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The Counselor Preparation Comprehensive Exam (CPCE) is required by hundreds of universities and colleges across the United States for students in graduate level counseling or education programs. It measures a student’s competence across a range of foundational concepts and knowledge related to counseling as a profession.

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CPCE Exam Outline

The CPCE contains 160 multiple-choice questions, though only 136 of the questions will count toward your final score. You will be given 3 hours and 45 minutes to complete the exam.

Effective January 2024, 50% of the questions on the exam contain 3 answer choices, with the other 50% containing the usual 4 answer choices.

The exam spans eight common core areas that are all highly relevant to the field of counseling. There are 20 questions in each section.

  1. Professional Counseling Orientation and Ethical Practice
    These questions assess your knowledge of the history and philosophy of the counseling profession, the role of the counselor advocating on behalf of the profession, current labor market information, technology’s impact on the counseling profession, and self-care strategies appropriate to the counselor role.
  2. Social and Cultural Diversity
    These questions assess your knowledge of theories and models of multicultural counseling, effects of power and privilege for counselors and clients, help-seeking behaviors of diverse clients, and strategies for identifying and eliminating barriers and prejudices.
  3. Human Growth and Development
    These questions assess your knowledge of theories of learning, theories of abnormal personality development, effects of crises, etiology of addictions and addictive behaviors, and differing abilities and strategies for differentiated interventions.
  4. Career Development
    These questions assess your knowledge of strategies for career development program planning, models of career development, ethical and culturally relevant strategies for addressing career development, and facilitating client skill development for career planning and management.
  5. Counseling and Helping Relationships
    These questions assess your knowledge of counseling theories and models, conceptualizing clients using a systems approach, processes for aiding students in developing a personal model of counseling, and case conceptualization skills.
  6. Group Counseling and Group Work
    These questions assess your knowledge of designing and facilitating groups, therapeutic factors, dynamics associated with group process, and approaches to group formation.
  7. Assessment and Testing
    These questions assess your knowledge of reliability and validity in assessments, procedures for identifying trauma and abuse, assessing risk of aggression or danger, environmental assessments, and preparing for initial assessment meetings
  8. Research and Program Evaluation
    These questions assess your knowledge of evidence-based counseling practices, mixed research methods, analysis of data in counseling, statistical methods used in conducting research, and needs assessments.

exam outline for the CPCE, which contains 160 multiple-choice questions and has a time limit of 3 hours and 45 minutes

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CPCE Exam Registration

You have two options for taking this exam. One option is to take it on campus at your school. The second option is to take it at an approved Pearson VUE facility. The process and fees are different depending on which option you choose.

If you choose to take it on campus, you will register at your school. Call your program director or advisor to schedule an appointment. The dates and times available for the test will depend on what your school offers.

The exam fee is $75, which is less expensive than the Pearson VUE option; however, you won’t be guaranteed a standardized testing experience. It will be administered on a computer, using a secure internet browser, but beyond that, testing conditions will be determined by your school.

When scheduling your appointment, make sure to ask the following questions:

  • How much time will I have for each section?
  • How soon will I find out my score?
  • What do I need to bring with me?
  • What form of ID will you accept?
  • Will there be any scheduled breaks during the exam?
  • What is the minimum score required to pass?

If you choose to take it at an authorized Pearson VUE facility, you can schedule your appointment online or by phone with the Center for Credentialing and Education. The fee will be $150, which will assure a standardized testing experience.

That means you can be sure that the testing center will be quiet, free of distraction, and that no issues will come up during the test. You will still take the exam on a computer, but rather than an internet-based test, it will be a test on that computer so there won’t be a concern about spotty internet connection.

How the CPCE Exam is Scored

The maximum score you could receive is a 136—the total number of scored questions across all eight core areas. Your score on the test is a “raw” score directly representing the number of questions you answered correctly.

There is no universal criteria for passing the exam, as the minimum requirement is set independently by each university. In general, the minimum will likely be somewhere between 62% and 65% correct (so 85 to 89 out of 136).

However, in some circumstances, the minimum could be as high as 75% (102 out of 136) so you definitely need to ask rather than risk aiming for a score that is lower than what you need.

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CPCE Test Online Prep Course

If you want to be fully prepared, Mometrix offers an online CPCE Prep Course. The course is designed to provide you with any and every resource you might want while studying. The CPCE Course includes:

  • Review Lessons Covering Every Topic
  • 1,250+ CPCE Practice Questions
  • Over 30 Video Tutorials
  • More than 500 Electronic Flashcards
  • Money-back Guarantee
  • Free Mobile Access
  • and More!

The CPCE Prep Course is designed to help any learner get everything they need to prepare for their CPCE exam. Click below to check it out!

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How many questions are on the CPCE?


There are 160 questions on the CPCE, though 24 of those questions will not count toward your final score.


How long is the exam?


The CPCE is timed at 3 hours and 45 minutes.


What is a passing score?


There is no set passing score for the CPCE, as each school will set their own. However, a score of 90 is generally considered a passing score.


How much does the CPCE cost?


The CPCE costs $150 for the Pearson-VUE-administered test and $75 for the school-administered test.

By Peter Rench

Peter Rench joined Mometrix in 2009 and serves as Vice President of Product Development, responsible for overseeing all new product development and quality improvements. Mr. Rench, a National Merit Scholar, graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering and a minor in mathematics from Texas A&M University.



by Mometrix Test Preparation | Last Updated: June 28, 2024