7 Tips for Choosing the Right Study Materials

What You Need to Know BEFORE Studying for your exam

Some of the most vital characteristics of effective study materials are often overlooked by exam candidates.

Imagine how frustrating it would be if you spent months studying and, when it came time for the exam, you didn’t know how to apply that information. Now imagine having to spend more money to re-register.

You may be thinking, I have taken so many tests in my life. . .but, trust me, this exam is different. You need to know how questions are worded, what kind of answers the Board is looking for, and how to identify the correct answers with tips and tricks that you can’t learn from outdated materials.

My goal for you is to have you take and pass the exam the first time.

1. Your study materials should allow you to mix in testing while you study the content.

Learning theory suggests—and it is also our belief after working with thousands of licensing candidates—that simultaneously integrating practice questions while studying the materials makes a huge difference with regard to retention. Focus on a content area and then immediately test yourself with the relevant practice exam questions. You can then see your results, learn from them, and repeat the process until you have mastered that section.

For example, you read a chapter for the first time, then immediately engross yourself in a number of test questions relevant to that area. How did you do? Why did you choose those answers? Why were they right or wrong? In effect, you’re applying the concepts you learned while maintaining an awareness of semantic indicators on the test. Here is where your materials need to support you in this process.

Your study materials should provide the following features:

  • Sample questions that correlate to written materials to enforce the exam points
  • The ability to quiz and test yourself in specific areas or domains
  • Detailed rationales on why answers are right or wrong

Study materials should allow you to easily focus your learning to specific areas or domains and should efficiently familiarize you with the actual question/answer exam format.

2. Your study materials should provide comprehensive rationales.

Study materials should provide the option to view comprehensive explanations (i.e., rationales) for each sample exam question you encounter. You may encounter questions where a couple of answers seem correct, but there will only be one that the ASWB considers correct. With in-depth rationales, you’ll know why the ASWB considers one answer correct over the other choices.

Rationales will also teach you about the subtle language clues that are crucial to your success on the exam. You can’t really get a feel for them unless you have some kind of exam simulation, the ability to test yourself, and then a full explanation of what the question is precisely asking.

3. Your study materials should include cues to where you are in relation to your overall study plan.

A marathon runner will keep a training schedule so that, on race day, she’s prepared and confident (both physically and mentally) to run for 3+ hours. Training schedules provide not only a concrete plan of action, but also the ability to know how you’re progressing. Like the marathoner, it is vital to track your studies so you know you’ll be ready when exam day comes.

Keep track of what content is needed to learn for the exam, how much of the content you’ve covered, and how much more there is to go. These markers will allow you to allocate your study time better and set small incremental goals in order to reach your bigger picture goals. Materials that do not clearly indicate where you are in relation to your study plan and how much time/focus each area requires should be avoided – they aren’t going to help you run this race.

4. Your study materials should be up-to-date with the latest exam content and format.

Beware of materials that fail to state in clear terms when and how often they are updated to reflect the latest exam changes.

The exam does change often. The Social Work exam board consistently audits and updates the exam to ensure it upholds the quality of our profession. New questions are continuously being added while old or outdated ones are discarded. With this in mind, getting materials that reflect the latest exam is key to your success.

When shopping for materials, keep in mind that relentlessly maintaining materials is not a one-person job. Extensive and continuous updates require a team of experts and significant resources. A small “mom and pop” test prep operation may not have those resources at their disposal. AATBS has been providing quality National Social Work test prep materials for 40 years, with a team of expert consultants, researchers, and writers dedicated to ensuring that the materials are a reflection of the latest updates.

5. Your study materials should contain accurate data and information.

This one seems obvious, but there are materials out there that have wrong, outdated, or incomplete information. Generally, you will see these materials from companies who create test preparation for nearly all tests on earth. Look at the company’s credentials and find out if there are experts in the field who stand behind them. Also look for recent editions and updated versions. At what frequency have past versions been updated?

Look for material revisions aside from just exam change updates. Your test prep company should be just as diligent at updating their content as the ASWB. That will show you that there is a team who cares about the materials and our colleagues, always checking for ways to improve your experience and increase your chances of success.

6. Your study materials should highlight which areas should be focused on (i.e., critical importance content) and which areas don’t need as much focus (i.e., lower importance content).

Based on the research conducted on the exam’s contents, quality materials will point out what is of higher importance and, thus, where you need to be at a higher performance level. Be sure your materials include this key aspect!

It’s not necessary, then, to study every bit of information with equal importance. Therefore, your test prep materials will give you a huge advantage if they pinpoint critical importance content that requires more in-depth studying, while reviewing, but not drawing out, the content of lower importance.

Be sure to get materials where key content is highlighted, with more information, more resources, and more details on that content in order to help you master it.

7. Your study materials should be organized to optimize your learning retention.

Contemporary learning literature reports that people retain more when they initially have a better understanding of the high-level concepts - the Big Picture - before going into study mode. Materials that make it easy to understand the outline ahead of time and how the different parts are interconnected will actually help you more efficiently store what you study.

Materials set up by a company just trying to make a buck will simply dump information into a haphazard layout, resulting in a miserable study process. Trust us, we've seen them! They will cripple your pace and fail to help you connect the dots. Even if materials contain all the needed information, bad organization can make retaining it nearly impossible.

You want materials that have been thoroughly thought out and systematically structured to make your studying more efficient and productive. Practical materials are created by experts who are taking your learning seriously and, in a sense, doing the hard work for you. The design of their materials will optimize your retention of the content.

Get materials that are precisely worded and carefully refined like the exam, so that you can move efficiently through them. There is a huge amount of terrain to cover in preparing for this exam, so if the materials make it easier, that will in turn improve your ability to maximize your study time and be successful. User-friendliness, readability, organization, and care make a huge difference in your 200 hours of study time. You don’t want to suffer just because your materials were carelessly written and thought out.

The Next Step

Like your study plan and your mindset, the right materials can literally make or break your entire exam prep process.

AATBS materials possess every single one of the attributes discussed above and are backed by an unmatched Pass Guarantee.