Social workers are all too often asked to tackle any range of tasks, from managing a caseload to responding to crises to consultation with other members of the care team. All the responsibilities you have while you are preparing to take your licensure exam do not slow down for you to study. It seems to be a perfect microcosm for the life of a social worker, does it not? In order to manage your day-to-day schedule, a natural solution can be to switch to “autopilot” for certain tasks. Everyday, we are on autopilot for the simpler tasks. Typically, we would expect to be on autopilot for basic tasks like brushing our teeth or making a grocery list. These are simple, over-practiced tasks that we can do without much of our mental space being taken up. However, when we are overloaded, our brains will switch to autopilot for some of the more important tasks. In the life of a social worker, becoming overloaded is very easy. After a long day, you barely have the mental space left to respond to emails without using autopilot, let alone study for the licensure exam! Although it is a very tempting situation, we are here to encourage you not to just go through the motions of studying or taking the exam!
One of the most problematic issues for many candidates taking the social work exam is the tendency to use “autopilot”. We all operate on autopilot much of the time and this mode of thinking can be very useful. After all, if you had to think carefully each time you tie your shoes, load the dishwasher or brush your teeth, you’d be mentally exhausted in no time! Autopilot lets us perform these overlearned behaviors with little or no mental effort required. However, autopilot is not a good way to approach your exam, and yet, many people use it much of the time.
While occasionally we will hear of someone who took their exam without studying, the fact of the matter is that this is a VERY rare occurrence! Most people need to study and, on top of studying, they need to practice taking test questions. The two tasks can be combined, but they are not the same thing. The single best thing you can do to prepare for your LCSW exam is to complete lots and lots of test questions! While you’re doing test questions, you are also reviewing material. This does not work the other way around. You can go back and read all of your textbooks and review all of the notes you took in class, but, other than the knowledge review, it will not help you with test taking strategy. The only way you can prepare for taking the test is to practice taking the test.
As social workers, we take on a variety of roles when working with our clients. As case managers, we help our clients access resources and make their appointments. As clinicians, we provide therapy and emotional support. And as outreach workers, we liaise with our client’s loved ones and support systems to help them get what they need.