How to Prepare for (and Pass) the Licensing Exam
Updated: Jan 5
In my last blog post I reviewed mistakes to avoid when preparing for the licensure process. In this blog post, I’ll review strategies that helped me to prepare for and pass the licensing exam to become an LCSW.
Strategy 1: Study
I had to point out the most obvious one. :) The reason is because I know more than a few folks who admitted to either not studying or just barely skimming their study material. These folks provided the familiar excuses:
Not enough time
Too stressed out
Not thinking the exam would be that hard
Considering the test to be their first “practice round”
This test is hard. You could be the best and the most informed therapist in the world, and yet you can still fail if you do not know the material and/or how to test well enough to pass. If any of the above excuses resonate with you, use common sense by turning them around. If you’re too busy and/or don’t have enough time: carve out the time, even if it means re-prioritizing your priorities. If you’re too stressed out: make active efforts to get your stress under control so that it does not control you.
Strategy 2: Research and/or invest in some study materials
In addition to reviewing material that might be on the test, it’s helpful to understand how the test is structured. I’d recommend taking at least a few practice exams to assess your own level of understanding of the material. This will also give you a good chance to go through the process of considering these questions. (Believe me, you can spend several seconds really thinking through just one question.)
Personally, I cannot speak enough about Therapist Development Center. While their study package comes at a hefty price tag of $295, they tout a passing rate of 95%. The material was thorough, easy to digest, and available in different formats (including audio and written material). If you plan to take the test once and only once, I’d recommend this resource.
Strategy 3: Make your overall health a priority
Think of this time as practicing for a mental marathon. You want to be in good enough shape to get through this exam. Evaluate different areas of your health to see what needs to be addressed. How is your stress level? How is your sleep? Are you eating well? Are you staying active?
For me, stress management became the top priority. In the two months before taking the exam, I regularly exercised in the morning to relieve stress. This in turn also helped to keep my energy high enough to study, and my sleep had also improved. I also committed to preparing quick and healthy meals to keep my energy up. Simple things like batch-cooked chicken, salads, brown rice, fruits and nuts for energy kept me going. And of course coffee. :)
Strategy 4: Set firm boundaries with your loved ones
This was a tough one for me. On top of working full time, I knew I was going to have to carve out time everyday to study for a few months. This meant that I would not be spending as much time with friends and family.
To better mitigate any hurt feelings (my own included!), I communicated with immediate friends and family a few months prior to the exam that I would not be as available to spend time with them. The occasional text or phone call would be okay, but I had to limit, say, driving to another town to visit friends. Plenty of my support persons were understanding. Some, not so much. (I can recall the irritation I felt when a friend dropped by several minutes after my bedtime, even after I had communicated that I was making my sleep a top priority.)
Remember that this period of social distancing is temporary. You’ll have plenty to celebrate after the exam.
Strategy 5: Prepare everything that you need on the day of the exam
Make sure you have your forms of identification. Make sure that these forms of identification are not expired. (I’ve heard horror stories.) Prepare your clothes, meals, etc. the day before to reduce any decision fatigue. Make sure your car is full of gas and/or that you have a backup means of getting to your testing site.
Questions for Readers:
For those that have taken the licensing exam (or a related exam), are there any strategies that you swear by?
For those that are working towards their own exam process, is there anything that you’d like to do to prepare yourself for success?