Counselor Certification Testing

To become a professional counselor, you will need to dedicate many years to obtaining the training and education necessary to practice your profession. In general, most counselors are required to have at least a master’s degree as well as many hours of clinical practice, national counselor certification, and state licensure. State licensing legally authorizes a counselor to practice in a particular state; having a license to practice means that the counselor has met and complied with all of the state’s requirements. Just as different types of counselors have their own educational and training requirements different states have their own licensing requirements.

One important credential a professional counselor can obtain is certification from the accredited National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC). The NBCC strives to promote quality counseling through its certification programs. This organization confers a National Certified Counselor (NCC) credential and also several specialty certifications beyond the NCC in the areas of school counseling, addictions counseling, and clinical mental health counseling. The NBCC recognizes those counselors who have met all set standards of education and work experience and who have also performed satisfactorily on the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE). The NCE is also used by 49 states and the District of Columbia for purposes of credentialing a counselor at the state level.

The NCE is a general exam that tests cognitive knowledge that all counselors, regardless of their specialty, should possess. All counselors should have certain skills and abilities to be effective in their practice; the NCE assesses those skills and abilities. The NCE examination lasts four hours and is composed of 200 multiple choice questions which change every time the examination is administered. Of the 200 questions, the student will be scored on 160 of them, with 160 being the highest possible test score that can be achieved. This test covers various content areas and work behaviors, including Group Work, Professional Orientation and Ethics, Career and Lifestyle Development, Fundamentals of Counseling, and Programmatic and Clinical Intervention. The NBCC website, , provides sample test questions as well as offerings of various examination study guides.

Counselor Certification Testing

Future NCE test takers should give serious consideration to investing in a specialized study guide for the NCE. These guides offer many advantages. For example, they provide study and testing strategies and practice examination questions with fully explained responses. Some guides contain assessments so the student can determine their strengths and weaknesses which help students set priorities for how and what they should study.

The NBCC’s National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Examination (NCMHCE), in addition to assessing general competencies, also measures a student’s problem-solving capabilities and involves identifying, analyzing, diagnosing, and treating mental health problems. This examination presents the test taker with ten clinical mental health counseling cases and requires appropriate information-gathering and decision-making by the student. As is the case with the NCE, there are also study guides available for the NCMHCE, many of which provide scenarios similar to those that will be found in the examination, allowing the student to practice their information-gathering and decision-making capabilities.

The National Certified School Counselor Examination (NCSCE) of the NBCC tests a school counselor’s ability to make appropriate decisions as they relate to the well-being of the students for whom they provide counseling services. This examination contains 40 multiple choice questions that assess general knowledge, as well as seven school counseling scenarios in which the test-taker will need to demonstrate specific decision-making skills. The simulated case section of the test utilizes a special marker for recording responses, and the test does not follow a logical sequence. The test-taker must follow all directions and mark responses very carefully. The simulated cases cover topics that include Assessment and Career Development, School Counseling Program Delivery, Family-School Involvements, and others.

The NBCC also offers the Examination for Master Addictions Counselors (EMAC). The EMAC evaluates a counselor’s applied knowledge of those activities that directly relate to their specific job. The counselor must demonstrate understanding of the most important criteria for counseling people with addictions. The EMAC covers the following areas: Addiction Counseling Practices, Treatment Planning and Implementation, Orientation to Treatment Process, Assessment, and Prevention. This test is comprised of 100 multiple choice questions.

To reduce test-taking anxiety, students should be well-prepared for any examination. Students should familiarize themselves with the format of their respective test and practice sample test questions and simulated cases within the allotted time. Students should follow through by reading the rationale behind the correct responses to those questions they answered incorrectly. If possible, attend a workshop or seminar that prepares test-takers in a classroom setting. This in-person preparation gives students the advantage of learning from an expert, as well as from other students’ questions.

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