Avoiding Common Pitfalls: Psychology Orals Segment 2

Dr. Evelyn Jagpat

avoiding pitfalls

In this article we continue to examine common problems encountered by candidates during their Psychology Oral Exam.  In my work with candidates I helped to prepare for the Oral Exam, I found that some very common pitfalls include, not having a positive attitude, being too concise and brief in response to questions and not knowing how to appropriately respond to multiple levels of critical issues.  Let us take a closer look at each of these.

Perhaps one of the most common and deceptively disastrous pitfalls is not having a positive test taking attitude.

Attitude Is Everything

Attitude Is Everything

For some candidates, this may mean the difference between a pass or a fail.  Your test taking attitude not only affects what could be a potentially meaningful and enriching preparation experience but it influences your presentation and response set on exam day.  Not having a positive attitude may contribute to some candidates being defensive during the actual exam.  Others respond with heightened anxiety.  Still others present with what may best be referred to as a shut down or “wooden” presentation style.  All of these are problematic.  They will potentially interfere with your ability to demonstrate your best clinical skills and think clearly.  They will cloud your judgment, contribute to a disconnect with your examiners and potentially impact your ability to thoughtfully respond to exam questions. You may also find it is impossible to relax and get into a rhythm of exploring the case presented.  Perhaps most disturbing, is the potential for you to come across as unempathic and cold.  The way your examiners experience you during your testing situation is how they expect a potential client may experience you as well.  Their interests lie in  appropriately protecting clients.  So does your attitude matter?  Decisively, yes.

In my own personal experience, preparing for Orals was a wonderfully exciting and vibrant time of learning more and developing as a professional.  It was an invaluable opportunity to learn and mature as an individual and a clinician.  I enjoyed the preparation and actually looked forward to it.  I approached each case I studied as an actual individual whose life had value and meaning and whom I deeply valued and respected.


can you tell me moreAnother common difficulty candidates encounter is being too concise and insufficiently brief in their responses.  Basically their response lack and quality.  Often, this may be due to nerves.  It is understandable that nerves may get in the way and contribute to performance anxiety.  One’s thoughts may become muddled and the “right” words may often escape one’s consciousness.  Managing nerves is especially difficult for those who have had limited practice under simulated exam conditions or limited opportunities to get supervision and feedback on cases, integrating content areas of the Oral Exam.  Nothing beats practice!

A lack of in-depth knowledge may also contribute significantly to a candidate not answering questions as thoughtfully as is expected or with insufficient details and integration of relevant information.  Candidates must also be able to effectively communicate how they would work with their clients.  This is why in my coaching sessions, I focus on helping you to develop an answer which demonstrates your true ability and knowledge, with sufficient depth and detail.  Candidates gain experience with integrating critical details and responding appropriately to clinical issues.  I also indicate areas for more study and development.  Candidates frequently underestimate just how much information they need to know and integrate into their responses.  This is where practice and coaching is especially helpful.  An objective opinion, feedback and practice with another offer so much more insight versus working on your own.    bridging the gap




Another major pitfall is not appropriately identifying and responding to different levels of multiple critical issues.  This is an assessment of how well you are able to identify critical or crisis issues and prioritize your attention, focus and response or intervention strategy.  It is also an assessment of your relationship with your client and how well you are able to effectively communicate with your clients in difficult situations.  Further, it also assesses how well you are able to appropriately respond within ethical and legal guidelines and within the customary professional standards of practice.  It not only assess how well you are able to manage the situation but also how well you are able to maintain a relationship with your client and work effectively with your client.  This is an area that I find many of my clients struggle with initially.  However, with help they are often more comfortable, confident and able to respond more appropriately in a crisis or challenging situation.

If you find you are struggling with any of these issues or that you simply need some help and guidance, contact us.  I am always happy to help next generation psychologists.

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