How to Take the LCSW Exam (Part 3)


Insomnia and the urge to write. It’s 3AM and I might as well be productive. I hope you find it helpful.

Part 2 of How to Take the LCSW exam focuses on how to read the question stem carefully and strategically. It also touches on a few helpful tips in knowing what factors taking precedence in the “FIRST, NEXT, BEST” questions.

Part 3 is a continuation of what to keep in mind when reading the answer choices.

As a reminder, this is NOT the only way to approach the test. This is what I personally found helpful. I cannot cover all of topics, but I can try to list what I could humanly remember from my own preparation for the exam. 🙂 

In Choosing Answer Choices (cont.)

The common helpful advice in reading answer choices, is, ideally, eliminate 2 answers that sound silly or way off the chart. 

If the answer choice appears silly, it is probably silly. If the answer choice appears ridiculous, chances are, it is.

What if all FOUR answer choices sound plausible? You can only pick ONE answer. First, focus on what is being asked and what’s in front of you. Next, choose by ranking the 4 answers: 

For example, if you think C may be correct in the “FIRST” question:

  • Ask yourself, if C sounds like a good choice to do FIRST, can A, B, and D be done after C?
  • Or if you address C, will A, B, and or D resolve as well?
  • Specific question warrants specific answer
  • General question warrants general answer

If you find yourself dwelling for too long, pick the most ethical and sensible answer, mark it, move on, review it later. Do NOT leave it blank. Remember, you have 4 hours (240 minutes) to answer 170 questions. You can’t afford spending 5 minutes on too many of them! With that said, don’t keep looking at the clock!

Here are some tips about the answers to AVOID:

In advocacy and empowerment, NEVER take action that is inflammatory, even though it may come up as “the first thing I would do in the real world”. For example:

  • When SW witnesses a situation of injustice, after making reasonable effort to advocate, but the situation remains unchanged:
    • NEVER advise the client to file a complaint/law suit against anybody or agency. You are not in the position to do so. The client will need to make that decision.
    • Please don’t quit your job
    • You MAY suggest client to SEEK legal consultation as a last resource.
  • Do stick with the facts presented in the question stem. Choose what you would do properly with least damage without letting your emotions influence your choice.

I don’t want to sound like an hypocrite. I had left employer with questionable ethical practice before.  However, for the sake of passing the exam, stay with the job stated in question stem. 🙂

In working with couple or family, pay attention to the language of the answer choices. Do NOT choose an answer that may indicate that the SW is colluding (picking side) with a member of the family or a partner in couple therapy.

Do NOT pathologize your client.

Do NOT abandon your client.

In trauma care, I’ve learned that you must first ask “What happened to you?” before “what is your problem?”.

In SW Competency: Before diagnosing someone, determine how it has impaired one’s function, and how it has caused distress to the client or others. The symptoms alone warrant an assessment, but may not warrant a diagnosis.

A few more rambles about ethics:

  • Do seek consultation or supervision.
  • Do discuss potential risk of dual relationship with client.
  • Respect your colleagues by addressing any ethical concern DIRECTLY.
  • Don’t start therapy with a client who is already in therapy with another therapist. Don’t terminate without giving enough time and discussion.
  • If client chooses to terminate, or not showing up for meetings, do make reasonable attempts to reach client before termination.

Last but not Least:

The Gray area: When family member or caregiver is involved in the care of the client or aware that the client is in treatment with you, you may collect relevant information from the member without giving anything out.

  • For example, when the member calls the social worker expressing their concern about the client’s behavior or psychological state, you may ask what their concerns are without giving out any information about the client’s treatment progress.
  • Be aware of the limits of confidentiality. Educate, set boundaries, get client’s consent to further discuss. Refuse to give out information when the member is not aware of client’s treatment.

Good luck studying! Please leave me a comment for questions and feedback.

Make sure you read Part 1 and Part 2 of How to Take the LCSW Exam and the Reasoning Strategies Overview #1 and #2. 

*This is a “living” blog, which means that I will keep updating relevant content to each post as well as correcting any grammatical errors. Please contact me at if you find any errors in information or grammar. I really appreciate it. Let’s learn together. 



  1. This blog is absolutely amazing!! Thank you kindly for taking the time to put this together for this group!! May God continue to flourish you in your career!

  2. You have words of wisdom so thank you for that without being unethical about sharing information . Please please keep giving any kind of advice when you think of something that is crucial to the test .

  3. Honestly a gift sent from my heaven!! I appreciate the information your put out. I love that you are willing to share your tips and trips… may you be blessed!!

  4. Your blogs are amazing! I like the presentation of the information you are providing. This blog is such a big help.

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