What is the LCSW exam?
The Licensed Clinical Social Work (LCSW) exam is administered by Association of Social Work Board (ASWB). The Clinical exam is the final, and most challenging, of the exams offered by the ASWB. Different states grant different titles for social workers who pass the ASWB Clinical exam. In most places, LCSW or LICSW are used.
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What's on the LCSW exam?
The LCSW exam, like all ASWB licensing exams, consists of 170 questions which are to be completed over a timed, four hour period. Of those questions, twenty are "testers"--questions being tested out by the ASWB for possible inclusion in future editions of the exam. Tester questions do not count toward or against your final score.
The ASWB publishes an exam content outline, covering the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) that may be tested for on the exam. The Clinical exam breaks down this way:
HUMAN DEVELOPMENT, DIVERSITY, AND BEHAVIOR IN THE ENVIRONMENT (24%)
ASSESSMENT, DIAGNOSIS, AND TREATMENT PLANNING (30%)
PSYCHOTHERAPY, CLINICAL INTERVENTIONS, AND CASE MANAGEMENT (27%)
PROFESSIONAL VALUES AND ETHICS (19%)
The exam is designed to assess beginning clinical social work knowledge, skills, and abilities. So while the assessment, for example, could draw from anywhere in the DSM, it is far more likely that you will face questions based upon the common diagnoses that social workers encounter in day-to-day practice. Take care not to overstudy.
What are the questions like on the LCSW Exam?
ASWB licensing exams are all multiple choice, with four choices offered. The majority of questions tend to be in vignette form, laying out a client situation and asking for the BEST or NEXT step a social worker might take in that situation. There are no "all of the above" or "none of the above" answer choices. Trick questions are also not a feature of ASWB exams.
A question might look something like this:
A 21-year-old female client who appears noticeably underweight reports frequently forcing herself to vomit after meals in order to "stay thin and pretty." The MOST likely DSM diagnosis for this client is a type of:
A. Bulimia nervosa
B. Body dysmorphic disorder
C. Rumination disorder
D. Anorexia nervosa
As with many questions on the LCSW exam, you may be able to rule out a couple of answers and narrow down to two best choices. For this item, bulimia and anorexia both seem like they could be right. To make a final choice, you'll have to draw on your DSM knowledge, which hopefully includes this: Forced vomiting is regularly associated with bulimia. In this case, anorexia nervosa, binge-eating/purging type, is more appropriate given the client's focus on weight and her underweight appearance. Those with bulimia often maintain an appropriate BMI. A less than 85% expected body weight is a DSM criteria for anorexia. The correct answer is D, anorexia nervosa.
What's the best way to prepare for the LCSW exam?
Practice exams are hands down the best way to prepare for the LCSW exam. Testing your knowledge and directing your studying through real time (four hours), full-length (170 question) practice tests is essential.
Good practice tests, like those offered by SWTP, offer repeat exposure to the exam-taking process and exam content simultaneously. Will you need breaks or a snack? Do you get worn out after the first 50 questions? It's ideal to know the answer to those questions before sitting down for the real thing. Having those basics answered ahead of time allows you to focus on the question right in front of you and make the right pick, A, B, C, or D.
SWTP has five complete, 170-question practice tests, plus two booster tests, one all ethics, and one all DSM.
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