For many of us, the EPPP is a throwback to the anxiety we felt at school when preparing for standardized tests. But unlike tests in middle school and high school that we might have spent weeks preparing to take, the EPPP is a test we spend years preparing for. For many, this is a recipe for total anxiety.
The problem with anxiety is that it can easily become a vicious cycle: anxiety makes us less able to perform at our optimum, which then becomes grounds for additional anxiety.
This type of anxiety is particularly common when it comes to the EPPP. After all, you’ve completed your doctorate and your internship requirements, but the only thing standing in the way of a successful career is the dreaded licensure exam. No wonder you feel anxiety!
There is another reason why even the phrase “EPPP” has come to be synonymous with test-taking anxiety. The EPPP doesn’t merely test knowledge; it also tests your conceptual ability to think like a psychologist. This is something you can’t prepare for by cramming, or by taking a weekend EPPP workshop. The only way to ace the EPPP is a thoroughmastery of the content. However, this type of mastery is so hard to achieve that many would-be psychologists despair, leading to an increase in test-taking anxiety.
EPPP: THE GOOD NEWS AND THE BAD
For all would-be psychologists who find themselves suffering from test-taking anxiety, we have some good news for you and some bad. The good news is that test-taking anxiety can be overcome. The bad news is that the way to overcome test-taking anxiety is incredibly time consuming and involves embracing the very thing you are anxious about.
In short, if you are suffering from test-taking anxiety, the only solution is to start taking practice tests until you are sick of them.
Practice, practice, practice.
PRACTICE TESTS AS IMMERSION THERAPY
Practice tests help with anxiety for the same reason that immersion therapy is effective when treating patients who suffer from phobias and various anxiety disorders. If you can normalize the object of your fears within a context that is safe and non-threatening, then you have the opportunity gradually to realize that your fears do not need to control you.
On this same principle, if you experience enough non-threatening EPPP practice tests, then when you arrive to take the Real Thing, you’ll be able to think “Oh, this again” and calmly do the very thing you’ve already had so much practice doing.
REPLACE THE VICIOUS CYCLE WITH VIRTUOUS CYCLE
When preparing for the EPPP, there is an additional benefit to taking lots of practice tests. Not only will each additional test help you have less anxiety associated with testing, but as you study each answer you got wrong, you will progressively become more skilled in the material.
This related combination—decreasing in anxiety and increasing in skill—is what lots of practice tests aim to produce. Then, instead of being caught the type of a vicious cycle described earlier, you’ll be in a positive cycle: the additional competence will make your more confident, which will lessen anxiety, and as the anxiety lessens, you will become even more competent to perform well under pressure.