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"How I Passed the Social Work Exam"

social work exam celebration (Photo by Nilfanion via Wikimedia Commons) Here's a quick narrative from a happy ex-unlicensed social worker.

People ask me about how I passed the exam. My job was ready to give me a raise if I could just get licensed. I needed the raise.  And I was ready for the boost in responsibility that would come with passing the licensing exam: starting to supervise staff, sign off on charts, that kind of stuff. Sounded good to me!

I was motivated, but I was also really, really, really, really, really busy! My commute was long and hellish and an over-all bummer.  My days were stuffed with clients and groups and staff meetings and paperwork and always a new crisis. That is to say, it was social work all day every day!

I didn't have time to study as much as I wanted, but I could squeak in a little bit of time here and there during the work day, a little bit more during lunch. On Saturday mornings, I set aside time to do the bulk of my studying.

First, I read through the basic materials that everyone (correctly) says you should know: The Code of Ethics, confusing parts of the DSM that I wasn't already familiar with from work (I was seeing adults, so I focused on childhood stuff.)  I got reacquainted with developmental theories, those Erikson stages, I don't know what else. It wasn't that much stuff. Again, mostly the stuff I wasn't already getting at work. The plus side of doing intense community work was that work was (it turns out) preparing me for the exam. Lots of the vignettes were semi-familiar to me from situations I'd actually experienced.

Then, it was test bank time. What I realized was that the experience I had, which gave me a good sense of, say, schizoaffective disorder vs. schizophrenia, didn't prepare me to answer questions the way you're supposed to answer them for the exam. You've got to picture yourself as fresh out of the textbook, a smiling, unjaded, anything's-possible, best case scenario social worker. Never mind that you know there's no point in calling so-and-so or referring to whoever. It's what you're supposed to be able to do in an ideal world. So that's how you answer the question on the exam! The rationales were really helpful with figuring that out.

The other thing practice exams made clear is that, wow!, it's a lot of questions you have to sit there and focus on. It took getting used to for me. It wasn't that the questions were so hard. It's having to do them one after the other without spending too much time thinking over answers. The clock is ticking, so you just kind of have to go go go.

But I got the hang of it. And then, test day arrived. I was much more nervous than I thought I'd be after all that practice. But I got to the testing location with some time to stroll around a little bit to calm my nerves. Went in, sat down...and it was kind of like taking a practice exam. Question, answer, repeat. Finally, all the questions were done. I went back through the ones I'd marked. I think I changed a couple of answers, though I know they say you're not supposed to.

I submitted. Instant answer back: I passed!

Such a huge relief. It seemed unreal at first, but then, after a little while, it soaked in. I'd done it! I was a licensed social worker (or at least I would be once the results were processed)! Very grateful to have it done. Hope this helps you in getting the same result!

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