In grad school, each step forward was fairly well-defined. I knew what classes to register for, when to reach research milestones, and how to apply for internship. In contrast, studying for the EPPP was an unknown. Colleagues who had taken it added to the mystery, saying “Yeah, that was rough,” or “I thought I was failing the whole time.”
Thankfully, many of the same skills that helped lead to success in graduate school can be used to aid in EPPP preparation, leading to licensure as a psychologist. For any remaining gaps, support is available.
To help reduce your stress with the EPPP, below are six preparation tips to help you get organized and get licensed. Best of luck!
1. Take EPPP Practice Exams – And Review Them
The EPPP is a 225-question test that spans four-and-a-half hours, encompassing eight major domains of content in the field of psychology.
One of the half-myths about preparing for the EPPP is that the best way to study is to take practice tests. While this is sound advice for the most part, it is only as helpful as you take the time to learn from your mistakes.
After each practice test you take, it is paramount that you take the time to review your answers, both for questions you got wrong, and for ones you got right. Let’s face it, sometimes we guess and get things right, and we should still know why. A good rule of thumb is that it should take twice as long to review an exam as it took to take it in the first place.
Over time, you can learn domains you struggle with, capitalize on your strengths, and become more confident with the material.
2. Study One Domain at a Time
The sheer amount of information on the EPPP can be overwhelming. I encourage you to reflect on what happens when you attempt to work on eight tasks at once – how well does each individually really get done? For me, not very well.
The EPPP is no exception. Help yourself out in this department by focusing on one content area at a time. Rather than switching between Ethics and Industrial Organizational Psychology hour to hour, stick with one until it’s done.
This will help you to build your competence in each section before moving on to the next one. Keeping up with regularly spaced practice tests will aid in helping you remember previously learned material and allow you to home in on the domain at hand.
3. Maintain Your Support System
This is easier said than done when trying to keep up the pace for a study marathon, but it is even more important to take care of yourself during this time. If you are a runner, run. If you are a bookworm, read (for pleasure), and if a night with friends builds you up, don’t let it fall by the wayside. The more you add studying into your routine, rather than making it your life, the easier it will be to stay consistent over the weeks and months of EPPP preparation.
Burnout can happen when studying for the EPPP, and the same strategies you use for managing burnout in your clinical practice can be used consistently during your EPPP preparation. Take at least a day off from studying a week to recharge and then get back in there.
4. Consider an EPPP Tutor
There are a lot of formal test preparation programs that offer online practice tests and study tools to help you with the content of the EPPP. While these can be an important component of your study plan, it can be helpful to enlist the assistance of an EPPP tutor. That’s why I began Dr. David’s EPPP Tutoring Service, which offers free resources, as well as assistance with accountability, support, and tips and tricks for the exam itself.
Developing an individualized study plan alongside a test preparation expert is an invaluable tool to success with the EPPP.
5. Know When to Stop Studying
One of the most common questions I hear is, “how long should I study?” Like most things in psychology, the answer is, “it depends.” While you’ve likely heard studies of passing the EPPP after two weeks or two years of studying, the norm is probably somewhere in between (stats prep tip – that’s regression to the mean).
For most individuals, three to six months of regular studying is the sweet spot. Shorter than that, and it is unlikely you will be able to study every domain thoroughly. Longer than that, and you risk forgetting material you studied in the beginning. Practice tests can be a nice indicator of test readiness, too. Recognize that you may never feel 100% ready – that’s perfectly normal.
6. What Happens if I Fail?
While the most recent data suggests 80% of individuals will pass the EPPP on the first try, failing the EPPP does happen to incredibly academic and clinically gifted individuals.
It is important to remember that failing the EPPP is not a reflection of you or your abilities. Instead, it is more likely due to your preparation, which can be improved. It’s a great time to take stock of what you’re doing well and how you can use those strengths to shore up any weaker areas.
Additionally, there are online forums, such as Student Doctor Network, that can connect you to others who have had similar struggles, and you can read about the ways in which they’ve overcome a myriad of obstacles to pass the EPPP.
You can take the EPPP four times over a 12-month period, so take some time to fine-tune your preparations, and then get back to it.
The EPPP is a test that you can pass, and following these tips can help get you started. Be kind to yourself, and enlist support from your friends and family, as well as professionals who can help. Best of luck in your preparations!