Many people ask us, “How should I study for the ATCB exam?”
In addition to providing basic information about exam administration and application options, our preparation guide describes the content areas covered by the exam. These content areas are updated every five years using a state-of-the-art “job analysis” procedure that utilizes surveys of practicing art therapists. The purpose of board certification is to warrant professional competence, which is a broader task than assessing the factual knowledge gained in coursework. Thus the exam content naturally overlaps with what graduate art therapy programs teach, but the exam is not, per se, based on course content such as is given in the AATA/EPAB or CAAHEP/ACATE educational requirements. As the guide explains, some of the exam questions do test recall of factual information about art therapy, but most questions are clinical scenarios and other types of questions that call on the exam taker’s ability to apply knowledge and choose the best answer based on sound clinical judgment.
Clinical judgment is not something that can be crammed; therefore, unfortunately, there is no “magic study guide.” Our preparation guide includes a list of books that cover the range and type of knowledge the exam-taker will probably have encountered in graduate study. By including this list, we are not saying that applicants should read all these books as a way of studying. But if you do believe you need to brush up your knowledge base, we recommend that you look over the content areas in the guide, decide where you might have weak points, and choose one or two books from the list that look helpful–or ask a supervisor for recommended reading in that area. You are the best judge of your own starting point and whether it will be helpful to study for the exam by reading and acquiring further knowledge. Our preparation guide will let you see which areas might be challenging for you.
Not every question on the exam is scored (though you will not know which ones are not.) For security purposes, a different version of the exam is given on each date it is administered; in addition, each year, 30 of the 200 questions are completely new. Your performance on these 30 field test items does not affect your exam score; rather, these 30 are new items being developed for possible inclusion in subsequent forms of the ATCBE. Our pass-fail rate is on a par with the rates of similar exams in other professions. So if you’ve heard some awful rumor that our exam is really hard, put that fear to rest! And finally, there’s always another chance: those whose scores fall below passing may retake the ATCBE. Examinees may take the ATCBE up to three times within any 12-month period. (Note that individual states may have restrictions regarding re-testing for licensure applicants.) Be sure to review the Examinations page of the ATCB website for testing dates and application deadlines.
For all other questions related to the ATCBE click here to read An In Depth Look at The Art Therapy Credentials Board Examination.
This article was originally published in the ATCB Review Fall 2011, Volume 18, Issue 3