a quick narrative from a happy ex-unlicensed social
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
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
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