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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

the beginning of the study exercises

Tonight was my first night preparing for the LCSW exam... or my 2nd. You saw those posts. To get started, I thought I'd take a practice test to get a feel for what kind of questions I may see. Not too bad for someone that feels totally ill-prepared for what I am embarking upon. I took almost no clinical classes but soon I will be licensed as such. My prep wasn't formal or timed but I did make it through 33 practice questions. I decided to stop there so I could read the answers while the questions and my reasonings were fresh in my mind. 22/33 correct (66.7%). Of those missed:
6 were diagnostic/definitions-- not surprising as I know I don't know that stuff. That's why I've selected the DSM as my main study text. I'm debating on rather or not I want to reread my abnormal psychology book. Plus: it'll be simpler to read than the DSM. Con: it will have the same basic information as the DSM; perhaps I should spend my time elsewhere to get more varied information. Maybe I should read both but not read about the same topic in both books. For example, study personality disorders in the DSM but psychotic disorders in the abnormal psych book.
2 were general questions about the DSM, such as how it is organized.
1 was a question about medication. The question looked at the class of medication. When I read the explanation and saw what was listed as examples, I knew the right answer.
1 was an example of me being tricked by the wording. Part of what I hope to learn from practice tests is to be a careful reader and not get tricked out of correctly answering things I know. One missed. I focused on the wrong part of the question and probably answered a different question correctly (i.e., the one I was answering when marking my response). 
1 I classify as other/unknown. I still don't know what it's talking about.

The practice test has 150 questions. Seems like I'll be doing a cold practice for a while before really getting into the studying. Current status: assessing where I am and gleaning what type of materials need to be studied. Note to self: Read the NASW ethics book before taking this test. 

Any ideas of how I can exercise while sitting and studying? lol


Monday, July 8, 2013

getting my game head on

more tips....

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Tips for Passing

I passed the exam on 4/16/08 on my first try. I have never studied so hard for an exam in my entire life. Luckily, it paid off! Following are the best tips I can offer to help you pass...

[1] Know yourself and how you study best.
I am a procrastinator by nature, and never wrote a college or graduate school paper until two days before it was due, no matter how far in advance I knew about the assignment. I purposefully scheduled my licensure exam to take place one week after I scheduled it. I scheduled the exam on a Friday for the following week. I knew that if I had done it any other way I would not have taken the time to study until the last minute. Be honest with yourself about your study habits. I've been out of school for several years, but remember well typing papers well into the morning.

[2] Use study guides.
I did not take the licensure exam prep class, but I know several people who did, and who were very nice in sharing the workbook that came with the class. This workbook is the veritable bible of the licensure exam. It has everything you need to know for the exam, plus practice tests. I know several people who have found the prep course helpful. Use case study books, the DSM, NASW Code of Ethics, CBT manuals, etc. These are your study guides. The exam will measure your knowledge of this material and your ability to apply it to brief case studies.

[3] Take several practice exams.
This was helpful to me for many reasons. First, it familiarized me with the type and format of questions that could appear on the actual exam. I have severe test anxiety, and knowing what to expect was very helpful.
Another purpose it served was to help me see in which areas I needed to focus more.

[4] Make flash cards.
I have never in my life done this before, but it helped!!! I made the cards while taking the practice exams. Whenever I would get an answer wrong, I would make a flash card out of it. These were a great review the morning of the exam.

[5] Know what to do FIRST/NEXT.
Knowing what to do FIRST or NEXT will make the difference in passing the exam.

[6] Read the question.
Slowly and carefully. Know what the question is asking. Pay attention to the first and last sentences in the case study; often the answer is within those two sentences. Look at the answers carefully. The answer is most likely within the question or case study. Look for similar wording. This could also be the difference in passing the exam.

As you will hear countless people tell you, this exam does not measure how good of a social worker you are. It also does not measure what you might actually do in practice.

starting to think about what i need to know


5 tips for passing the exam

Reaching the point of taking the LCSW exam is a mixed blessing at best. It means that you have met the requisite hours of practice and supervision, which is a testament to your tenacity and clinical abilities. It also means that a new chapter of studying and anxiety is opened as you prepare to add four new letters behind your name and take a timed test that covers a broad range of topics.
From time to time I will receive emails from people who are preparing to take the exam or who have taken it and not passed. Inevitably, these emails include some request for advice about how to study or prepare for the exam. So, I thought I would cull the advice I have given over the past year or two into one post.
I am not doing this so that you will no longer email me. I do the best I can to respond to each one that I receive. I also know that I will not cover every anxiety or frustration with one post, but for those who like lists and things in a neat little package here are my tips for passing the exam.
  1. Think about the way you study best and do that more often. There are a myriad of materials out there to help you prepare for the exams. These range from practice exams to study guides to study guides with practice exams, etc. Most, if not all, of these guides are dry as a bone and merely regurgitate the material you need to know to pass the exam. They have their formulas for getting the material across to you. However, they do not know you best, you do. So, take the materials you choose to study and adapt them to the ways in which you learn. For me, this blog is the result of the way I learn. I needed to re-write the material I was studying in my own words in order to really get a grasp on it. Instead of a pen and paper I took to my laptop and wrote a series of notes that became my study guide. All of the posts on this blog concerning the theories and methods were the result of my homemade study guide. So, think about the ways you learn: flashcards, quizzes, study groups, putting things in your own words, etc. and adapt the study guides to your taste not vice versa.
  2. The exam doesn't care how you practice social work. This is one of the hardest lessons to learn and it took me a while to really grasp its meaning. My impression of the exam is that it does not measure real world application of Social Work principles and guidelines; instead, it measures "ideal" (read textbook) applications of these principles. One of the helpful things I took into the exam was a sense that I needed to reframe the questions so that my answers reflected not what I would do first but what "the book" would do first. Therefore, when I encountered a "what would you do first" question I could usually eliminate two of the responses right off the bat. Then I would generally choose the more conservative response from the remaining choices. This may not work for all of these questions but it helped me get into a frame of mind that had me answering questions as the book would want me to answer them rather than the way I think the questions should be answered.
  3. The exam measures your ability to remember data. This is not an exam that measures the efficacy of your practice or your ability to help people in a way that empowers them. This exam measures your skills at memorization. Now, I realize this is a fairly cynical view of a standardized test. However, I cannot think of another way to put it. The national exam was created as a method to take the subjectivity of licensure committees out of the process and have an "objective" tool that measures knowledge of social work practice and principles. If you don't pass the first time around, it says absolutely nothing about how good a social worker you are. The only thing a failing score reveals is that you might need more time memorizing the material and putting it to use the way the test wants you to.
  4. The exam is not always "right." The earlier you give up fighting the questions and their "right" answers, the earlier you can get on with studying the material as needed. I remember studying for the exam and talking with my supervisor about some of the questions and answers. He and I would read some of the questions and talk about how we would answer them given the choices on the test. In each one of these Q&A sessions there would be one or two questions that we would agree on that the test would count as wrong. He had his doctorate in social work and was a successful private practitioner for many years and he still couldn't always get the right answers according to the test. You have to remember that the correct answer for the test may not be your way of answering the question, but it is still the correct answer. Unfortunately, you will not get very far by arguing with the computer over which "answer" you should perform first in a particular situation. Instead, study for the purpose of the exam and remember that the real world is a lot messier than answer A, B, C, or D.
  5. You have already passed. Remember that the exam is merely the culmination of a long road of clinical practice and supervision. To get to this point in your career you have most likely been through 100 hours of supervision and thousands of hours of clinical practice. Your supervisor has signed off on your capabilities as a social work practitioner. People have come to you for therapeutic help and returned again and again because they believe you can help them. All in all, to get to the point where you can even take the test requires the implicit and explicit approval of a number of people in your life. They know you are a good social worker, regardless of the outcome of your exam. The LCSW exam does not prove that you are a good social worker, that you care about the self-determination of others, or that you stand for justice and provide a voice for the voiceless. Clients wouldn't return if you were a bad social worker, supervisors wouldn't sign the necessary forms if you weren't a good clinician. The fact of the matter is that you have a crowd of people who know that you are ready to take the exam and approve of your doing so. In essence, you have already passed the difficult part; the exam is more a formality than a gate-keeper.
So, there you have it. These five tips helped me put the exam in what I felt was the proper perspective. To be sure, I studied hard and often. However, I was not about to let the exam dictate how I felt about my abilities to practice as a clinical social worker. I merely thought of it as one more step on an already long and most completed journey, a step that affirmed what I already knew from experience. Namely, that I was a good social worker and that I could practice effectively, ethically and compassionately.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

small accomplishment

My to do list for Thur-Sun had 35 items on it. I completed 19 items and made headway on another 3. For me, 22 tasks + a trip to Memphis + a night out=hella impressive & productive for me. With lots of sleep to boot. Not sure how it all happened but glad to have gotten so much done. Sadly, blogging is not one of the things accomplished. Nonetheless, know you are in my thoughts.