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Comprehensive Exams, Graduation and Credentialing

Comprehensive Exam (CPCE) for the Counseling Programs  

The Counselor Preparation Comprehensive Exam (CPCE) serves as the Comprehensive Exam for all Clinical Mental Health Counseling and Marriage, Couple and Family Counseling students. It is a land-based exam offered only at a verified Pearson location. Students can choose the test date, time, and location (nearest Pearson location is Nashville). The exam is similar to the National Counselor Exam (NCE) in that it covers the following content areas:   

  1. Professional Counseling Orientation and Ethical Practice
  2. Social and Cultural Diversity
  3. Human Growth and Development
  4. Career Development
  5. Counseling and Helping Relationships
  6. Group Counseling and Group Work
  7. Assessment and Testing
  8. Research and Program Evaluation

There are conditions that must be met in order to take the exam. Those include: applied for graduation upon earning 18 graduate hours; completion of any required research foundations and/or specified research course(s) (i.e., CNS 598) on the program of study; be currently enrolled in the last semester of the degree program or have completed all content course work associated with the program during the semester when the exam is taken; be in good standing academically; and completion of any additional requirements as specified by the department(s) directing the program. Not meeting these conditions will result in being removed from the CPCE registration; with graduation being delayed.

Important Deadlines

Graduating in May? Students must register for the exam (see step #4 below) no later than October 1st of the year before. The exam must be taken in February proceeding the May graduation.

Graduating in December? Students must register for the exam (see step #4 below) no later than March 1st of that same year. The exam must be taken in September proceeding the December graduation.

Exceptions to the aforementioned deadlines are not provided.

Directions and Process for Registering for and Taking the CPCE

Pending students can assure that the aforementioned are and will be met, they should begin the steps below.

  1. Create Credentialing Gateway Account
    1. In order to register for the exam, students first create an account with Credentialing Gateway using the directions outlined in the “Creating a Credentialing Gateway Account” document. This step does not require students to enter their university name, only their demographic information and creation of their login credentials. If the student has an existing credentialing gateway account, it is not necessary for them to create a new one. They can simply log into their existing account and select the Counselor Preparation Comprehensive Examination (CPCE) from the applications tab.
  2. Register for the CPCE
    1. Students should log into their newly created or existing credentialing gateway account and use the instructions titled CPCE Registration Process (No Accommodations)” or “CPCE Registration Process (Accommodations).” Students requesting accommodations must have formal documentation through WKU’s Student Accessibility Resource Center and should email that documentation to the Department Comprehensive Exam Coordinator simultaneously with registering for the CPCE.
    2. Students will receive an email that states they will receive their authorization to test email from Pearson Vue containing their candidate ID within 48-72 hours of application submission. This time only starts AFTER they have been approved by the university to sit for the exam. As a reminder, students who plan on graduating must register with CPCE no later than October 1st of the year before. Students planning on graduating in December must register no later than March 1st of that same year.
  3. Pending Approval by WKU and CCE CPCE Coordinators
    1. The Department’s Comprehensive Exam Coordinator approves students to sit for the CPCE exam. Once the students have been approved to sit by the university coordinator through the score portal, their information will be sent to the CCE CPCE Coordinator for a final approval and then exported to Pearson Vue. It may take up to 72 hours for Pearson Vue to send the student their authorization to test email, containing their candidate ID after they have been approved to sit by the university and their information has been exported by CCE to Pearson Vue.
  4. Create Pearson Vue Account and Register for the Exam
    1. Upon receipt of the authorization to test email, students will sign into their Credentialing Gateway account, click the blue “CPCE” box and on the next screen they will select the “Go to Pearson” button . This will immediately link the student to their Pearson VUE dashboard where they can schedule and pay for the exam. The need to create a second Pearson VUE account is now eliminated. Register for the exam by following the directions in “Registration for Pearson VUE.ABE (CBT)” document.
      As a reminder, register for the exam during the month of February or September. Exceptions are not provided.

Department Procedures and Policies

Students will receive their raw scores directly from CPCE. These scores are NOT indicative of a passing or failing score within the Department; and only should be used as a reference for which areas of the exam they performed adequately in and in which areas may require additional study for the licensure exam. Per the Department of Counseling and Student Affair’s policy, students pass the CPCE Comprehensive Exam when their scores fall above or below one standard deviation of the national average for that particular exam offering; data of which students are not privy to. The Department receives the results of the exam in the latter half of the spring or fall semester; and will communicate to students through an email whether they passed.

In the event of not earning a score within the standard deviation of the national average, students will be required to take an essay examination. The essay exam includes 2 questions that are provided at the time/date of the exam. Students have 4 hours total to complete this proctored exam via ZOOM or on campus. Students can use resources of their choice (hard copy and/or electronic) to the exam.

If that exam is not passed, students are required to take an oral examination. If the oral exam is not passed, students may be required to fulfill other requirements in order to meet the expectations for graduation (of which, may be delayed).

National Counselor Examination (NCE)

Graduates from a CACREP-accredited counseling program meet the educational requirements to earn the Nationally Certified Counselor (NCC) credential after passing the multiple-choice National Counselor Exam (NCE). This certification through the National Board of Certified Counselor (NBCC) indicates to the public and employers that the counselors have met the national standards set by the counseling profession. The National Counselor Exam (NCE) is also required to obtain full LPCC licensure in KY. See https://lpc.ky.gov/. During their last semester in the program, students may take the exam versus waiting until after graduation. The benefits of taking the exam while still enrolled include a reduced exam fee, as well as having recently prepared for the CPCE, a similar exam. The NCE is offered mid-to-late in the last semester of enrollment.

Students are responsible for reviewing WKU Graduate School’s Degree and Certificate Completion Checklist at least a full academic year prior to anticipated graduation as the application for graduation is due the semester. All degree and certificate requirements must be completed by the student by the last day of the term. The Graduate School begins auditing degrees and certificates for completion the week following the final day of the term. The degree audit confirms that the student has: completed all coursework (earning a "C" or higher/no incomplete grades) in their program within the time limit; earned a minimum cumulative and program GPA of 3.0; passed the comprehensive exam; and applied for graduation. Degree audits are completed within four to six weeks after the term concludes. Upon recommendation of the audit, the University Registrar confers the degree and/or certificate in May, August, or December. Students may check their transcript for completion on TopNet (Student Services/Student Records/Unofficial Academic Transcript). Degrees and certificates will be mailed within 3-6 weeks after the conclusion of the term. The Graduate School does not confirm degree or certificate completion prior to award; however, enrollment verification may be requested.

Students are responsible for preparing and applying for graduation the semester prior to completing the program. To begin the application process for graduation, students should visit WKU Registrar.



Department of Counseling
and Student Affairs

Gary A. Ransdell Hall 3036
1906 College Heights Blvd. #51031,
Bowling Green, KY 42101-1030
(270) 745-4953

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 Last Modified 5/7/24