Saturday, April 7, 2012

The last multiple choice exam ever....I hope.

Doug apologized for our two plus month blog hiatus in the last post, but I will throw my two cents in as well. We've been busy, what with our goal to see all ten of the Oscar nominated films (which we accomplished), my work (I took on a second grad student, I'm teaching two classes this semester instead of one, and I started seeing therapy clients again), planning a wedding, and fruitlessly (so far) training a cat not to bite our feet. I feel a bit like Count Rugen from The Princess Bride, "I've got my country's 500th anniversary to plan, my wedding to arrange, my wife to murder and Guilder to frame for it; I'm swamped!" Except not as nefarious.

In addition to all of the above, for some crazy reason I decided that this would be the best time to study for and take the Examination for Practice in Professional Psychology (heretoforth known as the EPPP). That would be the 4-hour long multiple choice test one must take to become a licensed psychologist. The process of becoming licensed is, as in most disciplines, not very interesting, as it involves getting a graduate degree, applying to a state licensing board and proving you have the requisite background (sufficient number of clinical hours as part of the doctoral degree and post-doctorally), etc. Each state has slightly different requirements, but all of the states require, as part of the process, that an applicant take and pass the EPPP.

For those not in the know, it's a 225 question multiple choice exam, where 175 of the questions "count" toward your score (50 questions are experimental questions to be evaluated for later versions of the test), taken over 4 hours and fifteen minutes. It covers many aspects of psychology, primarily focused on clinical psychology (assessment and diagnosis of psychological disorders, treatment of disorders) but also on other areas of psychology. The idea is that clinical psychologists should have a broad knowledge of psychological functioning, including knowledge about memory, emotion, cognition, brain regions, development across the lifespan, as well as research methods and statistics. The one content area that was initially a bit surprising to me was Industrial/Organizational psychology, focused on issues of hiring, work-related motivation and job performance, and theories of leadership in the workplace. I think the idea is that a lot of psychologists have zero background in business, yet many are interested in opening a private practice, or will be working in a training environment, and the I/O stuff might be useful in the future.

The goal of this exam is to pass, or as a "glass half empty" person might put it, the goal is not to fail. In most states, a passing score is getting about 70% of the items correct. Or in more formal terms, on a scale from 200 to 800, passing is at least a 500. Some states have slightly higher benchmarks, but the majority (including Arkansas) require at least a 500.

I spent about 3 months studying for the EPPP, starting around Christmas. One of my friends loaned me some materials, so I walked to work while listening to an audio review, and I paid for access to a series of online practice tests. Over time I was able to spit back answers quickly and easily for content I'd heard repeatedly, and by the week of the test I felt moderately prepared.

The location of the testing center where I had to take the test is an hour away from Fayetteville, so as the test date approached I contemplated spending the night in the town so that I wouldn't have to get up at the crack of dawn to drive down to the test. But despite multiple priceline attempts, I didn't "win" a room at a cheap enough price to warrant it, so instead I got up well before the crack of dawn and drove down to Ft. Smith.

I'd forgotten how pretty the landscape is between Fayetteville and Ft. Smith. It's very hilly, through the Boston Mountains, and at sunrise it was particularly lovely. To my right the fog was settling in the nooks and crannies of the hills, and to my left the sun rose over the mountains:

The exam itself was pretty crappy, though I finished my first pass-through with enough time left over to go through all the questions I'd been iffy on, and I attempted to tabulate my score by categorizing the questions into (a) I feel pretty sure I got this, (b) I THINK I got this but am only 75% sure, (c) I got it down to two options, and (d) no idea. By that metric, I figured that I passed, but barely.

Come five days later, I was obsessively checking my email, knowing that the scores from the last half of the month are reported around the 4th or 5th of the following month. I taught my Thursday morning class and returned to find the scores had been posted. I must admit, my heart was pounding a bit faster when I clicked on the link, but I am delighted to say that I passed, with a much higher score than I anticipated, and one high enough that it will be accepted in any state. YAY!

So, although I maintain that I probably should have waited to take the EPPP this summer when the workload will be a little slower, I'm glad that it's over and now I just have to finish out the rest of my provisional period and then drive down to Little Rock for an oral exam before I can say that I'm a licensed psychologist. One more step complete!