Western Seminary Counseling Center A New Day Counseling

Counselor Preparation Comprehensive Examination


The Counselor Preparation Comprehensive Examination (CPCE) is a nationally administered multiple choice exam designed to evaluate professional knowledge students have acquired during their MFT Program. The CPCE is designed to assess students’ knowledge of counseling information viewed as important by MFT programs and is similar to state licensing exams. Additionally, the CPCE:

  • Stimulates student integration of knowledge learned in separate courses
  • Helps prepare students for the state licensing exams
  • Gives students comparative strengths/weaknesses feedback
  • Allows programs to examine student functioning in various curricular areas
  • Gives programs an objective view of the knowledge level of their students
  • Compares the program’s results to national data

Passing the CPCE is a graduation requirement for MFT students admitted in the Fall 2012 semester or later. For MFT students admitted before Fall 2012, taking the CPCE is highly recommended, but not a graduation requirement.

The CPCE covers eight core curriculum areas:

  • Helping Relationships [CNS 502, 516]
  • Professional Orientation & Ethics [CNS 506]
  • Human Growth & Development [CNS 507]
  • Group Dynamics [CNS 512]
  • Social & Cultural Foundations [CNS 513]
  • Career & Lifestyle Development [CNS 518]
  • Research Methods & Program Evaluation [CNS 524]
  • Appraisal or Assessment Techniques [CNS 525]

Requirements to Register for the Exam

Each applicant must...

  • have successfully completed all six prerequisites for MFT Practicum prior to sitting for the Exam.  [CNS 501, 502, 504, 505, 506, & 507]
  • have a 3.0 GPA
  • be in good standing in the MFT program

Students applying for the CPCE are encouraged but not required to have completed coursework covering the eight core areas listed above. It is highly recommended to have completed CNS 513 Social and Cultural Issues and CNS 524 Research in Counseling as well.

Registration Procedures

Students must apply to take the CPCE by submitting the CPCE application form and the exam fee payment to the MFT Program Assistant at least one month before the exam. Payment to the Counseling Office does not guarantee your reservation for the test. The Counseling Offices must receive the application and confirm with each student before the student is added to the exam list. Test booklets are ordered only for those on the exam list. The student will receive a confirmation e-mail to inform him or her of the date & time of the exam. Please refer to the CPCE Application for deadlines to register, test dates, and payment information. Any student who does not submit all required paperwork and fees prior to the deadline will not be allowed to take the exam.

CPCE application

Content of the CPCE

The test will cover the eight common-core areas as defined by the Standards for Preparation for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP):

  • Helping relationships – studies that provide an understanding of counseling and consultation processes.
  • Professional orientation and ethics – studies that provide an understanding of all aspects of professional functioning including history, roles, organizational structures, ethics, standards, and credentialing.
  • Human growth and development – studies that provide an understanding of the nature and needs of individuals at all developmental levels.
  • Group work – studies that provide an understanding of group development, dynamics, counseling theories, group counseling methods and skills, and other group work approaches.
  • Social and cultural foundations – studies that provide an understanding of issues and trends in a multicultural and diverse society.
  • Career and lifestyle development – studies that provide an understanding of career development and related life factors.
  • Research and program evaluation – studies that provide an understanding of types of research methods, basic statistics, and ethical and legal considerations in research.
  • Appraisal or Assessment Techniques – studies that provide an understanding of individual and group approaches to assessment and evaluation.

Format of the CPCE

The CPCE consists of 160 items with 20 items per section. Scores for each section and a total score will be reported for each student by the CCE. Western Seminary San José is responsible for determining a minimum criterion score for their students. A demographic questionnaire will be included on the answer sheet for research purposes.

Students are allowed four hours to complete the examination. After each examination, upon obtaining the results from the CPCE office, we will contact students by mail of their grade results. Results will be posted approximately 4 weeks after the test administration. Students who fail the exam will have to re-take the section(s) not passed or the entire CPCE.


Completed Exams are mailed to and scored by the Center for Credentialing and Education (CCE). Once scores have been calculated, they are returned to the Counseling Offices within four weeks. Examinees receive a notification from the Counseling Offices informing them of their score on the Exam.

Passing the CPCE

The CPCE national norms are used to determine the minimum passing score on the Exam. The minimum passing score varies each year.

Students who fail the CPCE the first time

  • If a student fails three or fewer core areas, he or she will be re-tested over the failed core areas. The student will be administered a subtest or subtests. The subtests will be administered on a date scheduled by the Counseling Offices. If a student fails a subtest, he or she will be required to retake the entire CPCE.
  • If a student fails four or more core areas, he or she will be required to retake the entire CPCE.

Students who fail the CPCE (or sub-section) the second time

  • Student will be required to complete an exit interview, Mapping Your Future Interview, with at least two Faculty Members of the MFT Program. The student will be required to prepare evidence and discuss items relative to his or her plans to pass the CPCE.

Preparation for the CPCE

There are no published study materials available for the CPCE; however, the exam content is similar to the NBCC National Counselor Examination. Students may obtain free sample questions from the NBCC website: www.nbcc.org/NCE/Sample. Paid subscriptions to exam test banks covering the eight content areas are available online at www.counselingexam.com/nce. A list of other study resources is available at www.nbcc.org/Exams/Study#NCE. Please note these references are suggestions not endorsements.


Get In Touch

Nancy Broxton
Nancy Broxton
Assistant Director, MA/MFT Program
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408.356.6889 x414
Joanne Kim
Joanne Kim
Marital and Family Therapy Program Assistant
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408.356.6889 x409