Welcome back to our three-part Encourage Your Brain series highlighting my recent MCC credentialing journey. In the first segment, I talked about earning my MCC (Master Certified Coach) Credential from the International Coaching Federation (ICF). I alluded to a couple of setbacks I experienced in the process and some information about the ICF Credentialing Exam itself. Today, I’ll dive deeper into a few of the different pieces of the ICF Credentialing Exam and the setbacks I navigated while taking the exam. I’ll also offer some tips to help support you in your own credentialing journey. If you haven’t read part one of this series, I encourage you to read the first article before continuing below. Otherwise, keep reading to learn more!

Introduction to my ICF Credentialing Exam Challenge

When we’re in a high-stakes situation where we want to do our best, such as taking the ICF Credentialing Exam, it’s natural and common to experience those moments where you think, “Oh my gosh, this is not going as well as I thought it might.” I had one of those experiences while taking the ICF Credentialing Exam.

As you may know, as part of earning an ICF credential, you must:

  1. Have a certain number of hours of training
  2. Have a certain number of coaching hours of experience
  3. Pass a performance evaluation

The fourth and final piece of the credentialing journey is passing the International Coaching Federation’s Credentialing Exam (a Situational Judgment exam), which was not easy for me! Let me explain why.

Demystifying the ICF Exam Logistics: What to Expect on Exam Day

The Credentialing Exam is a three-hour proctored exam; you have two 90-minute sessions with a short break in between. I went into the exam feeling very well-prepared: I studied all of the ICF’s Code of Ethics, Values, and Core Competencies, and thought that I was pretty much ready for it.

As I prepared, I created a plan for myself. I knew exactly how many questions were in the first 90-minute session and how many questions were in the second 90-minute session. Even though I thought I prepared well, I ran into a few hiccups while taking the exam.

Math Missteps in Exam Planning: Learning the Hard Way

The first problem I encountered was that the math I did during my planning did not work out as I had hoped.

In my planning, I figured that there were about 40 questions to complete during each 90-minute segment of the exam. I determined that I could spend about two minutes on each question, which would give me enough time to read through the question twice, and then consider the four options for answers — you pick the “best” answer among the four options, as well as the “worst” answer among the four options. At this rate, I thought I’d have some time to spare within the 90 minutes to go back through and double-check questions I was uncertain about.

Well, about 30 minutes into my first 90-minute session, I realized my math was wrong. It took me longer to read, understand, and answer each question than I initially thought. As a result, I felt myself panicking a bit. I felt the whole Red Zone experience biologically coming over me — the Red Zone being the fight-flight state where we can lose some of the best parts of our prefrontal cortex thinking and get emotionally hijacked.

As I noticed that my math was off, that this was not working out as I had planned, and I was not going to finish the first segment in time, I had to pause, take a deep breath, and refocus. I thought to myself, “It’s okay, I can change my strategy.”

After this first hiccup threw me off track a bit, I realized I wasn’t going to make the good, clear decisions that I could if I were in the Blue Zone — or flow state — as opposed to the fight-flight state.

From Panic to Power: Conquering Red Zone Emotions During the Exam

The other problem I needed to navigate was realizing that the exam, in my estimation, was not simple or easy. Many people find that the exam isn’t difficult, which is great, but my experience was that it was.

About halfway through the exam, I remember very clearly thinking to myself:

Oh my gosh, if I don’t pass this thing,
I don’t know what I’m going to do,
because I don’t know how
to study any differently or better.

As that thought came through, I noticed I was repeating it in my head — and I noticed my Red Zone-divided brain:

  • One side of my brain was thinking, “Pay attention to the question, Susan. Just take it one question at a time.” 
  • The other side of my brain was thinking, “Oh, my gosh, if I don’t pass this, how am I going to be able to study? Because I’m not sure I would know how to study any differently!” 

It was at that moment that I realized I had to be very intentional about pulling myself together.

Back to the Blue Zone: Rediscovering the Core of Coaching Amidst Exam Pressure

I remember shifting my thinking and saying to myself, “Susan, focus on the question. Remember the essence of what coaching is all about! It’s about partnership. It’s about collaboration with another brilliant human being. It’s about the capacity to engage them creatively, to pull out their wisdom.” 

I knew I needed to revisit what lies at the core of coaching, the ICF Code of Ethics, and Core Competencies. This was the turning point for me to get back to the Blue Zone and into test mode, and not let my brain run wild with all of the “what ifs.”

The Joy of Passing: Valuable Insights From the Other Side

After all of that, I’m happy to report that I completed and passed the exam, and my score was much better than I thought it might be! Moreover, after taking the exam, I feel like I’m much more equipped to support others as they prepare for the exam. Recently, one of the participants in our Academies coaching program reached out to me before she took the exam. We put our heads together and did some prepping, and I just got the news that she, too, had passed!

Eager to Guide: How My Journey Can Simplify Your Path to Passing

It feels good to have made it through the ICF Credentialing Exam, to understand it better, and to feel more confident in knowing how to pay it forward and help others prepare. It also feels good that I can add my own experience to the many resources we offer at The Academies for when you’re at this step in your credentialing journey. So just know this — it’s doable, and we have the tools and techniques to support you in the process!

Stay tuned for the final segment of this short Encourage Your Brain series where I’ll share my experience with the audio evaluation portion of the ICF Credentialing Exam. See you next time, and thanks for tuning in!

Learn More About the Neuroscience Advantage in Coaching

Ready to take your own credentialing journey? The Academies neuroscience-based coach training programs can elevate your training with cutting-edge, neuroscience-based methodologies, and help prepare you to conquer the credentialing exam.

Embrace your future of coaching excellence with The Academies and forge your path to an ICF credential through our Level 1 or Level 2 Programs. Schedule a call to explore your questions and curiosities, and connect with us today!

While you’re here, explore our brain-friendly, ICF-approved coach training programs! We offer courses for coaches at all levels in their coaching journey, and we proudly accept ACSTH and CCE transfer hours in our Level 1 and Level 2 Programs. We’d love to connect with you to explore your questions and curiosities about our neuroscience-based approach to coaching, so schedule a call with us today!