Overview and background of the exam

Holding general registration as a psychologist means that a practitioner possesses a general skill set in applied psychology that allows independent psychology practice across a wide range of workplaces. The Board's role is to protect the public by ensuring that any psychologist who offers services to the public possesses this skill set.

The national psychology exam supports the Board’s General registration standard which provides that in addition to successfully completing an approved qualification, applicants for general registration as a psychologist in Australia may be required to pass the national psychology exam before the Board will accept their applications for general registration.

The planning for a national psychology exam has a rich history in Australia. The development of the national psychology exam began in 1986. On 1 July 2010 the Board’s General registration standard first included the provision for the Board to require the passing of an exam before accepting an application for general registration. On 1 July 2013, after wide-ranging consultation, the national psychology exam came into effect. Below is a summary timeline showing the major markers in the development of the exam:

Transition provisions for implementing the national psychology exam

The Board approved several transition providers for implementing the national psychology exam allowing a stepped roll out of the exam, as follows:

  • On 1 July 2013, overseas trained applicants for general registration as a psychologist in Australia were first required to pass the national psychology exam.
  • Additionally, from 1 July 2013 passing the exam was required for individuals who are directed to sit it by the Board, or by a panel or tribunal, in relation to an application for registration under Part 7 of the National Law or a notification about their health, performance or conduct under Part 8 of the National Law.
  • On 1 July 2014, applicants for general registration who completed an internship pathway (4+2 or 5+1) were first required to pass the national psychology exam before applying for general registration.
  • On 1 July 2014, individuals who were previously registered as a psychologist wished to resume practice after an absence of 10 years or more were first required to pass the national psychology exam before applying for general registration.

Public consultation on the exam

The Board has consulted extensively on the national psychology exam, including consulting on both the curriculum of the exam and when and how the exam is used within the regulatory framework.

Past public consultation papers on the exam are available including the submissions by psychologists and stakeholders. The Board has previously released the following public consultation papers on the development of the national psychology exam:

  • April 2011 (Consultation Paper 9 - National Examination Consultation Paper) 
  • November 2011 (Consultation Paper 13 - Exposure draft National Psychology Examination Curriculum)
  • April 2013 (Consultation Paper 18 – Guidelines for the National Psychology Examination)
  • August 2015 (Consultation Paper 25 – Ending the higher degree exemption from sitting the National Psychology Examination).
  • July 2017 (Consultation Paper 28 - National Psychology Examination Curriculum Review)

The National Psychology Exam Committee

The Board has established the National Psychology Exam Committee (the NPE Committee) as part of its governance framework under section 37 (1) (a) of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law as in force in each state and territory (the National Law).

The NPE Committee supports the development of the national psychology exam, and plays an important quality assurance role.

The NPE Committee is made up of National Psychology Board members, Psychology Regional Board members, and senior members of the psychology profession that are external to the Board. Membership of the current (and previous) NPE committees is available below.

The Board has implemented a national psychology exam to support applications for general registration as a psychologist in Australia, as outlined in the Board’s General registration standard.

The purpose of the exam is to ensure that a minimum level of applied professional knowledge of psychology is obtained by all applicants for general registration regardless of which of the various pathways to general registration has been undertaken by the applicant. The aim is to better protect the public by ensuring a consistent professional standard of applied knowledge and competence of psychologists nationally.

The following groups must successfully pass the exam before applying for general registration as a psychologist:

  1. provisionally registered psychologists undertaking a five-year accredited sequence of study followed by a one-year Board-approved internship (5+1) 
  2. provisionally registered psychologists undertaking a four-year accredited sequence of study followed by a two-year Board-approved internship (4+2) 
  3. individuals intending to return to psychology practice who have not practised for more than 10 years, and  
  4. overseas-trained psychologists seeking general registration as a psychologist in Australia.

Additionally, passing the exam is required for individuals who are directed to sit it by the Board, or a panel, or a tribunal, in relation to an application for registration under Part 7 of the National Law, or a notification about their health, performance or conduct under Part 8 of the National Law.

Not all applicants for general registration are required to pass the national psychology exam. There are currently two exemptions in place:

  • All applications from New Zealand psychologists applying for general registration under the Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition arrangements are exempt from sitting the exam.
  • Applicants for general registration who complete the higher degree pathway (i.e. Masters/DPsych) and apply for general registration before 31 December 2019 are exempt.

The exemption for higher degree graduates from passing the exam was initially in place until 1 July 2016. This exemption was extended for another three years as a result of Consultation Paper 25. The Board further extended the exemption until 31 December 2019. For more information see the news item.

Further details are shown in the table below.

Which type of applicant are you?  When you need to sit the exam 
Provisional psychologist 4+2 internship  During 6th year (after 1,540 hours of supervised practice internship) 
Provisional psychologist 5+1 internship  During 6th year (within approved supervised practice internship) 
Person returning to psychology practice after 10 years  As directed by Psychology Board of Australia in response to application 
Provisional psychologist - higher degree (Masters/DPsyc/PhD) 

The exemption from passing the national psychology exam for higher degree graduates has been extended until 31 December 2019.

From 1 January 2020, you will need to pass the exam during the 6th year (within an accredited training program)

Overseas qualified applicant who meets all other requirements  During approved supervised practice internship (usually a 3-month program) 
Person required to do so by Board or a panel or a tribunal  As directed by authority 
 
 
 
Page reviewed 10/08/2018