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Remain Calm

Kabat-ZinnOne thing repeated in all the prep materials I've come across so far is a piece of pat advice: Don't get too stressed out. "Anxiety" neared #1 in the Top Ten Reasons People Don't Pass The Test list at a recent AATBS workshop. One of that company's CDs has a guided imagery--picture your resistance to the test as a ball in your chest; now bring it up and blow it out. (Go ahead, this will keep.)

Like you, probably, I had no hours in the day as it was. Now adding all this time studying (plus, ridiculously, blogging) has neatly removed most fun/calming/soothing/anxiety-reducing activity from each day. Didn't even get to my regular commute-easing political blogs last week (strong recs: Left, Right and Center; Slate Gabfest; The Bugle), instead dutifully filling my automotive hour with company prep discs and The Social Work Podcast. Helpful, but not exactly a lot of laffs.

What has worked in the past? Me, I like baths. Mindful ones--noticing the dry and the wet, the sloshing sounds, the drip of water traveling down the tile, etc. And here's why I got started with that: I read some Jon Kabat-Zinn, used his meditation CDs. Mindfulness. All good, all recommended for slowing down the day here in test-prep time and, since this will all be over some day, for those balmy LCSW days in the future. Can't hurt. (Titles go to amazon.com): Wherever You Go, There You Are (Jon Kabat-Zinn) Guided Mindfulness Meditation (Jon Kabat-Zinn), Other Mindfulness Stuff at Amazon

This is good self-care and works with clients, too. Five stars on the non-existent Social Work Test Prep Blog rating scale. Do check them out.

UPDATE: Just launched--a "Social Work Test Prep Book Store." Prep books are here. Relaxation books and CDs here

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Practice

PracticeConventional wisdom says that passing the social work licensing exam is equal parts learning the material and learning the exam. Since I haven't heard any unconventional wisdom on this question, I'm going with the chestnut. You can study all you want. You also have to practice. That's why these companies charge big bucks--they've got practice questions for days...for weeks. You'll burn through the practice questions available free online pretty quickly. But they're out there. Gerry Grossman has a decent 10-question exam posted. The Google-placement-gobbling folks at socialworkexam.com have a generous, but less helpful "Daily Q." Note: The questions are only daily if you don't know how to use the reload button on your web browser. Otherwise, you can run questions till you've had your fill...or till questions start repeating, whichever comes first. Correct answers earn you virtual balloons and a cheering crowd noise, making the site Not Safe For Work--at least until you turn your computer's volume down. UPDATE: Some free sample questions here:

Recommended: Get started with SWTP with our free practice test and continue with a full-length, realistic practice exam. Good luck!

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The BBS Makes Nice

Flag _of _California

I got my "hours approved" letter in the mail just last week. A big relief. Getting those hours done, those papers signed, and that application packet complete was a stress-inducing, stressy stressfest (your experience may differ). Looks like the California BBS has tired of the anxious, confused phone calls and decided to make everything much more clear on their web site. The steps to getting licensed here in the Golden State are laid out nicely here.

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There is (Free) Help

Social Work PodcastYou know people who have passed this exam. Even if you're not friends with any of them. You went to school with them. They are your co-workers. Track them down and talk to them. They have ideas. They have materials.

Maybe, if you're lucky, you can find a set of books that hasn't been scrawled in. A set of CDs. Maybe someone has ready-made index cards (though making them yourself is considered better learning). Get 'em. Look 'em over. Use them. The exam is updated, information changes, but not by much. Materials that are only a few years old are going to be just fine.

Then try this: The Social Work Podcast. Out of the apparent goodness of his heart, LCSW Jonathan Singer, a doctoral student at University of Pittsburgh, has been posting mini-lectures about "all things social work" since early '07. Podcasts cover, in easy-to-digest, half-hour-or-so chunks, lots of stuff you need to know for the exam.

I've got them in an iPod via iTunes and listen as I commute. Start with the beginning. It unfolds not unlike a high-end test prep course. Kind of awesome.

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