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Counseling and Student Affairs

Counseling Graduation, Comprehensive Exams, and Certification


Applying for Graduation

WKU counseling graduatesWhen do I apply for graduation?

You are required to complete the application for graduation the semester prior to completing your program (i.e. if you are scheduled to graduate Spring or Summer 2020, you must apply for graduation Fall 2019). See the details below for more information on applying for comps and certification exams.

Where do I apply for graduation?

The application for graduation and required fee ($55) must be submitted through TopNet. After you log in, go to Student Services > Student Record > .Application for Graduation. The WKU required fee covers the cost of printing, auditing your degree, and your cap and gown. This fee must be paid even if you decide not to participate in the commencement ceremony. For more information, visit the WKU Graduation Application page.


Comprehensive Exams

Western Kentucky Graduate School policy stipulates that all students enrolled in master’s-level programs in the University must successfully complete a culminating experience of their master’s-level studies. In the Department of Counseling and Student Affairs, the culminating experience is the comprehensive examination. It is intended to be a fair and rigorous test of the student’s mastery of important areas of professional knowledge in:

  1. the fundamentals of student affairs or counseling theory, research, practice, and ethics/policy, and
  2. theory, research, practice, and ethics/policy pertinent to the concentration or specialty in which the student is enrolled (i.e., Marriage, Couple, and Family Counseling, Clinical Mental Health Counseling, School Counseling, or Student Affairs).

The examinations require each master’s student to demonstrate the ability to understand, apply, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate concepts, ethical principles, policies, research, research design, strategies, techniques, and values derived from the student’s graduate preparation.

Eligibility Requirements

The following requirements must be met to take the comprehensive examination:

  1. application for graduation upon earning 18 graduate hours;
  2. completion of any required research foundations and/or specified research course(s) on the program of study;
  3. be currently enrolled in the last semester of the degree program or have completed all content course work associated with the program;
  4. be in good standing academically; and
  5. completion of any additional requirements as specified by the department(s) directing the program.

Students should contact their program advisors for information about the specific comprehensive exam policy for that program. Students must also have on file in the Department Office and/or the Graduate Studies office the following:

  • Program of Study filed during the first 12 hours of course work. If the graduate school does not have this form on file by the completion of 12 hours, a registration hold will be placed on the student’s record. This hold will not be lifted until the Program of Study, with all appropriate signatures, is approved by Graduate Studies and is on file in the Graduate Studies office as well as the Departmental office.
  • Comprehensive Exam Application obtained below. 

Who is required to take the comprehensive exam?

Computer examAll students in the counseling master’s degree program (CMHC, MCFC, SC) are required to take and successfully pass "comps." Rank I and student certifications do not take this exam.

When do I take the exam?

The comprehensive exam is offered three times per year, once each semester. It can only be taken during the final semester of your program. Check the Dates & Deadlines on the right for the date, details, instructions, and application. An email may also be sent out on the listserv notifying you of the application deadline and the date, time, and place of the exam. You need to take care of any “Incomplete” (X) or “In Progress” (IP) grades on your transcript or have special permission before you will be cleared to take the comprehensive exam.

Applications are due one month prior to the examination. This deadline is strictly enforced (there are no exceptions).  Students should follow directions on the application to ensure a timely processes of their application. Late applications will delay when students are eligible to take their comprehensive examinations and will delay their graduation until the semester they have passed their comprehensive examinations.

To help you in planning, the dates below provide the tentative annual schedule for when the exams will be offered. Application dates are at the beginning of the semesters in which you plan to take the exam. The exams are typically conducted from 8:30am-1pm on the Saturdays indicated below:

  • Fall comps (December graduation)
    • Application due September 1
    • Exam on the last Saturday in September 
  • Spring comps (May graduation)
    • Application due February 1
    • Exam on the last Saturday in February
  • Summer comps (August graduation,
    even if you walk in the May WKU graduation ceremony
    • Application due May 1
    • Exam on the first Saturday in June

How do I prepare for comps?

  1. Complete the department application by the deadline listed on the right.
    1. Save your application with your file name in the following format: LastName_CompsAppSp17
    2. Email your completed application to directly to Belinda Wisdom at belinda.wisdom@wku.edu or fax it to (270) 745-5031.
  2. Once you have applied through the department and been approved to complete the comp exams, you will be directed to complete your CPCE application and pay the required fee for that exam ($75 paid directly to NBCC online via credit card).
  3. As you await the exam date, review your materials from class and refer to the study materials listed on the right to help prepare you for the exam. You may also talk to classmates who have previously taken them exam to find out what helped them prepare and successfully pass the exam.

What should I expect from comps?

  1. Arrive at the testing center by 8:30am to sign in, identify your seat, and receive your test and instructions. The exam should begin by 9am.
  2. Take the computer-based CPCE exam. You will be given four hours to complete this exam but most students finish in less time. The comprehensive exam is comprised of the 160-question multiple choice national Counselor Preparation Comprehensive Examination (CPCE) exam developed and graded through the National Board of Certified Counselors. A passing score will be determined based on the national average minus 1 standard deviation of that particular exam.
  3. If a passing score on the CPCE is not received, the second phase of comps will include a written exam that includes two essay questions specific to the counseling specialty developed and graded by program faculty. You must complete this portion successfully to graduate.


National Certification Examination (NCE)

What is national certification?

NBCC (National Board for Certified CounselorsGraduates from a CACREP-accredited counseling program may qualify to become Nationally Certified Counselors (NCC) after passing the 200-question multiple choice National Counselor Exam (NCE) and providing graduate transcripts. 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 optional to become a Licensed Professional Counselor Associate (LPCA); however, it is required for full LPCC licensure in KY by the time you have completed the requisite hours under supervision. All students preparing for the comp exams will be better prepared for the NCE, which covers similar academic knowledge and preparation (pass rate in low 80%).

When can I take the NCE?

The NCE is very similar to the CPCE; therefore, you are encouraged to take the NCE during the same semester or immediately after graduation to take advantage of your test preparation for comps.  It is only offered in April or October so those graduating and taking comps in the summer may choose to take the exam in April or wait until October to take the NCE. If you are a current student during the exam registration, you will register through WKU.

If you are interested in taking the exam (NCE), you can expect the following:

  1. An announcement will go out on the listserv notifying students of the deadline each semester. Registration is typically 6 months in advance of the exam.
  2. Students will notify the department of their intentions to take it if registering for the NCE while you are a current student; recent graduates should apply for the exam independently (skip to step 4). 
  3. The campus coordinator (Dr. Wolf) will submit the eligible students to NBCC and upon acceptance, the NBCC will email students and invite them to apply for the exam. Follow the instructions and pay the application fee ($335) to take the NCE.
  4. Study for the exam (see sidebar for suggested resources). The study material is the same for the comps CPCE.
  5. Approximately 7-10 days before the exam, applicants will receive exam admission information. If you require special accommodations, please ensure those have been requested in advance. 
  6. The NCE will be administered on campus on the date listed under Deadlines and Due Dates
    • Bring two forms of current ID with the name matching your ProCounselor account (at least one with a photograph, both require a signature).
    • You are only allowed to bring your keys and ID into the testing center; expect to leave the rest in your car.
    • Bathroom and water breaks are allowed during the exam; however, the exam time continues running unless you have been approved for special exam accommodations (only one examinee may leave the room at a time).
    • You will need your NCE username and password for the exam.
  7. You should receive your official results within approximately 2 months of the exam date; you can access the results on your ProCounselor account and via mail notification.
  8. Upon graduation and receiving a passing score on the exam, submit your final graduate transcripts to the NBCC to complete the certification application process.
  9. Complete the ongoing continuing education requirements, adhere to the NBCC Code of Ethics, and pay the annual fee to maintain the active certification(s).

Check with  your faculty advisor if you have further questions. Learn more by visiting the NBCC information for students.

What are the benefits of being nationally certified?

  • Generates client referrals for you through CounselorFind (NBCC's referral service linking potential clients to nearby NCCs).
  • Travels with you when you relocate in or outside the US.
  • Helps to keep you in touch with current professional credentialing issues and events through The NBCC's newsletter
  • NCCs are often given discounts on professional liability insurance (e.g., Lockton Affinity).
  • May help with licensure portability in states requiring the NCE exam.
  • It meets one of the requirements for obtaining the LPCC in Kentucky.

Dates & Deadlines

Fall 2020

  • Sep 22, 2020 Deadline to pre-register for the April 2021 NCE Exam (if graduated before Aug 2020, apply directly to NBCC)
  • Sep 28, 2020 Fall Comp Exams (8:30am-1pm)
  • Oct 16 - Nov 21, 2020 NCE exam, PearsonVUE Testing Center (nearest is Nashville).
  • Dec 18, 2020 Deadline to complete the online April 2021 NCE application and pay the fee ($335). See the student tip sheet on applying.

Spring 2021

  • Feb 1, 2021 Deadline to register for spring comps (spring graduates only). Review the details and instructions at the center of this page and complete the application.
  • Feb 27, 2021 Spring Comp Exams (8:30am-1pm)
  • Mar 2021 Deadline to pre-register for the October 2021 NCE Exam (if graduated before Jan 2020, apply directly to NBCC)
  • Apr 16-May 22, 2021. NCE exam, PearsonVUE Testing Center (nearest is Nashville).
  • May 1, 2021 Deadline to register for summer comps (summer graduates only). Review the details and instructions at the center of this page and complete the application.
  • May 2021 tentative schedule
    • 11:00-11:30am CSI-OKU induction ceremony
    • 11:30am-1:00pm Counseling graduation ceremony
    • 1-3pm CEBS graduation reception 
    • 3:30-4:30pm WKU graduation ceremony

Summer 2021

  • Jun 5, 2021 Summer Comp Exams (8:30am-1pm)
  • Jun 2021 Deadline to complete the online NCE application and pay the fee ($335) for the Oct 2021 exam. See the student tip sheet on applying.

Fall 2021

  • Sep 1, 2021 Deadline to register for fall comps (fall grads only). Review the details and instructions at the center of this page and complete the application.

Helpful Links


Comps & NCE Exams

 State Licensure




Some of the links on this page may require additional software to view.

 Last Modified 1/29/21