Effective Studying

StudyingFrom PsychCentral, here's a list of 10 Highly Effective Study Habits (see article for details).  The list:

1. How you approach studying matters

Aim to think positively when you study.
Avoid catastrophic thinking.
Avoid absolute thinking.
Avoid comparing yourself with others.

2. Where you study is important

3. Bring everything you need, nothing you don't

4. Outline and rewrite your notes

5. Use memory games (mnemonic devices)

6. Practice by yourself or with friends

7. Make a schedule you can stick to

8. Take breaks (and rewards!)

9. Keep healthy and balanced

10. Know what the expectations are for the class [or test]

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Vignette Prep Help

California Flag

This applies only to the CA vignette exam. The thing about the vignette exam is that it's complicated.  Long vignettes, groups of long, similar answers.  Typical result while studying:  dizziness, confusion, frustration.  Solution:  Slow down. You can try just winging it; not recommended.  Better to be extremely deliberate with this one.  

First, adopt a rating system (0-2 if you're AATBSing, checks, plus/minus, or other symbols if you're not).   Then apply--run practice questions and exams online, rate each answer in each answer set. Then comes the part you may be tempted to skip:  Look at the rationales given by the test-prep course for how they got to the right answer.  How did they rate each answer part?  Are your zeros (or checks or plus/minuses or whatever) the same as what they came up with?  If not, why not?  Checking against the test-prep course this way is laborious and not a lot of fun.  But it works.

You're not learning content for the second CA exam.  You already know the content--that's how you got through the first exam.  You also know how to get yourself through a long exam--this one's only half of the first--a mere two hours.  What you're learning this time is how to best approach this very peculiar test.  It's probably unlike any you've ever taken.  But it's very doable.  You can pass.  There are people passing every day.

So:  Rate, check ratings, repeat.  Result:  Less dizziness, more licensure. Good luck!

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Vignette Countertransference

Take A BreathYou may have had this experience--some of my tutoring clients have reported it:  You read a vignette and you get sucked in.  The heartache, the pain, the misery.  It's all too much.  Your burnout meter goes into the red.  Or, harder still, elements of the vignette remind you of your own experience--family problems, relationship problems, life problems. Call it Vignette Countertransference.  Everyone's had a taste of it.  It's okay, it's normal, but it can sometimes get in the way of good test taking.

Stop and take a breath.

Your job as an examinee is to play the calm, careful clinician, operating not from emotion and instinct, but with deliberate, textbook-supported wisdom.  You are the perfect social worker (human, but not too human).  That's not to say your instincts should be completely discarded.  Some recommend pausing to picture the people in the vignette--What do you see?  What worries you?  You may find yourself thinking something like, "These kids need help asap."  Good, let that help guide you.  And then calmly, carefully choose perfect social worker's response to that situation and to the question in front of you.

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Pause...Then Answer

PawsHere's a multiple choice test rule of thumb that social work test preppers should keep in mind: Read the question, then, hit pause. Don't read the answers. Think about how you would answer. Okay, now read the answers. Do any of them match or even echo your thought? Great. That's your pick. Really works. Try it.

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How to Get Your LCSW a bunch of not-necessarily-easy--but doable--steps.
I remember as I was first looking into the profession, nothing spelled out this process in a way that made much sense. Degree--which? Internships--what? Study--how? Hopefully this will help. (Heads-up: Links are mostly for California. Elsewhere, try the ASWB and/or Google (and, if you're feeling generous, post helpful links in comments.)) So, here goes...
First, figure out that an LCSW's really what you're looking to get. Check out other options: MFT, PsyD, PhD. Note that MFTs need internship hours with kids, families, and adults--hard to get at one job. Note that a PsyD and PhD take a lot of money and time. Arrive at your decision: social work.
Find a school. (CA accredited list is here.) I went to USC. It was nearby, they didn't require a GRE, didn't have a statistics prerequisite, and they let me in.
Get your MSW. Maybe try learning something along the way. It's nice to have challenging, inspiring teachers and internship supervisors, but...doesn't always happen.
Got your Master's? Congratulations! Celebrate good times. Done? Now, you need hours. 3200 of them in California. If you haven't already, time to find a job. Try careerbuilder, try craigslist, try anything you can think of. Time to be a social worker. And don't forget to register with your state licensing board.
Work. Accrue hours. Get supervised. Check with your licensing board and make sure you're getting the right kind of hours supervised by the right kind of supervisor (some % has to be sup'd by an LCSW--at least in CA). Hint: Getting on top of signatures for hours and such early will save you panic later on. Most people wait and panic, though.
3200 working hours pass (about two years). Done? Wow, congratulations again. Get your CEs done. Now, time to get your application in. This is potentially nerve wracking. You've put years into this, and if they nix your hours, it's a bummer. it right. Check it with someone else. Don't fuss getting it too, too perfect. But don't fudge things either. Your licensing board wants to okay your app. Don't give them a reason not to.
Approved? Celebrate some more. Now, it's test prep time. This takes a while and can get really expensive. Survey what's out there. Try out practice questions. If you can afford it, choose a test-prep company (hopefully, this one!). Probably worth it. 
Once you've picked a company, choose components--books, CDs, workshops, etc. Ebay and craigslist sometimes have used materials. Free and helpful audio is available on the web. Most crucial, I think, are the online test banks. Seems like it'd be tough to prep without them.


Study. Run the questions. Read through this blog. Gather in groups. Maybe hire a tutor. Keep in mind: the people putting together the test probably just want to make sure you don't do harm to clients. That means you need to know the law, have a grasp of social work ethics, can do assessments (especially for danger and basic needs), and won't try to work outside the scope of practice. If you've got that stuff down, you're most (maybe all) of the way there.
You've also got to learn the test, which is why the practice questions come in handy. Run complete exams in real time. Four hours! Two hours! Take breaks just like you will for the actual, factual test.
And keep tabs on your anxiety. Maybe take advice you've been ignoring--exercise, eat a little better, meditate--at least till you get through the test. Maybe try to enjoy the learning process. The test result is just a result; but studying, you're getting better at what you do every day.
Done all that? Feel ready? Great, then you're ready. Book the test (in CA, call PSI). Take the test. Pass the test...
You're done. Nice job. Celebrate again.

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