Updated: Jan 30
When I started developing my National Exam Preparation Course, I wanted to approach it as if I were going to sit the exam myself. I knew it would be a monumental task, and I had long been talking about how comprehensive the reading list and curriculum are! However, I don't think I appreciated it until I began studying for it myself, just how much content I would need to learn. You see, I was registered as a psychologist before the National Psychology Exam existed. So I didn't want to come into this space assuming I understood the challenges you were all facing without actually going through it myself. So I did! I read the entire reading list and made summaries of each section of the curriculum. There was a lot to learn and much to cover. My single biggest piece of advice to those provisional psychologists who are starting to prepare for the National Psychology Exam is not to underestimate how much you will need to know. I often get questioned, "when should I start preparing?" and my answer is always: as soon as possible. It is never too early into your internship to start! Making a plan to tackle the readings and the curriculum early is likely the best way to set yourself up for success!
Based on my personal experience studying the reading list and curriculum, and as a Board Approved Supervisor who works extensively with provisional psychologists preparing for the National Psychology Exam, these are my top tips for exam preparation:
1. Read the curriculum and reading list.
While this seems simple, many people don't. I can appreciate that there may be many barriers, cost being the first thing that comes to mind (it can cost thousands to purchase all the required textbooks), but reading from your reading list and exam curriculum is what will best prepare you.
If you are struggling to afford the books, Facebook forums are a great way of accessing books secondhand. It's also worth checking your local libraries to see if they have copies of these texts.
If the sheer number of books on the list overwhelms you, the only solution I have to offer is to begin reading early. Not every book will need to be read back to front; instead, there will be chapters from each textbook that are relevant to a particular section of the curriculum. The way I approached my learning was systematic. I started by looking at the curriculum, found the readings relevant to each subsection under the different domains, and worked my way through. To mark anything as 'done', I ensured I could confidently say I had understood that section the way the curriculum had asked me to.
2. Summarise and create visuals.
As you're working through each sub-section of the curriculum, stop, reflect, and in your own words, summarise what you know about that topic. I find this helps with retention. I read, highlighted and summarised, then made notes and visuals before recording myself presenting on each section of the course. I found this process to be beneficial for me to memorise and understand information. I do realise, though, that everyone has their own learning style! So what works for one, won't work for all. You may also find that having to explain it to someone else in your own words or using flashcards or mnemonics can help you remember information.
3. Start early.
It's easy to be overwhelmed by the mountain in front of you. I have found that breaking it down into manageable chunks with realistic deadlines has been helpful for myself and my supervisees in the past. Give yourself a deadline, whether one, three, or six months, and work out a realistic schedule for you to tackle the curriculum. You may find your plan needs to change weekly, depending on the demands of your life, or you can have something more concrete that will serve you for several months.
I would work by breaking down the curriculum into sub-sections and creating a checklist I can mark off as I go. For myself, creating structure where there is chaos is what helps me stay on task. The more time you give yourself to prepare, the better! It is never too early to begin your study and preparation. Starting early can help your exam preparation feel more achievable and reduce procrastination.
4. Get support.
Ideally, you won't be doing this alone. You should be getting assistance in supervision sessions from your primary or secondary supervisor. You may also consider joining a peer study group for some additional motivation and support!
I have provided many provisional psychologists with guidance and support for preparing for the National Psychology Exam. Many people came to me overwhelmed and looking for some structure to their studies. This was a big part of why I developed the exam preparation course, to offer a solution to the problem many provisional psychologists were facing.
5. 210 minutes/ 150 questions.
You have approximately 1.4 minutes per question in the exam, keep that in mind, and don't waste too much time on any one question. If you are feeling stuck, or know a particular question will need more time, flag it and move on! Your aim should be to get to the end of the exam and bank up as many points as possible. You can go back to the challenging ones later.
You may want to compile together some exam preparation questions and practice sitting an exam at home before the real thing! I offer free exam practice questions in my Facebook group every Tuesday to help provisional psychologists prepare for the National Psychology Exam. You can also purchase my course's practice exam component only if you want to sit a 'live' exam with me on a pre-recorded video. It includes 80 practice questions with answers and rationale.
6. If possible, plan to sit the National Psychology Exam after you have completed the mandatory assessments (if you are doing the 4 +2 pathway).
This will double up as study for the exam! Practising administering, scoring and reporting on assessments such as the WAIS, WISC, PAI, etc., will take you beyond rote learning and help you understand how to apply the theory of these assessments into practice. You need to know these assessments in depth for the exam, so it is tackling two birds with one stone!
7. Take care of yourself.
Nothing is worth sacrificing your physical and mental health. Please ensure you're practising self-care, not putting excessive pressure on yourself, and being kind to yourself through the process. It's tough!
Also, it's worth noting that running yourself to the ground in the lead-up to preparing for the National Psychology Exam will not assist you in performing at your optimal level. So ensure you are getting adequate rest, fuelling your body with nutritious food, taking some time out for pleasurable activities, and being kind to yourself.
Best of luck,
I offer a range of services to provisional psychologists preparing for the National Psychology Exam. Those include:
- A comprehensive, online and self-paced exam preparation course covering the entire curriculum
- Group supervision to help you prepare
- Individual supervision for targeted support
If you have previously sat and failed the National Psychology Exam, feel free to reach out and send me your results. I am happy to help you work out a plan to tackle the exam for your next sitting!