Gianni Evangelisti By: Gianni Evangelisti
NCE Practice Exams

The National Counselor Examination, or NCE, is a comprehensive 200-item multiple-choice examination created to gauge knowledge, skills and abilities deemed important for providing effective counseling services. 

In short, the NCE is a requirement for obtaining your counselor licensure. Try out a free NCE practice exam below and see how you do.

After you pass the NCE and graduate, you are given three years to complete and submit the final documentation of proof of counseling work experience and supervision. Once completed and approved, your board certification will be approved. 

Summary: Learn more about the National Counselor Examination and take a free NCE practice exam below.

We understand that studying can be hard. Especially without any guidance of where to look for these study resources. Check out some of the free NCE practice exams below for help.

Resource Provider
NCE Practice Exam 1 Test-Guide
NCE Practice Exam 2 Test-Guide
NCE Practice Exam 3 Test-Guide
NCE Practice Exam 4 Test-Guide

The NCE exam consists of 200 multiple-choice questions. Of those 200 questions, 160 will be scored and 40 will be unscored. Candidates will be given 3 hours and 45 minutes to complete the exam.

You can see a detailed layout of the 6 domains on the NCE exam below:

Domain Percent of Items Number of Scored Items
Professional Practice and Ethics 12% 19
Intake, Assessment, and Diagnosis 12% 19
Areas of Clinical Focus 29% 47
Treatment Planning 9% 14
Counseling Skills and Interventions 30% 48
Core Counseling Attributes 8% 13
Total 100% 160

For more in-depth information on each domain and what will be tested, check out this official content guide

Registration Process

First, go to the NBCC website and create a “ProCounselor” account. This is the portal that the NBCC will use to communicate with you regarding your application, registration and testing process. 

Once your application has been approved the NBCC will reach back out to you and provide you with the link to register through “Pearson VUE”, which runs the testing process.

The NCE examination fee is $275 and is offered twice a year, in April and October. 

All exams administered through Pearson VUE are taken during a month-long window. If you are taking the exam on your campus, the test will be given on an established national exam date.

Requirements Before The Test

For students, the application process begins with your campus coordinator. Your coordinator will be able to give you the information for how to apply as a graduate student for the exam. If your university does not have a campus coordinator, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Students can take the exam before OR after graduation.

Here is the website to apply otherwise: Registration Link

Requirements After the Test

Basically, passing the NCE is just one step in the process of receiving the NBCC’s National Certified Counselor (NCC) credential.

These requirements include graduate-level coursework in nine content areas, a professional endorsement from someone in the field, and potential supervision and practice hours (waived in some cases).

Basically, the NBCC wants to ensure that neither party is wasting the others time and that the individual has the proper education and experience to even qualify for the licensure. 

Education Requirements

In order to take the exam, you must complete one of the following:

  1. Hold a master’s, education specialist/educational specialist, certificate of advanced study (CAS), or doctor degree in counseling from either a CACREP-accredited degree program
  2. A counseling program administered by a regionally accredited educational institution, including at least 48 semester hours or 72 quarter hours of graduate-level coursework 

Additionally, the degree must include at least six semester or 10 quarter hours of graduate degree-related supervised field experience in counseling.

Coursework Requirements

Graduate-level coursework covering the previously mentioned nine content areas:

  • Human Growth and Development Theories in Counseling
  • Social and Cultural Foundations in Counseling
  • Helping Relationships in Counseling
  • Group Counseling Theories and Processes
  • Career Counseling and Lifestyle Development
  • Assessment in Counseling
  • Research and Program Evaluation
  • Professional Orientation to Counseling
  • Counseling Field Experience


At least 100 hours of postgraduate counseling supervision over a 24-month period. 

This requirement can be waived for:

  • Graduates of CACREP-accredited programs
  • Fully state-licensed professional counselors
  • Individuals with a degree awarded from a regionally accredited doctoral program in counseling

Professional Endorsement

You must obtain an endorsement from a professional colleague who holds a graduate degree in a mental health field. This endorsement cannot be related in any way to the applicant and cannot be the same person who was in charge of your postgraduate counseling supervision.

Work Experience

At least 3,000 hours of postgraduate counseling work experience over a minimum 24-month period. 

This requirement can be waived for:

  • Graduates of CACREP-accredited programs
  • Fully state-licensed professional counselors
  • Individuals with a degree awarded from a regionally accredited doctoral program in counseling

Of the 200 questions, only 160 are scored and count towards the final score. The other 40 questions are being tested to see if they should be used in future examinations and do not count towards the final score.

A passing score is usually between 98 and 105, fluctuating slightly with each test administration. 

Scores take eight weeks to get back. 

While the pass rate for first-time takers is 84.8%, the test can become very overwhelming without proper preparation and knowledge of how the test is administered. Additionally, you are only allowed to test a total of three times in a two-year period before your application closes.

NCE practice exams are one of the best ways to prepare for the actual exam.

What do I need to bring to the NCE Exam?

Exam admission letter, acceptable form of photo identification, #2 pencils.

What is the average score on the NCE?

There are many forms of the NCE. A typical cutoff for passing is a score in the 90s. Never has the cutoff for the exam been higher than 65% out of 160, so with preparation it is a very passable exam.

Do school counselors need to take the NCE?

Yes. You must have a passing score on the NCE or the NCMHCE to become a school counselor.

Which states ONLY accept the NCE, right now:

Alaska, Wyoming, Arizona, Colorado, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, Michigan, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Alabama, West Virginia, Pennsylvania

How long is the NCE good for?

Three years. Once you pass the exam, you have three years to fulfill the rest of the requirements.