Counselor Preparation Comprehensive Examination

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As the field of counseling increased its presence in the professional world the need for organizations dedicated to the practice grew. In 1982 the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) was established to help introduce a national certification program. With its founding came an increase in the number of colleges offering graduate degrees related to counseling. Overtime educators at graduate counseling programs sought to have an exit exam that could be given to students to assess their competency. The Counselor Preparation Comprehensive Examination (CPCE) test is developed by the Research and Assessment Corporation for Counseling (RACC) alongside the Center for Credentialing and Education (CCE). Both of these organizations are affiliated with the NBCC. [1]


CPCE Study Guide

This test is utilized as an exit exam for college students in a master’s level counseling program. As of right now over 360 universities and college utilize this test. It is intended to evaluate a student’s overall knowledge of counseling content. [2] In most cases the exam will be taken as the final step to completing a program. The CPCE achieves several goals. It allows students to better understand their strengths while also allowing graduate programs to see how they rank nationally. In order to take the exam students must have completed all course work and be in good standing. Individuals are able to receive an application form from their graduate school department. Upon passage of this exam students will have successfully completed their master’s program as well as earned recognition for passing a nationally certified examination. Such an accomplishment may serve those students wishing to embark on a career in the professional counseling field.[3]

Test Administration

CPCE Flashcards

The CPCE is offered during several set times throughout the year. Students should check with their departments as dates can often change from year to year, though in most cases a student would likely take the test at the end of a given semester. Individual departments will also have the information on where students are able to sit for the exam. [4] Some programs recommend that students take the test within 2 weeks of finishing their coursework. Since the vast majority of programs require passage of the exam any individual who fails this test can take it again. In most instances they would have to wait until the following semester when the exam is offered again. There is a $50 testing fee and all application materials must be submitted at least 30 days prior to a scheduled exam date. [5] Accommodations can be made for students with disabilities. All requests should be made to the CCE at the time of test registration.

Test Format

Sections of the CPCE Test
CPCE Test Subject Areas # of Questions
Human Growth and Development 20
Social and Cultural Foundations 20
Helping Relationships 20
Group Work 20
Career and Lifestyle Development 20
Appraisal 20
Research and Program Evaluation 20
Professional Orientation and Ethics 20
Total 160

Test Environment

As this is a test that is offered from school to school, the testing environment will mostly vary. However, testing centers for the CPCE generally require a photo ID, and the fee or receipt for the exam. Test takers are expected to be on time for the test, or they may lose their time slot.[6]

Test Structure

The Counselor Preparation Comprehensive Examination is an exit exam for Professional Counseling Master's degree students. It is made up of 160 questions that have to do with the following subjects: Human Growth and Development; Social and Cultural Foundations; Helping Relationships; Group Work; Career and Lifestyle Development; Appraisal; Research and Program Evaluation; and Professional Orientation and Ethics. Of the twenty questions each section, three will be unscored, pretest questions. Only 17 questions each section will be scored There will also be a survey that requests each candidate's demographic information. The time allotted for the CPCE is four hours.[7]

Sample Questions


This multi-section160 multiple choice test is scored by the CCE. When experts are finished tabulating the test, results are sent back to individual departments who will then let students know whether or not they passed. [8] Passing scores vary each year and is calculated using the national mean. Several different programs have listed percentiles and other relevant test data. Plattsburg State University of New York has statistics for each of their students for the past several years. They calculate that of the 44 students who took the CPCE over the past 5 years, 37 passed. That is an 84% rate of passage. [9]


  1. ^ University of Redlands 20 April 2014
  2. ^ Center for Credentialing and Education 20 April 2014
  3. ^ Western Seminary 20 April 2014
  4. ^ Texas State University 20 April 2014
  5. ^ Form 20 April 2014
  6. ^ CPCE Test 25 June 2014
  7. ^ CPCE Test Breakdown 25 June 2014
  8. ^ Johns Hopkins University 20 April 2014
  9. ^ Plattsburgh State University of New York 20 April 2014