Do you remember that catchy little tune by Bobby McFerrin? “In every life we have some trouble, but when you worry you make it double, don’t worry… be happy!” I know it’s a bit corny, but it is so true when it comes to exam prep.
The prospect of being happy seems nearly impossible when preparing for exams like the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP). Hours of time spent studying. Fatigue from sleepless nights of cramming and, of course, good ol’ financial strain from the hundreds of dollars spent on study materials. It can be a bit much. But, as someone who recently passed EPPP, I promise there are ways to make your EPPP journey a happy one.
Before we get into the tips for making EPPP a more positive experience, I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge what everyone is probably thinking right now: Yes. The EPPP is a daunting exam. Yes. It feels cruel and unfair. Yes, it sucks. However, it is a necessary part of becoming a clinician.
It is important to acknowledge your feelings and beliefs about the exam, but try not to let these beliefs (or even others’ beliefs) sour the process for you. With proper preparation and a positive attitude, you can conquer the exam and be on your way to licensure in no time.
I wrote this article the day I passed the EPPP, because I wanted all the tips to be fresh and, most importantly, I wanted to be able to accurately recall and outline the essential tips that I believe contributed to my EPPP success.
So, without further ado, here are the four most important things I did when preparing for the EPPP.
1. Don’t Wait
One of the most important things I can emphasize is taking EPPP as soon as you can following (or during) internship. I know that dissertation and internship are viewed as the final hurdles, and you’ll want to celebrate and kick your feet up, but the truth is that the EPPP is really the last frontier.
Once internship is over, I would suggest going ahead and purchasing EPPP books and beginning to mentally prepare for the exam. The exam covers material from graduate school, thus, it is best to take it sooner rather than later, while all your graduate coursework is still fresh in your mind.
The longer you wait, the more the fear and anxiety grows, the harder it is to recall information you previously learned, and the more life will seem to get in the way. Do yourself a huge favor, and get it over with ASAP!
2. Short & Sweet
Many people say that preparing for EPPP takes five to six months. However, I would strongly advise condensing your studies into 2-3 months. If you’re able, you may even consider taking time off work or your postdoc/fellowship so that you can devote 100% of your mental energy to studying and retaining information.
The problem with taking 5-6 months to prepare is that (a) The information begins to fade; and (b) By month 6, you’re “over it.” Trying to maintain intensity and focus for 6 months is a lot to ask of anyone. It is particularly a lot to ask of a young professional who has already been through 4+ years of graduate school, a rigorous internship and a colossal dissertation. Be kind to yourself, and make your EPPP prep time short and sweet.
3. Get a Coach
As you’ll discover, when prepping for the EPPP, many private companies (e.g., AATBS, PsychPrep and Taylor Study Method) will try to get you to purchase their study packages. I absolutely recommend purchasing a reputable, basic package.
Many programs try to sell you mock exams, workshops, CDs, flash cards and extra practice questions for an additional fee — don’t do it! You don’t need it. Do not let your anxiety talk you into spending another $100. The basic study packages are more than sufficient.
In addition, some packages include access to EPPP coaching. I decided to work with coaches, and the coaches I worked with were amazing and exceptionally knowledgeable about the EPPP process. Their number one goal is helping you pass the exam. They will guide you through the EPPP materials and help you outline a customized study plan based on your areas of strengths and weakness.
In addition, the coaches help to alleviate some of your anxiety and offer you support and encouragement. I remember frantically emailing my coach at 3 o’clock in the morning, and she responded immediately, reassuring me that whatever I was worrying about was not the end of the world.
Having an EPPP coach was an essential component of my EPPP success — it was like having my very own EPPP cheerleader 24/7!
4. Get Your Mind Right
The final essential tip to having a positive EPPP experience is to manage your attitude and expectations about the entire process. Yes, the exam is stressful. Yes, you will have moments of despair, but at the end of the day, worrying and rallying with others who worry is not conducive to your EPPP success.
During preparation for the exam, make efforts to focus on the positive. For example, start thinking about the various career opportunities you can take advantage of once you’re licensed. It’s not easy, but I highly recommend spending as much time as you can focusing your attention on the positive aspects of the process.
A positive attitude is equally important when preparing for the EPPP as it is on the day of your exam. As many people will tell you, during the exam you will feel like you are failing. All sorts of expletives will come to mind, but that’s when you have to take control of your thoughts. I cannot overemphasize the importance of a positive attitude and self-talk throughout the EPPP process.
Having made it through the EPPP, I can say for certain that the process can be positive. No matter what stage of the graduate student spectrum you’re on (e.g., first year student, intern, postdoc), take time to familiarize yourself with the EPPP process as early as possible.
Check out The Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB), which is the organization that is responsible for creating and maintaining the EPPP. Make sure to review their website in order to familiarize yourself with current policies, procedures, and updates. The ASPPB website also has information about how to register for the EPPP, a candidate handbook, a practice exam (available after you register and have been authorized to take the EPPP), and FAQs.
The more you know about the exam ahead of time, the more confident you will feel. Best of luck to you as you embark on this journey!