In this timely new offering from the American Academy of Clinical Neuropsychology's (AACN's) popular Oxford Workshop Series, Armstrong, Beebe, Hilsabek, and Kirkwood (2008) provide the reader with a concise, well-written, and practical guide to obtaining board certification through American Board of Professional Psychology/American Board of Clinical Neuropsychology (ABPP/ABCN). The book is the first of its kind to address this specific topic and as such, it meets the increasing demand of neuropsychologists pursuing board certification through ABPP/ABCN (Sweet, 2008). In fact, the author of this review first laid eyes upon the book when it was published in the summer of 2008, quickly realized its relevance when scanning the contents, purchased it within minutes, and used it to successfully prepare for the ABCN oral examination.
One of the reasons why this book works so well is that all the authors have recently been board certified, they have combined specialized training ranging from pediatrics to geriatrics, and all have dedicated much of their time to the online group known as Be Ready for ABPP in Clinical Neuropsychology (BRAIN). Such a background, including their access to behind-the-scenes information, allows them to speak authoritatively on the subject. The authors clearly succeed in using their collective experiences to demystify the process from one of impossibility to attainability (without minimizing the challenges) and from one of opacity to transparency. In so doing, they simultaneously provide concrete and organized strategies to follow so as to avoid unnecessary pitfalls and inefficient strategies.
The book is divided into six chapters, most of which contain information on what is happening behind the scenes at ABPP/ABCN during various stages of the process, expose popular myths and urban legends about board certification, and include tips for supervisors and trainees on how to meet and prepare for ABPP/ABCN requirements. The myth-busting element of the book was accurate and the decision to include information on supervisors and trainees was a wise and appropriate one that enhances the audience for the book.
The first chapter properly extols the virtues of board certification, exposes 12 myths about board certification in neuropsychology, and provides detailed information on numerous organizational resources (i.e., ABCN, ABPP, AACN, and BRAIN). It was gratifying to see that the authors did not shy away from addressing the ever-present “battle of the boards” controversy as this provided the book with an added sense of genuineness.
The second chapter discusses the first formal step in the board certification process, the application and credential review. A helpful step-by-step guide is provided which covers preparatory work, the actual application, the eight key training areas that need to be documented, and guidance on recommendation letters. The third chapter covers the written examination. A history of the examination's development is provided, numerous preparation tips are listed, and a step-by-step study guide documents the five domain areas to focus on. Some may be disappointed that there are no study materials (e.g., practice questions) in the book but the authors appropriately direct the reader to resources where such materials are readily available. I agree with the authors that text-based preparation as a primary study tool is overly cumbersome and inefficient. In addition, their suggested supplemental texts were right on point. I appreciated that the authors did not try to force the reader into one particular preparation approach, allowing for flexibility depending on one's anxiety level.
Chapter four addresses the practice samples and provides insightful information on the criteria used to evaluate one's submitted work. Their advice on picking moderately complex cases is a wise one. Examples of the type of information that should be redacted from the work samples are provided. There is also a helpful sample professional data sheet that can be used as a template.
The penultimate chapter is appropriately the longest of all as it deals with the section of the examination that many find the most challenging – the oral examination. After reading this chapter, the reader will feel well prepared to tackle the three components of the oral examination as each receives comprehensive coverage. The authors help the reader understand what the examiners are evaluating, which increases the reader's familiarity and comfort with the process. The lists of “do's and dont's” are also particularly useful in this regard. As an aside, each of the last three chapters provides information on pass rates. Finally, chapter six addresses how to stay motivated during the boarding process if one finds him/herself in the position of having failed one part of the process.
Future editions of this book will likely emerge as the board certification process evolves over time but there are no glaring omissions that need to be added in future editions. Some stylistic changes may be considered, however. That is, in attempting to be non-intimidating and re-assuring, the authors sometimes add humorous quips in parentheses (which can be distracting) and consistently convey the message that the reader is an excellent neuropsychologist when this will obviously not always be the case. This stylistic aspect can probably be modified to some extent in future editions.
This small critique notwithstanding, Armstrong et al. (2008) have provided the field with a valuable and long-awaited resource that will be used by future board-certified neuropsychologists for many years to come. Speaking from experience, this is a book that definitely lives up to its title.