Sunday, March 6, 2016

Law & Ethics Exam - So Close!

I’ve been having some unhappy times lately with regard to receiving my California Law & Ethics exam results. 

Image credit Kate McHugh Akbar

To recap – on January 1, 2016 the California Board of Behavioral Sciences restructured their process of licensing clinical social workers.  They created a new exam, Law & Ethics, as step one.  Step two is the nationally-used ASWB clinical exam, but first you have to pass Law & Ethics.  The BBS spent two months reviewing the first round of Law & Ethics exams, statistically analyzing results and assessing pass/fail scores.  I took my exam on February 10 and have been waiting for the results.

This past Friday morning, while out running errands, I got an email that said my Post Office Box has new mail.  BBS just recently announced that they had sent out results, so I felt excited thinking that my mail was my test results.  I drove five miles to get halfway to the post office in a neighboring town before realizing I didn’t have the PO Box key on me.  I turned around, went home, got the key, and drove to the post office. 

Image credit Kate McHugh Akbar

I eagerly open up my post office box to find… junk mail from Chase Bank.  What!  I’ve only gotten junk mail once in my two+ year history of having a PO Box, so this twist felt quite disappointing.  No, Chase, I don’t want to get involved in your pyramid scheme for referring new customers; I wanted to receive my exam results I’d been waiting on for almost a month.  Both my baby (aka my constant companion) and I felt irritated at having spent so much pointless time in the car—but I’ll point out that only the baby cried about it.

(I’ll discuss in another post coming up about 1) why I use a PO box for BBS correspondence, 2) how I get emails telling me when there’s new mail, and 3) the strategy behind having my PO Box in a different town.)

Next day – I was standing in line at a children’s museum with my family to do a meet-and-greet with a dinosaur from a PBS cartoon (#momlife).  I got an email once again saying that my PO Box has mail.  I thought to myself this has to be the exam results—it just isn’t likely that I’m tricked with junk mail two days in a row.

I left my husband and toddler to play at the museum longer while I took the baby and zipped over to post office.  I opened up the box to find it IS results from BBS but… I failed.  By one point.

My toddler mimics everything we say now, so let me just say… shoot.

BBS determined that California social workers taking the Law & Ethics exam need 35 questions correct in order to pass.  I got 34 questions right.  So I was close, but close doesn’t count.

Image credit Kate McHugh Akbar

In order to be authentic for other readers out there who may have failed this or other licensing exams, let me share – this doesn’t feel good!  It feels kind of embarrassing to have failed an exam for your profession.  When sharing the news, I feel the need to add a caveat: I didn’t pass the exam, but I’m ethical, I swear!  It definitely feels frustrating to have this drawn-out process last even longer now, and I’m annoyed to have to pay extra fees to retake it.

But – I know I was close, so with more studying, I’m pretty certain I’ll pass next time.  Since this exam is so new, it was harder than usual for me to prepare for it and know what to expect.  I know I’m in good company – I have other friends and peers who haven’t passed exams the first time around, but they later have been successful. I still believe in all of the advantages to taking the Law & Ethics exam that I wrote about last time.  This test measures how well you can take this specific exam, not your worth as a professional.

If you passed Law & Ethics – congratulations!  If you didn’t pass it this time, feel free to commiserate with me.  Come back and read my future posts about the next steps in the process.  Thanks!


  1. OMG I feel you! I just took the exam today and got a 34/50. Thank you for clarifying that I missed it by 1 point. It is frustrating, knowing i need to wait 3 mos now and pay extra fees. I too have a toddler and 3 other children, so it definitely not easy to study for a test like this. It is a test that measures how you can test not on your knowledge. Because I know I am ethical as well:) Good luck on your journey!

  2. Thank you for commenting!!! Crazy about our similarities :) I haven't heard from a lot of people so it's nice to know I'm in good company of "almost-passed." I wish you the best as well!

  3. I just took the law and ethics exam. I ran out of time, will the questions I answered be counted? This the third time I take it. I understand where you're coming from. I know we can do it! :)

  4. Unfortunately I turned out to be in the same boat this afternoon. I scored 34/50 on my law and ethics MFT exam. I was moving along so well during the beginning and middle of my exam, but as I was getting closer to completing it (11 questions left and 11 minutes to go), i started to panic a little. Also, the testing center had its alarm system go off which gave me even more anxiety. Our exams had to be paused and we had to evacuate out of the building. I had the option afterwards whether I wanted to complete my exam or reschedule. I now wish I rescheduled it. :/

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  6. Hi,

    If there are 75 questions - how does the score 35/50 work? I'm wondering how many we are allowed to miss in order to pass. I'm trying to make sense of 35/50?

    1. The LCSW Law and Ethics examination is comprised of 75 multiple-choice items. The examination may contain up to 25 pretest items. Pre-testing allows performance data to be gathered and evaluated before the items are scoreable on an examination. These pre-test (“experimental”) items will be distributed throughout the examination and WILL NOT be counted for or against the examination score. Pretest items WILL NOT be identified to candidates. (from BBS candidate bulletin)