Comprehensive Examination Information


Comprehensive examinations are required for all students in degree programs, with the exception of those who have written a thesis. Please note, the comprehensive exam is an exit exam for the master's in counseling program, taken by both school and mental health counseling students.  This is not to be confused with the National Counseling Exam (NCE), which students take as part of the process in applying for state licensure (e.g., to become a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC).  

Policies governing the administration of comprehensive examinations are determined by the Dean of Graduate Studies and are outlined in the most recent copy of the Graduate School Bulletin. Students are advised to consult the Bulletin in addition to this guide.

The purpose of this report is limited to that of a guide. The format of the comprehensive is the Counselor Preparation Comprehensive Examination (CPCE), which is distributed through the Center for Credentialing & Education, Inc. The purpose of the CPCE is to assess counseling students’ knowledge of counseling information viewed as important by counselor preparation programs.

Students must register for the comprehensive exam by the dates listed on the graduate academic calendar.

Comprehensive examinations are scheduled by the Graduate School Office; the dates are noted in the annual Graduate School Calendar. Examinations are offered once each during the Fall, Spring, and Summer II semesters, usually toward the middle of the semester. The comprehensive examinations are routinely given on Saturdays. Those who observe the Sabbath on Saturday may request that they be given the examination on a Friday preceding the regularly scheduled examination date by writing to the Chairperson of the Department of Education and Counseling.

In cases where English is not the native language of the student, an oral examination is permissible. Students requesting this option should discuss the matter with their advisor.

Students must complete the Application for Comprehensive Examination according to the schedule specified in the Graduate School Calendar. Applications must be submitted to Anne Feldman in the Department Offices (SAC 302; 610-519-4620). Applications should be obtained online on the Graduate Studies website or from the receptionist in the Department of Education and Counseling, St. Augustine Center, Room 302. Those whose applications are approved will receive letters from the Graduate School Office about several weeks before the examination. There is a non-refundable fee of $75 to sit for this examination.  Cashier's checks or money orders should be submitted with applications and be made payable to: "CCE."  Please note that personal checks are no longer accepted as payment for the exam.

The CPCE consists of 160 multiple-choice items with 20 items per area. Students will have four hours to complete the examination. Passing grade of the CPCE comprehensive exam will be determined with each testing cohort. Scores for each section and a total score will be provided to each test taker upon request to Dr. Krista Malott.

After the examination is scored and reported to Villanova, the results will be forwarded to the Office of the Dean of Graduate Studies, who will notify students of the results.

Students who fail the CPCE comprehensive examination are required to re-take the exam the following semester. Thus, it is recommended that students who plan to graduate in May register for a Fall examination. In the event that a student fails the CPCE comprehensive examination, the student should contact his/her faculty advisor and make an appointment to discuss and identify major problems and suggest appropriate remedial steps. Students who have failed the examination once may take the examination a second time, no sooner than the next scheduled administration. Graduate School policy specifies that students may not retake the comprehensive examination during the same semester in which the examination was failed. Students who fail the comprehensive examination twice cannot receive their master’s degree. Exceptions to this policy must be requested by petitioning the Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

Students should be thoroughly familiar with the information presented in all required courses as listed below. The examination does not include questions on electives, workshops, or courses not required in the program in which the student is enrolled. The CPCE covers the eight Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational programs (CACRAP) common-core areas as defined by their Standards for Preparation. The following eight core areas, which constitute the CPCE, serve as the primary theoretical basis for the examination:

1. Human Growth and Development – studies that provide an understanding of the nature and needs of individuals at all developmental levels

2. Social and Cultural Foundations – studies that provide an understanding of issues and trends in a multicultural and diverse society (Lab in Counseling Diverse Populations)

3. Helping Relationships – studies that provide an understanding of counseling and consultation processes (Lab in Counseling Skills)

4. Group Work – studies that provide an understanding of group development, dynamics, counseling theories, group counseling methods and skills, and other group work approaches (Lab in Group Dynamics)

5. Career and Lifestyle Development – studies that provide an understanding of career development and related life factors

6. Appraisal – studies that provide an understanding of individual and group approaches to assessment and evaluation

7. Research and Program Evaluation – studies that provide an understanding of types of research methods, basic statistics, and ethical and legal considerations in research

8. Professional Orientation and Ethics – studies that provide an understanding of all aspects of professional functioning including history, roles, organizational structures, ethics, standards, and credentialing (Ethics in Counseling)

Suggestions in preparing for the examination:
• Consider forming a study group with other students taking the examination
• Review all textbooks, handouts, class notes, and suggested review materials for all of the courses that will be included on the examination
• Relax. A certain amount of stress is beneficial; too much is detrimental.
• Read each question carefully; students need to know exactly what is being asked.

1. Erikson described independence as an important issue in the second year of life and identified this stage of development as
A. autonomy versus shame and doubt Immersion
B. concrete operations versus object permanence
C. Motor versus mind development
D. Self versus other differentiation

2. Cultural identity development models typically start with the _______ age
A. Dissonance
B. Immersion
C. Conformity
D. introspective

3. According to Rogers, accurate empathy is most appropriately defined as
A. Objective reflection to help identify the client’s feelings
B. Non-judgmental acceptance of the client’s reality
C. Recognition of the client’s most prominent emotions
D. Subjective understanding of the client in the here-and-now

4. A group leader can best enhance a group member’s participation by
A. Encouraging social interactions between members outside of group time
B. Requiring a commitment that the group members not drop out
C. Stressing that substantial self-disclosure is expected
D. Modeling appropriate behaviors for the group

5. A basic assumption of the trait-and-factor approach to vocational counseling is that
A. Career decisions should be based on evident needs
B. Familial factors influence vocational choice
C. Developmental constructs are of paramount importance
D. There is one best career goal for everyone

6. A primary benefit of converting raw scores to standard scores is that it facilitates
A. Simplicity in interpretation of test results
B. Interpretation of the results relative to a normal distribution
C. Summarizing and organizing other qualitative data
D. Statistical analyses having greater quantitative accuracy

7. The research design which manipulates the independent variable and a between-connections comparison with no random assignment of subjects to conditions is known as
A. Quasi-experimental
B. Single-subject
C. Time-series
D. True experimental

8. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, members of the American Personnel and Guidance Association (APGA) became aware that the words personnel and guidance did not accurately define or reflect their work. Therefore, in 1983 APGA changed its name to
A. Association for Counselor Education and Supervision
B. American Association for counseling and Development
C. American Mental Health Counselors Association
D. Association of Counseling and Related Educational Professions

Answer Key: 1) A 2) C 3) D 4) D 5) D 6) B 7) A 8) B

There is no official study guide for the CPCE. Since the CPCE and the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE) are based on the same eight knowledge areas, any study materials developed for the NCE should be useful for the CPCE.

Some study guides that have been developed for the NCE, and thus, the CPCE are:

- Counselor Exam Review- The NCE ® Review and The NCMHCE ® Review Exam Preparation Study Guides
- Clinical Mental Health Counselor Handbook & Study Guide, 2nd Edition
- NBCC's Official Preparation Guide for the Examination of Clinical Counselor Practice (ECCP)
- 2009 Dr. Arthur's Study Materials for NCC & LPC Licensure

Please Note: Villanova University and NBCC do not endorse or uphold any claims made by vendors of study materials listed. Use of these guides does not guarantee enhanced performance on any NBCC or CPCE exam as a result of using study materials. NBCC does not guarantee the accuracy of information provided by study material advertisers.