Oral Examination: Description and Procedures

This page contains important descriptive and procedural information about the Oral Examination, which is a requirement for all Applicants for Registered Psychologist Registration.  This information is provided so that Applicants are fully aware, in advance of taking the examination, of a full description of the examination, including the exam objectives, exam format, skill areas assessed, scoring criteria, and the procedures followed for the examination itself including examination outcomes, options on notification of exam performance, typical examination performance, and steps for placement on the Register of the College.


A. Objective of the Examination:  The CPBC Oral Examination is an assessment of the applicant’s knowledge, competence, and readiness to practice, both generally and in the area of practice declared by the applicant.

B. Examination Format:  The oral exam consists of a case vignette describing a client/patient including demographic information, presenting problem(s), and relevant history.  Vignettes are chosen according to the applicant’s declared area of competence and presenting problems and populations typically seen in that general area of psychology practice.  Applicants should prepare themselves according to the 8 skill areas included in the examination, bearing in mind that the examination assesses core competencies required of all psychologists.  It is not a specialty examination.

C. Specific Skill Areas Assessed by the Examination:      

  1. Diagnosis This area assesses the applicant’s ability to utilize relevant data in the case vignette to reach empirically based and theoretically consistent differential diagnoses. This section assesses the applicant’s knowledge of diagnostic nomenclature and criteria in standard systems (e.g., DSM, ICD, Relational) and use of these systems to conceptualize and describe the problem(s) and functioning of the person taking into account the problem context and situation.  The applicant is expected to utilize all information in the case vignette to formulate a diagnosis/es. The College does not endorse any particular diagnostic system.
  2. Assessment and Evaluation This area assesses the applicant’s ability to identify appropriate sources of information (e.g., clinical interviews, observations, formal assessment data including testing, structured histories, genograms, medical records, collateral sources and contexts) to evaluate the client’s/patient’s functioning in a variety of areas including affective, cognitive, and interpersonal.  The applicant must demonstrate ability to integrate information from various sources into a coherent whole and be conversant with differential diagnoses. The applicant must demonstrate understanding of psychometric theory, apply statistical techniques, and explain the meaning of test results for the selected psychometric tests.
  3. Treatment Planning, Implementation, and Outcome Assessment This area tests the applicant’s ability to describe, implement, and evaluate a course of treatment that is consistent with the case formulation, empirically justified, sensitive to the client’s/patient’s needs and values, and designed to resolve the problem(s).  Applicants must demonstrate competence in describing the treatment; provide theoretical and empirical rationales for the treatment choices; and describe an appropriate plan to evaluate treatment results, including functional assessments for monitoring progress, process and outcome of interventions.  Applicants must demonstrate ability to apply quality assurance measurement techniques (e.g., sampling, instrumentation, data collection procedures, client tracking, formative and summative evaluation, program evaluation).
  4. Crisis Evaluation/Treatment/Management This area assesses the applicant’s ability to assess and intervene in a crisis event, with the introduction of a crisis situation into the vignette.  Crises may include danger to self, danger to others, child/spouse/elder abuse, psychotic decompensation, drug/alcohol abuse, etc.  Applicants must demonstrate awareness of personal and professional limitations and know how to refer client/patient to appropriate resources (e.g., hospital, emergency room, psychiatrist).
  5. Human Diversity This area tests the applicant’s knowledge of the range of individual and group diversity and the ability to incorporate the knowledge of diversity into practice.  This concept is introduced by changing the demographic characteristic of the client/patient in the case vignette, such as ethnicity, socio-economic status (SES), sexual orientation, gender, physical and psychological abilities/disabilities, etc.  The applicant is then asked how this change would affect his/her diagnosis and treatment plan.  Applicants must demonstrate adequate knowledge, awareness of professional limitations and need for consultation or referral, lack of stereotyping and bias, and awareness of the importance of differences.
  6. Professional Ethics and Standards This area tests the applicant’s knowledge of professional standards and ethics and the ability to integrate them into professional conduct and practice.  Applicants may be asked to discuss ethics and standards that they perceive to be presented for them to consider.  Applicants must demonstrate clear knowledge of ethics and standards and apply them appropriately.
  7. Legal and Regulatory Mandates This area tests the applicant’s ability to integrate and apply provincial laws and regulations related to professional conduct to professional practice.  Applicants may be asked to discuss legal/regulatory issues that they perceive to be relevant to the case vignette, or particular legal/regulatory issue may be presented for them to consider.  Topics may include confidentiality, record keeping, abuse reporting, etc.
  8. Professional Limitations and Judgement This area tests the applicant’s awareness of areas of professional expertise and limitations as well as assesses professional or personal characteristics or behaviour on the part of the applicant that may interfere with professional performance.  The applicant should be able to demonstrate awareness of his/her personal and professional expertise and limitations. Examiners may assess professional limitations by structured questions regarding applicant limitations and by observing limitations in answers to prior questions in the examination.

D. Selection of Area of Practice for the Examination:  An applicant’s self-declared area of practice must be consistent with the applicant’s training, education, and supervised experience.  Successful completion of an oral exam in a designated area of practice does not indicate specialty recognition by the College. Successful completion of the Oral Examination is a requirement for all applicants seeking registration as a Registered Psychologist.

E. Oral Examiners:  Oral examiners are registrants who have completed oral examiner training by the College and are appointed by the Registration Committee. This training provides examiners with actual copies of the examinations, review of the scoring criteria and process, and a review of conflict of interest and the criteria for recusing oneself from the examination of an Applicant known by the Examiner.  Examiners are provided with the names of potential applicants prior to the examination to ensure that there are no conflicts of interest.  In addition, oral examiners are routinely briefed on changes in governing legislation, significant changes in clinical practice or other parameters that may impact on examination outcome.

F. Scoring Criteria:  Each of the eight skill areas is evaluated using the following five categories, with an “Effective” or “Highly Effective” rating being the minimum required to pass in each of the eight skill areas.

Highly Effective  (Pass) Demonstrates skills that are above minimum competence, demonstrates breadth of knowledge with depth in limited areas.
Effective (Pass) Demonstrates minimal competence for safe practice, can practice independently, has knowledge of core areas of practice, consults if necessary.
Ineffective (Fail) Does not meet minimum standards for independent practice.
Highly Ineffective (Fail) Demonstrates lack of knowledge, makes repeated errors, commits errors of omission that result in active or passive danger to client.


A. Location:  The Oral Examination takes place at the offices of the College of Psychologists of BC in Vancouver.

B. Length of the Examination: The oral examination takes approximately sixty to ninety minutes.  Applicants are requested to stay for a short period after the examination in case there are additional questions from the examining team.

C. Notification of Examination Results: Applicants are notified in writing of the oral examination results within three weeks of the examination.

D. Number of Examination Attempts: The oral examination may be taken up to two times. Some individuals may choose to retake the oral examination in the event of a recommendation for additional supervision/learning or failure.  In the infrequent event that an applicant fails the examination twice the applicant is able to reapply, hopefully, after having undertaken additional training or education.

E. Oral Examination Outcomes:
The oral examiners make one of the following three recommendations to the Registration Committee:

  1. Pass.  Recommendation for placement on the Register as a Registered Psychologist.
  2. Additional learning and/or supervision to remediate identified deficiencies.   If an applicant receives a score of “ineffective” in 1-2 areas, the examiners will recommend that the applicant undergo additional learning or supervision to address specific identified deficit/s.
  3. Fail.  If an applicant receives a rating of “ineffective” in more than 2 areas, the recommendation will be to fail the applicant on the examination.  If the applicant receives a rating of “highly ineffective” in any of the eight areas, the recommendation will also be to fail the applicant.

F. Communication of Oral Examination Results and Options for the Applicant:

  1. Full Passes:  All full passes are communicated to the Registration Committee and the next steps are followed (see below).
  2. Options for the Applicant regarding Recommendation for Remediation:  In the event of a recommendation for additional supervision/learning, the Applicant is informed of this recommendation.  The Applicant is asked to make a decision about accepting the recommendations of the examiners with regard to the identified deficiencies or a preference to retake the examination. In addition, applicants are provided the opportunity to make a written submission to the Registration Committee prior to the Registration Committee’s review and decision regarding the examiners’ recommendation for the Applicant.  If an applicant decides to re-take the examination without making a submission to the Committee, the recommendation will not go before them.
  3. Options for the Applicant in the event of failing the examination: In the event of exam failure, the Applicant is informed of the option to retake the examination.  In addition, applicants are provided the opportunity to make a written submission to the Registration Committee prior to the Registration Committee’s review and decision regarding the examination outcome.  If an applicant decides to re-take the examination without making a submission to the Committee, the recommendation will not go before them.
  4. Option to Re-take the Examination:  Applicants who choose to retake the Examination are provided a new panel of oral examiners and a different examination vignette. Please note that the Registration Committee is not obligated to accept the better of the two outcomes if the second examination produces less favourable results than the first.

G. Typical Examination Outcomes:  Most Applicants receive a full pass on the Examination. This is especially true for Applicants who received their training from accredited programs. The majority of Applicants receiving a recommendation for remediation of identified deficiencies decide to accept the recommendations and complete the additional training/learning.  Recommendations for remediation range from a short period of very targeted learning or supervision to a more extensive period of supervision.  The recommendations are specifically tied to the number of areas failed, the specific deficiencies identified, and the centrality of the deficiencies to the Applicant’s declared area of practice.  Failure of the Examination is not a common occurrence, but almost all of the individuals who have failed the Examination on the first try are successful on their second attempt.

H. Next Steps after Passing the Examination:  If the Registration Committee accepts the applicant for registration, the applicant will be notified of this decision and asked to provide information for the register along with submission of the required fees.  Upon receipt of the requested information and fees, the applicant’s name will then be placed on the Register of the College along with their Registration number and will be sent a Registration Certificate.