Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Slowly Preparing for the ASWB Exam

We talked in an earlier post about preparing for the social work licensing exam in a hurry. But what if you wanted to take your time getting ready for the test? How much time is too much time? Where is that perfect balance?

As with any of these questions, there's no one-size-fits-all answer. Studying in a rush may amp up the anxiety of some licensure-hopefuls. For others, trying to remember material studied some while ago may seem impossible. You know you. You're the only one who can really determine the best way to approach the exam.

Of course, the best way may be easier to determine than to actually do. It might be best to set aside several hours a week to brush up on content and a separate four hour chunk each week to run a full-length practice exam (like those at SWTP). But life tends to get in the way of study plans like that. Life in the form of work, family, friends, self-care...living.

But let's for a moment pretend you've got all the time in the world and prefer taking a nice, long time to dig into exam content and process. What would you study? What should you study? The answer is no different than the answer for people powering through exam prep in a short time. Study the basics, the essentials, the material you can reasonably expect will show up on the exam--but take your time doing it.

What material? This material:

The NASW Code of Ethics. It's the heart of the exam. Even questions not about the code are still usually informed by the code in one way or another.

The DSM-5. That purple book you've got. We like the Desk Reference. When it comes to learning
DSM-5 details for the exam, less is more.

Some basic psych, which you can find on Wikipedia and elsewhere on the web. One example: developmental stage theories, which are worth reviewing (just the ones you've heard of--Freud, Erikson...). These are easier than a lot of other material to craft exam questions from, so don't be surprised if they show up at least once on the exam.

The biggest, least easy to quantify element of your exam prep is this: experience. Life experience. Social work experience. Both prepare you for all kinds of exam questions. But keep in mind that too much experience can sometimes get in the way of a correct exam answer. The answer to check is usually the textbook answer, not the real-world one. You may be jaded about the likelihood of referring a client to this or that service or a client benefitting from this or that intervention. Leave that at the exam-room door. The test operates in a best-case world, where social workers, behaving in accordance with the ethics code, can help clients the way clients need and deserve to be helped.

If you want to dig deeper, take a look at the exam content outlines published by the ASWB (they're free on the ASWB website). But learning every little tidbit there would take much longer than you likely have to get ready. And would stuff your brain with lots of facts you're not terribly likely to encounter on the exam.

However you're preparing--fast or slow--be sure to take care of yourself as you're preparing. Remember to take breaks, take breaths, and get sleep (it's good for learning!). You're a social worker. You know how to do the job. It's just a matter of time till you do the job of passing the test. Good luck!

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