renewal process.

The ICF Credentialing Examination will replace the current Coaching Knowledge Assessment (CKA).

ICF has begun leveraging its global network of Pearson VUE test centres as well as Pearson OnVUE, a live, remotely supervised testing service, to deliver the ICF Credentialing Examination to improve exam security as a key quality mark for the designation process. In this way, candidates are better protected from any potential abuse or misapplication, including copying, and distributing exam questions, which could hinder an equitable and fair exam process, and each candidate has a fair and equal opportunity to showcase their coaching knowledge and skills.


The ICF Credentialing Exam consists of approximately 80 scenario-based items that test the candidate’s knowledge of ICF Core Competencies and how to apply them in realistic coaching scenarios. Each item includes a realistic scenario describing a coaching situation followed by four response options. For each item, candidates will be asked to choose the best response and the worst response from the options presented for that scenario. Only one binary combination will be “corrected” for each item.

We mentioned that ICF CS has partnered with Pearson VUE to present the new ICF Designation Examination. Thanks to a global network of test centres and OnVUE (Pearson’s online service), candidates will now have the option to complete the exam at their home or office while being watched by an online supervisor or complete the exam at a Pearson VUE test centre.

Candidates who want to take the exam at a centre after being authorized for the exam will be able to easily call the exam centres located near them and select up to three exam centres to compare appointment availability. Candidates can also search for Pearson VUE exam centres available for the ICF Certification Exam on the ICF Pearson VUE page.

Candidates wishing to take the ICF Designation Examination online can use the Pearson OnVUE system. Detailed information on testing with Pearson’s OnVUE service, including resources on how to prepare and what to expect on test day, is available on the ICF OnVUE web page. A short video of the OnVUE testing experience can be viewed on Pearson VUE’s Vimeo page.

ICF CS is working to develop translations of the new ICF Designation Examination based on current requests. Language aids for the updated Designation Examination will be added gradually after the new exam is launched.

The ICF CS is committed to supporting all candidates in obtaining an ICF designation, including those who need assistance in accessing the ICF Designation Examination because of a disability or other health condition.

Candidates will be required to submit photos of themselves and their testing environment, along with a government-issued ID, on the day of the exam.

3. Updated Designation Application Paths We mentioned in the previous issue of our magazine that ICF Coaching Education Family Organization, which we will refer to as ICF CE, announced an updated accreditation structure for coaching education and training programs. This updated accreditation structure replaces both the Accredited Coaching Training Program (ACTP) and Approved Coach Specific Training Hours (ACSTH) definitions with a level-based system that is compatible with ICF credential levels. These updated definitions of accreditation, which were previously described in detail in our journal, include:

Level 1 (formerly ACSTH) training has been designated as a pathway to the ACC designation.

Level 2 (formerly ACTP) training has been designated as a pathway to the PCC designation.

Level 3 (newly created) training has been designated as a pathway to the MCC designation.

ICF CS has also updated its designation application pathways to reflect the accreditation structure implemented by ICF CE.

Associate Certified Coach (ACC) Designation Paths
Depending on the type of accredited or non-accredited education you take, there are three paths to earning the ACC designation:

Level 1 / Level 2 / ACTP Path
ACSTH Path
Portfolio Path

Professional Certified Coach (PCC) Designation Paths

Depending on the type of accredited or non-accredited training you take, there are three paths to earning this certification:

Level 2 / ACTP Path
Level 1 / ACSTH Path
Portfolio Path

Master Certified Coach (MCC) Designation Paths
Level 3 accreditation for a coaching training organization is a new formation aligned with the MCC Designation. Depending on the type of accredited or non-accredited training taken, there are now two paths to apply for MCC certification:
Level 3 Path
Portfolio Path
The first question recalled by this new accreditation structure introduced by ICF CE may be whether an ICF[1]approved study/training completed years ago for the ICF designation, with the removal of the ACTP or ACSTH designations, will still be recognized for obtaining a higher[1]level designation in the future. Changing the ACTP and ACSTH names to Level 2 and Level 1 does not affect the validity of previous education and/or training. In other words, there is no deadline for the recognition of the education/training received. Any ICF-approved coach-specific tuition/training you have completed will continue to be recognized and count towards the coaching training requirements for an ICF Credential.

With the change of the names of the education levels, the question of whether the designations of ACC, PCC and MCC will also change to Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3 may be on the minds. No, ICF will continue to offer designations at the CS, ACC, PCC and MCC levels.

We think that it would be more appropriate to continue the next part of the article in question/answer format to clarify the detailed points.

Question: I am preparing to apply for the PCC designation and have already completed 125 hours of coach-specific training. Do I need to take a Level 2 accredited program now?

Answer is no. Coach-specific training requirements for the PCC designation require completion of at least 125 hours of coaching training. Level 2 accreditations are designed to prepare students for coaching at the PCC level, while candidates can meet the educational requirements for the PCC designation by completing a range of coach-specific training programs, including ICF accredited and non-accredited programs. As long as a candidate completes at least 125 hours of coach-specific training consistent with the ICF Coaching Definition, ICF Core Competencies and the ICF Code of Ethics, they meet the educational requirements and are eligible to apply for the PCC designation.

Question: When I am ready to apply for the MCC designation, will I need to study at a Level 3 accredited organization or program?

Answer is no. As part of the Evolution of Accreditation changes, ICF CE created a Level 3 accreditation for training programs specifically designed to prepare MCC designation candidates. Level 3 accreditations support candidates seeking to pursue the MCC designation with learning opportunities for the highest level of skills development. However, candidates are not required to complete an ICF-accredited Level 3 program to qualify for the MCC designation. The coach-specific training requirement for the MCC designation is the completion of at least 200 hours of coaching training. While Level 3 accreditation is designed to prepare students for coaching at the MCC level, candidates can meet the educational requirements for the MCC designation by completing a range of coach-specific training programs, including programs accredited and non-ICF

Question: I completed a less than 125-hour ACSTH program for my ACC designation. Can I complete a Level 1 program to meet the 125-hours of coaching required for the PCC designation? Answer: Candidates for PCC designations must have completed at least 125 hours of coaching training. An applicant will meet the educational requirements for the PCC designation if the combined hours of the initial ACSTH program and Level 1 program are equal to or greater than 125 hours of coaching training. Applicants who have completed a combination of ACSTH and Level 1 courses to meet the coaching training requirements for the PCC will apply through the PCC – Level 1 / ACSTH application path. However, it is important to note that Level 1 accreditation is designed to prepare students for coaching at the ACC level, while Level 2 accreditation is designed to prepare students for coaching at the PCC level.

Question: I completed an ACSTH program of less than 125 hours for the ACC designation. Can I use CCEs to get the 125 hours of coaching required for a PCC designation? Answer: Yes, CCEs can be used to receive the 125 hours of coach-specific training required for a PCC Designation through the Portfolio app.

Question: Will the ACTP and ACSTH application paths be stopped for ACC and PCC designations? Answer: No. There are no plans to terminate the ACTP and ACSTH application pathways for ACC and PCC designations in the near future. As coaching training does not expire, application pathways supporting ACTP and ACSTH graduates will continue to exist.

Question: Updates to the ICF CE accreditation structure indicate that Continuing Coaching Education (CCE) programs should not be designed for coach-specific initial training. Does this mean that designation candidates can no longer use CCE units to meet educational requirements through the Portfolio Application Path? Answer: No. The ICF will continue to support candidates using Continuing Coaching Education (CCE) or non-ICF accredited programs to meet the training requirements for an ICF designation through the Portfolio Application Path for CS, ACC, PCC, and MCC Designations.

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