Dear Inadequate Graduate,
I’m nearing the end of training and trying to prepare myself for the licensing exam, but every time I talk to someone or research study materials I freak out. I know I need to pass it in order to practice independently, but I’m petrified I’m going to fail and the entire process makes me want to crawl into my bed and not come out. What helped you during the process?
I recently spoke with the post-doctoral residence where I work about this very topic. For me, the EPPP (the psychology licensing exam) was the biggest, scariest exam I had taken, and I think most people feel exactly the same way you do. However, most people also pass it, and I took comfort in the fact that, even after countless hours and months of studying I felt just as unprepared walking into the exam room as the next person. Truly – my mantra was, “If this is the norm and I’m feeling just as freaked out as everyone said I would be, I’m probably doing something right.”
While preparing, I spoke with many people about various tips and study strategies, only to conclude style and preference vary widely. With that, there are three main reputable companies people utilize for study materials: AATBS, PsychPrep and Academic Review. From what I understand, AATBS is the most comprehensive, PsychPrep has the most engaging audio recordings, and Academic Review might be the most dry, but it is where I decided to start (re: it was the least expensive). I was able to buy and borrow materials from a colleagues, which were much cheaper than what I found online, and I know many people readily share both books and practice exams if you just ask. My study materials were several years old, but since the DSM-V came out in 2014, this might not be as easy of an option going forward. My best advice in starting to prepare is to investigate whether you can obtain used/shared materials, and then develop a study schedule that works for you. Some people like to give themselves 3-6 months to study (although I do know someone who passed with only a month’s preparation), but it will be imperative during this time to control your anxiety throughout the study process, and don’t overcommit yourself to outside engagements.
Self-care and keeping things in perspective are two of the biggest hurdles when preparing for the EPPP (or any licensing exam). It’s likely that you will not be able to memorize every fact or correct answer from the practice tests, but this also isn’t necessary. Practice tests are a very important resource and it’s helpful to take several tests before the actual exam, keeping in mind that knowing why an answer is incorrect can be equally important to understand as which answer is correct. Because of this, I took the same few practice tests several times.
I also suggest utilizing both written and audio resources. Some people prefer outlines while others find flashcards useful. While studying for my comprehensive exams in graduate school, I had the benefit of studying with a group, but I was pretty much on my own when studying for the EPPP and completing my post-doc. Because of this, I made sure to apply the knowledge I was absorbing from the study materials to my current case-load, which made some of the material easier to retain. Of course, there will always be a chunk of information that you simply have to memorize for the test and then promptly forget the minute you receive a passing score. It’s annoying, but necessary.
Make sure to double check your state’s requirements that you must complete before sitting for the exam, don’t neglect your self-care throughout the process, and then plan a solid distraction to deal with any residual shakiness once the exam is completed. (I hope this comes in the form of taking a day or two off before/after to decompress – and CELEBATE!)
Lastly, although this might not be the optimal outcome, if for some reason you do not pass the first time, you can always try again. Just knowing that alleviated some of the pressure for me, as I hope it will for you, too. Regardless of how this process works out, trust that it will be okay because
You. Are. Enough.
The Inadequate Graduate