Can you get onto the doctorate if you're bad at stats?

Discuss applications to the clearing house (and to courses that are not in the clearing house system), screening assessments, interviews, reserve lists, places, etc. here
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Can you get onto the doctorate if you're bad at stats?

Post by Hibah97 » Sat Mar 07, 2020 11:27 pm

I personally very much prefer qualitative research and really struggle with stats (can manage SPSS with some YouTube guides) and am wondering if this means I'm less likely to get onto the course, especially if they happen to ask stats questions at interviews... Any thoughts?

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Re: Can you get onto the doctorate if you're bad at stats?

Post by ukstern » Sun Mar 08, 2020 10:13 am


I have only made my first application to the course this year so there will be other people who can give you a more definitive answer, however you will be expected to have a graduate level knowledge of statistics. I don't see any way to avoid this. The Leeds Clearing House website provides comprehensive information on each course as I imagine they vary somewhat, however most appear to include an academic/research element in the interview process. So I expect you might be asked about stats in relation to your undergraduate dissertation or a previous role as you will require this knowledge to study at doctorate level. And it's important to remember that it's not just about getting through an interview; you will be on this course for three years and stats, I imagine, will feature heavily. The good news is that I don't think someone can simply be 'bad' at something. It's true that we all have our strengths and weaknesses, and you might not have a natural aptitude for stats, but it is something that can be learned and studied and improved. I came out of my undergraduate degree thinking I was pretty rubbish at stats but I did a MSc last year and got a distinction, including a distinction for the stats module, and this was simply down to starting at the beginning, reading around the subject and making sure I understood the terminology. There are loads of really good textbooks out there, and online courses to improve your SPSS skills if you feel this is necessary. So don't give up, but be prepared to put the work in to improve your skills in the subject. It will pay off in the end. Good luck!

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Re: Can you get onto the doctorate if you're bad at stats?

Post by Spatch » Sun Mar 08, 2020 12:25 pm

Beyond the above point about getting through the research component of the course, I would be thinking more about how will your longer term career pan out.

Unless you want to end your career on a Band 7 therapy focussed role (in which case you would be far better off training as an IAPT CBT therapist), it will be hard for anyone who is resistant to research methods and stats to take on the duties of evaluation, audit and service development that are often the part of a Band8+. When the psychologist in the team is most often the go-to person for interpreting clinical data and stats, and how will you be able to take on that role? How will you be able to make effective decisions around implementing intervention approaches, what training to invest in for your team, or advising on how strong an evidence base is?

Even if you don't want to make quantitative anlaysis a big part of what you do, you will still need the fundamentals in order to maintain some credibility among your peers.
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Re: Can you get onto the doctorate if you're bad at stats?

Post by maven » Sun Mar 08, 2020 3:08 pm

We are scientist practitioners, not therapists. You need to be able to do the science part, including the research evaluation element in order to get onto training, pass a doctoral level research component to training and progress in your career. Whilst some of these can involve qualitative elements, I don't think it is possible to get by without stats - and I wouldn't want it to be.

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Re: Can you get onto the doctorate if you're bad at stats?

Post by lingua_franca » Sun Mar 08, 2020 9:46 pm

When I see misleading stats in the tabloid press and well-meaning people taking them on board without question I really wish statistical literacy was embedded in the school curriculum. It's important. A lot of the prejudice and misguided panic that people feel over all sorts of things would be significantly reduced if they had a grasp of stats. Rather than seeing this as a hurdle to jump, try seeing it as a good skill to grasp. It may take more work than other components of your degree, but it's really worth investing time in this, whether you become a CP or not.

If it's any comfort, maths was my weakest subject at school, but with time and practice I've become quite confident and comfortable with stats. I've even taught quantitative methods to MSc students. I suspect that a lot of people lack confidence with stats because they're carrying memories of schoolday maths, but this is like saying you hate Italian food when all you've tried is pizza.
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Re: Can you get onto the doctorate if you're bad at stats?

Post by Psypsy347 » Mon Mar 09, 2020 7:36 am

I agree with the above replies, that it is necessary to become competent at stats to complete the doctorate and to fulfil the research requirements of the role.

However if you're asking if it is possible to get on the doctorate when you are at a stage where you don't feel you are confident and competent at statistics currently, personally I think it probably is! I think a lot of applicants will be in the same boat. Just realistically considering that this is an area of the undergraduate courses a lot of people struggle with, particularly if they haven't studied a lot of maths or science before.

I don't know what the interview process for all courses involve but I imagine some will not probe your statistics knowledge too much or at all. Of course if you got an interview though it would be best to try to revise this anyway! As others have said there are some really good introductory textbooks which explain stats in plain English.

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Re: Can you get onto the doctorate if you're bad at stats?

Post by Randomswirls » Mon Mar 09, 2020 9:15 am

I agree with psypsy that when I got onto training I wasn’t great at stats and as I’m doing qualitative research I’m still not brilliant at them. I haven’t logged on to SPSS since 2006 so that would have been my last adventure in doing them!

However, being on the doctorate I have learnt how to examine research and think about what makes a good study! So I would say a knowledge of stats is important it doesn’t need to be in depth of how to carry out x text without referencing a book and more importantly than that it is something you learn as you go along training!

That said at interview you are likely to be asked some research questions and so no knowledge is likely to be a hindrance rather than a help!

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