Brought to you by the letters L and C.

1 08 2013

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.



10 responses

1 08 2013

Thanks for the tips, SJ! I’m in the second year of my Masters program for Social Work, and I plan to eventually get my LCSW license. Congrats again. 🙂

1 08 2013
Judy Rosen

Thank you SJ, this couldn’t have come at a better time! I’m studying for my LMSW and taking it August [censored]. 🙂 Congrats!

1 08 2013

This was a great post! Having take the exam somewhat recently, undergoing all of the experiences listed above – including, no joke, We are the Champions on the return drive, #6 is the piece of advice I pass along to everyone who asks. You totally nailed the sequence! So much so that I want to suggest you publish it as a one page summary on Amazon.

1 08 2013

Thanks for a funny, well thought out, and helpful post. I’m LICSW (MA) eligible in September, and feeling super excited and nervous at the same time. Surely will keep these in mind! As always, love your posts!

1 08 2013

Good job, girl! Also, most of this advice works for law school and the bar exam, as well.

1 08 2013

Congratulations! When I earned my LCSW, I felt like I’d accomplished one of the most important things in my life…and I feel like only other LCSWs can understand. I don’t know you, but I’m feeling really happy and proud for you in this moment!

1 08 2013

I’m so excited that you did this and that you passed on your first try! SO AWESOME.

1 08 2013

Congratulations to you!

2 08 2013
Patrick Yang

Congrats, SJ! I’m sitting for my LBSW exam in August. I registered last year and procrastinated down to the wire to actually go. I’m simultaneously crazy nervous and defiantly uncaring. Thanks for the tips!

19 08 2013

Hehehehe, doesn’t it feel good. Just like after I successfully defended my case study (the SECOND time). Wrote a song in my honour after I met this darling Reisling (my husband and I had a dinner out scheduled). Do you know the tune of “I’m a lumberjack and I’m okay”? Wellll…

I’m a social worker and I’m okay
I do paperwork every single day
I drink tea and coffee all the while
But I’ll never take your favourite child!

Like I said, I had met this Reisling… and I’m a medical social worker.

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