Content of the exam

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

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

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

This exam WILL NOT test all of the competencies of a practicing generally registered psychologist. Some of the other competencies not tested by the exam 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 exam 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-exam administration activities.

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

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

Exam questions 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.

Exam questions are written by the National Psychology Exam Committee, which is made up of senior practitioners in the psychology profession. The correct answer to each question is the best or most correct option. Questions are developed to test core components of the published exam curriculum, as described in the professional and scientific literature and the recommended readings.

The Board, in conjunction with its Exam 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 exam 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 exam and pass rates are moderated by the National Psychology Exam 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 exam.

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 exam should use their judgement about how to prepare and should 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 of texts, other journal articles, and improved monographs become available. Supervisors and exam 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 10/08/2018