Friday, June 27, 2014

Diagnosis on the Social Work Licensing Exam (Continued)

(image courtesy of OpenClips)

It can be overwhelming to try to figure out what you should study and how to remember everything that is related to diagnosing. However, you can be prepared. 

Social Work Test Prep recommends paying particular attention to the more common diagnoses such as “depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, PTSD, ADHD, [and] personality disorders.” They also recommend familiarizing yourself with diagnoses that are somewhat similar in certain ways such as schizoaffective disorder versus schizophrenia.

Here is a great link for learning more about all the diagnoses on the DSM-IV:

Even though there won’t be DSM-5 material on the exam until July, 2015, if you are curious about the changes that have been made on the DSM-5, here is a link that provides you with some quick information.


·         Adjustment Disorders: significant difficulty adjusting to a life situation compared to what would normally be expected considering the circumstances.

·         Anxiety Disorders: anxiety symptoms (heart races, tension, breathing more heavily) that occur without any recognizable stimulus or when the stimulus does not fit with the reaction

·         Mood Disorders: inappropriate, exaggerated, or limited range of feelings
o   Disorders in this category include: Bipolar Disorder, Cyclothymic Disorder, Dysthymic Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Diagnosis on the SW Exam

photo by Pawel Loj

Questions about diagnosis could very well be on the social work licensing exam. The immediate response for some people in regards to this topic being covered is “Yikes!” Other people might feel like they have a little better grasp on the subject.

Depending on your social work program, you may or may not have had good training regarding diagnosis. In my case, I had some but I still feel like I need more freshening up on the topic. It helps to consider the work experience that you have had or that you currently have when trying to get more comfortable with diagnosing.

Since I have interned as a therapist for zero to six year olds and am now an employee as a therapist (at a different agency) for mostly children five to seventeen, I am considering the actual real-life examples I have had when trying to “memorize” the diagnoses.

The other tricky part is the fact that the DSM is changing from the DSM-IV to the DSM-5. However, the ASWB website states that there will not be any DSM-5 information tested on the exam until July 2015.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Bite-Sized Pieces

                                                                           Child Eating Watermelon by Petr Kratochvil

Prepping for the social work licensing exam can be an overwhelming task. However, it is totally do-able. I suggest taking it in bite-sized pieces. Every little step you take will bring you a little bit closer to your final goal of being prepared to ace the exam.

Here’s a bite-sized piece of study material:

  • One of the most popular tips that I come across is to answer the questions on the social work licensing exam “by the book” (see the Social Work Test Prep site--link on sidebar) while considering safety as the primary concern.
  • With that being said, a “by the book” answer would definitely consider the Social Work Code of Ethics from the National Association of Social Workers.
The profession of social work is founded on a set of CORE VALUES. These core values are:
  • service
  • social justice
  • dignity and worth of the person
  • importance of human relationships
  • integrity
  • competence.
These six core values are what help to make social work a unique field. Additionally, while taking these values into consideration, the profession of social work looks at the individual in his or her broader context, such as his family, neighborhood, state, country, culture, and other societal influences.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Do some sample tests!

Taking practice exams can be a great way to study. There are links to lots and lots of free practice questions here.  The best programs allow going through questions in either a study mode format or a test mode format. Study mode allows you to see the correct answer immediately after you select your answer. It also provides an explanation of why the correct answer is the right one. I feel I can retain the information better if I understand why an answer is correct.

This type of practice can help you to get your mind centered on the type of questions that will be covered on the exam. Think of it like exercise for the brain….the more you practice (the more you exercise), the more natural it feels and the easier it becomes.

At this point in my study process, I am aiming to familiarize myself with the types of questions on the test, take practice tests, and review study material through flash cards, old material from class, and freshening up on the major theories and “stages” of things (like Piaget, Erikson, Freud, etc.).

Continue to relax, organize, and take this one small step at a time.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Let's Get Studying!

I’ve learned the basics of the social work licensing exam. Now I just need to jump in and get studying.

I am going to start an excel document to list all the topics that I study and also to create a list of the websites that I visit (well, the ones that are particularly helpful anyway). I think this will help me to remain organized. I will also be able to go back to those helpful websites to review material that I don’t really feel comfortable with.

It is going to be key for me to stay organized in my studying endeavors so that I don’t get overwhelmed or overdo it (or under-do it) on any particular topic.

I came across this interesting and seemingly helpful website that offers flashcards to use for studying for the social work licensing exam. The website is: I am going to go through these flashcards more thoroughly. At first glance, it looks like a great tool. These flashcards also offer helpful supplements to the flashcards, such as by giving you the option to memorize the flashcards, test yourself on the material, and even play games based on the flashcards.

Good luck on your studies

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

What should I be studying?

My next step (and probably your next step, too, if you are at the beginning stages of studying like I am) is to figure out exactly what to study and how to study it. I have learned about what the Social Work Licensing Exam is and how to register to take it (although I haven’t registered yet). Now, I need to figure out what is on the test, what to study, and where to find study materials.

According to the Candidate Handbook, there are four different types of Social Work Licensing Exams (bachelors, masters, advanced generalist, and clinical). First, you need to know which type of exam you need to take. In my case, I need to take the Clinical exam.

The clinical exam covers the following categories:
Human Development, Diversity, and Behavior in the Environment
  • Assessment, Diagnosis, and Treatment Planning
  • Psychotherapy, Clinical Interventions, and Case Management
  • Professional Ethics and Values
To learn more about the categories on the clinical or any other exam go to You can find out the sub-topics in each category and the percentage of how often that category is found on the test.

You will likely notice that you have taken courses related to many of the sub-categories and main categories. You will also find that any internships or work experience that you have had will help you in understanding the topics covered.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

What is the Social Work Licensing Exam?

My last post addressed the need to manage our anxieties regarding taking the social work licensing exam. Now that we are able to relax a bit more, the next phase of studying is to figure out what this test is all about. I have done some exploring to find out what the exam actually entails.

(image courtesy of Alberto G. via flickr)

Here are the basics:

  • The exam is given by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB). Click here for their website. 

  • The test contains 170 multiple choice questions. Only 150 of these actually count. The other 20 are questions they are testing out to see if they want to use them for future exams.

  • You are allotted four hours to complete the test. I just did the math and that gives you about a minute and a half (1.41 minutes) to complete each question.

  • The ASWB Candidate Handbook (available at states that the exam costs $230 or $260 depending on the type of exam. 

  • You have to receive an ASWB Authorization to Test letter in the mail that lets you know that you are able to register to take the exam. 

  • To set up a date to take the test, register online.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Overcoming Test Anxiety

Taking any test can present a position in which test anxiety sneaks its way in. Test anxiety is being worried about how you will perform on a test. In a way, if you look at this test anxiety from a positive stand point, test anxiety is telling you that you need to do well, which is probably true, but even if you don't, it's not the end of the world. So, use your test anxiety to the extent that it is helpful to you (such as to motivate you to study, to motivate you to pay attention to areas that you feel less knowledgeable in, etc.). However, let go of your test anxiety when it is no longer serving a useful or positive purpose.

Test anxiety can affect a person basically any time before a test up until the actual time they are taking the test. So, if you are just beginning to study, or you’re in the midst of studying, or if you are soon to be taking your social work licensing exam, use the benefits of test anxiety then let it go. I know it’s easier said than done, but with practice and commitment, it can be done.

(image courtesy of blizniak of pixabay)