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EPPP Myths versus Reality
EPPP Myth versus Reality

Information contributed by Dr. Joan Grusec, Dr. John Hunsley, Dr. Robert Lipkins,
Dr. Ian Nicholson, and Dr. Carole Sinclair

A number of myths circulate about the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology(EPPP). This information has been gathered by the above individuals in order to state those myths and pair them with the reality of the EPPP.

Myth #1:

There are easy and hard versions ("the beast”) of the exam. It is unfair if you get the hard version.

Forms of the EPPP do vary in difficulty. The passing score of each version is equated so that the level of knowledge being tested is consistent. Practically speaking, this means that the "harder” forms require fewer correct answers to pass and "easy” forms require more. It is not unfair if you get a harder version because you don’t need to get as many answers right.

Myth #2:

A majority of people fail the exam. The passing rate is kept artificially low in order to control access to the profession.


Overall, a high proportion of candidates pass the exam and candidates with doctoral degrees score higher than those with Master’s degrees. The more time a candidate spends preparing for the exam, the higher that candidate’s score.

Myth #3:

The items on the exam are not related to what we do as psychologists. The EPPP has little, if any, validity.


Every few years, ASPPB commissions Practice Analysis studies to identify and validate the underlying professional knowledge base of practicing psychologists and to revise the EPPP test specifications to reflect those knowledge statements. In 2009, approximately 1300 licensed/registered psychologists responded to the practice analysis survey. They rated knowledge statements on their importance, criticality and appropriateness for entry-level practice. Analysis of completed surveys produced information about the critical knowledge that licensed psychologists use and changes occurring in the profession. These results were used to review and refine the EPPP test specifications to ensure that the knowledge assessed by the EPPP is required for the performance of critical behaviors and serves the public protection function of regulation. In summary, the content of the EPPP is based on what psychologists do and know.


  • Reliability of the EPPP has been demonstrated to be high.
  • The EPPP measures foundational knowledge within the broader context of professional registration.
  • In most jurisdictions, the EPPP is only one of several methods used to determine readiness for autonomous practice. Other methods may include assessment of academic qualifications, evaluations of supervised practice, letters of reference, jurisprudence exams specific to the jurisdiction, oral exams, etc.
  • Patterns of academic professional competence in graduate school correspond to patterns of performance on the EPPP.
  • People with more and better education in psychology obtain higher scores on the EPPP
  • The EPPP can’t be used to predict future performance because people who fail it don’t get licensed.
  • There is no suggestion that people who do better on the EPPP will be better practitioners.
  • The EPPP is designed only to protect the public from those who do not have sufficient basic knowledge about psychology to be licensed.


Myth #4:

The exam is filled with trivial, poorly-worded questions and trick questions.



  • Subject matter experts are asked to participate in Item Writing Workshops to develop questions. They write items and bring them to the workshop.
  • Each draft item is reviewed and validated by subject matter teams and evaluated for clarity of expression, accuracy, relevance, whether it concerns knowledge that any beginning licensed practitioner should know, contribution to public protection, freedom from bias, and relevance to both Canada and the US.
  • Additional criteria include: 1) avoiding items that test rote memory or knowledge of simple definitions, 2) ensuring items on historical issues test critical thinking, and 3) ensuring items are testing the knowledge base required for entry into practice.
  • Items that meet the above criteria are then edited and brought into compliance with style guidelines for EPPP items.
  • These items are put into the EPPP Pretest Item Bank and, once pretested and found to be statistically sound, they are moved to the Calibrated Item Bank for possible use in future exams.


  • Ultimate responsibility for the examination lies with the ASPPB Examination Committee that includes 10 psychologists from across the US and Canada with expertise in the various areas of psychology tested on the exam.
  • A staff psychologist from the test vendor selects items for a draft EPPP exam from the Calibrated Item Bank in accordance with the established test specifications.
  • The ASPPB Examination Committee reviews the draft exam on an item-by-item basis at two different meetings. Specific items may be removed if they do not meet statistical criteria (both classical and IRT statistics are used in this determination), with substitute items chosen from the Calibrated Item Bank. Each accepted item must include item statistics from previous uses, a recent and specific reference, and item classification data.


A staff psychologist selects possible pretest items from the Pretest Item Bank. These items are also reviewed by the Examination Committee on an item-by-item basis and may be revised, edited, or rejected before being included for pretesting on a new draft exam.

Myth #5:

The Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards prepares the study materials, therefore:

  • It is unfair that the actual test questions differ from the study materials.
  • It is unfair when topic areas not in the study guide are on the exam.
  • There are a number of commercial companies that offer EPPP study materials, practice tests, and workshops.
  • ASPPB does NOT endorse or recommend any of them or provide them with items.
  • Candidates sometimes have remarked on the close similarity between some practice test items in the commercial materials and actual items that have appeared on the EPPP exam. Sometimes the similarity is due simply to the EPPP content areas being available on the ASPPB website.
  • It is important to remember that prior to taking the EPPP, each candidate agrees not to disclose information about the actual EPPP items.
  • Disclosing items is unethical because it ultimately means the public is not protected from incompetent practice.
  • Disclosing items is illegal because the copyright for these items belongs to ASPPB.

Myth #6:

The exam contains a specific number of Industrial/Organizational (I/O) questions.


The number of I/O questions varies by test form. Items dealing with I/O topics may appear in any of the eight content areas that make up the exam.

Myth #7:

All candidates, including Canadians, need to know the APA Ethics Code and US laws (e.g., HIPAA) for the exam.

  • All EPPP items regarding ethics and jurisprudence are written and selected on the basis of whether or not they can be answered correctly based on a study of either the APA or CPA codes of ethics, and regardless of laws that may be specific to particular jurisdictions (states or provinces) in North America.
  • There is no need to study both ethics codes to write the exam, nor to study both US and Canadian law relevant to psychological practice.
  • Canadians do as well as Americans on the EPPP.

Myth #8:

The pretest questions are all incomprehensible and are clumped at the beginning of the exam, so candidates should skip ahead for better items that also count.

  • The unscored pretest items are randomly distributed throughout the exam.
  • Trying to pick out and skip pretest items is a bad idea.

ASPPB, along with its Examination Committee, is ultimately responsible for the construction of the EPPP. The Examination Committee Members are appointed by the Board of Directors of ASPPB and are chosen for their outstanding credentials and exceptional achievements in their respective specialties.

Complete listing of ASPPB Exam Committee Members

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