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The national psychology exam has been developed by the Psychology Board of Australia in accordance with section 52 (1) (b) of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law.
The exam supports the Board’s General registration standard.1 To be eligible to apply for general registration, applicants must complete a six-year sequence of education and training, and provide evidence of having passed the national psychology exam (unless exempt).2
The exam has been in place since 1 July 2010 with overseas applicants for general registration required to provide evidence of passing the exam from 1 July 2013, and all other applicants (unless exempt) from 1 July 2014.3
The Board has developed the National psychology exam candidate manual to provide guidance to candidates preparing for the exam.4 It should be read carefully and in conjunction with the Guidelines for the national psychology exam.
1 The General registration standard is published on the website at www.psychologyboard.gov.au. Registration standards are approved by the Australian Health Workforce Ministerial Council pursuant to the National Law.
2 Applicants for general registration who are exempt from passing the exam are outlined in the Guidelines for the national psychology exam.
3 The Board approved several transition provisions for implementing the exam allowing a stepped roll out.
4 See section 39 of the National Law.
Candidates are required to be familiar with the exam curriculum, which is published on the Board’s website.5 The exam questions are derived solely from the exam curriculum.
The exam is designed to test the core competencies for general registration as a psychologist in Australia.6 It is designed to test the application of knowledge to psychological practice and is therefore based on actual case studies and professional issues likely to be faced by psychologists working with the public across a broad range of contexts.
The exam assesses eight core competencies through four exam curriculum domains:
The Board has published several resources that sit alongside the curriculum and are designed to support candidates to study for the exam. These resources are published on the Board’s website7 and include the following:
Once a candidate has registered to sit the national psychology exam, they can sit a practice exam to further assist in their preparation.
The practice exam consists of a set of exam questions. It is designed to provide candidates with the ‘look and feel’ of the exam including how the exam is structured, the types and style of questions and how exam time will need to be managed.
To sit the practice exam, candidates first need to create an account on the exam portal and register for the exam. Once registered, candidates can sit the practice exam at any time before their scheduled exam date.
Candidates who successfully complete the practice exam will not be allowed to re-sit it. Candidates who fail the practice exam are eligible to re-sit the practice exam after a day.
5 See the ‘National Psychology Exam’ page of the Board’s website.
6 For more information please review the general registration standard.
7 See the ‘National Psychology Exam’ page of the Board’s website.
The exam questions are multiple-choice questions. Exam questions will be mostly in the format of:
The exam is designed to test the application of psychological knowledge to safe practice. Although the questions can rely on a factual knowledge base, the exam focuses on the application of that knowledge to actual psychological cases and professional issues. Multiple choice questions are deemed suitable to test applied knowledge, and to allow candidates to demonstrate psychological reasoning and core competencies in a fair, equitable and transparent manner.
The exam questions have been developed by senior practitioners and the best answer is their consensus view. Questions are developed to test the core competencies of the exam curriculum, as described in the professional and scientific literature and the recommended reading.
The correct answer is the best or most correct option in the view of the Board.
Exam questions are changed regularly so candidates who repeat the exam will get a different set of questions.
The Board reviews all exam questions for relevance of content, effectiveness and reliability. This Board periodically undertakes quality assurance processes that provide the basis for further question development and improvement.
There are 150 questions in the exam. All questions are of equal value and there is no deduction of marks for incorrect answers. Candidates are encouraged to attempt all questions.
As three of the four domains assessed by the exam incorporate a larger amount of content, the exam includes a greater number of questions on these three domains than the fourth (communication) domain. In addition, the communication domain significantly overlaps in content with the first three domains. See Table 1 for details on the number of questions on the exam for each domain.
Number of questions
The duration of the exam is 3.5 hours (210 minutes). Candidates are required to allocate a total of four hours to complete registration procedures before the exam, and post-exam administration activities.
The exam is a pass or fail exam. The Board has applied a scaled passing score of 70 per cent.
The scaled passing score is the Board's view of the minimum level of applied knowledge required for independent and safe psychology practice.
As there are five options per question (a, b, c, d, or e), a candidate responding randomly is likely to achieve a score of 20 per cent based on chance alone. Therefore, a passing score of 50 per cent has been adjusted to 70 per cent (50+20). 70 per cent is the standard passing score for many exams 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 exam.
Adjusting scores will ensure that the passing score will remain the same, even if different versions of the exam vary in difficulty. This ensures that candidates will not be penalised if one exam is harder, or given an unfair advantage if an exam is easier.
The exam and pass rates are moderated by the Board.
The pass rate applies to the total score on the exam. Candidates are not required to pass all four curriculum components in addition to achieving a passing score on the overall exam. This is because there is considerable overlap between the four domains assessed by the exam. For example, there are ethical considerations when conducting psychological assessments; and communication competencies required when delivering psychological interventions.
The responsibility to prepare for and pass the exam rests with the candidate. Candidates are expected to develop a broad strategy for preparing for the exam.
This preparation should include:
Candidates preparing for the exam should:
All resources are published on the Board’s website.8
Candidates preparing for the exam should use their judgment about how to prepare and consult their supervisor in designing a plan of study based on the curriculum, and the associated resources developed by the Board. Exam candidates should check the website regularly for updates to the exam resources.
Candidates with little or no recent study or practice are likely to have difficulty with the exam.
8 See the 'National Psychology Exam' page of the Board’s website.
Candidates with a documented health condition, mental health condition or disability can request support to provide appropriate assistance to allow them to sit the exam.
Special accommodation requests need to be made in writing to the National Psychology Exam Coordinator a minimum of thirty days in advance of the intended exam date. Relevant documentary evidence (e.g. medical certificate) must be attached to the application.
Candidates with special accommodation needs will be provided with facilities to support the following:
The request will be determined by the National Psychology Exam Coordinator.
Special consideration is available to candidates who are unable to sit or complete an exam due to exceptional circumstance beyond their control. Candidates may be given an opportunity to re-sit the exam at the next available date without incurring additional exam fees.
Candidates who can demonstrate that they have adverse circumstances beyond their control are eligible for special consideration. These reasons include:
Applications for special consideration:
Failure to follow this process may result in the application being delayed or not accepted.
Applications for special consideration must be submitted in writing to the National Psychology Exam Coordinator before the exam or within 14 working days after the date of the exam (depending on the nature of the request). Relevant documentary evidence of the exceptional circumstances beyond the control of the candidate must be attached to the application and must include one or more of the following:
Candidates who complete the exam are usually not eligible for special consideration unless there are special circumstances.
No special consideration request will be considered based on the content of the exam. The special consideration procedure is not a means of circumventing the Board’s usual exam process.
The only special consideration mechanism available for candidates who fail the exam will be based on process (e.g. failing the exam because the test centre was evacuated during the exam). Special consideration will not lower the pass mark, nor will it improve a candidate’s overall score.
Written requests for special consideration will be reviewed and considered by the National Psychology Exam Coordinator and assessed against the special consideration criteria outlined above. The review will take place within 21 days of receiving the request.
If the National Psychology Exam Coordinator grants the request for special consideration, they will decide how special consideration will take effect and let the candidate know in writing. Any special arrangement for consideration will be acted upon promptly. The National Psychology Exam Coordinator decision is final.
When a request is granted, the usual outcome would be to allow the candidate to re-sit the exam as soon as possible at no additional cost to the candidate. If approved, special consideration may consist of:
Candidates must ensure they are eligible to sit the exam before booking an exam time. Information on eligibility and exemptions from sitting the exam is outlined in the Guidelines for the national psychology exam.
To register for the exam candidates will need to do the following:
Candidates are responsible for scheduling the exam and presenting at the right time and exam centre.
Candidates may only lodge one application to sit the exam per quarter period (every three months) in any of the states or territories.
The Board has contracted with a test administrator called Kryterion Testing Solutions to administer the national psychology exam.
Kryterion has many testing centres across Australia. Candidates can choose their preferred testing centre to sit the exam when paying for and booking the exam date. It is not mandatory to sit the exam in the state that you completed your training.
If a chosen venue is not available on the scheduled exam date, it means all of the available times have been booked for that day. Some of the larger centres like Sydney and Melbourne have multiple testing centres so another venue might have availability. Otherwise, a different exam date will need to be selected.
In some cases, availability beyond the scheduled exam date will be offered to candidates where venue availability has been exhausted. Additional testing dates are added progressively. Any difficulties with availability for a preferred venue can be directed to the National Psychology Exam Coordinator.
The timetable of exam dates for each calendar year is published on the Board's website along with the closing dates for applications to register for the exam.10 Exams will usually be scheduled at least twice a year and up to four times a year.
Exams will be made available in the capital city of each state and territory of Australia.
Candidates who are unable to register for a published exam sitting will need to contact the National Psychology Exam Coordinator to discuss requirements.
Candidates can change the date and time of their scheduled exam for any reason up to 72 hours before the scheduled exam date without incurring additional fees. Exams can be rescheduled using the exam portal.
Candidates are only permitted to change the date and time within 72 hours of the exam if special circumstances apply – see the section on Special consideration in Section 5 of this manual. Candidates who need to reschedule an exam within 72 hours of the booked exam date must contact the National Psychology Exam Coordinator immediately for assistance at firstname.lastname@example.org
9 The exam portal is at - https://www.webassessor.com/ahpra/index.html.
10 See the ‘National Psychology Exam’ page of the Board’s website.
The fee for sitting the exam is published on the Board's website in the Schedule of fees.
AHPRA only accepts credit card payment (including Visa or Mastercard debit cards) for the exam. Payment must be made through the exam portal.
For candidates who do not have a credit card, AHPRA will accept payment from someone else (a manager, relative, etc) on your behalf.
Some banks may apply an international transaction fee to MasterCard or Visa purchases where the transaction is made in Australian dollars but the party accepting the card is overseas. Kryterion Testing Solutions head office is based in Arizona, USA.
Candidates are advised to check with their bank regarding their fees.
Payment confirmations are sent automatically to the email address listed on the exam candidate account.
If a confirmation email has not been received within five days into an inbox (or spam or junk folder), contact the National Psychology Exam Coordinator for assistance.
Candidates that cancel an exam booking 72 hours before the scheduled exam date will have the exam fee refunded to the credit card originally used for payment. It may take up to ten days before the credit is shown in the account.
Candidates that cancel an exam booking within 72 hours of the scheduled exam date are not refunded the exam fee, unless special consideration has been approved (see the ‘Before the exam’ section of this manual for more information).
The following section provides important information for candidates when sitting the exam. It should be read carefully and followed closely.
Candidates will need to present the exam supervisor (sometimes also called exam invigilator, proctor or exam adjudicator) with the following documents:
Failure to bring sufficient identification and the exam authorisation code may result in the candidate being excluded from sitting the exam.
Where an exam supervisor has a reasonable concern about a candidate’s ability to properly establish their identity or there is a concern that identity documents are being misused, the candidate will be refused access to the exam. Fraudulent use of identity documents is a serious matter and may be referred to police. Candidates who are refused access to the exam will forfeit the fees paid to sit the exam.
Candidates should arrive at the test centre at least 15-20 minutes before the scheduled exam time to undertake the check-in and security processes.
Candidates who arrive late should talk to the test centre staff who will do all they can to ensure you can sit your exam.
Candidates who are not able to sit the exam should contact the National Psychology Exam Coordinator as soon as possible for assistance.
There are a variety of security processes in place at all testing venues.
In addition to verifying registration to sit the exam, and providing formal identification, candidates will be required to:
This exam is confidential and proprietary. It is made available to you, the examinee, solely for the purpose of assessing your proficiency level in the skill areas referenced in the title of this exam. To protect the integrity of the exams, the examinee must adhere to strict guidelines. The examinee shall not disclose to any third party the contents of this exam, including but not limited to questions, form of questions, or answers, in whole or in part, in any form or by any means, verbal or written, electronic or mechanical, for any purpose. I have read and agree to the terms of the above statement.
Candidates will not be permitted to take any of the following items into the exam:
Exceptions can be made for candidates to take personal items needed for medical conditions into the exam room. A request for special accommodation will need to be submitted to the National Psychology Exam Coordinator at least 30 days in advance of the exam date, and be formally approved to do this (see Section 5 of this manual for more information).
The exam is a high-stakes exam delivered in a regulatory context. It is a formal exam within a highly controlled test environment that includes clear rules, rigorous security protocols and supervision. Exam supervisors are trained and certified to deliver high-stakes exams and follow standard operating procedures. The test environment will be different to what many candidates will have experienced in sitting exams at school or university in less formal or less controlled settings.
Candidates may undertake an exam in a room with test-takers who are sitting other exams, or who are from other professions. These candidates may have different requirements, rules or restrictions than those that apply to candidates sitting the national psychology exam. Familiarising yourself with the rules that apply to the national psychology exam (in this manual) before the exam day is highly recommended.
Because test centres work with many providers using staggered exam start times, it is normal for other test-takers to enter or leave the testing room while exams are in progress. To minimise disruption, candidates will have access to noise-cancelling headphones or disposable earplugs.
Candidates who have issues with the exam environment should speak with the exam supervisor on the day to allow the best opportunity for prompt resolution of the problem. It is important that candidates are provided with a professional and secure environment to complete the exam. Exam supervisors are required to note any problems arising during the conduct of an exam and report these to Kryterion. Such reports are used to verify and support any applications for special consideration or reviews based on exam process or unfairness in the conduct of the exam.
All formal exams have rules relating to conduct. However, there are some rules that, if breached, would have a significant impact on the candidate’s future capacity to sit an exam or to be or remain registered.
Candidates sitting the exam are subject to the usual rules of ethical and professional conduct.
Failure to comply with any rule or instruction by an exam supervisor will be regarded as a breach of discipline and may lead to exclusion from the exam and the candidate deemed to have failed. More serious breaches of exam rules or security may result in disciplinary or criminal action.
The Board regards misconduct during an exam as a serious matter. Falsifying results, fraudulent or dishonest conduct in connection with an exam has the potential for practitioners who are not qualified or not otherwise competent and safe to practise to be improperly registered. In such cases the Board will consider any complaint and may refer the matter to a responsible tribunal. If a tribunal finds a complaint sustained it may make a range of orders, including cancellation of registration and disqualifying a person from applying for registration for a specified period.
Candidates that could not sit or complete the exam due to exceptional circumstance beyond their control can apply for special consideration. See the ‘Before the exam’ section of this manual for more information.
Candidates will receive their exam results by email within four weeks of the close of the exam period. Results will state whether the candidate passed or failed. No further detail about results will be provided, as the exam is a regulatory exam, not an exam given in an educational context. Results will not be given by telephone.
After the exam has finished, any communication about the exam must be addressed to AHPRA through the National Psychology Exam Coordinator. Candidates must not communicate with members of the Psychology Board of Australia or the Board’s committees about the exam.
Registrants who fail the exam are permitted to re-sit the exam after completing a further three-month period of supervised practice as a psychologist or provisional psychologist.
If a registrant fails three times, they will not be able to sit another exam until their registration renewal or a new application for registration is approved by the Board. Details on the procedures to follow if a registrant fails the exam three times, including available options, steps to take, and evidence required by the Board, can be found in the:
Candidates who fail the exam are strongly encouraged to review their study plan and consider making changes and improvements to the way they are preparing for the exam. See the ‘Preparing for the exam’ section of this manual for more information on strategies to prepare for sitting the exam.
There is no review process based on the content of the exam. Exam results (e.g. a fail result) are not subject to review.
Candidates can apply for special consideration if they are unable to sit or complete the exam due to exceptional circumstances beyond their control. See the ‘Before the exam’ section of this manual for more information on special consideration.
A candidate can request a review if the candidate believes:
Any request for review must be made in writing to the National Psychology Exam Coordinator within eight weeks of sitting the exam, and must include the following:
The written request for review will be considered by the Board as well as assessed against the review criteria (as outlined above). The review will take place within 21 days of receiving the request.
The Board will let the candidate know the decision and the reasons for the decision in writing as soon as practicable after the review. The Board’s decision is final.
The usual outcome for a successful review would be to allow the candidate to re-sit the exam as soon as possible at no additional cost to the candidate. A successful review outcome may consist of:
The Board has developed the Guidelines for the national psychology exam to provide guidance to candidates preparing for the exam, including information on the:
Candidates are strongly recommended to review this document carefully. More information is available about the exam on the Psychology Board of Australia website: www.psychologyboard.gov.au.
All correspondence about the national psychology exam should be directed to the National Exams Coordinator at email@example.com
AHPRA means the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency established under section 23 of the National Law.
Board refers to the Psychology Board of Australia established under section 31 of the National Law. The Board delegates some decision-making powers to committees, state and territory or regional boards, or AHPRA.
Candidate means any person approved by the Board as eligible to sit the national psychology exam.
Competence refers to a combination of practical and theoretical knowledge, cognitive skills, behaviour, and values used to perform a specific behaviour or set of behaviours to a standard, in professional practice settings associated with a professional role .
Core (competence) is a competence, the possession of which is critical to the overall ability of a person to practise to an acceptable professional standard. Core competences are expected to be possessed by all those who claim competence in professional practice. It should be noted that additional competences may also be required, depending upon areas of specialism and socio-cultural settings, to ensure overall competence as a practitioner .
Exam means the national psychology exam.
Exam supervisor means the staff person who oversees the delivery of the exam at a test centre. Sometimes also called exam invigilator, proctor or exam adjudicator.
National Law refers to the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law.
National Psychology Exam Coordinator refers to AHPRA staff responsible for the operational day-to-day running of the exam, as agreed between the Board and AHPRA in Schedule 1 of the Health Professions Agreement.
Practice means any role, whether remunerated or not, in which the individual uses their skills and knowledge as a registered psychologist in the profession. Practice in this context is not restricted to the provision of direct clinical care. It also includes using professional knowledge in a direct non-clinical relationship with clients, working in management, administration, education, research, advisory, regulatory or policy development roles, and any other roles that impact on the safe, effective delivery of services in the profession.
Provisional psychologist means a person registered as a provisional psychologist under section 62 of the National Law to enable that individual to complete a mandatory period of supervised practice to become eligible for general registration as a psychologist.
Psychologist means a person who holds general registration as a psychologist under section 52 of the National Law.
Registered psychologist in this document includes a psychologist or a provisional psychologist.
Scaled passing score means passing the national psychology exam at a score of 70 per cent or higher. Raw scores (the total number of answers that were correct) are arithmetically converted to a scale that ranges from 0 to 100 and takes into consideration differences in difficulty among different versions of the exam. Adjusting scores will ensure that the passing score will remain the same, even if different versions of the exam vary in difficulty. This ensures that candidates will not be penalised if an exam is harder or given an unfair advantage if an exam is easier.
Supervisor or board approved supervisor means a person who holds general registration as a psychologist and who has been approved by the Board to supervise provisional psychologists or psychologists.
11 Definition taken from the International declaration of core competencies in professional psychology, p.4
12 Definition taken from the International declaration of core competencies in professional psychology, p.5