How to Approach the Social Work Licensing Exam

how to approach the social work exam Here's a helpful page of tips for taking the social work licensing exam--or any multiple choice exam. Contains answers to lots of test-taking FAQs, including whether or not to change your first answer (okay if you've got a reason to), how best to schedule your exam prep (don't cram), and what to do if more than one answer seems right (there are a few approaches--check out the article). Here are the bullets. Get details at the Social Psychology Network:

Preparing for the Exam

  • Simulate the Required Behavior
  • Spaced Practice is Better than Massed Practice
  • Don't Psych Yourself Out

Taking the Test

  • Look Over the Test and Pace Yourself
  • Take Short Breaks
  • Don't Skip Around
  • Don't Be Afraid to Change Your First Answer
  • What To Do If More Than One Answer Seems Correct

Ready to "simulate the required behavior"? Sign up for SWTP practice exams, which recreate the experience of the real thing. Get started now!

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Coupon Codes Arrive at SWTP

swtp coupon codes More questions, less money. That's what people request when surveyed about possible improvements to Social Work Test Prep. You talked, we listened. We've been adding questions as fast as we can. We're up to over 750. (Practice exam #5 is in the works--stay tuned.) Now, starting today, get additional savings on SWTP exams and exam bundles using coupon codes at checkout. Coupons save you money above and beyond the already low prices and the daily 20% discount offered on the site.

Through Friday, 7/25, use code SWTP10 to save another ten percent when making a purchase on When you buy the complete set of four exams together, that means you're paying only about $25 per exam! Beat that.

Lots of questions, lots of savings. Happy studying and good luck on the exam!

Social Work Exam Essentials: How to Prepare

steps to social work exam success Preparing for the social work licensing exam doesn't have to a grueling, draining, angst-filled misadventure. It can actually be somewhat pleasant--a learning experience, even. Key to this is figuring out what is actually worth studying so that you don't waste time with unnecessary cramming. Studying smart can actually mean studying less. Toward that end, here are some essentials steps to take as you prepare.

Focus on the Basics. The licensing exam is meant for beginning social workers. You aren't expected to have in-depth knowledge about theory and practice. You just have to know a little bit about a variety of topics. What topics? The very ones that routinely come up in social work practice. Some human development, some psychopathology (aka the DSM's greatest hits), some basic interventions (CBT for sure), and ethics, ethics, ethics. If you review just one thing before you go into the exam, make it the NASW Code of Ethics. Most exam questions are vignettes, not simple quiz-type questions. They present the kind of close calls that social workers face all the time. How do you decide between answers? Let the Code of Ethics be your guide. Know the Code? You've got your answer!

Learn the Test. The licensing exam is probably unlike most tests you've faced before. It's got a lot of questions (170 for the ASWB exam) and takes a long time to complete (four hours). In other ways, it's exactly like lots of tests you've taken before. It's multiple choice. It's about what it says it'll be about. And there aren't trick questions on it--not even "which of these is NOT" questions. You're asked to choose the BEST answer, the FIRST intervention, etc. You take your textbook social work knowledge and apply it. The best way to get to know the test--and how you respond to a four-hour, 170-question sit--is to take practice exams. Then take some more. Do them in real time. Do them in study mode. Learn your weaknesses and study to strengthen them. Then take more practice exams. You'll soon have the hang of the entire process. (Get started with SWTP practice exams by signing up.)

Keep Your Cool. Yes, it's a big test. Yes, you really want to pass it. That doesn't mean you have to make yourself miserable as you're preparing. Test preparation is an additional stressor piled atop whatever you already had going on (work, relationships, family, etc.).  What do you do when you've got more stress? Best bet is to increase your self-care. Think of what's worked in the past for you and fold that coping back into your week. Exercise, meditation, eating better, whatever it is--don't just consider it, actually do it. You'll feel better and you'll study better because of it. If you find test anxiety interfering with your focus and studying progress, do what you can to address that as well. Same routine: What's worked in the past? Talking, writing, thought-logging. You're a social worker, you know this stuff.

Focus on the basics, learn the test, keep your cool...pass the exam. Good luck and congratulations in advance!


For more help with preparing for the licensing exam, see SWTP's study tips page.

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Interpersonal Psychotherapy and the Social Work Exam

interpersonal psychotherapy What is Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT)? We could go into some detail, but then Wikipedia has it laid out so nicely, why waste your time? Here's the short version, just the bullet points about IPT:

  • Created in 1969, a hybrid of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Interpersonal Theory (Harry Stack Sullivan).
  • Short-term, time-limited, empirically validated.
  • Focuses on relationships, communication patterns. Identification and expression of emotion, dealing with unresolved grief are stressed.
  • Used at first primarily in research with depression. Use has widened some to clinical practice.

Will this be on the social work licensing exam? IPT shows up more often as a distractor (an incorrect answer) than not. But, just in case, it doesn't hurt to have these basic lodged somewhere at the back of your exam-taking brain. Having a sense of what various therapies offer helps avoid that stomach-churning, confidence-busting experience of being mystified by material the exam. "Wait, what's IPT? I've never heard of it!" Yes, you have!

More on Interpersonal Psychotherapy from around the web:

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More SWTP Reviews

i took the exam and passed We've got a  backlog of good news emails from newly licensed social workers around the country. Here are a handful of them--more on the testimonials page:

I passed my exams. Your practice test questions were of immense help to get me through. Thanks! -- Jeff

This site was very valuable to me.  It allowed me to experience what the 4 hours is like, so I knew how to pace myself.  The answers were clear and well-explained.  If you are serious about preparing to pass the exam the first time, I recommend SWTP practice test.  -- Rifka

I passed my LCSW today in Indiana! This site was such a great help. Thanks, Social Work Prep! -- Kay

Also, here are more assorted notes, unsigned (just an email address):

I took the test and passed!

I passed the LMSW exam! This website was most helpful!

PASSED TEST. THANKS for help. Your website was exactly what I needed. I'll pass your good name on to whoever needs the help

Congratulations, all! Have you taken the exam?  Write us with your news. It's great to hear from you!