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The Exam to end all Exams

December 7, 2012

Today is the last day of classes for me and my fellow Speechies in the class of 2013. It is an exciting time, but I am also a little anxious. Thinking back, I realized that I have been sitting in a desk listening to my teachers since I was 5 years old, as I went right from high school to university and then into grad school. Going to class has been an almost daily occurrence for the last 18 years that I can’t even imagine not coming back to class next semester! However, even though classes may be done, we still have exams to study for and write before we will be allowed to go off into the world of our external placements.

Finishing our external placements won’t be the end for us however. Though it is not necessarily required to practise, receiving national certification from our national board, The Canadian Association of Speech Language Pathology and Audiology (CASLPA) exam is something that many students write before they start their careers as real life SLPs.

The exam is comprehensive and covers everything that we have learned over the past two years. It is an intimidating concept, that we will have to find room in our brain for everything we have learned and sit one last examination. The CASLPA website has tonnes of information on the exam, including a breakdown of how much of the exam will be on which topic, where you can write the exam, and how to apply to take it. I wanted to get a better idea of just what goes into preparing for and writing the exam, so I contacted a few of last years’ grads to ask them about their experiences.

Question: Why did you chose to write it when you did? What did you do to prepare for it, and what tips/advice would you give to students studying for it? 

Christina Semonick: I chose to write the CASLPA exam in April, as I wasn’t sure where I would be living come the September sitting.  It just seemed less complicated to sit early rather than have to potentially pay a proctor fee.  I knew that I wanted to take the test shortly after finishing the program, I figured the academic portion will never be as fresh.  There is a lot to say for having some clinical experience under your belt though.  You learn so much in your placements and it really did help with the test.

Sarah Anderson: I chose to write the exam in September because I had a very busy practicum, and chose to focus on that. I think there is some benefit to writing the test after you are done all your practicums because I often refered back to my practical expereince while studying. The downfall however, is that I had to study for the exam during my only month off in August (with lots of 30 degree days). Some studying tips: I printed off the CASLPA study tips/outline, and purchased a review book. The book is the study guide for the ASHA exam but it covers the same material (some of the terminology is different, I found some material we didn’t cover in grad school). I followed the sequence of chapters in the review book and matched it with class notes (Tip: KEEP ALL YOUR CLASS NOTES!!) — my goal was one class a day.After reviewing the class notes, I then tested myself with the review book, as it is comprised of multiple choice questions (with very detailed answers in the back!).

How early did you start preparing for it? 

Christina: I would like to think that I started studying about three months ahead, as that was when I ordered study materials. I probably only really studied for a month, an hour or two each evening.

Sarah: I studied for 3 weeks, 1 week full days, and 2 weeks 1/2 days which wasn’t enough time. Looking back, I wish I would have done 4 weeks of studying.

How long did you have to wait for your results?

Christina: CASLPA will tell you at the time of the sitting how long to expect the results to take, about 6-8 weeks.  It sounds long and trust me it felt even longer, but they have a really complicated formula for grading the tests so I can only imagine that it takes forever to grade them.

What advice would you offer to students who will be taking it in their near future? 

Christina: Make good study sheets for each of your classes!  Each class relates to a different portion of the exam, and you don’t want to go through everything again.  CASLPA gives you a break down of the percentage of the test on each area, use that as your study guide, for example child language and phonology was ~40% of the test, whereas AAC was 4%.  I think it is also important to know your weaknesses as well and study more in those areas.  For me, I had not yet had my adult placement, so I made a point to study dysphagia and adult language disorders. The majority of the people who take the test pass first try, and U of A is one of the top scoring schools, so don’t fret, just study!

Sarah: Purchase study guides used! Most people will be wanting to sell them once they are done studying! I think the book that I used goes for $150, and I bought it off someone for $50. Also there is another review book, I think it is more of a summary book, and not MC as the one I used was. I know some of the people who wrote it just used notes, some both books and some just one.

——

As Sarah discussed, there are books and test-prep resources available, although they are for the American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA) exam. However, as Chrissy also points out, nothing beats good old fashioned notes review.

How are you feeling about writing a national examination and how do you plan to prepare? Have you written the exam already and have some helpful tidbits to share? Leave a comment below!

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