Saturday, September 20, 2014

Getting Ready for the ASWB Exam

You're going on a journey. You think about what you'll need ahead of time. You get your things together, pack 'em, hit the road. So what if the journey is along the road to licensure? What are you going to need? How do you get ready? Here are some ideas about how to prepare and what to pack.

First, it's good to have a general sense of what to expect once you've gotten moving. In this case, you've got a testing center to get to. An exam to take. A passing result to celebrate.

The testing center is a knowable. Once you're registered, you've got an address. Let the Internet tell you what to expect on your drive, or, if you're the mega-preparing type, drive the drive ahead of time. See the testing center, give it a nod, and say, "I will be passing an exam inside you soon."

The basic structure of the exam is also knowable. It's four hours long, 170-questions wide. (Yes, there are 20 "tester" questions that don't count toward your score. But you can't know which those are, so better to set that factoid aside.) You'll get basic instructions about what you can and can't bring--physically--to the exam. Usually what you can bring with you is less than nothing. But you probably can bring some water and a snack to leave if you want a quick break and boost. (Can be helpful!) 

Okay, so that's your map. (Leaving out your choice of how to celebrate after.) You've got the physical dimension down. Now how do you prepare internally? What do you need to pack into your thinking parts?

There's also a lot of knowable about what facts and wisdom you're expected to arrive with on exam day. Okay, there's no Internet mapping program to walk you through the licensing exam, but there are exam content outlines (available at They spell out the entire range of what you might expect to be tested on. The outlines point to more places to get things know, such as the DSM and the NASW Code of Ethics. There are also practice exams aplenty available on the www to help you get accustomed to the experience of taking the exam. Practice tests can guide your approach to the types of questions you're likely to encounter and speed your journey once you sit down for the real thing.

That leaves a second internal element: your nerves. Anxiety has a way of fogging people up and making simple tasks seem overwhelming. And, unless you're a extraordinarily cool customer, anxiety is just going to be a part of ASWB exam prep. (A feature, not a bug, as they say in programming land.) Anticipate some nerve jangling on your journey and pack some tools to help you handle it. Rules of thumb: increase self-care (sleep, food, exercise, meditation, down time...); explore your worries (this is CBT--do a thought log, imagine the worst case, realize that, though the stakes may be high, you'll be fine. The test doesn't define you. It's something you've chosen to do. You've gotten this far...etc.)

What'd we forget to mention? Pack that too! Should be a decent trip. You may even learn something useful along the way. Have a great one, have fun, and good luck!

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