[Review] NCE & CPCE Study Guides

Today I took the National Counselor Examination (NCE) and a few weeks ago I passed the Counselor Preparation Comprehensive Examination (CPCE). Although the NCE results won’t be in until June, I believe it is safe to say I passed it as well because I found the NCE much easier than the CPCE. With all the study guides available for these two tests, I thought it might be helpful if I provide a review of the study materials I used.

Encyclopedia of Counseling - RosenthalThe first study guide I purchased was Encyclopedia of Counseling: Master Review and Tutorial for the National Counselor Examination, State Counseling Exams, and the Counselor Preparation Comprehensive Examination by Howard Rosenthal (ISBN 0-415-95862-8). At 651 pages, this book may be intimidating at first because when you pick it up you almost immediately think, “Do I have to know all this?”

Rosenthal has provided over a thousand practice questions with justification as to why the correct answer is correct. Areas in bold designate important information that more than likely will be seen on the tests. A few of my fellow students got together in study groups and we would quiz each other using the practice questions.

All in all I found the Encyclopedia to be very helpful for the NCE but not so much for the CPCE. More on this later. Rosenthal also has a series of CD’s (about 20 or so) that I tried out. I listened to about two minutes of the first CD and realized this was not going to work for me. While very knowledgeable and certainly friendly enough, Rosenthal’s voice on the CD struck me like nails on a chalkboard. I just couldn’t listen to it.

The second study guide I purchased was Study Guide for the National Counselor Examination and CPCE Counselor Preparation Comprehensive Examination by Andrew A. Helwig (ISBN 09648377-5-7). This guide was interesting because most of the book is laid out like flash cards. Spiral bound, the study guide’s format made reviewing a breeze. Study Guide NCE

Two practice exams accompany the Study Guide. One for the CPCE and one for the NCE. Here is where the book really shines. After studying for the CPCE for about three months I took the CPCE practice exam in the back of the Study Guide. I was surprised by how difficult the practice exam was. I thought surely the exam won’t be this difficult. They are just making the practice exams super hard.

I was wrong. The CPCE was extremely difficult (for me at least) but in actuality, matched pretty closely the practice exam in the back of the Study Guide. When I took the practice NCE from the same book, I was relieved to find how easy the practice exam was. Given the relative accuracy of the CPCE practice exam in relation to the actual CPCE, I figured the NCE should be no problem. I was right! I walked out of the examination room this morning feeling like I had aced the NCE.

Now for a note about these exams. The study guides are simply refreshers. The base knowledge required to pass these exams comes from taking the required courses and becoming familiar with the material as the student progresses through the program. Simple memorization is not going to work. For example, just knowing that Freud’s psychosexual stages are oral, anal, phallic, latent, and genital along with the ages for each is not sufficient. A sample question in this area would be something like: “As a psychoanalyst you are working with a client who is stuck in the oral stage. A possible intervention would be: insert multiple choice answers.” Memorizing does no good here. You have to know the material.

The CPCE was 160 questions with 20 questions in each of eight content areas: human growth and development, social and cultural foundations, helping relationships, group work, career and lifestyle development, appraisal, research and program evaluation, and professional orientation and ethics. Three questions in each content area are “developmental in nature,” which I take to mean are questions for future tests that are being tried out, so that leaves 136 graded questions.

Taking the CPCE was frustrating because I would read the beginning of the question and think to myself, “I know this!” and proceed to the multiple choice answers to find the correct one. Problem was, the correct answer (or what I assumed was the correct answer) wasn’t one of the choices. Then I had to go back and carefully re-read the question. That is the secret to the CPCE in my opinion, read the questions carefully because they are worded in such a way that is a bit confusing.

The NCE was longer but much better written. There are 200 questions on the NCE, also in eight content areas. Forty of the questions are developmental so only 160 questions get scored. Today when I took the NCE, I would read the question and like with the CPCE, would know the answer. Unlike the CPCE, when I looked for the answer on the NCE, it was there!

Both the NCE and CPCE are multiple choice tests (a) through (d). With the NCE it was pretty easy to eliminate two of the four choices leaving only two to really choose from. The CPCE was a bit more difficult.

On to recommendations. If you can only purchase one study guide (because they are expensive with the Study Guide coming in at $75 and the Encyclopedia at $47) then I would have to recommend Helwig’s guide. To me, Helwig’s book is worth the price for the practice exams alone. If you can afford more than one study guide then go for Rosenthal’s Encyclopedia as well. Yes, they are expensive but when you think about spending the $310.00 to take the NCE and the fact that the CPCE is the gateway to graduation (at least for my school), then you really only want to take these tests once.

Study Guide for the National Counselor Examination and CPCE Counselor Preparation Comprehensive Examination by Andrew A. Helwig

Highly Recommended

Encyclopedia of Counseling: Master Review and Tutorial for the National Counselor Examination, State Counseling Exams, and the Counselor Preparation Comprehensive Examination by Howard Rosenthal


Note about ratings:

 Rate  Meaning
 Highly Recommended  Seriously check this out!
 Recommended  I liked it and you might, too.
 Meh  Not bad but not good either
 Yawn  Need something to help you sleep?
 Seriously?  Someone actually wrote this?

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