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The National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE) is administered and maintained by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC), an internationally-recognized provider of national counselor certification. It is part of counselor credentialing requirements for candidates seeking certification to practice as a counselor.

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What to Expect on the NCE

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The National Counselor exam is a 200-question, multiple-choice, non-sectioned, pencil and paper formatted test. On the test, you will be presented with a series of questions created from the original eight Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP) content areas and five work behaviors from NBCC’s national job analysis.

All of these questions have undergone review and field-testing prior to being included on the examination and a new version of the National Counselors exam is administered for each new test date.

Of the 200 questions you will be asked, 160 are counted for scoring in order to determine whether you achieve a passing grade, with the remaining 40 being unscored field-test items used for statistics to gauge whether they should be used on future versions of the NCE exam.

Questions will be based on the following six domains:

Test Domains

  1. Professional Practice and Ethics (12%)
  2. Intake, Assessment, and Diagnosis (12%)
  3. Areas of Clinical Focus (29%)
  4. Treatment Planning (9%)
  5. Counseling Skills and Interventions (30%)
  6. Core Counseling Attributes (8%)

A more in-depth discussion of these content domains is available through Mometrix’s National Counselors exam preparation tools, which includes NCE study guides and NCE practice tests.

exam outline for the nce, which contains 160 scored questions, 40 unscored questions, and a time limit of 3 hours and 45 minutes

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Eligibility and Registration for the NCE

In order to register to take the National Counselor exam, you must first apply for certification. Once your application is accepted and approved, you may then proceed to register for the examination at an approved Pearson VUE test center or online through onVUE.

The NCE exam is administered twice a year, in both April and October. Typically, it is held on the third Saturday of the respective months. When you send in your registration, you will be asked to submit an appropriate fee, which can be paid with a credit card. Keep in mind that any application fees are neither refundable nor transferable, so plan your examination date accordingly.

What to Expect on Test Day

When you arrive at your designated Pearson VUE testing center, you will be asked to present two separate forms of current, valid ID. Both of these must have your signature and the same first as last names as they appear on your certification eligibility notification, but only one is required to have a photo. Your photo ID may be any of the following approved forms of government-issued identification:

  • Driver’s license
  • Passport
  • State or military ID

Your identification is required as a security measure in order to provide equal opportunity for all candidates to demonstrate their skills and abilities. Additional security measures include: no cameras, notes, or related items permitted in the testing area; no calculators; no guests or visitors; and no personal items permitted other than keys and wallets. All items you need for the NCE exam, including writing materials, will be provided at check in.

If you fail to provide acceptable identification, fail to abide by the set security standards or arrive more than 15 minutes later than your designated exam time, you will not be admitted to the testing area and you will not be issued a refund, so be sure to plan ahead.

Deferring or Missing Your Appointment

If you need to postpone or defer your examination date to the next available administration, you may do so without penalty if you contact NBCC more than 30 days before your scheduled exam date. If you fail to contact NBCC within the allotted time frame, or you do not show up for your examination, you will be required to pay a $150 reregistration fee to take it on the next available administration date. The only exceptions would be in the event of an emergency, such as an accident or illness, which may waive the reregistration fee upon approval.

If there are unforeseen circumstances, such as inclement weather, that prevent test administrators from opening the facility and require cancellation and rescheduling of the NCE examination on behalf of NBCC, you will receive an e-mail or telephone notification with instruction on how to reschedule your exam.

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Understanding Your NCE Score

Your National Counselor examination score is based on a modified Angoff method and is solely determined based on your performance on the examination, with no prior work experience or variables factored into your score. A passing score is determined by subject matter experts, who evaluate questions on the NCE exam to establish a number of correct responses that would adequately demonstrate the required level of proficiency. Since each version of the exam is different, the number of correct responses needed to obtain a passing score will vary slightly for each version. Your own capabilities will allow you to pass or fail the NCE exam, with no influence from other test takers.

Retaking the National Counselor Examination

If you do not receive a passing score, you are permitted three attempts before your application is closed, so you may reregister and retake the NCE exam on the next available test day.

Preparing for the NCE Exam

Since you are expected to pass the exam prior to entering the professional field, it is essential to prepare for the National Counselors exam as best you can prior to your first attempt. The most effective method to make sure you are well-equipped for success is by utilizing resources available to you. Mometrix has prepared study materials for your NCE exam prep that includes both an NCE study guide and an NCE practice test with NCE practice questions that have been designed to help you assess your skills and review the CACREP and work behavior domains that you will encounter on test day.

If you find benefit from our efforts here, check out our premium quality NCE study guide or NCE online prep course to take your studying to the next level. Just click the links below. Your purchase also helps us make even more great, free National Counseling exam content for test-takers.

NCE Exam Online Prep Course

If you want to be fully prepared, Mometrix offers a comprehensive online prep course for the NCE exam. This course is designed to provide you with any and every resource you may need while studying. The NCE course includes:

  • Review Lessons Covering Every Topic
  • 1,650+ NCE Practice Questions
  • Over 30 Video Tutorials
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What is the national counseling exam?


The National Counseling Exam, or NCE, is an exam for those who wish to become counselors. The NCE measures the skills, knowledge, and abilities that are needed to provide effective counseling services.


What is a passing score on NCE exam?


There are 200 questions on the NCE exam. The cutoff score to be considered as passing is in the high 90s.


What does NCE stand for in counseling?


NCE stands for National Counselor Examination


How much does it cost to take the National Counselor Exam?


The cost to register for the NCE is $275.


How do you sign up for the NCE?


To sign up for the NCE, you will need to visit the NBCC website:

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