FACS Certification Exam

This summer I completed the FACS Certification Exam released online by the Paul Ekman Group. The exam consists of thirty-four videos approximately one to two seconds in length and can be purchased online for $50. Each item is coded by slowing down the video and pausing the video at the apex of the subject’s facial movement. While completing the exam I frequently referenced the FACS Manual. I was able to compare screenshots of the exam items to photos listed in the FACS Manual to discern the existence of a given action unit within the video. Although I still had to code for intensity on the certification exam, it was not graded for accuracy, as slight differences in intensity can often be subjective. The Ekman group recommends spending 10-20 minutes on each item and the exam is not designed to be completed in one sitting. I anticipated that the exam would take at least a week to complete. Despite the assurance from my advisor that most people have to take the exam more than once, I was hoping to pass it on my first attempt. When I submitted my initial answers but did not receiving a passing grade, the Ekman group gives phenomenal feedback. They give an overall accuracy rating as well as an individual accuracy rating for each item so I knew if I coded an item 80% correctly or completed missed the action unit portrayed. After my third submission, I passed the exam and am now a certified FACS coder.


  1. emransone says:

    Hi Kathy,

    How exactly did the Certification Exam work? How many actions were typically in a given video? I am also curious about the need for an intensity rating. If the rating is at least partially subjective, how much confidence can researchers have in each other’s data? How long did the exam take overall?

    Congratulations on passing!