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Exam Day

So here's what it was like. What I did. Maybe helpful, maybe not.

Took a few days off prior to exam day to make sure I knew stuff. Took the AATBS exam #5 in one sit-down, as suggested. Scored 76%--kind of iffy, right on the border. Good enough not to cancel, though. Full steam ahead.

Spent the next couple of days reviewing the boldfaced stuff in the AATBS books, retaking the test questions there. Reviewed the rationales for the exam I'd just taken--right and wrong answers. Finally got to the AATBS flash cards. (Could've done without them.) Half-listened again to a few of the prep CDs.

They call it cramming.

Weekend: Studied. Watched "W." Saw people. Tried to take it easy. The exam loomed large.

Exam eve. Managed to sleep. But sweat through my nightshirt. Had to change, 3am. Can't remember last time that happened.

Exam day. Woke early. Had an egg. (Someone said that's supposed to be good for test taking.) Drove to El Monte--got there fast. Against traffic, I guess.

Sat in the office park parking lot alongside other early arrivers. Listened distractedly to the Slate Political Gabfest. Butterflies. Tried reviewing some flash cards. Couldn't focus, gave up.

8:30. Check-in time. A regular, first-floor office in a nondescript building. Two proctors, both very friendly, no nonsense. A handful of test takers--no one else there for the LCSW exam that I could tell. The woman I talked to was there for the three-hour embalming exam. She seemed pretty confident--said she'd been working with dead bodies for seven years.

They have you empty your pockets, hang up your jacket (nothing with pockets allowed). No watch, cell phone, etc. They take your picture--I smiled encouragingly, as planned (a good tip). They take an electronic thumbprint. And then...it's on.


A cubicle, a computer, a piece of scratch paper, a couple of pencils, a pair of foam earplugs. 200 questions, 4 hours.

On the AATBS online exams I took at home, I got the 200 questions done fast--with an hour to spare. This took longer. Not sure why. Maybe nerves, maybe I was taking more care, rereading questions. I stopped to breathe in my chair at 10 questions, stretched at 25. Took breaks every 50 questions.

They have you sign out to go to the bathroom. Take more than five minutes and the exam's over for you. They have you thumbprint back in (in case, I guess, you swapped yourself with your better-studied twin or clone).

Can't talk content--that'd be trubble with the BBS. Can say I studied a bunch of stuff that didn't show up on the exam. But that didn't mean I was overprepared. The first 50 questions went okay. But at the end of the second set of 50 I thought, I may not pass this thing. I was marking each question I wasn't sure of. And there were a lot of them.

A break and a Greens+ Chocolate Energy Bar were helpful. (Really like those.) Got some momentum going for the next 50 questions. The proctors walked the room every ten minutes or so to check for...whatever it is that people who have emptied their pockets, etc. can do and shouldn't. Someone on the phone in the proctor room toward the end made me put the earplugs in for a little while. Otherwise, calm, quiet, nothing in there to distract.

I'd answered all 200 questions with a half hour to spare. Took another quick break, then revisited the questions I'd marked. I think there were 39 of them. Thirty-nine questions that I wasn't sure about--that I liked two answers on--that I wanted to recheck. Seemed like a lot. And time was counting down.

They say not to change answers. But I changed a couple. The whole screen hiccuped to the right as the timer went from 10 to 9 minutes. I sped through the last of the marked questions and decided I was done. I was going to finish the exam and not let it finish me with expired time.

Heart athump, I breathed, hoped for the best, and hit "End." Time elapsed: Three hours and fifty-five minutes.

Are you sure? it asks. Yes. Really? "Y-E-S."

Then, an eight question survey about your test-taking experience. How was the facility? Excellent. How were the proctors? Excellent. And so on.

Then, a few clicks. Done. Finish. Next.

And suddenly, results. A thin bar across the screen. Questions given: 200. Questions completed: 200. Questions marked: 39. Result: PASS.

I sat for a while. Relief, fatigue, emotion. More relief, gratitude. Sigh.

Back through the door to where people were checking in for the afternoon exam, looking glum, tense. A print-out: "Congratulations!" And thanks. And, "See you for the next one."

And that...was that.

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