Addiction Counselor Exam

Alcohol and drug abuse counseling-related professionals have opportunities to become certified or licensed to improve their knowledge, skills, and standing in the field, starting with the Addiction Counselor exam. The exam has been carefully developed to test the knowledge and skills needed to work as an addiction counselor. Counselors that complete specified education and training and supervised work experience can take the Addiction Counselor exam to demonstrate mastery of knowledge in the field.

Who is Eligible to Take the Addiction Counselor Exam?

In the United States, licenses for addiction counselors are granted by each state. The state guidelines for exam eligibility have some commonality. Most often, states will include addiction professionals that have a high-school diploma or GED along with entry-level addiction treatment center experience. Minimum age requirements start at 18 years or higher. Some states require additional education and training. Check with your state licensing board for specific requirements.

What are the Details for Test Registration and Test Day?

The best way to find out the details about the Addiction Counselor exam in your state is to contact your state licensing board. The board can provide the cost of the test, typically at $150-250 per attempt. The state board will be able to give you the ‘how and where’ information on testing. Sometimes, the test is offered at a testing site as either an online 3-hour test or a 3.5-hour paper and pencil version. An address for the test location will be provided. In other cases, test candidates can take an online test at their home; it is timed at 3 hours as it would be at the center. You may be able to choose the test-taking method to suit your needs.

State boards offer the Addiction Counselor exam three times each year. The state board site will include a link to registration and scheduling. In some cases, you can preregister for the test and schedule later. If you choose this option, remember to schedule within the provided window. The site will describe items needed to take to the site on test day, including your Candidate Admission Letter and a valid, government-issued photo ID. On test day, no aids such as calculators are allowed in the room. Please follow all guidelines on the state board site to successfully gained admittance and to complete the exam.

What Topics are Covered on the Exam?

Questions on the Addiction Counselor exam are evenly divided into four main areas:

  • Screening, Assessment, and Engagement
  • Treatment Planning, Collaboration, and Referral
  • Counseling
  • Professional and Ethical Responsibilities

What is Required to Pass the Addiction Counselor Exam?

A score of 500 is required to pass the Addiction Counselor exam. The test contains at least 150 questions. When you take the exam, you’ll receive a preliminary, unofficial score. After a few weeks, you’ll receive a letter confirming your official score and including a breakdown of correct responses in each section, or content domain.

Not everyone passes the Addiction Counselor exam on the first try. Your state defines the requirements for retaking the test, which is typically after a 90-day waiting period. The number of times that the test can be retaken is limited. Candidates who wish to pass will require extra study, especially in the domains that had lower percentages of questions that were answered correctly in the previous exam.

Each time you take the exam, you will pay the registration fee. While it’s ideal to pass on the first try, rather than becoming discouraged, make and execute a plan to increase your knowledge and understanding of the topics. Contact your state board for all the details on retaking and passing the Addiction Counselor test.

What’s Next After the Addiction Counselor Exam?

Passing the Addiction Counselor exam is the first step to certification for substance abuse and addiction counselors. Certification enables practitioners to qualify for career advancement and improved earnings. You can use the knowledge gained from the preparation and test-taking process in your career and in your continued pursuit of the Substance Abuse Disorders and Addiction Counseling field.

How Can I Prepare for the Addiction Counselor Exam?

That’s a great question.  We’ve broken down the answer into three parts.

  1. Do yourself a favor and study.  Do not walk in unprepared. We have recommended prep materials below, but that only helps if you actually try.  Plus, studying is actually proven to be the best antidote to test anxiety.
  2. Take care of yourself.  Make sure you’re eating well, exercising, and sleeping.  All of these things are scientifically linked to brain performance.  If you take care of your body, you’ll be helping your grades.
  3. Get a study guide or set of flashcards.  Some people study better a certain way. Find your study strengths and make the most of them.  We’ve tried to make it easy for you by 
  4. tracking down the best study guide and flashcard set for your exam.  Below you’ll see 
  5. links to both!

Study Guide



Last Updated: June 21, 2021