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By: Jane E. Shersher, MSW & Founder of Counselors Autonomous
How to Study for Your Social Work License Exam (LSW Exam Prep, LCSW Exam Prep):
The Social Work license exams are very application forward, so your clinical judgment here is the main focus. You still need to know your content, but practicing exam questions and answers is honestly the brunt of the work for preparing for either the LSW or the LCSW exams.
LSW Exam Prep and LCSW Exam Prep
Review both the content and the structure of the stem in each question. Sometimes the way the question is asked is more important that the content that they are asking about, because if you don’t pay attention to the formatting, you might miss what the text is actually asking you. So pay attention to the structure of each question. When I studied, I read each question, answered it, highlighted terms I didn’t know, went directly to the answer, read the justification for the answer even if I got it right in order to learn the content and the thought logic of the exam, and then when I was comfortable with having gone through hundreds and hundreds of questions, I would review all of the highlighted content to remind myself of the actual information that I did not know the first time around. I can’t stress this enough- thinking like the exam is crucial – adopt the logic and the style of the test, know what the questions are actually asking you and anticipate the answer prior to seeking the answer options bellow, and you will be well on your way to passing.
Review the following material:
– diagnostic criteria (Learn DSM 5)
– medications & the categories of disorders they treat
– ethics & principals
– clinical vignettes
– cultural competency
– research principals & ethics
– withdrawal symptoms from addictions
– community interventions
– group work
– crisis intervention
– psychotherapy planning process & types of interventions
– legal responsibilities (this may change from state to state)
– theories and models of Human Growth and Development
Try to study with materials (books, packets, flashcards) or with apps while at the gym, commuting to work, or for 10 minutes in the morning and at night- if you fit studying into your daily routine in small chunks, you are less likely to procrastinate your studying process. I would carve out 3-4 hours each weekend to practice taking the exam and build my stamina, which prepared me for taking the actual exam the day of, where you don’t get breaks or food (unless you get disability accommodations).
Where to find additional exam prep assistance
If you need exam prep materials, additional suggestions, phone numbers of people to call for help (like disability accommodations), etc., I am happy to provide as much information as I can- just write on the Counselors Autonomous closed facebook group’s wall https://www.facebook.com/groups/494660900560106/?ref=br_tf and I will respond. You will have to request membership to the group, as this is a closed group for the privacy of the members, and upon acceptance write for help on the group wall.
Eating and Exercising for Results
Try to eat healthy, get plenty of sleep, drink lots of water (especially the day of the exam), meditate, and get exercise (see my other articles for suggested apps and tips with these) while you study. I would meditate before studying and do 7-15 minute workouts every 45 minutes while studying so that the oxygenated blood flow would help my brain to retain the information that I was trying to learn and remember. I also stretched and did jumping jacks during the exam whenever I took bathroom breaks to keep my blood flowing and my attention span fresh. It’s not just about doing the time, it’s about making it count and being able to retain your efforts. Remember however, the time clock on the day of the exam keeps ticking when you take bathroom breaks. There is a clock showing elapsed time on your exam screen.
Registering for the Social Work License Exam
I suggest registering for the exam, setting a date (you can always reschedule within a couple days of the exam date if you feel you are not ready and need more time), and then starting to study- that whole process may take several months, and it’s worth it to use that deadline as collateral to keep you motivated throughout the studying process. I also can stress enough buying the 30 day access to the practice test once you’ve registered in order to really know what to anticipate the day of the exam- you don’t want to have any unpleasant surprises the day of.
Good luck and let the Counselors Autonomous community know when you pass in order to encourage others in their test-taking journey! If you don’t pass the first time, don’t give up- learn from your mistakes and take the exam again!