Effective Study Strategies for Repeat Test-Takers

Approaching the process of studying for the EPPP a second time around can feel daunting. You may be feeling as though you already studied as hard as you possibly could and doubt your ability to do any better. It is easy to feel overwhelmed with the notion of beginning the study process again, but this time around you have some advantages. Take the following scenario as an example:

Have you ever been on a difficult hike or climbed a steep mountain? You likely encountered particular points of difficult terrain or periods of time where you felt fatigued and needed to rest. You may have come across something unexpected such as rain or maybe even equipment you didn’t pack that you could have benefited from. Now let’s assume that you approach that same mountain a second time. You will likely approach it very differently. You know that the terrain gets difficult halfway up and you may remember that you neglected to bring a sufficient supply of water, so you approach the mountain as an expert because you now have experience and insight to use to your advantage.

This mindset can also (and should) be applied towards the EPPP. What did you notice as points of struggle on the exam? Did you find your anxiety was worse than you expected? Did you feel you were unprepared in specific domains? Did you get distracted by hunger, fear of failure, or fatigue? Start there when deciding how to proceed with studying again. Take inventory of how you performed, how you felt, and strategies you used or neglected to use that benefited you or harmed you on the exam. Gather all of this information and integrate it into a new plan. You may find the use of an EPPP coach to be helpful with this step.

Mindset is also incredibly important. One of the key indicators of success in anything you do is your ability to believe that you are capable of succeeding. Self-efficacy, or your ability to believe in yourself, is one of the most important things you can work at to result in a passing score. The opposite of self-efficacy is self-doubt. Unfortunately, self-doubt can be heightened significantly after failing the EPPP and requires a considerable amount of work to challenge. Try to remind yourself that you have already accomplished several years in obtaining an advanced degree, likely sacrificing along the way. You are capable of doing hard things. Say this to yourself daily, post it as a sticky note on your mirror, or use as the screen saver on your phone. Repeat this statement over and over again: you are capable of doing hard things.

After leaving the exam for the first time and taking inventory of the ways that you may need to approach the exam differently, consider how you might enhance your scores. This can be based on the information sheet provided to you in the testing center that gives you a breakdown of how you scored in each category of the exam. Use this as a compass to instruct your study efforts. Did you perform poorly in Biological Bases of Behavior? Consider really focusing on Psychopharmacology and the structures of the brain. Did you struggle with the ethics questions? Consider focusing more extensively on practice tests and viewing the rationales for items that you miss as well as focused review on the APA Ethics Code.

Remember, you are not starting back at the beginning. You already have a base level knowledge for the EPPP. Moving forward, your approach to studying should be more of a focused review to enhance scores in areas in which you performed poorly.

Finally, if you notice that fear of failure and self-doubt are preventing you from moving forward, consider seeking help through a therapist as you prepare to study again. Many find the support of someone who can assist with building self-efficacy to be helpful, so that you can approach the test for the second time feeling as though you are capable and confident.

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