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!
Unfortunately, it’s often not enough to be a good social worker when it comes to taking and passing the social work exams. While having a good handle on information relevant to social work practice is important, this may also not be enough. Even very good social workers sometimes have a tough time passing their exams. Why might this be? Two reasons: 1) anxiety management and 2) test-taking strategy. The latter can often be the cure for the former.
Many social workers are intimidated by the use of theory and may wonder how theory applies to the social work exam. Theory helps us understand two basic concepts that apply to the social work exam and to social work itself: 1) how people develop problems 2) how to help them with their problems. Taking those two concepts into consideration, we are able to see that theory applies to the following content areas of the exams: 1) human growth and development 2) human behavior in the social environment 3) treatment planning and 4) interventions or psychotherapy (depending on your level of exam).
Preparing for the social work exam can seem like an overwhelming task. After years of school, internships, and the application process itself, facing the prospect of months of study and practice can be daunting, to say the least. This is especially true if you don’t have a plan. Therefore, the best way to approach your exam prep is - with a plan! The last thing you want to do is spend weeks or months feeling unsure as to what you should be doing just to take the exam unprepared and risk the possibility of failing.