Running start… to a great career: The evolving Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology

Changes to the test used by licensing boards are on the horizon.

By Rebecca A. Clay

The Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP), which state and provincial licensing boards use in assessing candidates for licensure, continues to evolve.

In 2016, the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB) announced plans to add a second part to the exam. To supplement the original exam’s focus on knowledge, EPPP Part 2 will assess whether applicants have the practice skills they need. Starting in 2020, psychology students will be required to take both knowledge and skills exam portions to earn their license to practice.

Having all licensing boards require Part 2 will prevent license mobility problems, says Stephen T. DeMers, EdD, ASPPB’s chief executive officer. As ASPPB began discussing the proposal, there were fears of “convoluted situations,” he says. “There were questions about, ‘If I get a license in state A that doesn’t require Part 2 and then move to state B that does, are you going to make me take Part 2?’” DeMers says.

Making the exam mandatory also prevents potential legal problems for licensing boards, since those who fail Part 2 could argue that they were being treated differently from licensure candidates in states that didn’t require the exam. Plus, says DeMers, Part 2 is a much-needed enhancement to the original exam. “We’re falling behind other health professions,” he says. “The environment in professional regulation is, ‘Show us you’re really measuring competence.’”

Another big change: Starting in 2020, ASPPB will allow candidates to take Part 1 as soon as they’ve finished their coursework. That’s a change that APA’s Committee on Early Career Psychologists pushed for, says chair Tyson Bailey, PsyD, a partner in Spectrum Psychological Associates in Lynnwood, Washington. “The data suggests that the closer people take the EPPP to their studies, the more likely they are to pass the first time,” he says. And while Part 2 doubles the EPPP’s cost, allowing Part 1 to be taken earlier may eliminate the need to purchase costly test-prep materials, DeMers adds.

If you haven’t already taken the EPPP, use these tips to prepare yourself for the coming changes:

  • Stay informed. Keep an eye on ASPPB’s Part 2 website. Also stay on top of developments in your state via your state psychological association and licensing board, since the need for regulatory changes in some states may mean Part 2’s introduction is delayed past the Jan. 20, 2020, rollout.
  • Help shape the exam. ASPBB will start beta testing Part 2 in 2019. “We’ll be looking for pilot phase test takers” willing to test the test, DeMers says, noting that about half of those who are writing the exam items are early career psychologists.
  • Take the EPPP now if you can. If you want to avoid the added cost and stress of Part 2 and will soon be eligible to take the EPPP, do it, Bailey recommends. “Figure out a way to get it done,” he says. “Once Part 2 is here, you won’t have a choice.” 

This column is geared toward early career psychologists working in practice settings. "Running start ... to a great career" features topics typically not covered in graduate school and includes tips and advice from psychologists.