Frequently asked questions

Preparing for the exam

Candidates should be familiar with all diagnoses in the DSM-5. The DSM-5 was released in May 2013 and is now the preferred edition for candidates to study in preparation for the exam.

Candidates need to know the ‘essential features’ of the diagnoses listed in the national psychology exam curriculum, which is published on the website. This includes the criteria making up those particular diagnoses; their prevalence, development and course; the prognosis and differential diagnoses; and co-morbidity.

It is anticipated that revisions to the curriculum (planned for 2015) will reflect the relevant changes in the DSM-5 more closely in the future. Until then, the table below indicates the matching between the published examination curriculum and the equivalent DSM-5 diagnosis

Please note that while candidates should use the DSM-5 now, the Board does allow a two year transition period between old tests, manuals and editions with new editions. As the the DSM-5 was released in May 2013, DSM-IV will be accepted until May 2015.

DSM-IV - Current examination curriculum DSM-5 - Equivalent updated diagnoses

Knowledge of the DSM definitions and essential features of the following common psychological problems:

  • antisocial personality disorder
  • social anxiety
  • panic disorder
  • generalised anxiety disorder
  • obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • adjustment disorder
  • attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • autism spectrum disorders
  • bipolar disorder
  • borderline personality disorder
  • conduct disorder
  • dementia
  • eating disorders
  • major depression
  • pain disorder
  • post traumatic stress disorder
  • schizophrenia
  • separation anxiety
  • substance dependence

Knowledge of the DSM definitions and essential features of the following common psychological problems:

  • antisocial personality disorder
  • social anxiety disorder
  • panic disorder
  • generalised anxiety disorder
  • obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • adjustment disorders
  • attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • autism spectrum disorders
  • bipolar disorders
  • borderline personality disorder
  • conduct disorder
  • major and mild neurocognitive disorders
  • feeding and eating disorders
  • major depression
  • somatic symptom disorder
  • post-traumatic stress disorder
  • schizophrenia
  • separation anxiety disorder
  • substance use/substance-induced disorders

Candidates must be familiar with the use and purpose of several tests, as noted in National Psychology Examination - Assessment domain additional resources, which is published on the Content of examination page. The curriculum lists six specific tests that require detailed knowledge, and 20 tests that you need to be familiar with.

Please note that some tests are currently being updated, or have recently been updated. If the more recent version of a test does not have Australian norms, the Board will accept older versions that have been normed on the Australian population. When a new version has Australian norms, a two year period is allowed to transition between test versions.

Overseas-trained practitioners are required to pass the examination. Other groups also required to sit the exam include:

  • provisional psychologists undertaking the internship pathway to general registration
  • persons returning to psychology practice after 10 years, and
  • persons directed to sit the exam by the Board or a panel or tribunal.

The requirement to sit and pass the examination has applied from 1 July 2013.

The examination is only available in Australia.

Generally, the Board will require overseas trained practitioners to be registered as a provisional psychologist and complete a minimum three-month transitional program in Australia before applying for general registration.

For more information on the transitional program please see the Guidelines for the National Psychology Exam, and the Board’s overseas applicant webpage.

Applicants from New Zealand who apply under the Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition arrangements are exempt from sitting the examination.

Overseas applicants need to ensure they meet the mandatory registration standards, including the English language skills registration standard. The Board may apply additional conditions to an overseas-trained practitioner's registration to ensure they meet all registration standards.

The minimum standard of education and training required for registration as a psychologist in Australia is a six year sequence of study in psychology that is accredited by the Australian Psychology Accreditation Council (APAC) and an a Board-approved program of study for registration, or another sequence of education and training that is assessed by the Board as substantially equivalent.

The curriculum is based on the integration of general knowledge and practice in the areas of ethics, assessment, interventions and communication.

The examination only tests applied knowledge that is appropriate for the fifth and, in particular, the sixth year of psychology training. 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 examination does not test all the competencies of a practising psychologist with general registration. Some of those competencies are currently assessed during the fifth and sixth years of internship training, including through:

  • direct observation
  • case studies, and
  • assessment by approved supervisors of an intern's professional practice against the eight core capabilities.

The examination curriculum does not relate to area of practice endorsements. Area of practice endorsement is an annotation on the Register of Psychologists for psychologists who have additional accredited training and supervised experience in one or more of the approved areas of practice. A psychologist must hold general registration before they can apply for admission to a registrar program leading to an area of practice endorsement. Advanced knowledge in areas such as clinical psychology, organisational psychology, health psychology, or forensic psychology are therefore not assessed as part of the national psychology exam.

The curriculum for the exam states that candidates should have knowledge of psychopharmacology, drug classification, pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics.

While candidates are not expected to have detailed medical knowledge of pharmacodynamics or pharmacokinetics, candidates are required to have sufficient knowledge of the major classes of legal scheduled pharmaceuticals that are commonly used to treat mental health disorders.

Candidates must demonstrate knowledge in the uses, common side effects, and common interactions of these major classes of drugs, along with their proprietary names. Candidates should know the type and purpose of the drugs that their clients, across the age range, are using or have been prescribed, and to understand the likely role and impact of those drugs on presentation and treatment of psychological problems and disorders. Candidates should know when, why, and how to refer a client for a medication review.

In addition, candidates should be aware of common illicit drugs (such as marijuana, heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine) in relation to their relevant DSM-5 diagnoses of substance-related and addictive disorders. In particular, candidates should have a working knowledge of the effects of alcohol, inhalants, opioids and other substances including the signs of intoxication and withdrawal.

Finally, candidates should be aware of the common interactions between legal and illicit drugs and scheduled pharmaceuticals commonly used to treat mental health disorders (such as opioids, alcohol and benzodiazepines, St. John’s Wort and SSRI’s).

 

Before the examination

Practice examination

In order to sit the practice exam, candidates must first create a candidate account via the examination portal. You will be advised by email (within five working days) when your account has been activated.

No. The practice exam is designed to provide you with a ‘look and feel’ of the examination and to provide an indication of the questions that candidates will be required to answer.

If you successfully complete the practice exam you will not be allowed to re-sit it. If you are unsuccessful, you can re-sit the practice examination after a day.

 

Special consideration and special needs

The rules covering applying for special consideration are on the Psychology Board website. Candidates should contact the National Examinatons Coordinator for assistance.

Yes. Candidates with a disability can request support to provide appropriate assistance to allow them to sit the examination. Special needs requests need to be made in advance, and no later than at the time of lodging the application to sit the examination. Further details are available on the website under Sitting the exam > special needs and in the Guidelines for the National Psychology Examination.

You must contact the National Examinations Coordinator before you apply for the examination. AHPRA will need at least a month's notice to arrange for your needs.

 

Booking your examination

Testing facilities for the exam are provided by Kryterion which uses a number of testing centres across Australia. You can visit their website to find your nearest centre.

When you pay and book for the examination via the examination portal, you can choose the testing centre where you would like to sit your examination. It is not mandatory to sit the examination in the state that you completed your training.

A confirmation email is sent to candidates providing all the details of the testing centre and requirements for the examination day. The onus is on you, the candidate, to schedule the examination and present yourself at the required time and examination centre.

If your chosen venue does not show availability on the scheduled examination date, it means all of the available times have been taken for that day.

Don’t worry!

Some of the larger centres like Sydney and Melbourne have multiple testing centres - so another venue may have availability.

In addition, availability beyond the scheduled examination date will be offered to candidates where venue availability has been exhausted.

Additional testing dates are added progressively, so if you don’t see availability at your venue please contact the National Examinations Coordinator directly for assistance.

If you have created a candidate account via the examination portal, you can login and reschedule your examination up to 72 hours before the examination date without incurring any additional fees.

If you need to reschedule within 72 hours of your booked examination date, contact the National Examinations Coordinator immediately.

AHPRA will only accept credit card payment (including Visa or Mastercard debit cards) for the examination via the examination portal.

If you don’t have a credit card, someone else (a manager, relative, etc) can make the payment on your behalf. If you are unable to make the payment via credit card you will need to contact AHPRA and discuss you circumstances.

The Board plans to allow up to four examination sittings per annum. If you are not able to complete the examination within the agreed time frames you will need to contact AHPRA to discuss your requirements.

 

Paying for the examination

The fee amount for sitting the examination is published on the Board's website under Fee schedule.

An international transaction fee may be applied by your bank to Mastercard or Visa purchases where the transaction is made in Australian dollars but the party accepting the card is overseas.

Please check with your bank regarding their fees.

Payment confirmations are sent automatically to the email address listed on your account. We recommend checking your SPAM or Junk folder for this email. If you have not received a confirmation email, contact the National Examinations Coordinator for assistance.

Should you cancel your exam outside the 72 hour cancellation window, we will refund your credit card. Please allow 2-3 billing cycles for your account to show the credit.

If the refund request is made within 72 hours of the scheduled examination date, there is no refund unless you qualify for special consideration.

 

On the day

Sitting the examination

On the day of your examination, you should arrive at the test centre at least 15 minutes prior to your exam time.

If you are late, don’t panic. The test centres will do all they can to ensure you can sit your exam. If you are not able to sit the exam contact the National Examinations Coordinator as soon as possible for assistance.

The check-in process at your test centre will include:

  • Authentication: All test takers are authenticated prior to their examination. After arriving at your test centre you will be required to provide the exam supervisor with two forms of ID, including photo ID. You should also bring your unique test launch authorisation code (from your confirmation email), which the exam supervisor will enter into the system to launch your exam. 
  • Pocket Turn-Outs: test takers will be asked to turn out exterior pockets (on jackets, jeans, slacks, etc.) to verify that the pockets are either empty or that they do not contain any prohibited items, etc. 
  • Eyewear Inspections: due to the release of technology such as Google Glass, test takers wearing external eyewear will need to hand their eyewear over to the exam supervisor for inspection to ensure the eyewear is not technology-enabled.

Before your exam is loaded, you will be required to review and accept the Candidate Rules Agreement, confirming your eligibility to undertake the examination and acceptance of the examination rules.

Exam supervisors follow standard operating procedures and are trained and certified to deliver high-stakes exams.

You should note that, as test centres work with multiple providers using staggered start times, it is quite normal for other test takers to enter or leave the testing room while exams are in progress.

To minimise disruption, all candidates have access to noise cancelling headphones or disposable earplugs.

If you experience any issues with the exam environment, remain calm and notify your exam supervisor.

You will be required to provide the exam supervisor with two (2) forms of identification (one must be a photo ID). You must also bring your printed email confirmation containing your examination authorisation code.

You will not be able to take any personal items with you into the examination room. These items will be stored securely by your exam supervisor.

Exceptions include those items associated with medical conditions. Requests for accommodation of special needs must be made, with a minimum thirty days’ notice, through the National Examinations Coordinator.

No. Candidates will not be permitted any reference material (electronic or hard copy) during the examination. Telephones and other equipment must not be taken into the examination. Access to the internet will not be permitted in the examination rooms or in the examination waiting areas.

To safeguard the computer equipment, water is not permitted in the examination room. However, water in a clear unlabelled bottle can be left with your exam supervisor and accessed if you need it. Please note, there is no extra time allocated in the exam to do this.

You will not be allowed to access any personal items during the exam session.

 

After the examination

You may apply for special consideration if you were unable to sit or complete an examination due to exceptional circumstance beyond your control. Contact the Examination Coordinator for further information.

Results are processed within three to four weeks of your examination date. Once your score is processed, an automated notification will be sent to you via email. Results are not available on completion of your examination session.

All examination scores are reported as pass or fail. Failed candidates will receive limited feedback indicating those domains where exam performance suggests additional focus and preparation should be applied.

For reasons of security, no candidate will be allowed to review the examination or its items directly.

Registrants will receive communications advising the result of the examination. If you are unsuccessful, the email will provide guidance and options available.

Registrants who fail the examination are permitted to re-sit the examination after completing a further three month period of supervised practice as a psychologist or provisionally registered psychologist.

You can sit the examination a maximum of three times.

If a registrant fails three times, they will not be able to sit another examination until their registration renewal or a new application for registration is approved by the Board. At this point the Board may:

  1. grant renewal or registration and allow the person to re-sit the examination up to three additional times
  2. grant renewal or registration with conditions and on those conditions being met, allowing the person to re-sit the examination, or
  3. propose to refuse the person’s application or renewal.

The Policy and procedure for candidates who fail the exam three times, and an associated statement and plan for professional development (the SPPD-76 form) have been developed to assist registrants who have failed the exam three times. These documents provide further detail on the procedures to follow in the event that a registrant fails the exam three times, including the available options, the steps to take, and the evidence required by the Board to progress their plan to successfully re-sit the exam beyond three attempts.

Renewing provisional registration has time limitations under the National Law, and candidates will need to get permission from the Board to continue their training if they go beyond these limits.

There is no appeal process based on the content of the examination.

Candidates may apply for special consideration whereby candidates who are unable to sit or complete an examination due to exceptional circumstance beyond their control.

 

Examination portal

Yes. The portal is designed with the Online Secure testing protocols and holds a 128 bit encryption. We have ensured the portal meets international security standards so we can protect your information.

You can reset your password or login via the examination portal.

 
 
 
Page reviewed 18/10/2013