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Candidate Guide

Level 2 Certificate in Counselling Skills (CSK-L2)


CSK-L2 is regulated by the Office of the Qualifications & Examinations Regulator (Ofqual).

Qualification/learning aim number: 500/7938/4.

This document is intended to provide information that will enable you to maximise your learning on this course and to complete the qualification successfully.


1. Introduction for candidates

You are undertaking a course that leads to a nationally regulated qualification awarded by the Counselling and Psychotherapy Central Awarding Body (CPCAB) – the only Ofqual approved awarding body to specialise in the field of counselling and supervision.

This qualification is for candidates who:

  • want to take the first steps in training to be a counsellor;
  • want to use counselling skills in a variety of different contexts.

This qualification will not teach you to be a counsellor, but it will help you decide whether or not you want to train as a counsellor and it will give you counselling skills that are useful in a variety of roles e.g. care assistant, key worker, support worker.

Know your limits: this course won’t train you to be a counsellor.

Helping work is different from counselling (which is a formally contracted relationship between a counsellor and a client). To make this difference between counselling and helping work clear, CPCAB calls the person using counselling skills the “helper” and the person being helped the “helpee”.1

An example of helping work would be a care assistant (the helper) listening to someone they are looking after (the helpee) who is very worried about the health of a family member. The helper will help them to express their feelings and concerns. They may also guide them to a specific professional who may be able to provide them with the more specialised or in-depth help which they may need.

2. Qualification structure

The qualification is made up of seven learning outcomes and associated assessment criteria. This structure is based on the seven processes of the CPCAB model.

For details of this model go to:

Think of the assessment criteria as ‘learning tasks’ which you have to complete and then record so that your tutor can see you have achieved the task.

To achieve the qualification you must be (a) assessed by your tutor as Proficient in all seven learning outcomes; and (b) externally assessed by CPCAB as Proficient.

Remember you can gain a great deal from the course without necessarily gaining the unit/qualification. “The journey is as important as the destination.”

3. Internal assessment

Art students keep a portfolio of their coursework which they use to show other people what they, as artists, have learnt. In a similar way you need to keep a portfolio of your coursework, which you can use to show your tutor what you have learnt. Keeping a portfolio of your coursework will not only provide your tutor with evidence of your learning but also really help you with the learning process itself.

You also need to complete your Candidate Learning Record which should be placed at the front of your portfolio to signpost the evidence for each criterion. The CLR has brief notes beside each criterion to help you understand what’s being asked for and guidelines on how to record your learning.

You must give two pieces of evidence for each criterion. In addition, the CLR (when complete) must include references to the following three types of course work:2

  1. Documents – You must include the regular exploration of your learning (called the learning review) which contains your reflections on the input, discussions, experiences and readings for the course and which you start right from the beginning of the course. You must also include here one self-review and at least one assignment (such as an essay). You might also include here a review of audio/video recordings (including verbatim transcripts) and notes on your personal development.3
  2. Tutor observation – You must include records of tutor feedback on your counselling skills practice sessions. You must refer to at least two examples of being observed by your tutor and one of these must be via audio or video recording4. You might also include tutor feedback on group discussions.
  3. Testimony – You must include records of peer feedback on your counselling skills practice sessions. You might also include tutorial records and peer feedback on group discussions.

See CSK-L2 Specification for a summary of minimum assessment requirements.

It is a good idea to outline possible sections in your portfolio, for example:

  • Learning review (document)
  • Tutor feedback on skills practice (tutor observation)
  • Peer feedback on skills practice (testimony)

An example reference in your CLR might read:
Learning review p 21, para 3, lines 3-6 (document)
Skills feedback sheet No. 6, line 29 (testimony)

CPCAB recommends that you attach a Criteria Assessment Sheet (CAS) to any work you hand in to your tutor for assessment. Your tutor can use the CAS to tell you which criteria you have met and to give you helpful feedback throughout the course. In this way you can gradually collect evidence as you go along and keep track of what evidence you still need to look out for.

Meeting criteria is important, but the experience of learning about counselling skills should be much richer than criteria. Try to keep a balance.

After you have completed your portfolio your tutor will look at the evidence you have referenced in your Candidate Learning Record (CLR) and assess whether or not you have completed the assessment criteria and achieved the unit learning outcomes. S/he may decide that you are not yet Proficient – and will identify what you still need to complete/achieve and how you might work towards doing this.

Your tutor will give you further guidance on developing your portfolio, the three types of coursework and filling in the Candidate Learning Record.

The final assessment of your work is recorded on the Completion Statement at the end of your Candidate Learning Record.

Please note that all the work you include in your portfolio is assessable material, so it may be seen not just by your tutor but also by all those involved in your training centre’s internal assessment process or any associated appeal or complaint. Such people will include the internal moderator and verifier as well the CPCAB external verifier.

4. External assessment

You must have completed at least two-thirds of the course before undertaking external assessment. For this external assessment you will watch a short DVD of a helper using counselling skills, and then complete a written Candidate Feedback Paper under exam conditions.

The external assessment is like being an observer in a skills practice session.

The external assessment is structured as follows:

  1. 5 min to read through the questions/tasks.
  2. DVD played (approx 15 min) – during which time notes can be made.
  3. 25 min to draft answers (using rough paper).
  4. DVD played again – during which time notes can be made again.
  5. 30 min to complete your answers, which can be in the form of bullet points.

Your answers must be brief and written clearly. Any quotations do not need to be exactly word for word. You should allow yourself a few minutes at the end to review and finish your answers. If you have very large writing you may attach a separate sheet which will be available from the invigilator. The papers are sent to CPCAB for assessment.

Your tutor will offer you the opportunity to practise this assessment by using the CPCAB mock paper and practice DVD.

5. Equal opportunities and reasonable adjustments

In order to make sure that assessment is fair to all candidates, CPCAB requires all registered centres to have an appropriate candidate support system in place and to make appropriate arrangements to meet individual assessment needs. You can ensure that your own learning and assessment needs are being met by discussing your own needs/difficulties with your tutor, who can ensure that you receive the appropriate support at your centre.

Please talk to your tutor as soon as you start the course about any additional support that you may need regarding learning and assessment.

Both CPCAB and centres are required to recognise and comply with both the spirit and the word of equal opportunities legislation. Previous Acts were amalgamated into the Equality Act 2010.

For details of CPCAB’s Equal Opportunities Policy see our website.

6. Re-sits, enquiries, appeals and complaints

If your external assessment result is ‘Not Proficient’, your centre can make arrangements with CPCAB for you to re-sit the assessment or else appeal against the assessment result. A fee is charged for both a re-sit and an appeal, but if the appeal is successful your fee is refunded. Your tutor can ask CPCAB for verbal feedback on external assessment results in order to help the centre decide whether an appeal is warranted.

Please note:

  • an appeal must be made in writing via your approved centre. If this is not possible you should contact CPCAB’s External Assessment Co-ordinator for advice on how to appeal directly.
  • if an appeal has been lodged with CPCAB, this process must be completed before you can register for a re-sit.

If you have any enquiries, complaints or appeals about the internal assessment of your work, or about any aspects of your learning experience on the course, these should be addressed to your training centre which has its own internal complaints and appeals procedures.

If you contact CPCAB directly on these issues you will normally be advised to go back to your centre. However, you can visit to read or download CPCAB policies on Complaints, Appeals, Malpractice & Maladministration, and Whistleblowing.

Candidate Learning Record and Completion Statement

Print out the Candidate Learning Record and the Completion Statement. Then insert both of them in the front of your portfolio.

  1. The terms 'counsellor' and 'client' are not used until CPCAB's Level 3 Certificate in Counselling Studies (CST-L3). Return to reference
  2. Please note that if it's appropriate you can reference the same section of your portfolio, or the same piece of work, a number of times. Return to reference
  3. Your personal development may result from insights gained from the course, other personal development work, or from personal counselling (if any). Return to reference
  4. In the case of the audio or video recording your tutor may choose to listen to (or watch) the recording, rather than observe you directly. Return to reference