Assessment advice - indoor climbing qualifications

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Assessment advice - indoor climbing qualifications


The autumn/winter season is a popular time for assessments, particularly for our indoor climbing qualifications: Climbing Wall InstructorDevelopment InstructorFoundation Coach and Development Coach.

We've asked some of our most experienced assessment course directors for their #AssessmentAdvice...

Joby Davis

Mountain Training provider, technical adviser to indoor climbing facilities and climbing coach.


We work with candidates from all corners of the UK, but it never surprises that performance weaknesses often can be tracked back to similar factors. Our two top tips:


  • Do your homework! Visit the venue you will be assessed in before the course you have booked onto, (even if you are travelling a distance, this could be the evening before). Get a feel for the centre, chat to staff and explain who you are and what you are there for. Centre staff will almost certainly want to help you out – that could be chatting through their procedures, or site-specific nuances which you may be unfamiliar with. What is permitted the centre; can I clip climbers in – of so how? Who can use auto belays – what is the induction process? What rescue procedures are in place? These are just a few examples of elements that vary from centre to centre.

  • Avoid working in isolation! We frequently pick up unusual practices from candidates who are a) unaware that they are unusual and b) have never had such practices questioned. If you do work predominantly at one venue, invest your time wisely and get out to a new area/venue, where you can have your eyes opened to other practices and perhaps have someone health check your own. Remember, note down what you see (put some reflections in your DLOG).
Al Halewood

Mountain Training provider, technical adviser to a large number of walls in Scotland and provider of Train the Trainer courses for Mountain Training Scotland.


Between training and assessment, aim for an extensive breadth and depth of experience directly within the scope of the qualification you are preparing for. Your performance at assessment will be based on a foundation of experience of plenty of different situations where the qualification applies (breadth). A wider base of experience will almost certainly lead to a stronger and more stable performance! One experience is rarely enough so aim for plenty of it too. The prerequisites listed in the handbooks are the minimum - not the target! Candidates with a great deal of experience (depth) often perform better at assessment.

Finally, to get the most from all this consolidation it is vital to be reflective before, during and after your days/sessions. Try to anticipate what you will see and where appropriate, question other practitioners on their decision making. Try to draw lessons from your experience by reviewing it afterwards. This last part may be easier with help from an experienced colleague or a mentor.

Ali Taylor

Mountain Training provider, Mountaineering and Climbing Instructor


Assessments are pretty nerve racking at the best of times but the more time you spend in preparation the more likely you are of a positive outcome. The first thing you need to do is read the syllabus and handbook relevant to the qualification. Not only is it full of useful information but also top tips and helpful suggestions. The skills check list is an excellent source as it guides you through what level of competency is expected during your assessment and you can rate yourself against the 3 learning stages: Stage 1 - Cognitive, Stage 2 - Associative and Stage 3 – Autonomous, and then create your own action plan.

Ensure that your DLOG is up to date before you book your assessment and that you have fulfilled the requirements of the consolidation period. I always encourage candidates to acknowledge the DLOG as a record and celebration of everything they have achieved. Your DLOG is the first piece of evidence that your assessor sees and it creates that first impression of the candidate. I also recommended that you climb and assist as much as possible and at as many different centres as you can as this will help to develop your experience, confidence, knowledge, expertise and ability to adapt to changing circumstances.

And finally, you know you are ready when you have the confidence and ability to walk into any climbing centre and deliver any climbing session to any group.

Andy Cummings

Mountain Training provider, Mountaineering and Climbing Instructor


Nothing beats experience - time spent climbing, shadowing sessions, chatting to other instructors, working with a wide variety of groups, practising your fact, any time spent at the climbing centre absorbing what goes on, is time well spent. The requirement to log a minimum amount of experience between training and assessment is there for a good reason. Treat it as the absolute bare minimum and aim to pack in much more. Going to an assessment with plenty of varied experience in hand does wonders for your confidence and helps quell assessment nerves.

What do you bring? We all have something unique we can bring to a session. Nobody wants instructor clones at the climbing wall. Whilst "V down to knee, 1, 2, 3" might work as a method of teaching belaying for some, there are plenty of other ways you can teach it. Play with the ideas from your training course, look at what others do (the good, the bad and the absolute bonkers) and work out what's best for you. Assessors aren't looking for a set way to instruct so be yourself, have fun and run a session that is uniquely You.

Sweat the small stuff - a properly dressed knot IS important; a twisted leg-loop DOES matter; "locking" karabiners have a clue in the title. Covering all the basics quietly, efficiently and consistently shows a depth to your experience.

Steve Pease

Mountain Training provider, Mountaineering and Climbing Instructor


Consolidation - "To combine several things, so that they become more effective"


Firstly, get as much as you can from your training course, and ensure you leave knowing what you need to work on. Ask the provider/director if you don’t know yourself. This might be new skills just introduced to you, or topics you just can’t get right without practising. Be reflective, draw up an action plan.

Don’t make the consolidation phase just a numbers game. There are prerequisites for assessments, but these are always the minimum. Just because you have a certain number of climbs or group sessions, it doesn’t mean you are ready!

I can’t stress the importance of breadth and depth of experience enough. Visit different climbing walls, the quirks of route setting can make the same grade feel quite different from venue to venue. Observe a variety of different instructors working and soak up what they do. Warm ups, teaching styles, group belay techniques and coaching tools will all be subtly different.

Use the qualification handbook; review yourself against the assessment syllabus and skills checklist. Be honest with yourself. There is a wealth of information for candidates available from Mountain Training, use it.

Ensure your DLOG is up to date and highlights all of your hard work, yes this is part of the assessment. Assessments should be a positive experience, and hopefully a good consolidation phase will set you up well in becoming newly qualified.

Good luck!

Jon Jones

Mountain Training course director and Head of Rock & Mountain at Glenmore Lodge


Indoor Climbing Assistant; is a combined training and assessment course, perfect for anyone who helps out with a local young person’s climbing club. Expect to get sharpened up on your belaying (a picture paints a thousand words!) to help iron out any bad belaying habits you might have picked up since you first learnt to belay!

Climbing Wall Instructor; Make sure you are up to speed with your own personal climbing ability and rope techniques. You will then have the head space to deliver a fun, active and practical session on the assessment. The aim of the session is to keep everyone active by giving an appropriate warm up and practical climbing session, with each member of the group having moved on in their climbing experience.

Climbing Wall Development Instructor; Good judgement and the tools to manage students safely are the key ingredients here. Facilitating students to lead climb requires a lot of underpinning in fundamental lead climbing skills that cannot be delivered in a single session. Make sure you have a good logical structure of how you would deliver a lead climbing session. The trick then is to deliver what is appropriate for the students presented in front of you at that time; e.g. trailing a lead rope and clipping the quickdraws whilst on the safety of a bottom rope.

Coaching qualifications; The practical assessment (in relation to time being observed by an assessor with a group) is minimal compared to the time required in gaining further coaching experience, then writing up and presenting (through your DLOG) your coaching session plans. Leaving time to self-reflect and develop is key to both Foundation Coach and Development Coach.

Danny Griffiths

Mountain Training provider, Mountaineering and Climbing Instructor, Development Coach


Prepare on all aspects of the syllabus and don’t rush to assessment
- On assessment it’s clear to see the candidates who have put a lot of work in and have gone above and beyond the minimum requirements.

Read the syllabus and if you feel you have a weakness seek out a Mountain Training Association CPD course
- If you feel there is an area of the syllabus you’re not confident with, the Mountain Training Association has CPD courses that will fill in the gaps and upskill you.

If you’re not clear on what your assessor is asking, ask them to clarify
- When I’m assessing people I’m not trying to catch them out, I try to be clear and concise with what I’m asking candidates. I’m happy for people to ask questions so they fully understand what I’m asking them to do.

Blue light talk aloud
- Let your assessor into your head; talk through what you’re doing and explain why you’ve made your decisions, it will save your assessor having to ask.

Be seen
- When checking knots, belay set ups, karabiners etc. make it obvious so your assessor can easily see that you’re doing these basic critical safety checks.

If you’ve done all the above don’t forget to enjoy your assessment, it should feel like an extension of your training course.