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Mailbag: Practice v. Real Exam

MailbagFrom my inbox--email from a social work classmate reencountered at AATBS's vignette workshop:
Just read you passed the second exam....CONGRATS!!!
I STILL have not taken mine yet as I have been busy with my new [job]. 
So, I read that the HARD questions are not as hard as the actual exam? That is sooo comforting because I SUCK at the hard ones but get in the 80's for the mediums....what are your thoughts on that? What were you getting onthe medium ones?
I am so over studying! I just want to take the dang thing - how challenging did you think it was and what kind of advice do you have? I really appreciate your honest feedback as I felt much better after talking to you prior to my first exam.
My response:
Thanks. Congratulations on the job. Yeah, the exam is way easier than the hard AATBS questions. I broke 80% on a 2-hour retake of a practice exam just before going in. You're probably ready.  Good to run the complete practice exams to gauge speed, etc. But really...you're ready. Good luck.
 
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Mailbag: Exam Day

ThumbprintFrom my gmail inbox:

Hi, I've been reading your blog while studying for the LCSW written exam and wanted to first of all say that I appreciate all the useful information, resources, and reading about your trials and tribulations.I've been using the AATBS TestMaster as one way to prepare and was wondering if you remember whether the AATBS questions were very much like the actual test questions or not. I'm wondering because I find answering the free questions available on the other sites you have links to on your blogspot a lot easier than the AATBS questions. I postponed my original test date because I scored so much more poorly on the AATBS questions that I thought if the BBS questions were more like them, I'd be in trouble. Also, I wanted to ask you about the actual test day because I've heard that staff are strict at testing centers re: belongings. So the things that you can't bring in with you like cell phone, you need to leave in your car but you can keep things like your wallet and car keys with you? Anything else? I've also been wondering how I'm going to last 4 hours without any food or drink. Someone told me there's a water fountain but you mention eating a Greens bar during a break from the written exam and I'd like to know how you did that. Are there no lockers for test takers at the sites? Thanks again for your blog. By sharing your experience, it's definitely helped me.

Thanks for your email! Very glad the blog is helping. First, re AATBS. I think their materials over-prepare you--for both exams. And I agree w/ what I've read elsewhere: The hard AATBS questions are much harder than any on the actual exam. For standard and vignette, I went in after scoring in the 70%s on the AATBS practice tests. Did I just sqeak by or did I ace the tests? No way to know; they don't tell you. If you've run their questions and other questions and are generally on the ball about the exam, I'm guessing you're ready.

Re proctors and food and keys: Yep, they've got their rule book and they go by it...in a very friendly way (at least in El Monte). Wear a top without pockets and prepare to empty pant pockets into a flexi-folder they keep for you till the end of the test. I brought a plastic grocery bag w/ Greens bar and water and kept it on a shelf in the proctor room. No objections from anyone on that. I wouldn't plan on going four hours w/out eating anything. Too long. Plan instead on regular breaks--one each hour worked for me. For the second exam (two hours long), I took a water/bar/bathroom break at one hour, then came back out for a second bite of bar a half hour later 'cause I felt my attention flagging.

When running AATBS practice in exam mode, I kept the same schedule, ate roughly the same food--supposedly that helps. Note: You get only five minutes for a bathroom break and have to give an electronic thumbprint to get back in to the exam room. For both exams, my thumbprint didn't match on the first try. They had to pause my exam so I wouldn't lose time while reprinting. No big deal, but maybe good to know about ahead of time. Hope that answers your questions. Good luck!

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Social Work Test Prep Mailbag

MailbagHere, some questions from my inbox today, w/ my answers: [Re how I studied...] I coughed up the $$$ for AATBS--really expensive. It may be possible to get their materials (or others) second-hand through ebay or craigslist. You can try posting a comment on the blog and see if readers respond, too.

How long did you study for the exam? Number of hours per day.
I tried to do an hour a day, weekdays + four hours a day on weekends (2 hrs in a.m, 2 hrs at night) for a few months. A lot of that time was spent listening to cds and podcasts while I commuted. (Podcasts are linked on the blog.)

When you studied did you break down by sections?
That's how AATBS does it--so...yep.

Did the audio cds help you?
Audio--cd's plus podcasts (including lectures) were very, very helpful.

When did you start answering the questions, i.e. after studying material?

AATBS suggests you start answering questions right away. (I had waited a bit.) Practicing on the computer in real time (in CA, that meant taking several 4-hour practice exams) was invaluable. Like prepping for a marathon, which is kind of what the exam felt like. Hope this helps. Good luck. Please consider posting any additional questions on the blog--others may have different/better answers and I can answer there as well.

UPDATE: SWTP practice test are better! Sign up to get started!

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