National Counselor Examination

For further information about the NCE, NBCC, or NCC please visit the NBCC website for graduate students and faculty.

In order to graduate, all students must sit for the National Counselor Examination (NCE). The exam is administered in April and October of each year. The exam application fee is $310.

December 2014 Graduates must take the NCE on October 18, 2014.

Contact Holly Myers for application information.

Students who are well advanced in their coursework may apply for national certification in counseling through the Counseling Department. NBCC will contact you if there is a problem with the application. Once the application is approved, you will be registered for the National Counselor Examination (NCE). Approximately two weeks before the exam date, in either April or October of each year, you will receive an exam admission letter in the mail.

The National Certified Counselor (NCC) is a voluntary credential that identifies to members of the public and prospective employers that you have met national certification standards based on research conducted in the field.

Very recent alums may apply for the NCC under the NCC for graduate students as long as they will test within six months of their graduation date.

Please Note: Once you pass the exam, you have two years to send in your official transcript showing your graduation degree conferral date.  This step will allow you to obtain the NCC certification. As long as you maintain your NCC credential (by fulfilling the continuing education requirements and paying the $75 annual fee), you will continue to have access to your NCE scores and you would not be required to test again. Please note that if the NBCC does not receive your transcript within two years the NBCC will close your file and your NCE scores will be inactivated. 

For more information on the NBCC and NCC, scroll here or see the NBCC website.

* Most GSA-NCC examinees appreciate being able to test on campus in a familiar environment. Occasionally someone needs to test elsewhere for personal reasons. Students may elect to test at one of NBCC’s public testing sites on the same day. Most states have at least two such locations for each exam cycle—October and April. Students who want to or need to test away from their universities should place a simple note in the application folder indicating their location preference. Public sites are listed on theNBCC Website. They must also add a small fee to the application fee to cover NBCC’s costs of making the change.

NCE Study Materials

A list of study guide titles can be found on the NBCC Web site (www.nbcc.org/study). Since these tools are designed for varying learning styles and preferences, NBCC does not endorse any particular one.  NBCC itself publishes an Official NCE Preparation Guide for $34.95. It describes the NCE design and construction and includes over 100 sample questions. 

Other suggested resources include:

“Encyclopedia of Counseling, Third Edition: Master Review and Tutorial for the National Counselor Examination, State Counseling Exams, and the Counselor Preparation Comprehensive Examination” by Howard Rosenthal.


“Mastering the National Counselor Examination and the Counselor Preparation Comprehensive Examination” by Bradley T. Erford, Danica G. Hays, Stephanie Crockett, and Emily M. Miller*

*The Grad Counseling Department has two copies of this book available to borrow on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Exam Format

The NCE is a 200-item non-sectioned test that relies on CACREP standards for derivation of content and a job analysis for the derivation of context. Its purpose is to assess knowledge of counseling information that is deemed necessary for effective counselor functioning. While the NCE is primarily a knowledge-based achievement test, it includes some practice related items. CACREP’s eight core areas constitute the eight content domains of the exam and thus form the theoretical basis for it. Each question contains an item stem and four response choices. There is only one correct response to each item. As much as possible, awkward, difficult, and “tricky” wording has been eliminated. While the exam is scheduled for a 4-hour period, most examinees complete the exam in 2 ½ to 3 hours.

NBCC provides links to many study guides and additionally publishes an Official NCE Preparation Guide for $34.95. It describes the NCE design and construction and includes over 100 sample questions.


Fourteen independent scores are generated from the exam—one for each of the eight CACREP content areas, one for each of the five job analysis areas, and one for the sum of correct answers or total. The cutoff or passing score is based on the total score. It is determined by a particular statistical technique-- the modified Angoff method.

Within six to eight weeks of the examination, GSA-NCC applicants will receive in the mail an individualized score report itemizing scores for the 13 domains and including a total score. Means and standard deviations are included for each domain and the total for those taking the NCE at the same time. The passing score is indicated along with designation of whether the examinee met or surpassed the minimum criterion.

Participating institutions will receive aggregate results of the students’ exam performance about 12 weeks after the exam. Individually identifiable statistics are not provided.


The National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) is a private, non-profit organization, run by professional counselors, that administers a US national professional certification program for individuals who hold graduate degrees in the field of counseling. National certification in professional counseling is an achievement affirming that a counselor has met national standards determined within the profession itself.

The NCC is NBCC’s most basic professional counseling credential. The end product of an application for national certification is the right to call oneself an NCC. Counselors who hold this credential must have a qualifying master’s or doctoral degree, pass a national exam, adhere to a strict code of ethics, and participate in continuing education activities.

IMPORTANT NOTE: post-graduate experience and supervision requirements for the NCC are waived for applicants from CACREP-accredited tracks.

NCCs are certified for a period of five years. During that time, they are expected to accrue 100 clock hours of continuing education to maintain the credential. They also pay an annual fee to support the costs of maintaining the credential.

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