If you follow me on Twitter, or work with me, or are my Facebook friend, or if I ran into you at the gas station yesterday, you already know–I passed my LCSW exam. Thousands of clinical hours, hundreds of dollars, a pain in the ass application, and a really nerve wracking, long test that I did not allow myself a bathroom break during, and here I am.
There was this other exam happening on Tuesday, I heard. You might have as well, especially if you’re in your late 20s/early 30s, have an awareness of social media, and friends who made admittedly questionable grad school choices. If not, *spoiler alert* it was the bar exam. They only offer that a couple of times a year (or something, I wasn’t really listening) so it’s a bit of an event.
The Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) exams for the LMSW and LCSW are a little more low key. You can take them whenever you get an appointment, so it doesn’t make the papers. But you do still have to pay a lot of money for the privilege of taking it, turn out your pockets and roll up your sleeves to be searched for notes before you go in, and I think you get tased if you try to use the bathroom without an escort, so we know it’s legit.
People, aside from us weirdos, don’t talk a whole lot about this exam. When I was
in a violent panic studying, I was perturbed by the lack of reliable information. You know how when you go into Barnes and Noble, assuming you’ve never heard of Amazon, there are rows of study books? Official looking tomes for the LSAT, MCAT, SAT, GRE, all that. Look for one from the ASWB. Find it? If you did, where? I couldn’t. I heard them saying this would “compromise the integrity of the test. Riiiight. Don’t worry. Charging $75 for a single online practice exam, though, is dripping with integrity.
So here are my tips, free of charge, exactly what they’re worth.
1.) Take is as soon as possible. The LMSW exam, you can take that almost immediately after you graduate. Do it, if at all possible financially. You might think you want some time to work, or relax after all that time in school. But months become years. Remember what you learned in tenth grade trigonometry? Yeah, me neither.
2.) “Don’t pay for a class! Join a study group. Do practice exams exclusively. I mean, take a class, that’s what you should do!”
Everyone will have a suggestion for you. By nature of taking this test, you’ve completed college and graduate school. You’ve taken standardized exams. You have probably learned what works for you. Do the thing that makes you comfortable and don’t care what other people say. I paid that goddamn $75 for the ASWB online practice exam. I had to! It’s how I learn, and passing that helped my hysteria subside. My coworker went to a Meet Up group. Personally, I’d rather supervise a Druidic ritual, but it was what worked for him.
3.) Don’t tell people when you’re taking it. If it goes well, you get to surprise and dazzle them. If it goes poorly, you get to reveal in your own time. You won’t have to hear, “Are you ready? It’s tomorrow, right?! How did it go?! DID YOU PASS?!?!” Tell your supervisor, tell your boyfriend, tell your dog (that was my way) but keep it elite.
4.) If your agency gives you the day to take the exam, schedule it for the morning. You’ll be happy to have the rest of the day to mourn/revel. Since you haven’t told anyone, if it doesn’t go well you can just tell your colleagues you were sick.
5.) Even if you’re an atheist, or an agnostic, or a Jehovah’s Witness, whatever, when your aunt offers to say a novena for you, let her.
6.) Don’t cram to memorize the DSM. You’ve either just gone to school, been working in the field, or both. You know more than you think. But remember a few crucial things, and when in doubt, pick them:
-Seek additional supervision.
-Explore your counter transference.
-Assess for suicidal ideation.
-Report suspected child abuse to the appropriate authorities.
-And for fuck’s sake, talk to your drunk coworker before ratting him out to the supervisor.
7.) Have a playlist ready. Chill on the way there, party on the way back. (Or, chill on the way back too.) Hint- for a celebratory trip home, Queen’s “We are the Champions” on repeat will suffice. You can replace “we” with your name for extra fun. Not that I did that. So lame. But get yourself as relaxed as possible with The Lumineers on the way there, and you’ll be more likely to sing along to Beyonce’s “Diva” on the way back.
8.) Remember that you’ll be fine. It’s a hard, tricky test and plenty of smart, competent people need to take it more than once. But you will pass, even if it takes a time or two.
And when you do, crank that playlist and celebrate the shit out of it.