called latent image testing that was touted as a method of
evaluating an applicant’s decision-making process during a
practice scenario. It was a paper-and-pencil version of today’s
electronic adaptive testing, which tracks the number of correct
responses and how efficiently people move through a test.
ASPPB abandoned the idea because it was cumbersome and
did not seem to adequately assess the complex decision-making
involved in psychology treatment
scenarios, DeMers says.
ASPPB revisited the concept of
competency testing about eight years
ago, and in 2010, appointed a task
force to review the literature on the
topic. The group started gathering
information from other professions
(such as medicine, nursing and
pharmacy) that were already involved
in skill-based assessments and surveyed
licensed psychologists to determine the
criteria for the skills testing.
The task force suggested that
ASPPB move forward with developing
a skill-based test that would assess
competency in the following areas:
scientific orientation, professional
practice, relational competence,
professionalism, ethical practice and systems thinking.
Who, when and how much?
While there may be advantages to updating the licensing
process, ASPPB recognizes another expensive test may seem
daunting to new graduates. Many new graduates already carry
considerable debt and are paying multiple fees for state boards
where they are applying to practice, Jehu says.
ASPPB’s goal is to keep the cost of Step 2 comparable to
the EPPP, which is about $700, DeMers says. This will be
challenging because the new test will likely use more expensive
technology than Step 1, such as computer-based simulation,
taped scenarios and possibly avatars.
“There will be a lot of upfront costs, but this has to happen
and it’s our job to make it as low-cost as possible,” DeMers says.
In addition to cost concerns, some early career psychologists
question whether it is wise to wait until the conclusion of training
to weed out potentially incompetent psychologists. “If the goal
is to be consistent with other degree programs, then why would
we wait until so much later than medical programs, which test
individuals throughout their training program as a uniform
national standard?” says Samantha Rafie, PhD, an early career
psychologist at Bay Area Pain and Wellness Center in California.
DeMers says that once the EPPP- 2 is available, it may be
possible to begin offering Step 1 before internship. This would
mean the first test could be given immediately following
coursework when knowledge is easier to recall. This could
potentially reduce the need for people to spend money on
expensive test preparation materials, he says.
“Moving the first test earlier could also allow students to use
loan money to help cover the cost of the test,” Jehu says. “There
would also be more peer support when studying for the test if
students are still at school.”
Another question within the psychology community is
who will be required to take the test. Rafie is already licensed,
and she is concerned that she would have to take EPPP- 2 if she
wanted to move outside of California to practice. ASPPB will
recommend that its member jurisdictions not require Step 2 for
previously licensed psychologists with no record of complaints
or discipline, DeMers says. For those who will be seeking a
license after Step 2 is required, ASPPB will recommend to its
member groups that psychologists only take it once to work in
any state or Canadian province.
Before ASPPB will be ready to start offering the test, the
organization needs to develop a blueprint for the exam, train
psychologists to write the questions and conduct beta testing.
They welcome help from psychologists who are interested in
writing questions for the test or beta testing it. People interested
in helping can email ASPPB Chief Operating Officer Carol
Webb at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Although the Step 2 is a costly and time-consuming
endeavor for both ASPPB and graduates of the future, Grus is
optimistic that advantages of updating the testing process will
be felt throughout the psychology community.
“ASPPB has to be responsive to a society that trusts
psychology to be a profession that is populated by individuals
who are well trained,” Grus says. “I think Step 2 will establish
that psychologists are holding themselves accountable and we
value our profession.” n
“I can definitely support the idea that
there is a need to test skills because there
are inconsistencies in training, but I’m
worried that it will be expensive and yet
another hoop that students are going to
have to deal with.”
Christine Jehu, PhD
American Psychological Association of Graduate Students