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Are you studying too much for the EPPP?

For many psychology graduate students, the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) — the last step before licensure — is a source of dread. It shouldn't be, according to a study in the February issue of Training and Education in Professional Psychology.

Seventy-six percent of all candidates who took the exam between April 2008 and July 2010 — and 82 percent of first-time test-takers — passed, the researchers found. "There's a myth among students that the pass rate is considerably lower than that," says lead author Jack B. Schaffer, PhD.

The researchers also examined the best way to prepare for the exam. They found that the more you study, the better you do — but only up to a point. "What's surprising is that beyond 200 hours of study, there's very little additional improvement," says Schaffer, adding that pass rates begin to fall off beyond 300 hours and even more dramatically beyond 400 hours.

How to explain that curvilinear relationship? Students who aren't as well trained or who are more anxious may try to compensate by studying more, Schaffer speculates. The study method you use, however, doesn't seem to matter. Students should simply choose the method they feel most comfortable with, Schaffer found.

What does matter is choosing a graduate program that will prepare you well, Schaffer says. Just 15 programs — 13 of them PsyD programs — accounted for almost 39 percent of EPPP failures. An additional 22 programs — mostly smaller, university-based PhD programs — accounted for another 8 percent of failures. In 2010, 77 percent of students from APA- and Canadian Psychological Association-accredited programs passed, compared with 65 percent of students from non-accredited programs. (2010 pass rates by program (PDF, 382.7KB))

"It's not that all PsyD programs are weak," says Schaffer. "It's just there are a few that don't do very well, although we don't know at this point whether it is the quality of the training or the quality of the students."

Rebecca A. Clay is a writer in Washington, D.C.

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