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Free Social Work Exam Practice

yacht life We get it. You're a social worker, not an investment banker. You're not looking to own a yacht. Nor are you looking to spend a bunch of money on your social work licensing exam prep. That's why we keep the prices for our practice tests nice and low. It's not that you'll be able to purchase a yacht with the money you save. But maybe you'll be a little less pinched. Just registering for the exam costs a non-trivial amount. If you end up having to take the exam more than once, it really adds up. (So, of course, try to pass it the first time!)

Here, to help with your reasonably-budgeted exam prep, is our ongoing series of free practice questions. These questions touch on a variety of subjects, but lean most heavily on the Code of Ethics and the DSM as content sources. And why not? You know you're going to encounter Code of Ethics questions. That's a big part of the exam at every level. And of everything that may appear on the licensing exam, DSM material is the most knowable. It's just info--you can cram it in your brain for a time and be ready to answer any diagnostic question you encounter.

So try out these questions. They're not exactly like the ones that appear in our practice tests--to get a better sense of SWTP practice, check out our free practice test.

If there's material you'd like to see us cover in future free practice questions, let us know. Our aim is to get you through this exam. We love getting pictures of social workers proudly posing with their pass sheets. (The rest of the blog, where the free practice questions live, is mostly made of up those.)

Happy saving, happy studying, and good luck on the exam! Congratulations in advance!

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Free Practice: Anxiety Disorders

movie audienceYou've reviewed the anxiety disorders material in the DSM by now. But do you know it? Know it, that is, well enough to correctly answer questions about the material on the social work licensing exam? SWTP practice tests cover anxiety disorders and lots more. Sitting down with a full-length practice test--170 questions, four hours--is the best way to get prepared to sit down and take the real thing. Here, in the meantime, is a one-off--a free practice question based on the anxiety disorders chapter of the DSM.

A woman tells a social worker that she no longer goes to the movies. "Sitting on the aisle isn't enough," she says. "I keep thinking about trying to get out of there through the crowd." When she was younger, the woman used to go to movies and concerts regularly. "It's been years," she reports. "I wouldn't be able do it. Standing on line? Sitting in a crowd inside? I'll binge watch shows at home, thanks very much." What is the MOST likely diagnosis for this client?

A. Specific phobia, situational type

B. Social anxiety disorder

C. Agoraphobia

D. Adjustment disorder, anxious type

What do you think?

You may sympathize with the woman's preference for binge-watching TV over going out to movies or concerts. But what the woman describes may not be just a preference. "I wouldn't be able to do it," she says. An anxiety disorder of some kind is likely present. But which one? Let's take the answers one at a time.

Adjustment disorder is "the development of emotional or behavioral symptoms in response to an identifiable stressor." It might be helpful to think of adjustment disorder as a cousin of PTSD. Here, there's a more phobic quality to the client's fear. Additionally, the fear and avoidance have persisted for years, while adjustment disorder is generally a shorter-term diagnosis.

Social anxiety disorder has its appeal here, but the client's fear isn't specifically social. Social anxiety disorder is characterized by fear of being exposed to possible scrutiny of others. This can be part of fearing crowds, but other diagnoses get at this fear more directly.

Specific phobia, situational type is even more alluring. But it's not the best of the choices offered here. This sounds like situational type specific phobia. And, if there were no other diagnosis that covered the precise symptoms the client describes, than that would be the diagnosis. Specific phobia, situational type can include many different things--fear of airplanes or elevators. It includes fear of small confined spaces or the dark. But there's another diagnosis that addresses fear of lines and crowds, and of feeling trapped. That diagnosis is...

Agoraphobia. To make a diagnosis of agoraphobia, outsized fears need to be present at least two of the following: Using public transportation; being in open spaces; being in enclosed spaces; standing in line or being in a crowd; being outside of the home alone. The client above appears to fear standing in line and being in a crowd in an enclosed space. She may just barely meet criteria for agoraphobia. But "just barely meeting criteria" isn't a choice here. You have to choose A, B, C, or D.

C--agoraphobia--is your best pick.

For more reading about anxiety disorders, including agoraphobia, try:

And, for more practice, get started with SWTP's full-length practice exams here.

Happy studying and good luck on the exam!

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ED and the Social Work Exam

sexual dysfunctionLet's revisit the DSM for today's free practice question. Flipping randomly into the purple book, just as an exam item writer might, we land on the Sexual Dysfunctions chapter. Here are the disorders contained therein:

Delayed Ejaculation (what it sounds like)

Erectile Disorder (ditto--difficulty in obtaining or maintaining an erection during sexual activity)

Female Orgasmic Disorder (delay, infrequency, absence or reduced intensity of orgasm)

Female Sexual Interest/Arousal Disorder (what it sounds like)

Genito-Pelvic Pain/Penetration Disorder (persistent or recurrent difficulties with vaginal penetration)

Male Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder (More than six months of deficient or absent sexual/erotic thoughts and desire)

Premature (Early) Ejaculation (within 1 minute of penetration and before individual wishes it)

Substance/Medication-Induced Sexual Dysfunction (what it sounds like again)

Here's a sample question:

A client reports difficulty maintaining an erection when having sex with his wife ever since their honeymoon ended, a year ago. The problem occurs during what he describes as "vanilla" sex. As he reports details, the client seems fairly irritated, but not especially haunted by the issue. What set of specifiers is MOST appropriate to add to the diagnosis of erectile disorder:

A. Lifelong, situational, mild

B. Acquired, situational, mild

C. Lifelong, generalized, mild

D. Acquired, generalized, mild

What do you say?

This is one of those questions where you just need to know some definitions--or be able to suss them out with a little common sense. Here are the specifiers for erectile disorder:

Lifelong (present since the individual became sexually active)

Acquired (present after a period of relatively normal sexual function)

While we don't have details about the client's honeymoon or pre-marital sex life, we have to go with the contents of the question. Acquired is the better fit here. Hey, look, two answers already eliminated!

Generalized (not limited to certain types of stimulation, situations, or partners)

Situational (only occurs with certain types of stimulation, etc.)

The client's problems occur only during "vanilla" sex. We're quickly narrowed down to the answer. But we'll keep going. Mild, moderate, and severe are measures of the client's distress. Those specifiers don't describe symptoms, but the client's reaction to the symptoms. This client is irritated--a low level of distress. "Obsessed" or "unable to function" would be indicators of a more moderate or severe level of distress.

Also note, the problem has to have persisted for at least six months for a diagnosis of erectile disorder to be made.

TL;DR: Our answer is B, acquired, situational, mild.

For more reading about sexual dysfunctions in this chapter and beyond, take a look at:

And, of course, your DSM-5 is a friend as you prep DSM-5 questions--especially the desk reference edition.

For full-length practice tests covering the wide range of questions that can show up on the social work licensing exam (not just DSM!), sign up and create your exam bundle!

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Code of Ethics Review: Dating Colleagues and the Social Work Exam

social work colleague relationshipWe're working our way through the second section of the NASW Code of Ethics, a question at a time. For complete, 170-question exams covering ethics and much, much more, go here and build the exam bundle that best suits your study plan. Meanwhile, here's some free practice:

Working together at a residential facility, a therapist and case manager develop a strong attraction to each other. Both are social workers and want to be mindful of ethical guidelines as they begin to explore a relationship outside of work. Which of the following BEST describes NASW guidelines for relationships between social work colleagues?

A. The social workers can be in a romantic relationship as long as it's not sexual.

B. The social workers can be in a romantic relationship as long as they don't share clients.

C. The social workers can be in a romantic relationship as long as one isn't supervising the other.

D. The social workers can be in a romantic relationship as long as one transfers responsibilities to avoid making clients uncomfortable.

What do you say?

Let's take a look at the relevant section of the code, 2.07, Sexual Relationships. It says:

(a) Social workers who function as supervisors or educators should not engage in sexual activities or contact with supervisees, students, trainees, or other colleagues over whom they exercise professional authority.

(b) Social workers should avoid engaging in sexual relationships with colleagues when there is potential for a conflict of interest. Social workers who become involved in, or anticipate becoming involved in, a sexual relationship with a colleague have a duty to transfer professional responsibilities, when necessary, to avoid a conflict of interest.

After reading that, have you changed your answer?

The answer we like best is....C, the supervision one. You may be able to make an argument for some of the others, but that one's the strongest of the bunch. Let's take them one at a time:

A. This is a letter-of-the-code vs. spirit-of-the-code reading of 2.07. The code specifies a problem with "sexual relationships." Yes, okay. You could defend the answer in court. But you're not in court, you're preparing for the social work licensing exam. You want to choose the BEST of the offered answers, even when another answer seems acceptable. In this case, the answer that leaves no room open to interpretation is C, regarding supervision.

B. Sharing clients isn't mentioned in the code and, though that may get tricky between a therapist and case manager, it's not as tricky and ethically murky as answer C.

D. Avoiding client discomfort isn't mentioned in this section of the code. It's a nice thing to do. It's not as important here as avoiding the misuse of professional leverage.

Answer C is right from the code. And from most HR rule books. The key issue here is the exercise of professional authority. That may or may not be present in a therapist-case manager relationship, but it is certainly present in a supervisor-supervisee relationship. No sexual relationships between supervisors and supervisees. Simple as that.

You have your answer! You have your exam prep! If you encounter a question about this on the exam, you're ready for it. Good luck!

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Code of Ethics Review: Colleague Confidentiality vs. Impairment and the Social Work Exam

burnoutConfidentiality is likely to come up again and again as you prepare for the social work licensing exam. Most questions are likely to cover client confidentiality. If a client's family member calls to discuss the client, what is the best way for a social worker to proceed? Another therapist wants to discuss your former client's case--what then? After enough exam prep, these questions will become very familiar. (Hint: There's no confirming or denying that someone is a client, even to family or a former therapist.)

But how do you answer if you see something like this?

After a staff meeting, a clinician tells another social worker that she is "losing it...totally burnt out...I'm starting to hate my clients!" She says she's going to call in sick tomorrow and "get blackout drunk." What is the BEST course of action for the social worker to take regarding this colleague.

A. Discuss ways to cope with burnout other than binge drinking.

B. Consult with a supervisor regarding the clinician's confession.

C. Report the clinician's misconduct to the state licensing board.

D. Explore how the clinician's burnout is affecting her work with clients.

What do you think?

Let's do a decision tree. Two answers involve going to others--a supervisor or the state licensing board. The other two answers keep things between the clinician and the social worker. Let's look at the code for guidance.

2.02 Confidentiality
Social workers should respect confidential information shared by colleagues in the course of their professional relationships and transactions. Social workers should ensure that such colleagues understand social workers' obligation to respect confidentiality and any exceptions related to it.

This points to the not-going-to-others choices, A & D. But what about the hating clients? What about the blackout drinking? There's also this:

2.09 Impairment of Colleagues

(a) Social workers who have direct knowledge of a social work colleague's impairment that is due to personal problems, psychosocial distress, substance abuse, or mental health difficulties and that interferes with practice effectiveness should consult with that colleague when feasible and assist the colleague in taking remedial action.

(b) Social workers who believe that a social work colleague's impairment interferes with practice effectiveness and that the colleague has not taken adequate steps to address the impairment should take action through appropriate channels established by employers, agencies, NASW, licensing and regulatory bodies, and other professional organizations.

The clinician is voicing psychosocial distress and a planned day of substance use/abuse. But still the code dictates first consulting with the colleague, not with others. There is an exception to this: If the colleague's impairment is undermining her work with clients (that is, her "practice effectiveness"), something more needs to be done. Is there a way to know whether that's happening here? Nothing in the stem is definitive. (Harboring hatred toward clients is part of burnout, not reportable impairment.) Are clients being negatively impacted? The first thing to do to find that out is ask. And, happily, one of the choices here--"Explore..."--has the social worker doing just that! Discussing coping skills, which may or may not be useful to the clinician, can wait. Our answer is D!

Want to read more on the topic? Take a look at these articles:

Better to spend your time on more practice questions! For additional questions covering the NASW Code of Ethics and lots more, sign up for SWTP full-length practice tests now!

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