Once you pass the written examination, you will be able to submit your practice samples. If you want to move through the process efficiently and feel like you are likely to have passed the written exam, you might consider pulling the charts on a few good clinical cases while you await the written exam results. Often, the written exam results come out just a few weeks before the deadline for submitting your work samples in preparation for the next oral exam.
- The ABCN website lists upcoming oral exams and the deadlines for work sample submission if you want a shot at a given oral exam date.
- The AACN study guide details the process of work sample review, and provides very important advice on preparing the work sample.
- The ABCN Candidates’ Manual gives the official word on the ABCN process, and even lets you see the exact forms that are used by evaluators so that you know what they are looking for.
- Finally, a chapter is devoted to this step in Armstrong, Beebe, Hilsabeck, and Kirkwood’s Step-by-Step Guide to ABPP/ABCN Certification in Clinical Neuropsychology: How to Become Board Certified Without Sacrificing Your Sanity (note: a portion of the proceeds go to the authors and to the AACN). We’ll provide an overview and some tips here.
Selecting Good Practice Samples (aka “Work Samples”)
For your practice samples, you will submit two cases that are “typical” of your practice, and they must be different types of cases. They will be reviewed by three people and 2 out of 3 must judge your samples as “acceptable.” Be sure to include the following in your work samples:
- referral question;
- current complaints and relevant history;
- relevant findings from other disciplines;
- influence of demographic variables;
- a thorough assessment of important cognitive and psychological domains; and
- conclusions and recommendations.
The cases you submit must be your own work as an independent professional, not as an intern, resident, or fellow. Also, we have heard of work samples being rejected if the report was prepared by a student/trainee under the supervision of the ABCN applicant. It seems safest to pick reports on which only you signed off. If you or your institution has a policy of having psychometrists/technicians or students listed as authors even if their contribution was entirely in the testing (and related behavioral observations), then we suggest including a brief cover letter that explains this and is absolutely clear that YOU (and no one else) did all of the interpretive work for the report.
In picking which cases to submit, we recommend shying away from the exotic, highly complicated, and controversial cases. They may be great for case conferences, but they’re not the best choices for the certification process. Remember that cases deemed “acceptable” at this step are simply considered to be OK to defend at the oral examination. You will have to be ready to defend all aspects of your practice sample in the oral exam, and you may regret submitting highly complicated cases, every nuance of which you must then consider when preparing for the orals. Similarly, you sure don’t want to have to engage in a debate with one of your oral examiners about a controversial issue because you sent in a practice sample that includes controversial diagnoses, procedures, etc.
Generate copies of your report (original with names blacked out or computer-generated with names crossed out or otherwise de-identified), raw data, and summary sheet. It is VERY IMPORTANT that you de-identify your cases completely, including raw data, page headers, and supporting documents by other professionals (when applicable)! Check, double-check, and triple-check to be sure you have not missed anything.
We can not stress strongly enough the importance of having your work samples reviewed by a couple of people prior to submission. Ideally at least one of those folks will be an ABCN examiner or a recent diplomate. If you’re on the BRAIN list-serve, feel free to call on fellow members to help review your work samples (many folks who have completed the process stay involved in the group). The AACN mentorship program, which connects applicants with experienced mentors, may also be a good resource. The AACN mentorship program link is here.
The Mechanics of Submitting Your Practice Samples
Instructions for preparing your practice samples can be found on the ABPP website under Clinical Neuropsychology here.
You must also register for your practice samples to be processed. Instructions for that are found here.
- Of course you will remove or obscure all information that could identify the patient. However, you should also obscure your own identifying information. Amongst other things, that helps prevent reviewers who know you from having to send back the reports due to a conflict of interest (which slows things down).
- Be sure to accompany your report with a test score summary that includes all the tests administered and the type of scores (percentile, T score, etc.) indicated.
- As with all good writing, acronyms should be spelled out someplace.
- Identifying information of the patient and candidate must be obscured from the copies of the raw test data as well.
- Information required for practice samples that does not appear in your report may be provided in an addendum.
- There are specific requirements for an abbreviated CV that must also be included.
All of this info is found in the Instructions linked above.
After You Have Submitted The Practice Samples
Keep in mind that the amount of time it takes for you to hear from ABCN about your cases has nothing to do with whether they will be accepted. Instead, it is a reflection of how well organized your reviewers are and whether any of the reviewers had to disqualify themselves from looking at your cases (e.g., if they happened to have trained you). When a reviewer disqualifies him/herself, the cases have to be returned to the ABPP office and sent out to another reviewer. This is one good reason to remove your identifying information from the cases before you submit them. In other words, don’t just remove the patient’s name and other identifiers–remove yours too. ABCN considers this to be an accepted practice, and it greatly reduces the likelihood of a reviewer disqualifying themselves from your cases.
In our experience, the staff at the ABCN office (734-936-8269) keep track of when cases were received. If your cases were received prior to other submissions but your reviewers were slow to review them, they will hold a spot open for you at the oral exam in the event your cases are accepted.