Sunday, December 2, 2018

Last Tips!

Prior blog post has more detailed information about how I studied to pass the ASWB LCSW exam.

Stepping back, I took a bigger picture approach to studying.  I realized that I didn’t need to get too caught up in knowing all the content in the clinical social work world.  The majority of the test is NOT recall, so you don’t have to know everything about every topic.  Most questions are scenarios and you need to correctly answer what you would do FIRST or what would be your NEXT step.

Here’s how I practiced answering those types of questions:
  • Rule out answers that are considered breaking confidentiality
  • Is the answer I chose respecting client’s self determination?
  • Am I meeting the client’s immediate needs, including ensuring their safety?
  • Remember – WHO is your client?
  • Avoid client abandonment
  • One of the first things you need to do is empathize and acknowledge the client’s feelings
    • After paying attention to the client’s feelings, you also might need to assess or clarify more about the situation, possibly refer, and sometimes provide education.

I also figured out a couple of test strategies that worked for me.
  1.  I read the last sentence first
  2. Then I read the second to last sentence
  3. Then I skimmed the whole paragraph
  4. Last, I fully read the whole paragraph (and also noted keywords)

I found that this method helped me hone in immediately on what the question was asking – the question always found in the last sentence of the paragraph.

When there was a question that I was not sure of, I marked it.  Especially if I thought a question was taking too long, I marked it and came back to it later. 

Whenever I picked an answer that I was not 100% sure on, I told myself “That’s probably an unscored question” and moved on.

Years and years ago, before moving to California, I passed the ASWB LMSW in Illinois pretty easily without studying very much.  Then my confidence was shot by failing the Law & Ethics exam of the LCSW back in 2016.  It was buoyed by passing the Law & Ethics the second time, but I was still worried about failing again, so I took extra efforts to psych myself up.  I journaled about all the work I did to study, reflected on some of the reasons why it didn’t matter right now if I failed, and made detailed plans for night before and day of strategy to feel planful and confident.

I also made plans for how I would celebrate in hope that I would be able to put the plan into action.  Thankfully, I finished the exam and saw that I had passed, I was able to implement my celebration plan as a new LCSW!

Saturday, December 1, 2018

How I Studied for the ASWB LCSW exam

Although time running out was a motivating factor for taking both the California Law & Ethics exam and the ASWB LCSW exam, I went about the experiences differently.  After failing the Law & Ethics by one point the first time, I knew I couldn’t do a rush job and be ill prepared for the ASWB exam.  I knew I had to study harder and study better.

It’s hard for many people to find time to study for the LCSW exams, because we’re often working and/or also caring for family members.  In my case I was working part-time and being the primary caregiver for our two young sons.  The older one was in a part-time afternoon preschool and I started to worry that the younger one was going to drop his nap – so I definitely started to make purposeful plans to study during that chunk of time when they were occupied at preschool or napping.

As the exam got to be about a month away, I also had designated study time at home on certain Saturdays, while my husband had solo time with our two sons.  I made sure to have noise-canceling headphones so I could focus and wouldn’t be distracted by noise if they were home.

I again utilized the Social Work Test Prep practice exams.  I knew I would not really study if studying meant reading chapters and articles from somewhere.  I thought practice exams would work better for me—and I was right.

Since learning my lesson about how I improperly studied for the Law & Ethics CA exam using practice exams before, I used the Social Work Test Prep practice exam really differently this time. I utilized the SWTP practice test questions rationales.

The rationales are important. The rationales provide reasons why these three options are wrong, a reason why this one option is correct, and further information on the topic. 

I combed through my own notes and the SWTP rationales from the general practice tests.  While doing so I wrote down by hand the details, definitions, and concepts that I didn’t 100% know.  Then I went through and I typed these up.  I found that the process of doing this twice – once by hand and once typing – helped really get the concept into my brain.  I printed out the typed concepts and reviewed my document several times while studying.

In addition to taking the SWTP practice exams and really utilizing the rationales this time around, I also printed out certain documents (for example, names and categories of medication) and hung them up in the bathroom so I would look at it as I brushed my teeth.  I did the same thing with DSM diagnoses that are frequently confused with each other.

Come back tomorrow for a few more tips and my last blog post on the experience!

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Four Steps to Passing the Social Work Exam

You can pass the social work licensing exam. It's just a matter of time, effort, and a little bit of luck. Thousands pass the exam each year. There's no reason you can't join them.

Here are four steps to take to get there with confidence:

  • Face forward. Exam prep is going to eat up some of what used to be free time or time spent on other activities. For a while, you'll have to set aside some things in order to focus and get where you're going: social work licensure.  
  • Prepare. Getting ready for the exam looks different for different people. For most, practice tests are the best way to assess your skills, build your test-taking know-how, and deepen your knowledge of exam content all at once. Some like to supplement with study groups, reading, audio, etc. Whatever path you choose, the challenge is straightforward: there's material to learn, there's a big test to take. 
  • Keep cool. Anxiety can get in the way of good test-taking, no matter how well-prepared you are. As part of your preparation, read up on evidence-based practice for reducing anxiety...and put it to use. Of course you're going to be amped up on exam day. The goal is to put those nerves to use--to help focus, not overwhelm you. You know what works for you. Do more of it!
  • Visualize success. What's it going to be like when you pass the exam? Who will you tell? How do you hope they'll react? What reward will you treat yourself to once the exam-taking process is don? Picture it. 

All that's left to do:  Go in...and pass that exam. 

Congratulations in advance!

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Background of My ASWB Exam Experience

I passed the Law & Ethics exam in November of 2016.  It felt great!  

Then I waited to hear from the BBS giving me permission to register for the ASWB Clinical exam.  Holidays passed and went into the New Year. I waited more.  Still nothing.  I tried to just register on the Pearson VUE (test exam site) and couldn’t.  I wasn’t in a big rush – my part-time job didn’t require me to become an LCSW, and I was still spending a lot of time occupied with my two small boys. 

Finally by April 2017 I decided to call the BBS and inquire why I hadn’t yet received permission to register for the Clinical exam.  Even though people say it’s difficult to have the phone picked up by a real live person, somehow it worked out for me on the first try. 

BBS said they didn’t have any specific reason for the holdup, but said that they would now mail me the permission to register and take next steps.

My PO Box is supposed to notify me via email when I get a new piece of mail.  I never got an email, but did get around to visiting the PO Box in June of 2017, and the letter was there.

I had always assumed that I would have to take the LCSW exam by November 2017, since that was a year’s expiration after passing the prior exam.  However, when I opened up the envelope, I saw that the BBS granted me an eligibility that expired in April 2018!

To my best guess, this is because they only officially served me the notification of my exam eligibility in April of 2017.  I reflected – did I want to procrastinate this process all the way out until April 2017?

NO.  I wanted to be done already.

Similar to the year before, the summer and the start of a new year in preschool for my older son was extra busy and chaotic, but in October I began to feel like there was an opportunity to get it done.

Not only was there a natural lull in life in mid-fall, but I began to feel a crunch of running out of time to study during naptime, as my youngest son approached two.  I was planning to study on the few afternoons a week when my older son was in part-time preschool and my younger son napped.  However, I remembered that my older son began to drop his nap shortly after he turned two. If I needed time during the day to study, naptime was when it happened, and naptime possibly was soon going to be gone.  I kicked studying into gear.

Yes, by the way.  The maternity leave’s ending for my second son which rushed me to take the law and ethics exam… that’s the same son who was about to stop napping, so I rushed to take the clinical exam. That is either an indicator of how long and drawn out I made this process for myself or an indicator of how quickly these children grow up.  Maybe both.

Fear is a great motivator.  Fear of losing the chance for naptime studying motivated me hard.  I started studying, and I’ll share more about how I studied in the next post.  While in early stages of studying, I also looked into the logistics of scheduling the exam.

Tip- after you receive your eligibility, log on to Pearson’s site just to begin to gauge the availability of test slots.  I remember there being several different days and times to select for the Law & Ethics (which is at the PSI exam center), so I thought it would be the same for the LCSW at a Pearson center.  Wrong.

Perhaps a complicating factor in my situation was that the ASWB was going to be changing the format of the Clinical exam slightly starting on January 1, 2018, so maybe extra people were rushing to take (or re-take) the exam in the format in which they were most familiar.

Between my local Pearson test center and the one about 20 miles away … there were only three or four testing times, total, open for the next four months!  This was unexpected and unwelcome news.

I ultimately registered for an exam date in January 2018. However, once a day for a week I kept logging back in to see if any other earlier dates opened up.  I began to see other dates becoming available that were earlier but wouldn’t work with my schedule. My best guess is that people register for a certain date, but because there is no fee to change the exam day as long as you do it within a certain time frame ahead of the exam, you can change it.  People postpone their time slots if they’re not feeling ready, and then those exam times become available for anyone else. 

One day while checking I saw an exam time open in late November at my very local and convenient Pearson VUE center.  I booked it.  It was official!  I was going to be taking (and hopefully passing) the ASWB clinical exam!

Did I pass that?  Spoiler alert, yes.  Next post, learn how!

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

How I Passed the LCSW California Law & Ethics Exam

Step 1. Study casually
Step 2. Take the exam
Step 3. Fail by one point
Step 4. Figure out how to do it differently the second time
Step 5. Pass!

After that long wait to get the results in the postal mail and learning that I failed by one point, I took a break for a while.  The experience was frustrating and I wanted to take some time to rejuvenate.

Then, I started again.  I studied differently.  I studied MORE.  I reviewed the NASW Code of Ethics much more thoroughly.  I went through both my Law & Ethics notes from the NASW courses I took, as well as my own personal notes of topics I remembered from my first exam.

Notably, I used the Social Work Test Prep Law & Ethics practice exam really differently this time.  I still used the Law & Ethics practice exam, but now I actually also utilized the SWTP practice test questions rationales. (Hello.  Please do this in your first round of studying.  Don’t be like me.)

The rationales are important and really do help you learn.  I would get one question right in the practice test and I gained a false sense of confidence.  I thought Oh, I got it, no worries about this concept.  But if a more complicated version of the concept arose on the real exam, I was lost!  I didn’t have any significant knowledge to fall back on.  The rationales provide reasons why these three options are wrong, a reason why this option is correct, and further information on the topic.  I definitely should have read through the rationales in the first place to understand more examples and more of the nuance of each concept.

Tip: I combed through my own notes and the SWTP rationales from the practice test.  While doing so I wrote down by hand the details, definitions, and concepts that I didn’t 100% know. 

Then I went through and I typed these up.  I found that the process of doing this twice – once by hand and once typing – helped really get the concept into my brain.  I printed out the typed concepts and reviewed it several times while studying.

I wrote here about how I had to intentionally schedule a time and a place to study – the quiet co-working center with on-site childcare.  I intentionally studied there for a month, about 3 hours at a time, once or twice a week.

I took my second round of the Law & Ethics exam in November 2016.  Another change was how I walked into the exam.  I was prepared for the exam to be long and hard.  I went in with the mentality that the exam experience will be challenging, but I also know a lot of information.  I balanced holding those two truths and tried to feel confident.  Logistically speaking, I attempted to answer the questions in a speedy fashion, because I remembered how tight the timing was at the end of my first try.

If there were some questions that seemed hard and I wasn’t sure of the answer, I left those blank and moved on. I went back to them at the end.  I didn’t mark any (on the computer program) that I had answered but was unsure of.  I decided to trust my first instinct with those.  Thus, I didn’t change any of those answers in the end. 

If I wasn’t sure of the answer, but could narrow down to two choices, I marked on my paper which two options I thought was likely, but it turned out I didn’t really need to refer back to the paper when re-reviewing these questions in the end, because it was still apparent to me which two were the likely two choices.  I just took my best guess and left it at that. 

Tip: If I wasn’t totally sure, I said to myself “That’s probably a non-scored question” and just moved on.  Mentally, it was really effective.

Further, in taking the exam a second time, I realized an important distinction in how these questions are phrased.  At the end, the question pointedly asks something involving the words LEGAL or ETHICAL. (e.g. What is your LEGAL obligation?  What is the ETHICAL next step?)  Please pay attention to this!  It’s entirely possible that there might be one answer that speaks to law and one that speaks to ethics, and you could get distracted easily.

I finished the exam with time to spare.  I hit submit and then I saw the good news – I had PASSED!  Hooray!

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Affirmation: "I will pass the social work exam."

Write it down, put it on your mirror, say it to yourself over and over--because it's true! You will pass the social work exam.

Now go do it! Congratulations in advance!

Monday, December 18, 2017

How NOT to Pass the California Law & Ethics Exam

So before I dive into the post about how I studied differently to pass the California Law & Ethics exam (LCLE) the second time, let’s first touch upon why I think I failed the first time.

I studied while at home taking care of my second baby and kind of rushed to take the LCLE exam before I went back to my hospice job when he was two months old, but really, the reason why I failed the LCLE I took in February of 2016 is because it was harder than I expected. 

To study, I had reviewed the Law & Ethics online courses I took from the California NASW (the content as well as the mid-course and end-course quizzes), I read through the NASW Code of Ethics, and I took the Law & Ethics SWTP practice exam.  Everything I read through I sort of assessed with a “Yes, ok, sure, I understand” kind of attitude.

Looking back, I have a couple memories of taking my baby on a walk to a local boba tea shop and then almost casually leafing through my printouts of the CA NASW course material – and basically flipping through the Code of Ethics booklet while waiting in the car to pick up my older son – and knowing what I know now, it’s hysterical!  I want to shake myself and say “You fool!  This style of preparation is not adequate!”

Plus, when I would take the SWTP LCLE practice exam a second or third time (trying to go over content again, as well as practicing answering test questions in a timed exam experience), I would easily remember what the right answer was from when I reviewed my wrong answers the first time.  So I learned the right answer to that question, but I didn’t really learn the important concept or the nuance to the question.

On the day of the test, I learned that the LCLE questions were longer than expected – I didn’t manage my time well. I had finished the practice exam with plenty of time to spare, so I was overconfident about my time.

The questions were also harder than expected – just to give one example, let’s imagine there’s a question about a new teenage client of yours reporting an episode of sexual abuse from her previous therapist.  There are so many layers to a question like this! 

  •       You have to think about if this is a situation where you keep confidentiality or break confidentiality—would you have to report it, or would you encourage her to report it? 
  •       If you report, would it be to the police or to the state licensing board or somewhere else? 
  •       If sexual assault is a crime that takes away the victim’s own power and control, do you help give that sense of power and control back to your client and let her make the decision about reporting this or not? 
  •       How much impact does the client’s specific age make?  Does it make a difference that she’s a minor?
  •       How much does it matter that the alleged perpetrator is a therapist? 
  •       How much does it matter if the alleged perpetrator has continued access to minors? 
  •       Which factor is the most important piece that you have to think about here? 
  •       Does that California-specific brochure, aptly named “Professional Therapy Never Includes Sex,” get given out in this instance? 

(... Y’all, I was not prepared for these types of questions.)

Generally, quite a few of the answers seemed to have two right answers, and I had a hard time narrowing them down.  I marked some that I answered but was unsure of, and I also had a list of the unanswered ones that I had skipped.  At the end, I went through all of the marked/unanswered questions – I answered the unanswered ones – and I changed some of the marked but answered ones.

So yes, you can see, this was not a recipe for success.  BUT!  I was successful in the second go around of the LCLE, so come back to read more about that.