Preparing for your LMFT exam is a critical part of your licensure process. It’s not just about passing your exam but it’s also about reviewing the important information that you need to be a practicing LMFT. Framing your preparation as a necessary and GOOD thing is the first step to getting ready to take and pass your exam. You’ve probably been out of school for a while, and there’s lots of information that you didn’t study, or did study but forgot. Now, in the context of having some experience in the field, this information will be invaluable to review. Things will make more sense to you now after working with real live clients. As your first step, choose to see your exam prep as an opportunity to become a better therapist.

STEP 1: Practice! It’s one thing to be a clinician. It’s another to have a lot of knowledge in the field and quite another to know how to deal with exam questions. The more exam-type questions you can answer, the better prepared you will be for the actual exam. The process of applying your clinical experience and your knowledge to answering exam-type questions takes a LOT of practice. Let test bank questions be the bulk of your preparations. Make sure you answer questions in a non-timed mode so that you can really work on strategy, and then take the exams later (not back-to-back) in a timed mode so you can work on stamina and timing.

STEP 2: Fill in the blanks. As you work on exam-type questions, you should start to become aware of what areas you need to study. In fact, keeping a record of why you miss questions can be very helpful in figuring out where your weaknesses lie. Try filling out an index card (or using an Excel file) for every missed question. Perhaps you missed a question because you didn’t know very much about the content area being covered. Make a note of it so that later you can study that area. Or perhaps you missed a question because you were getting tired and just wanted study time to be over! Perhaps you have a tendency to change the answer to questions only to then get them wrong. Use your note cards to guide you to areas you need to correct.

STEP 3: Never leave a question blank! We recommend that you never skip questions as you go through the exam. Answer each question in order. If you are stumped by a question, record your best guess and move on. Flag the item as one you want to review later, but put an answer in and go to the next question. If you have time, you can go back to your marked questions after completing the rest of the exam. Because there is no penalty for guessing, it’s better to record an answer for every question the first time you work with the question. Otherwise, you risk running out of time and being forced to leave some questions unanswered. If you leave a question blank and forget to come back to it, you have 0% chance of getting it right. If you just guess any answer, you have a 25% chance of getting it right. As candidates are usually stumped between two responses, by simply picking an answer and moving on, you have about a 50% chance of getting it right. If you skip a question thinking you will come back to it, you may run out of time and not be able to come back, thereby ensuring it will be counted as wrong. Most questions can be answered in between 30 seconds and three minutes. After three minutes, it might be better to simply guess, flag the question, and move on. It’s easy to return to flagged questions at the end if you have time. Remember - never leave a question blank!

STEP 4: Use your common sense. While it’s true that being a good test-taker, and having a thorough knowledge base are invaluable to passing the exam, the most important quality you bring to the exam is your “clinical self” – your common sense, your clinical intuition, your good judgement and your ability to think like a clinician. If an answer doesn’t make sense in real life, it probably isn’t a good answer. Remember, the people writing the questions are other therapists who are looking to see if you are a good therapist. While you need to be able to show a mastery of knowledge, they are most interested in seeing if you think like a real clinician.

STEP 5: Read the question stem first. This is the part of the question at the very end where they actually ASK the question. Let’s use the following question as an example: “What should the therapist do in the initial stage in this case?”

The stem tells us that the question is about 1) interventions (things that you do), 2) initial stage (first couple of sessions) and 3) that fits THIS case. Therefore, when you read the entire vignette, you can be thinking about what you do in the first couple of sessions. You are reading with an informed eye because you read the question stem first.

Most of all – make sure that you are the MOST prepared you can possibly be when you actually take your test. Do everything within your power to walk into your exam at the peak of your preparation, confident in yourself and your abilities.

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