Ideas, Thoughts, Suggestions from an L.C.S.W. Exam Survivor!

Let me start this post by saying I’m an average gal with a tenacious spirit.  What has been successful in my studies from Kindergarten with Mrs. Wyatt and her ruler on the back of your hand (When I went to school you could get a spanking!  That’s how old I am.) to present has been creativity, perseverance, a lot of prayer and support, and group learning.  So these suggestions are for folks like us – who have to study to pass, and tend to be very creative to get the job done. 

Suggestion #1

It’s never too early to study.  Go to the  and order the book: Clinical Study guide.  It’s worth the money.  You will read about what areas the exam will cover, HOW to take the test, and how to read the questions so that you understand WHAT they are asking.  I can’t stress enough how important it is to remember words like “what would you do FIRST” or “what would you do NEXT.”  First and next are your new vocabulary words.  All of the answers could be something you would do eventually but as a clinician its important to know the first thing.  Included in this booklet are practice questions from each area covered on the exam that you can practice and discuss with your supervisor.

Suggestion #2

Automaticity is a great thing that happens in our minds.  So, practice, practice, practice for your exam.  Once you are approved to take the exam set your date a month or so ahead and claim that time to study intensely.  There are two practice exams you can purchase and its worth every penny.  It’s timed, its layout is exactly like the exam, it gives you practice questions produced from the company that creates the exam, and at the end you can study what you got wrong.  Warning!  Once you hit finished, you can’t re-take the practice exam, so make sure before you hit finish you have taken notes on areas you need to brush up on.  The time is clicking on the exam and they only give you four hours, but you can click out of it, and come back without penalty. This was truly beneficial to me.  When I arrived at the exam and part of it was how to mechanically take the exam, I was confident and ready to go with that.  Your mind is already racing with other thoughts, get that part under your belt.

Suggestion # 3

This is a personal call for me.  You always hear to rest and not study the day before or the morning of.  I’ve never taken that philosophy to heart.  Why?  Because I believe every question counts, so if I have a thought in my mind that’s cloudy, I’m going to look it up.  The morning of as I was praying I felt a leading to study the difference between some topics and I’m sure glad I did.  It’s on the exam.  Which leads me to suggestion # 4.

Suggestion # 4

Know beyond a shadow of a doubt and study situations and clinical note taking with your supervisor in regards to

  • Ethical Decisions
  • Duty To Warn Decisions
  • Confidentiality
  • Claiming Privilege and what to do when issued a Subpoena

Suggestion # 5

The exam is broad – you need to know school social work, elderly care, sleep disorders, eating disorders,  couples therapy, individual therapy, ethics, and all age groups, SA and what measures are used in SA, group therapy and process.  I was surprised at how many elderly care questions were on there.  I’ll  mention two things I learned in this process as examples.  One – If you are engaged in couple’s therapy and one of them calls you about the other you always suggest disclosing that within the therapy itself, never align or meet separate if you are in COUPLE’s therapy.  When you are in the group therapy process (which is most effective for addictions) always suggest that the individual bring a concern up in the group process, don’t meet individually.  Remember it’s GROUP WORK.  Know the different stages of group work.

Suggestion # 6

Remember Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – safety, shelter, food ALWAYS comes first.  And, if their symptoms are severe and suggesting harm to self or others ASSESS for that and CLARIFY.

Suggestion # 7

Know your major contributors and counseling theories they brought to the field. Yes go all the way back to Freud, Piaget, Erickson, and Kohlberg. Study them now in supervision and how they relate to what you are doing in clinical work.  Know your therapies and when to use them.

Suggestion # 8

Major DSM categories are Anxiety, Mood Disorders, Schizophrenia, Personality Disorders and also please know your Defense Mechanisms.  I will post them next.

Suggestion # 9

There is a study manual from a local class.  This study manual should be your main book in supervision and time taken each week to discuss a chapter or two.  It’s a class offered from the Social Work Board in Richmond, VA.  I was given one by my supervisor, and this book was my buddy, and I’m glad I befriended her.  Let me know if you don’t know what I’m talking about and I will give you more information.

Suggestion # 10

Take a class if you are totally rusty.  I’m a pretty good independent study person, and I’m good at getting in groups and talking out what I need to know and learn. But if it’s been awhile, and you are wondering who Freud is, you might want to consider a class for confidence boosting and concentrated effort on topics you are rusty on.  Call your local social work board and inquire about classes.

Suggestion # 11

The DSM has a handbook that goes along with it.  I love this book!  It’s small, has scenarios, and gets to the meat.  I studied this book, and I’m sure glad I did, because believe it or not you need to know what those rare personality disorders are!  Like what is the difference between schizoid personality disorder and schizotypal personality disorder.  Pay attention to time qualifications and characteristics, and criteria.  When reading questions their age and duration of symptoms are very important!

Suggestion # 12

Flagging questions on your exam is an option I did not take.  Because I had practiced, I knew basically how much time per question I could take.  You have plenty of time.  But, please do practice.  Anxiety can get the best of you, so slow down, deep breath, and if you don’t know the answer right away say, “I’m going to read this question and concentrate and make the best educated guess.”  If you question if it’s right, then write the number down to come back to but please answer it. You are given a wipe board and pen the day of the exam.  At the end you can review.  I went back and only changed those that were -“Oh my gosh that’s wrong and this is right!” ones.  I left my gut feeling ones alone. That way if you run out of time at  least they are all answered.  You will know if you passed or failed once you hit continue or finished.  You will know your score. You wont care much about that until later when you have had time to digest OH MY GOSH I JUST PASSED AND YOU ARE CRYING TEARS OF JOY!  Remember others are in the room with you so you can’t scream out loud, but you can mouth it like I did, and start crying softly to yourself. HA! A side note, I made sure I had some protein that morning, water, head ache meds and sinus meds in me.  I was prepared for anything that could happen.  A guy beside me did NOT prepare, and I got to listen to him cough the whole time. Save yourself and others the trouble!

Suggestion # 13

Clear the calendar and celebrate.  You’ve worked 2 plus years on this moment.  When you pass do something to celebrate beyond the norm, and remember how totally awesome cool it is that you’ve climbed this mountain.  My family literally just went across town to a hotel called Aloft in Short Pump, VA and spent the night.  We swam in the pool, ate dinner out, and walked around in the local shops.  I also painted a memory pottery item from All Fired Up.  Did we have the money for all that?  Absolutely not!  But it’s worth it to stop and make it happen!  Celebrate your hard work!

Suggestion # 14

Treat that exam like a school standard’s of learning test – study to the exam while you are in supervision.  Don’t wait to the last-minute to begin to study, but know a time will come when supervision ends, you are waiting to hear if you are approved to take the exam, scheduling the exam…etc (that’s about four months) and you can get down and dirty with it. Leave obsessing over it until then.

I’m available for face to face chat with my co-workers if you want more talk time about it!

Suggestion # 15


What happens if I don’t pass?  First of all you did not fail!  Don’t ever say, “What happens if  I fail.”  I approached this reality by saying to myself, “Anna, if you do not pass remember how hard you tried and the effort you put into the exam.  Remember that your next step will be taking a class and studying some more, and the second time will be a charm.  And, Anna, by the way, don’t you want to be proficient in what you do?  So try again until you pass and then you can say – D for done and R for Ready to go!”  I also had a select few I told and asked them to pray for me.  That takes the pressure off everyone sitting around wondering if you passed!  If you want to tell the world go forth!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s