Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Reducing Social Work Exam Anxiety

Here's a vignette: A social worker is seeing a new client who says she has a huge exam to take that will help advance her career. Since the client has never taken an exam like this one, she finds herself anxious and worried. She's been procrastinating and ruminating about the possibility of failing the exam. What is the BEST course of action for the social worker to take with the client?

Without an ABCD to choose from, how would you answer?

And what if that client were you?

On the exam, the best answer would probably be something about using CBT to challenge client's negative thoughts and reduce symptoms of anxiety. In real life--your life--that very well may work. Have you tried it? If not, here's a different kind of ABCD to consider--an REBT-based thought log. Here, ABCD is a handy way to remember thought log steps. Looks like this:

A is the activating event--what's stressing you out (in this case, the looming social work licensing exam).

B are your beliefs about the exam (e.g., "I don't have enough time to study." "I'm terrible at multiple choice tests." "I'm going to fail").

C are the consequences these thoughts lead to--emotional, physical, and behavioral (e.g, worried (emo), rapid heartbeat (phys), procrastinating (bx)).

D is for disputes--thoughts you can use to challenge the beliefs from B. Usually you can just say the opposite, and give some supporting evidence. CBT is about facts on the ground (not in your head). For the thoughts mentioned above, that might look like this:
"I do have enough time to study--I just have to wake up earlier or study during lunch."
"I'm not terrible at multiple choice tests. They make me anxious, but I've passed a bunch of them in the past. If I was so terrible with school stuff, I wouldn't have an MSW and wouldn't be preparing for this exam in the first place."
"I can't tell the future; I don't know if I'm going to fail or not. If I get focused, study, manage my anxiety, and all that other good stuff, I have a good shot at passing the exam. Thousands of people pass this exam every year. They're no smarter than me. They're not better social workers than me. Even if I don't pass this time, I can retake the test. Eventually, I will be licensed. Then I'll look back and laugh."
Try using this ABCD to get ready for the onslaught of ABCD answers you'll face on the exam. Maybe it'll help some. Write it out or think it through--either way. But you know what works best to keep you steadied and serene. You've seen what works for clients. Usually increased self-care is part of the package--more exercise, better food, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation... Decreasing anxiety isn't one size fits all. But you're a social worker. You know it's doable. Like social workers tell clients all the time, anxiety is very treatable. That goes for yours too.

Good luck!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Four Tips for Passing the Social Work Exam

Glad you found the site. By searching for help passing the social work licensing exam on the web, you're taking an important and wise step. The internet is a giant, one-stop resource for everything you need to know and do to pass and get your LCSW, LMSW, LSW (whatever you're seeking, whatever letters your state likes best). Here are a few basic pointers to help shape your studies:

1. Check your pulse. It's easy to get worked up about the licensing exam. It's big, it's expensive, it doesn't always seem relevant to social work practice. You don't literally have to check your pulse. But keep tabs on the effect that preparing for the exam is having on you. It's a whole additional stressor added in to your probably already sufficiently stress-filled day-to-day. Take care of yourself. Maybe dial up the anxiety-reducing basics--sleep, breathe, eat, exercise. Exam prep is a marathon, not a sprint. Be the slow and steady exam-passing turtle!

2. Focus on fundamentals. The social work exam is meant for beginning professionals. There's an endless amount of material that could be on the test, but a limited amount of material that will be on the test. Study smart by mastering the material you are fairly certain you'll encounter. Learn the NASW Code of Ethics--it's the underpinning of the vast majority of exam questions. Know the common diagnoses in the DSM, the essentials of human development theory--that sort of stuff. Review scope of practice, mandated reporting, and suicide assessment. The examiners are looking to make sure you'll do a reasonably professional job and keep clients safe. If you've got that down, you're very close to passing the exam.

3. Don't overstudy.  If you find yourself deep in the theoretical or diagnostic weeds as you're preparing for the exam, get out! Remember tip #2. And #1 while you're at it. Remember that some people prepare for just a day or two and pass this test. All a lot of the questions require is social work-informed common sense. Take care not to cram and clutter your mind with unnecessary detail.

4. Practice.  How do you know you've done all of the above? Practice. Take real-time, full-length practice exams to help you gauge your readiness, identify areas you need to strengthen, and generally get acquainted with the experience of a four-hour, 170-question sit. There are lots of free partial exams posted around the web. Check out blog-sponsor SWTP for complete ones. How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice. How do you pass the licensing exam? You have your answer.

There are your four tips. Use them well. Good luck and congratulations in advance.


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Learning Stages: Piaget, Erikson, Kohlberg, and Fowler

Some knowledge needed to pass the ASWB exam requires reading, rereading, talking about, understanding. Other information--thankfully--can be summarized in a chart and easily grasped that way. Here, from usefulcharts.com, are charts covering the easily-grasped type of info--details on stages from Piaget, Erikson, Kohlberg, and Fowler:
Will any/all of this show up on the social work exam? There's no saying for sure. Maybe Piaget, maybe Erikson. Less likely Kohlberg and Fowler. Depending upon how you read the ASWB outlines, all show up on any thorough could be list. Usual disclaimer: don't wear yourself out learning the details of this material. Aim to have a general understanding of the stages. All you need is "passing" knowledge to pass the exam! Good luck.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Carl Jung and the Social Work Exam

Carl Jung looms large for many psychotherapists and their clients, captivated by Jung's ideas about dreams, archetypes, the collective unconscious, etc. He seems to loom less large for social work exam item writers, but it's not unheard of for Jung to show up on the exam. As with previous topics, knowing very little about Jung is probably--for the licening exam--knowing enough. If this material speaks to you, make note! There's plenty of reading to be done, depth to be plumbed, skill to be gained.

But first, for the exam, quick info. From Wikipedia:
C. G. Jung, was a Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist who founded analytical psychology. Jung proposed and developed the concepts of extraversion and introversion; archetypes, and the collective unconscious. His work has been influential in psychiatry and in the study of religion, philosophy, archeology, anthropology, literature, and related fields. He was a prolific writer, many of whose works were not published until after his death. 
The central concept of analytical psychology is individuation—the psychological process of integrating the opposites, including the conscious with the unconscious, while still maintaining their relative autonomy. Jung considered individuation to be the central process of human development. 
Jung created some of the best known psychological concepts, including the archetype, the collective unconscious, the complex, and synchronicity.
Follow the links at Wikipedia for definitions of various terms. More too from these sites:
Happy reading. Here's hoping your Jung studies don't end here! Good luck with the exam.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

More Practice Exam Questions

Just announced by SWTP:

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Social Work Values and the Social Work Licensing Exam

How best to prepare for the social work licensing exam? One simple way to get set is to get a clear picture of what to expect to see on the exam. The ASWB publishes content outlines, available on their website. Everything's spelled out right there.

In the clinical outline, 18% of the exam is set aside for "Professional Ethics and Values." Take note, it's not just "Professional Ethics"--it's values too. The "Value Issues" section gives an idea just what may be included in values questions on the exam: questions about how the social worker's values may influence work with clients, the effect race, culture, and ethnicity on work with clients, and so on. Perhaps most vague--and most important--is the bullet "Professional values and ethics." What are those? Well, they're spelled out in the NASW Code of Ethics, right at the beginning. Looks like this:

The following broad ethical principles are based on social work's core values of service, social justice, dignity and worth of the person, importance of human relationships, integrity, and competence. These principles set forth ideals to which all social workers should aspire.    
  1. Service
  2. Social Justice
  3. Dignity and Worth of the Person
  4. Importance of Human Relationships
  5. Integrity
  6. Competence


Click through for paragraphs about each value. If you haven't already reviewed these, do! These six values can help guide you through a lot of the social work exam. Unclear about which is the best answer on a given question? Think which more closely adheres to the values listed in the code. Same goes for decisions you make in social work practice. Service! Social Justice! Dignity and Worth of the Person!... These are the social work basics. Soak 'em up, pass the exam!


    Tuesday, May 6, 2014

    How to Pass the LCSW Exam

    How do you pass the LCSW exam? Concrete reply: correctly mark enough answers to satisfy your state licensing board. (Remember "concrete"? It's on the MSE.) Okay, but how do you go about doing that? How do you prepare to pass the social work licensing exam?

    There are countless paths to the goal. Some people prepare for a couple of days and trust their nurture-born test-taking skills. That can work out just fine. Others set a test date a couple of years in advance (yes, years!) and study ever last scrap of social work knowledge over the 700-plus days that follow. That can work out just fine too (if you don't mind all the hours lost to studying). For most, the middle road is the one chosen. It's Goldilocks' just-right porridge (if exam prep was breakfast mush). 

    Somewhere between the hyper-confident two-day prep and the anxious, overlong mega-prep lies that middle path. Only you (and your initial practice test scores) know how much prep you need. What kind of test taker are you? How long has it been since you were in school? Does your work experience help with getting exam questions answered right? How much time do you have in an average week to set aside for studying? Have you already tried the exam and didn't reach that golden "PASS"?

    You get to make your own self-assessment. You get to set your own schedule. You get to choose how to spend your time.

    There's a lot of material that could show up on the exam. Try searching ASWB.org for the current clinical content outline--the current list of KSAs (knowledge, skills, and abilities being tested for on the licensing exam)). Yes, 170 is an awful lot of questions, but it's not enough to cover everything listed there. What's most likely to show up you can probably guess. Meat and potatoes social work. Basic assessment, basic diagnoses, basic interventions. Close call vignettes that test your familiarity with the principles contained in the NASW Code of Ethics. Duty to warn, scope of practice--that sort of thing. What the test basically aims to discern: Are you a competent social worker? Can you be trusted with client care? Will you do you best to respect and help your clients?

    For some of the exam, you need specific information (e.g., DSM criteria). But for a lot of the exam, you can go with your gut. You're a social worker. You know how to do the job. Now just apply it to the test. You'll be licensed soon!

    Good luck!