Content of the examination

This section provides information about the curriculum, recommended readings for examination candidates and details on the examination format.

Candidates are required to be familiar with the examination curriculum (251 KB,PDF), Word version (113 KB,DOCX). The examination questions are derived from it and they test candidates' applied knowledge of the areas of psychology described in the curriculum.

Examination preparation should include:

  • private reading and study 
  • seeking advice and assistance from supervisors, training institutes, and workshop providers, and 
  • seeking appropriate structured and unstructured learning opportunities.

The examination WILL test applied knowledge appropriate for the fifth and, in particular, the sixth year of psychology training.

This examination WILL NOT test all the competencies of a practicing generally registered psychologist. Some of the other competencies not tested by the examination are currently assessed during the fifth and sixth years of internship training, by methods that include direct observation, case studies and assessment by approved supervisors of an intern's performance whilst engaged in professional practice.

The curriculum is not designed to test foundational knowledge of the discipline obtained during the first four years of psychology at university. Rather, the examination is designed to test the application of this knowledge to practice, and is therefore based on actual case studies and professional issues.

This curriculum does not relate to area of practice endorsements. Area of practice endorsement is an annotation on the Public Register for psychologists who have additional accredited training and supervised experience in one or more of the endorsed areas of practice that is above and beyond the standard required for general registration.

The exam is 3.5 hours duration (210 minutes) - although candidates are required to be available for a total of 4 hours to complete registration procedures, a pre-testing phase, and post-examination administration activities.

There are 150 multiple choice questions in the exam which will examine skills in:

  • assessment approaches 
  • intervention selection and implementation 
  • communication and reporting skills, and 
  • applied ethical and professional reasoning.

Exam question are mostly in the format of:

  • a vignette or scenario 
  • a lead in question, and 
  • a set of five options, of which one is the correct answer and four are distracters.

The correct answers are determined by the National Psychology Examination Committee. The correct answer is the best, or most correct, option in the view of the Committee.

The exam questions are developed by senior practitioners and the best answer is their consensus view. Questions are developed to test core components of the published examination curriculum, as described in the professional and scientific literature and the recommended readings.

The Board, in conjunction with its Examination Committee, reviews all questions for content validity, and analyses their statistical reliability, which provides the basis for further question development and improvement.

Proportion of questions testing each domain of the curriculum

The exam comprises questions testing the four components of the curriculum:

  1. ethics 
  2. assessment
  3. intervention, and 
  4. communication.

As the first three components incorporate greater content they have a greater number of questions included in the examination than the fourth component. The table below demonstrates the percentages..

Exam Domain Number of questions Percentage 
Ethics  45  30 
Assessment 45 30
Intervention 45 30
Communication 15 10
Total questions 150 100

The scaled passing score is 70%.

The scaled passing score is the Board's view of the minimum level of applied knowledge required for independent psychology practice. As there are 5 options per question (a, b, c, d, or e), a person responding randomly is likely to achieve a score of 20% based on chance alone. Therefore, a passing score of 50% has been adjusted to 70% (50+20) to take this into consideration. 70% is the standard passing score for many tests of this type.

Raw scores (the total number of answers that were correct) will be arithmetically converted to a scale that ranges from 0 to 100 that takes into consideration differences in difficulty among different versions of the tests.

Adjusting scores will ensure that the passing score will remain the same, even if different versions of the test vary in difficulty. Therefore candidates will not be penalised if a test is harder, or given an unfair advantage if a test is easier. The examination and pass rates are moderated by the National Psychology Examination Committee of the Psychology Board of Australia. The pass rate only applies to the total score; candidates are not also required to pass all four curriculum components in addition to achieving a passing score on the overall examination.

The recommended reading list is provided to help candidates prepare for the exam. This reading list is recommended but not mandatory.

The applied psychology field has extensive literature covering the curriculum domains, with many more resources that are complementary to those in the list.

Candidates preparing for the examination should use their judgement about how to prepare and consult their supervisor in designing a plan of study based on the curriculum. The recommended reading list will be updated from time to time as new editions, other journal articles, and improved monographs become available. Supervisors and examination candidates should check the website regularly for updates.

The Board welcomes recommendations for additional items on the reading list. Email the Chair of the Board with recommendations for the reading list.

The Board provides the following additional resources to assist candidates:

 
 
 
Page reviewed 18/10/2013