How to Take the LCSW exam (Part 1)


If you are preparing for the LCSW exam, it is highly recommended that you master the test-taking skills. Knowing how to take the test is the key to passing the exam. In this post, I will try my best to break down some useful test-taking strategies.

Please be mindful that this is not the only way to take the exam. If  you have another way that has been working for you, keep using it!

First and foremost: Let’s agree that your preparation of the LCSW exam starts with YOU.

By learning how to be self-disciplined during your study, you can count on having the recall questions in the bag. Additionally, you will lower your chances of making avoidable mistakes from not reading the question stem carefully.

I found it helpful to approach the test with the following mindsets:

I. The Pledge of Being Self-Disciplined:

  1. I will study and know my social work materials. 
  2. When taking the test, I will indiscriminately take the time to READ the vignette and hear myself reading it.
  3. I will consider ALL answer choices before selecting one.
  4. I will be mindful of my own automatic tendency, whether it is making assumptions, inserting ideas to the question, skimming instead of reading, or jumping to conclusion. If this comes up, I will clear my head and re-read. 
  5. I will use ALL the clues from the vignette to help choose the best answer.
  6. When in doubt, I would ask myself “What would a law-obeying, ethical, and sensible social worker do in this situation”?

II. Keep Calm and Expect the Best Test Questions: 

According to the ASWB Guide to Social Work Exams, on your test day, you can expect the following:

  1. The exam questions will accurately reflect the content outline provided by the Board.
  2. Each question will be worded simply and easy to read (this is a knowledge, NOT a reading test)
  3. The question stem is clear and will contain clues to help you get the right answer. It is NOT designed to fool you into making incorrect choice.
  4. The Question stem is worded either as a direct question or a vignette, that fall in THREE categories: (1) Recall (2) Application (3) Reasoning. 
  5. Of course,  each question has ONLY 1 correct answer.

Being self-disciplined and knowing the language of the exam are the factors WITHIN YOUR CONTROL. What does that mean?

  • By studying the stages of human development, behavior in environment, DSM 5, psychotropic medications, theories and therapy approach, you can count on having most RECALL questions correct. This will serve as an important cushion to reach the passing score.
  • By training yourself to READ the questions carefully, you can avoid choosing incorrect answers by missing important clues in the stem.
  • By knowing how simple and straight-forward the actual test questions will be, you will be able to focus more on how to read What’s Being Asked of you, as a social worker.

Part 2 of How to Take the LCSW Exam will cover steps to read test questions correctly and identifying the clues to help you choose the answer. In preparation for part II, you will need:

  • To know your materials or have study materials ready to review.
  • A set of quality LCSW practice questions.  I highly recommend purchasing one from the ASWB site.
  • Once you got that, you will need a piece of paper and pen to get started.

All the best.

*Please forgive my grammatical errors and send me an email if you see them.  Writing has always been a challenge for me as a third language learner. I will try my best to make sure the blog posts are at least reader-friendly by taking feedback and updating the posts. –Chinh 


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