The power of self-talk in exam prep

Kristie Overstreet Ph.D., LPCC, LMHC, LPC, CST

You already know how powerful self-talk is because you encourage your clients to utilize this technique. If you haven’t used self-talk as a technique to help you prepare for your exam, then you are missing out on a great tool. Your ability to use affirmations to increase your confidence in your test-taking ability can be just as powerful as the knowledge you have for the exam. Here are a few tips on harnessing the power of self-talk.

Choose 1-2 affirmations that you can easily remember

Whether it’s your favorite quote or a motivational sentence choose a few that are easy to remember. Make this affirmation a part of your daily life by saying it out load several times a day.

Write down the affirmation as a visual reminder

Your brain is full of important exam material so utilize the power of written word by writing down your favorite affirmation. Place it on your computer screen, mirror, or on the dashboard of your car. Let this affirmation ground you and be a constant reminder that you will make it through your exam.

Schedule alerts in your phone

You have every other part of your life scheduled so why not include a daily reminder of your affirmation. This will help you develop the habit of remembering to practice positive self-talk.

Record your affirmations as an audio reminder

Everyone learns differently either through visual, auditory or hands-on experience. Try using the voice memo on your phone to record your favorite affirmations. This will help when you start to feel anxious, all you have to do is play the recording, and you have an instant reminder. Listening to this recording on your way to the exam will also keep it fresh in your memory.

Studying the relevant material is only half the battle of acing your exam. Don’t let your negative self-talk or lack of confidence keep you from doing your best. If self-talk is powerful for your clients, then it can be just as amazing for you. Remember to keep your head up, identify your affirmations, and start practicing them daily.

Why Everyone Studying for the EPPP Should Practice Anxiety Relief Strategies

Why Everyone Studying for the EPPP Should Practice Anxiety Relief Strategies

While studying for the EPPP, staying healthy is vital to your success on the exam let alone your overall wellbeing. Chronic stress and anxiety can negatively affect your health by “causing symptoms from headaches, high blood pressure, and chest pain to heart palpitations, skin rashes, and loss of sleep” per the Association of Depression and Anxiety of America (ADAA).

Because caffeine is on the rise, sleep quality decreases, and stress increases during EPPP prep, those preparing for the EPPP are more susceptible to anxiety even if they do not already consider themselves anxious.

In short, anxiety is a mental health state which generally causes fear, worry, or tension. It has several triggers, per healthline.com, which are likely familiar to you if you’re studying for the EPPP.

 Anxiety triggers

  • Stress

Stress, per the ADAA, “is a response to a threat in a situation. Anxiety is a reaction to the stress.” This is one anxiety trigger you’re likely experiencing in your EPPP preparation, especially if your test date is approaching.

  • Caffeine

When preparing for an important exam, such as the EPPP, it’s common to drink an extra cup of coffee or two for those early morning and late night study sessions. While caffeine is okay in moderation, it can lead to anxiety.

  • Skipping Meals

When you’re caught up in studying, it can be easy to pack study snacks and forget the meals that keep you energized and healthy. Skipping meals can make you more susceptible to anxiety.

So, how do you know if you’re experiencing anxiety?

Symptoms

 Keep an eye out for these symptoms per healthline.org:

  • Nervousness or tension
  • Feelings of dread or panic
  • Rapid breathing and heart rate
  • Increased sweating
  • Twitching muscles
  • Lethargy
  • Difficulty concentration on something other than what you’re worried about
  • Sleeplessness

If you experience any of the above symptoms, there is a way to manage the anxiety you might be experiencing.

How to manage

 Per the ADAA  you can manage anxiety in the following ways:

  • Take a break. Step away from your EPPP studies and allow your brain to rest by practicing relaxation techniques, mediating, taking a bath, or exercising.
  • Stay healthy. The trifecta to maintain good health is eating well-balanced meals, exercising, and sleeping adequately each night.
  • Limit your alcohol and caffeine intake.
  • When you feel panic, take deep breaths. It can even help to count slowly to ten and repeat as needed.
  • Laughter is indeed a great medicine. It releases endorphins and can ease pain.
  • Stay positive. Replacing negative thoughts with positive ones can literally detoxify your brain. 
  • Ask for help. Tell your close friends and family how you’re feeling and let them know how they can help you. If your anxiety is persistent, seek professional help.

Ultimately, preparing for the EPPP can be an anxiety trigger for some. Therefore, it’s important to know how you might be triggered, what the symptoms are, and how to manage.

Further Reading

Caffeine, Alcohol and Insomnia on the Rise During EPPP Exam Prep 

Brain Food: Holiday Treats to Boost Your EPPP Success

The Do’s and Don’ts of the EPPP Study Break

Use Gratitude to Detoxify Your Brain

EPPP Anxiety Part 1: Anxiety and Your Brain

 

 

 

Boost Memory Brain Fitness

Boost Your Ability to Memorize EPPP Material

You’ve probably heard the phrase “the mind is the first to go.” It’s not a false statement, but it isn’t completely true either. Over time, memory and retention can decrease if we do not maintain brain fitness just like our muscle tone will decrease if we do not continue exercising. So, it is true that your ability to memorize can dwindle with age. But it is also true that there is something you can do about it. Brain fitness will help you memorize EPPP material and keep you sharp as you age.

Brain fitness is multifaceted. It consists of maintaining a healthy lifestyle through exercise and healthy eating habits as well as actively exercising your brain. Boost your ability to memorize EPPP material and keep your brain sharp through the years in five practical ways.

  1. Brain work-outs

Check out “10 Real-World Brain Exercises That Actually Work.”  They include testing your retention, learning something new, and stimulating multiple senses at once. These exercises can sharpen your memory and ultimately help you study effectively for the EPPP.

  1. Health

Maintain a healthy lifestyle by exercising, sleeping adequately each night, and eating healthy. Exercise increases oxygen flow to the brain and stimulates neuronal connections, therefore increasing your rate of retention. Sleeping enough  each night gives your brain the chance to store new information and be alert the next day. While certain foods are especially good for your brain, maintaining a healthy and balanced diet keeps your body and brain working optimally.

  1. Socialization

We, as human beings, have a need for connection with other people. Per Helpguide.org

“Relationships stimulate our brains—in fact, interacting with others may be the best kind of brain exercise.” So, go hang out with friends or volunteer for an organization that means something to you. Whatever you do, avoid isolation especially in the EPPP study process.

  1. Stress management

Stress is the enemy of brain fitness. Knowing how your body reacts to stress, and what triggers stress for you, will help you manage it. Learn the stress relief strategies that work best for you and practice them often during EPPP prep.

  1. Addressing health concerns

Don’t ignore your body when it is telling you that something is off. Are you overtired even after a long night’s sleep? Are you experiencing a constant pain? Whatever it may be, don’t let it go unsolved. Not only will solving the problem relieve you of the stress it causes, but a healthy body supports a healthy brain.

References:

How to Improve Your Memory: Tips and Exercises to Sharpen Your Mind and Boost Brainpower. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/healthy-living/how-to-improve-your-memory.htm

Melone, L. (2015, April 16). 10 Brain Exercises That Boost Memory. Retrieved from https://www.everydayhealth.com/longevity/mental-fitness/brain-exercises-for-memory.aspx

Further Reading

Effective Communication

Happy June, loyal readers! Not only is June the month that it really starts to feel like summer, but June is also Effective Communication Month [1]. In order to start off the month right, I thought we could explore a little more as to why effective communication is so important in a field like ours.

First, let us talk about what communication really is. According to one publication out of Columbia University, communication is a task which requires at least two active participants [2] (unless we’re caught talking to ourselves, but that’s something different entirely). In the use of spoken language as our primary form of communication, we have been able to harness an incredible amount of information that can be transferred in an infinite number of unique ways [2].

Because we have just so many different combinations of words that can mean so many different things, communication can get tricky. Not only do we have an incredible vocabulary with which to play, we also have an ever-increasing list of ways to implement this communication—face to face, phone call, text messages, emails, social media, and the list goes on. Nevertheless, as psychological professionals, it is necessary that we have a handle on our own communication styles and any idiosyncrasies that may exist.

Where can communication go wrong?

Well, there are two major phases to communication: when the message is “encoded” and when it is “interpreted”. The first of these issues we’re going to hit on is when something isn’t “encoded” properly. Encoding is just a fancy way to say that you’re putting your abstract thoughts into a more concrete form—words. There are several different ways that things can be verbally (and nonverbally) encoded [4]. For example, let us say you were having a spectacular day. You could verbally encode this by telling your best friend “wow, I just had a great day today!” or “everything just went my way today!”. It could be nonverbally encoded through your body language, such as a big smile. Think about how you might encode messages in your daily life—you are hungry, so you suggest to your coworker that you all go out to grab a bite to eat; you don’t like someone that you went out on a first date with, so you tell them that it simply is not working out.

Since this is the first major phase, this is also the first major phase where communication can go wrong. The way that you put a message into words or nonverbal cues could be incorrect. For instance, simply selecting the wrong word by mistake can drastically change the meaning of your message. Even mispronouncing a word can muddle the message that you are trying to send.

The second major phase of communication is interpretation [4]. This comes when the receiver of your message takes the information that you encoded with words and works out their own meaning behind the message [4]. Continuing the first example that was provided above, when your best friend hears the words “wow, I just had a really great day today!”, they’re most likely going to understand that “Lizzy feels as though she had a good day today”. From there, the receiver or interpreter can attach other meanings that they are able to glean from your message, such as “Lizzy is in a good mood” or “something exciting must have happened at work today”. This process is the second half of all encoding processes, so you can understand how this might help us to draw other conclusions about the person with whom we are engaged.

Naturally, this phase of communication can create confusion as well. The interpreter is using the information that they already know about the speaker and the information being sent through body language and verbal language to reassemble the message that the speaker is trying to send. This message is then assigned meaning and the interpreter can draw conclusions from there. These meanings and conclusions that we assign to the partner in communication may or may not be correct. It is important to take each of these assumptions with a grain of salt, as the encoder of these messages might not be trying to communicate those deeper meanings that we are assigning.

Communication in a helping profession

According to one psychologist, helping professions are based almost entirely off our ability to communicate [4]. T. L. Thompson describes our ability to communicate with our clients and our patients as an “invisible helping hand” [5]. At this point in our careers, I’m sure you have already noticed your powers of persuasion and your ability to get your point across. Kottler suggested that some of these innate qualities may have subconsciously drove us into these professions [4]. On the contrary, it is possible that through our rigorous training we have developed these skills.

Whatever the case may be, it stands that we have these skills, and we need to be able to utilize them to the best of our ability in order to be successful with our patients. Kottler details why it is so important for us to have good communication skills—it is necessary not only to set a good model for our clients, but also to be able to employ our treatment strategies. Most (if not all) psychological approaches are based around communication and the use of words. One study found that most frequently in therapeutic dyads, the professional was the one at fault for the issues in communication [5]. With the blame for communication difficulties falling more frequently on the professional, it should only serve to further our desire to become better communicators for the sake of our clients.

What can we do?

As you can start to see, having a conversation or sending an email involves much more than just words.  Now that we know a little more about the actual message and how it can get misinterpreted, we can hopefully better address ways in which our communication can be improved.

Psychology Today published an article delineating three major, yet simple, methods that can be used to improve communication [6]. The first suggestion was to “be consistent” [6]. Being able to have messages that make sense together is extremely important for communicating not only with our clients but also with our peers and advisors. If we are talking in circles, or flipping back and forth between one thing and another, we are simply going to confuse our interpreter. Especially when working with clients, it is important to keep your message consistent. No one wants a therapist who can’t decide for themselves what should be done.

The second point to be an effective communicator was to keep the message clear [6]. In order to be taken seriously by our advisors, preceptors, professors, etc. we do not need to impress them with our word-of-the-day calendar. Rather, it is better that we should be straightforward and as understandable as possible when presenting an issue or any other message. With our clients as well keeping our message short and to the point is essential. They are not there to be impressed with our way with words. Instead, they are in our office to get the information they need and to gain insight on difficult life issues. They need our help, not our vocabulary.

Finally, Psychology Today suggested that being courteous in our words is the final step to improving our communication. Remember how easy it was for a message to be misinterpreted either through a simple issue in encoding or an issue with interpretation? It would be extremely easy for a client who is already depressed to interpret your lower affect one day as an insult or confirmation that you do not like them. Being sure that your demeanor is warm, and your message is positive and well-mannered is crucial [6].

With whom should I focus my communication skills?

So, to whom do we apply these fancy new communication techniques? Well, as a budding psychological professional, there are a few people who should be prioritized fairly high on that list.

Naturally, your clients should be the highest on this list. In the helping professions [5], such as our own, communication is often the key intervention strategy for our clients. Making sure that we are encoding our messages a bit more carefully, and that we are leaving little room for error in interpretation, as well as employing the “Three Cs” described above can help establish healthy communication[6] . Feeling as if the therapy room is an open place and is safe for sharing and communicating can help the client open up a bit more to you.

Communication between you as a student and your professors is vital [7]. In a teacher-learner dyad, being able to communicate is of utmost importance. Letting the professor know if what they are trying to teach is getting through can help the professor learn how to better convey the information. It can also help you as the student to btter gather the information that the professor is trying to pass along. Having open communication between professors also helps to build trusting relationships which can help you out later. Being able to rely on older professionals for guidance and for references can help you out as you progress through your career.

In the same vein, it is also important to have a solid communication with your internship directors, preceptors, or other training personnel [7]. In a workplace scenario, where you are still learning, perhaps courteousness is the most important of the “Three Cs” that were described above [6]. Being able to communicate your needs, while still remaining knowledgeable and conveying respect to those in authority is important [6].

Being able to keep in touch with your peers and cohort is also critical. Being able to build these connections that you will have for the rest of your professional career can only serve to benefit you. Opening up communication within your peers and cohort helps to create a solids support network of others going through similar situations and struggles as you. That can help you to find support or discuss coping methods that have worked for you and that have worked for others. Besides a support network, open communication within your peer group can help in your professional career when you are looking for referral sources, or when you need someone to whom you can refer out. Having these peers available as consults, referrals, and just good friends is all hinged on good communication.

Finally, keeping in touch with your friends and family (especially while you’re going through graduate school) is necessary. Even though it may feel as though you are drowning maintaining all these new professional relationships with clear and concise communication, it is important not to neglect your personal relationships. As one of my advisors frequently reminds me, just because you’re going through graduate school doesn’t mean that everyone else is. Make time to see your friends and family and make sure that they are receiving the message that you care about them and that they are a priority. You want to make sure that at the end of your time in graduate school, you have someone to celebrate with.

References

  1. Communications, V. (2014). June is Effective Communications Month. Retrieved from https://news.vanderbilt.edu/2014/06/05/june-effective-communications-month/
  2. Krauss, R. M. (2002). The psychology of verbal communication. International Encyclopaedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences. London: Elsevier, 16161-16165.
  3. Davis, M. H., & Johnsrude, I. S. (2003). Hierarchical processing in spoken language comprehension. Journal of Neuroscience23(8), 3423-3431.
  4. Kottler, J. (2017). On being a therapist. Oxford University Press.
  5. Thompson, T. L. (1984). The invisible helping hand: The role of communication in the health and social service professions. Communication Quarterly32(2), 148-163.
  6. Bourg Carter, S. (2013). The 3 C’s of Effective Communication. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/high-octane-women/201304/the-3-cs-effective-communication
  7. Skillful Communication in the Workplace – Smart Psychology. (2015). Retrieved from http://www.smartpsychology.ie/skillful-communication-in-the-workplace/

Why Teaching EPPP Prep Will Help You Pass  

If you answer “no” to any of the following questions, you should be teaching EPPP exam prep:

  1. Do you want to study effectively?
  2. Are you bored of the way you are currently studying?
  3. Are you an expert at your EPPP material?

The truth is, you don’t have to be an expert at EPPP preparation material to teach it. In fact, teaching is an effective way of learning even when you’re not the best at the subject yourself.

Here are three reasons why teaching should be a part of your EPPP prep.

  1. Teach to learn

When you know that you’ll be teaching information later, you are going to take in the information more carefully therefore increasing your retention of it. Then, when you do teach it, speaking and processing through the information out loud helps you understand the areas you are struggling. If you teach the information to a fellow exam candidate, perhaps both of you can help each other fill in your gaps of understanding.

Do you lack a study partner or someone to teach? Teaching is still effective if you don’t have an audience. Repeating things out loud in a way intended for teaching helps you process and learn the information in a different and effective way.

  1. Teach to shake things up

Exam preparation can get monotonous. Having a study schedule  with intentional break periods is vital. Even so, studying the same way every day can leave you bored and burned out. Increase your memory and retention by studying differently. Teaching what you learned in your last study session will help you see the material differently, making it stick; and making it a bit more interesting. Furthermore, you can feel less alone in the process of EPPP prep if you teach to a study partner.

  1. Teach to become an expert

You don’t have to be an expert on the material to teach it. In fact, teaching what you know can help you become an expert. “There’s always someone who doesn’t know as much as you”, as said by Belle Beth Cooper on “Life Hacker” website.

By teaching others who don’t know as much as you, you be seen as someone who knows a lot about what you’re teaching. Not only does teaching help you learn the material, it helps you gain credibility about the material as well.

Ultimately, whether you teach to an empty room, create lesson plans for yourself to do in future study sessions, or teach a study partner, teaching is an effective EPPP study strategy.

Further Reading

The Dynamics of the EPPP

Viewing the EPPP in the right light to take the exam properly.

The EPPP (read: “E-triple-P”). The dreaded EPPP. I know I have made my best efforts to ignore it. Even so, it still looms in my future. And, dear readers, I assume it looms in your future as well. However, the Examination for the Professional Practice of Psychology does not need to be such a terrifying concept for us.

What is the EPPP, again?

The unknown is almost always scary, right? So to help alleviate some of the mystery behind the exam, lets delve into what the EPPP is exactly, and who needs to take the exam. This exam is geared for doctoral level psychology students is governed by the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB) [4]. At the time that this blog is being written the EPPP is a one-part exam that is to be taken over 4 ½ hours [1]. This exam includes 225 questions [1], of which only 175 are scored [2]. When the director of the ASPPB was asked about the test, she described it as “essentially everything you learned in graduate school” [6]. These questions cover a total of 8 domains in which we, as psychology graduates, are expected to be fluent [3]:

  • biological bases of behavior
  • cognitive affective bases of behavior
  • social and multicultural bases of behavior
  • growth and life-span development
  • assessment and diagnosis
  • treatment/intervention, prevention, and supervision
  • research methods/statistics
  • ethical, legal and professional issues

The EPPP is currently a one-part exam. However, there is a second part being developed at this time—and it is intended to be launched in January of 2020 [4, 5]. So, for those of you who will not be taking the exam for a couple years—heads up. The current form of the exam is intended to assess the basic and foundational skills necessary for early career psychology professionals to thrive on their own [5]. The second part of the exam is intended to examine the more practical skills needed to be a competent psychological professional [5]. It is anticipated that the EPPP Part 2 will assess the following areas [5].

  • Scientific orientation
  • Assessment and intervention
  • Relational competence
  • Professionalism
  • Ethical practices
  • Collaboration & consultation
  • Supervisory practices

For a more detailed description of the EPPP, see our previous blog post “What is the EPPP?”

That’s not intimidating at all.

Now that we have a basic understanding of the EPPP, why don’t we dive into some tips to better view the EPPP:

Having a thorough and solid knowledge of psychology.

Ok, this one seems like a no-brainer. But still, many people are surprised about the breadth of information that needs to be mastered (or re-mastered) in order to be successful on this exam. Sources show that the information being covered in the exam covers practical things learned in experiences as recent as your internship to (seemingly ancient historical) concepts covered in some introductory undergraduate psychology courses [1].

Naturally, we all have those courses that we excelled at, and those classes that were a little more challenging. It is important to identify early on in your study process what you already know well and what could use a little more work [6]. Look through some study materials and practice exams in order to figure out what you know best and what needs to have the most of your attention. We’ll talk a little more about prioritization later in this post.

Develop solid study habits.

Another idea that might seem obvious, but nevertheless needs to be said. There are some unique aspects to studying for this exam. It is recommended that you start studying between 4-6 months before the exam [7]! Of course, this is no the absolute correct amount of time for everyone to study—there have been accounts of people studying for as much as a year prior to sitting for the exam and as little as just two weeks before the big day [1].  Although there isn’t an absolute when it comes to how much to study, too much is almost always better than too little when it comes to studying for the EPPP.

Scheduling Study Time

I encourage you to set a schedule of studying for yourself and stick to it. Too often when it comes to studying, procrastination is able to sneak in and rear its ugly head. I know I’m guilty. Fear not! Because in this situation, knowing this about yourself can be quite helpful. Of my acquaintances and friends who have taken the EPPP, most who have been successful have started slowly and escalated their studying as the test date approached.  Most told me that if they had studied the information months in advance, they feared they would forget it before the test arrived.

Get a Study Buddy

Reach out to people in your cohort! Meet people in Facebook/social media-based support groups (might I suggest the search terms: “EPPP support”) [8]! Try for people in your professional organizations! Ask your friends, family, and loved ones! What about online forums, like The Student Doctor? Even if you feel like you typically study better alone, it might serve you to have someone with whom to go through this [1]. Isolation only serves to further the anxiety that you will inevitably have over this exam.

Find an accountability partner, even if they’re not going to be sitting for the exam. This was something that I used quite frequently in undergraduate. Find someone who will harass you or at least gently ask you whether or not you have been following through on your study goals. Because I am such a procrastinator, I needed someone who I would feel guilty telling that I put off studying or that I fell behind “because I had plenty of time”. If you think this might work for you, I highly encourage it!

Prioritize Topics

Like I mentioned above—one of the major keys to this exam is knowing what you don’t know [6]. Once you know what you don’t know, you’ll know what your weak points will be on the exam. Taking a practice exam to really illuminate those points may help [8]. Focus a majority of your time on the topics that you are less familiar with, or ones that you weren’t able to complete successfully on the practice exam.

That doesn’t mean to entirely ignore the concepts that you did well on. Make sure to keep those in your study routine as well. It is important to ensure that you don’t just replace the information that you had under your belt at one time with other information. Also, keeping information in the mix that you already have mastered has been shown to be reinforcing (thank you, behaviorists), and therefore keep your study sessions a little less dreadful.

It is also important to do research on the topics and percentages of the EPP that they will occupy [7]. Try to prioritize items that fit into categories that will take up the largest portion of the EPPP [7].

Use Professional and Commercial Study Tools.

Seriously. This one isn’t just a plug for our own study tools. Professional organizations that are dedicated to helping students pass licensure exams often have the inside track on what is going to be relevant to this year’s particular EPPP [8].

As a current graduate student, I am fully aware of the budget we have. I know that the study materials can seem like just another excess expense. In order to save money, ask your friends and colleagues if they have any old EPPP study materials that they might be willing to hand down [8]. However, it is important to remember that the EPPP is updated every year, and it is possible that materials that you buy from colleagues or marketplaces may be out of date by the time you get them [7]. At least when it comes to practice exams, I would recommend using the most current edition available [8, 9]. Just to get your feet wet, here are a couple of links to some *free* resources that AATBS offers:

Overall, it is important to remember that there really is no definite answer to how, with whom, or how long to study. You know yourself best. And give yourself a little credit—you’ve made it this far in your educational career, trust what’s worked for you.

Having Good Test-Taking Skills

I know you’ve studied. I know you’ve memorized everything there is to know from personality disorders to practical applications of theory. Nevertheless, your intelligence and competence won’t be demonstrated on the exam without a good strategy for taking the test [10].

Have a methodology to approaching the exam questions. You’re an aspiring scientist as well as clinician, right? Plus, I’m sure you remember those research and scientific methodology courses. This is just an extension of your scientific approach. Having a solid strategy will help you make the most out of the information that you studied and make sure that it is reflected well on the exam [10]. It is a timed test, but that doesn’t mean that you should try to answer everything as quickly as you can [10]. With some break time factored in to the 4 ½ hour time allotted for the exam, you will have about 55 seconds per question [10]—so take your time! Taking your time on the questions will actually help you save time, as you won’t need to go back and re-read questions in order to get what the question is asking you [10].  

I know you’ve heard this before, and I know that it is printed on the exam itself, but it is extremely important that you read the questions on the EPPP carefully [10]. Many of the questions are written trickily. Several questions involve difficult language or double negatives, intended to trip up people who aren’t paying attention [10]. This goes back to what I was just saying—take your time and make sure you really understand the question.

Go with your gut [10]. Studies and statistics show that 80% of the time, the first choice that you make on the exam is the correct answer [10]. I know that it is tempting but try not to second guess yourself. Remember all that studying you did? Trust yourself—you were right the first time.

And of course, if you really don’t know, just take a guess! That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, on this exam it’s in your best interest to guess! [10]. On the EPPP, you only get awarded points for correctly answering questions; you are not deducted points or penalized for getting an answer wrong [10].  Making educated guesses at questions when you are not certain of the answer is an important test-taking skill on the EPPP.

Educated guessing is not random. The first step in doing so is eliminating answers that you know are wrong. On the EPPP, you will be presented with four possible answers to questions [10]. The more answers that you are able eliminate, the more likely you are to get the correct answer. Another important tenet of educated guessing is identifying and utilizing contextual clues [10]. Being able to pick out any particular theories or psychologists that are being noted in the question may help direct you to the correct answer [10].

Time Management Skills

So, we’ve talked about study skills and test-taking skills, but one of the most important skill sets you can have is time management (both for the EPPP and aside from that). Naturally, with graduate school and all the responsibilities that you need to juggle for it, I’m sure that you have developed some excellent time management skills. Even still, you need to develop a special set of skills for this exam.

First, as I mentioned before, you are in charge of your own 4 ½ hours to take the test [1]. That means that you can take it as slowly or as quickly as you would like. You can spend as much or as little time on each question as you would like. You are permitted to take breaks when (or if) you would like.

Since you know yourself best, it is recommended that you develop good stopping points for yourself during the study process. Since I recommend taking as many practice exams as you can get your hands on, over time in those practice exams, you will start to notice where the natural breaks are for yourself. I encourage you to take what you need to help keep your mind on track. Still, I want you to be mindful that this is still a timed exam, and therefore you will need to keep the countdown in the forefront of your mind.

AATBS has already developed a suggested time table for taking the EPPP—feel free to check it out. According to this schedule, you have about 55 seconds per question. To me, just because it is expressed in seconds, it sounds like an extremely short time. However, really think about how long a minute is… pretty long, right? Plenty of time to slowly read the question and think about what it is really asking you. Often times, we end up getting stressed out and rushing through questions faster than we need to. Remember, part of managing our own time is knowing how much time should be devoted to a particular question. If you know it right away, great! More time for the rest. If not, no worries! Take your time, read slowly, and utilize some of those great test taking skills we talked about earlier.

Secondly, developing a time schedule for studying is also imperative for success on the EPPP [1]. As I mentioned previously in the study habits portion, if you are like most graduate students (myself included), procrastination is your forte. In order to combat this to the best of our ability, experts have recommended that you set up a realistic study schedule for yourself and make every effort to keep it—notice that “realistic” is emphasized here. Anyone can make a study schedule, but if you’re not even close to on track with it, what good is it doing you? Being able to anticipate some of the daily life struggles and still plan around them with time to study is going to be a key to your success at this exam.

Stress Management Skills

Finally, learning how to manage your stress for this exam is also important. What good are you going to be come test time if you’re so stressed out you can’t even remember your name? With all this planning going on, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.

One major strategy that I suggest to combat this anxiety is getting connected. Like I mentioned before under “get a study buddy.” Reach out to people over Facebook, over the internet, in your cohort, in study groups, etc. Anywhere where you can get some support and somewhere to vent—take it! You’re going to need some outlet from all this stress.

Another excellent strategy is having a routine—and sticking to it! If you already have a pretty set routine, try to work your study time into that routine. Don’t upset your whole life just for the exam. Sure, it’s going to be a major piece of your vocational career, but it isn’t something that should make you hate everything else leading up to it.

Do you work out regularly? Do not give that up! Exercise has been shown to be a great stress reliever. And some studies have actually shown that keeping a regular exercise routine in place can help you do better on exams.

No matter what it is, find something that can help you escape the stress of this exam. It’s a major stressor in your life, and for many is the last major obstacle before you get licensed and embark in the world of psychology on your own! Anything that can help you escape that pressure will be a welcome relief—trust me!

Here’s a bonus tip:

Calm down. It’s going to be fine.

More than 80% of students who prepare and take the exam pass on their first attempt—so the odds are in your favor [1]. Even if you do not pass on the first go, it’s not the end of the world. It is simply a licensure exam, this doesn’t say anything about your intelligence or who you are as a person.

You’re a graduate student. You’ve taken a million exams before. You’ve made it this far. What’s one more? You know what works for you and you know what doesn’t. Now, get out there and crush it!

 

 

The Number One Secret to Passing the EPPP

The Number One Secret to Passing the EPPP

Are you studying for the EPPP again after yet another failed attempt? Or perhaps you’ve failed your practice exams time and time again. Are you ready to start succeeding?

The short solution to being successful is this: quit cutting corners.

It’s time to take an honest look at your current study strategy and perhaps trade it in for something better. Although success does not come without sacrifice, it will be worth it when you receive that passing score.

First, assess your current studying situation by answering the following questions.

  • Do I want to pass the EPPP?
  • Have I failed the EPPP at least one time?
  • Do I often skim through study material rather than read the whole thing?
  • Do I feel like I don’t know where to begin with studying for the EPPP?

If you answered yes to one or more of the above questions, take these next three steps.

1. Start a study program

If you’re not currently enrolled in a professional study program, look no further. There is a reason TSM candidates have a 96% first time pass rate. Our program is customized to assess where you’re at, what your timeline is, and how you learn best.

Email us at contact@taylorstudymethod.com or give us a call at 877-510-5445.

2. Stick to your study schedule

At TSM, we take what we know about your timeline, your initial assessment, and learning style to deliver you an efficient and effective study schedule with 1-hour study sessions. The schedule is unique to you, so it will be easier to stick to.

3. Seek support

Whether this means you find a study partner or join a study group, it is important to have the support of people in the same boat as you. They will be there to encourage you, hold you accountable, and help you understand concepts and vice versa – two brains are better than one! Furthermore, TSM offers coaching sessions to objectively look at where you are and how to improve.

Ultimately, a passing EPPP score is yours – you just have to come get it!

Increase Emotional Intelligence and Decrease EPPP Stress

Emotional Intelligence can decrease the stress of the EPPP.

Emotional Intelligence, or EQ, is the ability to effectively express, understand, and manage your own feelings. It also includes the ability to successfully engage and navigate the feelings of others. Because EQ is the ability to manage feelings, those who have a high EQ are better able to manage stress; an important quality when it comes to preparing for the EPPP.

Unlike a person’s Intelligence Quotient, or IQ, EQ can be improved. A person’s IQ does not drastically change over time. Approximately 90% of high performing employees have a high EQ whereas 80% of low performing employees have a low EQ. Conclusively, EQ can be a determining factor of success. Furthermore, the higher your EQ, the less overcome by stress you are.

Ultimately, EQ is an important part of effectively studying for the EPPP. Here are 3 ways to increase your EQ and subsequently decrease stress during the EPPP preparation process.

  1. Reduce Negative emotions

One way to increase your EQ is to increase positive emotions and reduce negative ones. This can be done through gratitude. Expressing gratitude literally detoxifies your brain and over time can drastically reduce stress and increase your emotional intelligence. Gratitude also has many health benefits such as decreasing anxiety and depression and improving sleep.

A practical way to express gratitude while you prepare for the EPPP is to put a positive mantra in your study space. Think of an encouraging phrase that grabs you, write it down, and pin it where you can see it whenever you are studying.

  1. Express your emotions when necessary

Per Dr. Travis Bradburry, co-author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0 emotionally intelligent people have four main skills:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-management
  • Social awareness
  • Relationship management

To increase your EQ, learn to appropriately express your emotions by first understanding what emotions you are experiencing and then expressing them in a safe environment with someone you trust. Practice appropriately expressing your emotions when you are stressed and overwhelmed with studying for the EPPP.

  1. Be proactive

When it comes to adversity, be proactive instead of reactive. For example, if someone upsets you, be proactive about your response to them. Take a deep breath and respond calmly instead of reacting out of being upset.

When it comes to studying for the EPPP, be proactive about stress. Don’t let your study schedule happen to you, create one before all the study materials and practice tests pile up with little time to learn anything.  Procrastination, though, is not always the only thing that will cause stress. Studying for the EPPP in general can be a stressor. Therefore, expect the stress and be proactive about how you will manage it when it happens.

Resources

Ni, P., M.S.B.A. (2014, October 5). How to Increase Your Emotional Intelligence ― 6 Essentials. Retrieved May 22, 2018, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/communication-success/201410/how-increase-your-emotional-intelligence-6-essentials

Further Reading

The advantages and disadvantages of being a well-rounded student

The advantages and disadvantages of being a well-rounded student

Being a “well-rounded” student comes with a certain list of connotations.  I’m sure we can all think of someone from a class of ours who was involved in 13 clubs, 6 volunteer opportunities per week, fluent in 2 other languages, and could play the piano so well it put Beethoven to shame. Maybe I’m exaggerating a bit here, but nevertheless you get the point. There has always been a pressure placed on students to achieve high grades as well as demonstrate that they are more than just a one-trick pony. There seems to be an immense pressure on students who want to get accepted to colleges or graduate programs to “have a finger in every pie”—to be involved to some degree in everything.

However, the tides seem to be turning. There is not as much of a unilateral pressure to become “well-rounded”. According to some recent articles being published, there are some cons being discussed along with the pros.

So, why don’t we delve into the discussion:

CON:

The student can end up spread too thin [2]

            It’s easy to see. Look around your high school or your college campus. Look in the mirror. When a person is trying to do as many things as possible, it follows that some ball will be dropped, a deadline will be missed, information will be misconstrued. Rather than focusing on studying to understand the material, perhaps the student will only be seeking rote memorization so that they can have an extra hour for that volunteer opportunity. Maybe this person is slacking in their leadership role on campus in order to study more that one class. The list of pushes and pulls is infinite.

Please don’t interpret this the wrong way, my dear overworked and overtired students. You are all incredible people for taking on your education and your future in such a direct way. When these slip-ups happen, I’m not trying to assign blame. Instead, I want to use this as a way to explain how it extra-curriculars and the drive to become well-rounded has taken over as a cultural phenomenon. Being pulled in so many directions simply is not sustainable, yet we’re told that it is an absolute requirement to success.

PRO:

It shows time management and other professional skills [1]

            This point seems to flow from the previous. If a person really can have all those lines on their CV by the time they’re applying to college or graduate studies, they must have impeccable time management skills [2]. Being able to successfully juggle the stress of classes, internships, volunteering, and whatever else may be on your plate is very indicative of success at the next level [1].

Practice developing social and professional skills is also a major “pro”. [10]. Research has shown that when a person is confined to a single, relatively stable group of people they are—on average—less successful than those who have an ever-changing and diverse network of people [10]. We can gather that people who take on more extra-curricular activities would likely have a larger network of people, and that these networks would be changing more frequently. Based on data collected by Forbes [11], these students may be more successful in the long run.

In addition, a peroson being able to handle so many different tasks also shows that they must have a way to balance out all the demands of their daily life as well as the demands imposed on them by their extra-curriculars.  Ideally, that person has also found a way to decompress and take a little time for self-care in order to avoid burnout (but that’s a whole other blog post).  These are all invaluable skills that are necessary to move up to the next level, whatever that may be.

 CON:

It no longer sets the student apart from the rest [5]

            “In a world where everyone is super… no one will be” [7]. Although the quote comes from a children’s movie (The Incredibles, to be exact), it still holds merit. This line comes when the villain is revealing his plans to sell inventions to the world which will allow everyone to become super. He means that by letting everyone become special, they will no longer be unique, and therefore no longer special.

This notion can apply to the concept of extra-curriculars as well. When we are building our resumes, what makes us different, unique, special… super? We can think that having so many lines on our CV makes us different, but there will always be someone who has that extra opportunity on their list [5]. Chances are, when you are applying for the highly coveted place at your school of choice, there will be a stack of applications with just as many individuals who are just as “well-rounded” as you are [5]. Simply taking on tasks because you think it will make you better than the next person is not a real passion, and it definitely should not be the reason that you pick up French lessons in the afternoons.

 PRO:

A range of experiences can help prepare a student for a range of challenges in the future [3].

I’m sure you’ve heard that phrase before: “experience is the best teacher”. Having students participate in several different activities comes with the good intention of allowing students a background (however brief) in multiple areas. It also allows them the opportunity to attempt to bridge the different learning experiences. For example, a student taking a leadership seminar may be able to apply some of the concepts that they have learned to a soccer team they play on—even though they are not the captain. You have the opportunity to take skills and concepts learned in one area of your life and apply them to different scenarios and settings. Problem solving with skills learned from a vast background has been shown to be one of the most effective approaches [9; 11].

This seems to agree with the concept of a liberal arts education. I feel it necessary to disclose a bit of bias here. As the product of a liberal arts education, I cannot be more in favor of the liberal arts system. I wholeheartedly agree with the goals of creating lifelong learners who have a broad background to approach problems from an interdisciplinary stance.

That being said, the research seems to agree that liberal arts has a positive effect on student’s overall outcomes at the time of graduation [9]. This research has the potential to be generalized to a liberal arts approach to extra-curricular activities. These experiences have the potential to encourage a variety of lived experiences, foster interactions with peers and instructors, and create a broad perspective from which the student can draw. As we learned earlier, having broad experiential background [9] and network of support [11] from which to draw has been shown to help students in their future endeavors.

CON:

The system seems slanted toward people with more resources [4]

It’s no secret that families that can afford to help their kids with the financial burden of college open a range of non-paid opportunities that might not be an option for students in lower income brackets [4]. In an anecdotal example, one student came to his admissions counselor feeling as though he would not be a candidate for a “good school” simply because he did not have the time to volunteer as much as the others in his graduating class [4]. Because he came from a lower SES, he was required to have a part-time job outside of his classes. The fact that he had a job precluded him from participating in a laundry list of extra-curriculars and resume-builders because of the time constraints [4]. He was under the impression that it is mandatory to have an extensive list of experiences by the time one graduates high school. However, his dedication to his job and skills that he acquired while working all proved to be marketable skills in the college hunt [4].

One article found that this generation is volunteering only about a third of the time that its older counterparts did [8]. While there are several reasons why this could be, the most prominent one seemed to be employment [8]. There are many young people and students who need to have gainful employment just to stay afloat. If colleges and universities are requiring so many unpaid hours, it would seem to slant towards those who can afford to have experiences for which they are not paid.

It would seem that there are too many positives to entirely throw out the idea of becoming a well-rounded individual, but there are also too many negatives to leave the system entirely as-is. So, what can we use to moderate these experiences?

Passion is the key.

Allowing your passion to shine through is the most important thing in any situation, interview, or experience. It is important to remember that these interviewers have seen a myriad of other students who have a staggering resume. They can tell when someone is more interested in how they portray themselves rather than having a genuine passion for something.

One article suggested that instead of being “well-rounded”, we should strive to be more “well-angled”. Rather than being taken in a bunch of different directions, students should instead allow their focus to guide our extra-curricular choices. Rather than having a piece of you being pulled in every direction imaginable, try to focus your extra-curricular involvement.

It is important that the point here does not get lost in translation—I’m not saying that all extra curriculars are evil. Much to the contrary; extra-curriculars have become a sort of currency, rather than a way to more deeply explore one’s passions. Having extra lines on your CV is an excellent thing, as long as your passion doesn’t become getting the longest CV possible. As one of my graduate-school advisors has frequently reminded me, it’s all about weaving together a story about how you arrived at their office. All of these experiences and opportunities have helped to build you into the individual that you are now and have helped to fuel your passion.

 

Suggested Further Reading:

What the Best College Students D  by Ken Bain

CITATION: Bain, K. (2012). What the best college students do. Harvard University Press.

References

  1. Gutierrez, L. (2018). What makes a student well-rounded?. Retrieved from https://ohsmagnet.com/6504/news/what-makes-a-student-well-rounded/
  2. Gladwell, M. (2008). Outliers: The story of success. Hachette UK.
  3. Parsons, D. (2018). 3 Proven Steps to Make Sure Your Student’s Application Stands Out – Student-Tutor Blog. Retrieved from http://student-tutor.com/blog/how-your-student-will-stand-out/
  4. Block, L. (2016). Why Colleges Don’t Want “Well-Rounded” Students. Retrieved from http://time.com/money/4444681/colleges-well-rounded-students/
  5. Well-Rounded College Applicants | Ivy Coach College Admissions Blog. (2015). Retrieved from https://www.ivycoach.com/the-ivy-coach-blog/college-admissions/well-rounded-college-applicants/
  6. Macan, T. H., Shahani, C., Dipboye, R. L., & Phillips, A. P. (1990). College students’ time management: Correlations with academic performance and stress. Journal of educational psychology82(4), 760.
  7. Walker, J. (Producer), & Bird, B. (Director). (2004). The Incredibles [Motion picture]. United States: Walt Disney Pictures & Pixar Animation Studios.
  8. Rudgard, O. (2017). Volunteer organisations face recruitment crisis as young people can’t afford to give up time for free. Retrieved from https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/03/16/volunteer-organisations-face-recruitment-crisis-young-people/
  9. Seifert, T. A., Goodman, K. M., Lindsay, N., Jorgensen, J. D., Wolniak, G. C., Pascarella, E. T., & Blaich, C. (2008). The effects of liberal arts experiences on liberal arts outcomes. Research In Higher Education49(2), 107-125.
  10. Adler, L. (2017). The Single Best Predictor of Job Success. Retrieved from https://www.inc.com/lou-adler/single-best-pred ictor-of-job-success.html
  11. Simmons, M. (2015). The No. 1 Predictor Of Career Success According To Network Science. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelsimmons/2015/01/15/this-is-the-1-predictor-of-career-success-according-to-network-science/#2267ca9fe829

Caffeine, Alcohol and Insomnia on the Rise During EPPP Exam Prep

Caffeine, Alcohol and Insomnia on the Rise During EPPP Exam Prep  

Are you sacrificing sleep for an extra hour of EPPP exam prep? Are you drinking more cups of coffee than normal? Do your weekends consist of more glasses of wine than when you drank when you were not studying for the EPPP?

A recent study published in the Public Library of Science (PLoS) shows that legal drug use, such as alcohol and caffeine, as well as sleep deprivation and insomnia, are on the rise during exam preparation. Alcohol and caffeine negatively affect sleep quality as is, but added exam preparation stress creates the perfect storm for poor sleep quality.

And poor sleep quality, or not getting enough sleep in general, can be dangerous. According to an article by Reader’s Digest,  sleep deprivation can impact us in the following ways:

  • A loss of 2-3 hours of sleep in a typical 8-hour night can result in performing similarly to if you had consumed 2-3 beers.
  • Your risk of fatality is increased if driving while sleep deprived
  • A lack of sleep can contribute to a lack in motivation and a lack of willpower

Not only can poor sleep quality and lack of sleep be fatal, but it is detrimental to your quality of studying. Ultimately, staying up that extra hour to study could be doing more harm than good.

The study published by PLoS obtained data of student’s consumption of alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine. They used the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) to measure sleep quality in 150 university students before and after an exam period.

They found that poor sleep quality during exam periods and was directly correlated with lower academic performance. Alcohol and caffeine consumption increased during exam periods as well, which have a more indirect affected sleep quality but affect it nonetheless. Stress was the best predictor of poor sleep quality and decreased time in bed which led to an increase in sleep onset latency and daytime drowsiness.

So, before you stay up past your bed time for the sake of that extra hour of studying, think of what you are truly risking: quality studying. Instead of cutting into much needed rest, create a study schedule that allows for an adequate night’s sleep and appropriate breaks during your study sessions. Do not wait until you are mentally exhausted to take a break. Schedule both short, 5-10 minute, and long, 20-30 minute, breaks and take them when you have set aside the time.

Furthermore, keep your breaks productive. Getting outside and moving your body will rejuvenate the brain. Incorporate activities that requires less mental energy and are absent of digital distractions. Perhaps go on a walk, juggle the soccer ball, or even take a relaxing bath.

 

References

Zunhammer, M., Eichhammer, P., & Busch, V. (2014, Oct. 3). “Sleep Quality during Exam Stress: The Role of Alcohol, Caffeine and Nicotine.” Public Library of Science, 9(10). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4184882/

Weinhouse, B. Reader’s Digest. “America’s Sleep Crisis Is Making Us Sick, Fat, and Stupid. But There’s Hope.” Retrieved from https://www.rd.com/health/conditions/america-sleep-crisis/

 

Further Reading