STUDYING, SOME THOUGHTS

So I PASSED MY EXAM! Make your therapy appointments now because I can finally practice independently, just kidding! Passing this exam means I’m officially able to practice as a therapist, which I’ve been doing for about four years now, but under a supervisor’s license. Now that I have passed this exam, I will be able to have my own practice and operate a bit more independently. If anyone else has had goals that require a licensing exam, I have so much empathy for you. I’m not a natural test taker and as good as I am at a lot  things, exams have never been my thing. At all. This test was basically a logic/reasoning exam, as that’s often what doing therapy and working with people in need requires. If you are planning to take any exams in preparation of the LCSW or LMFT exams I would highly recommend using the program I used, Therapist Development Center. I am by no means a study expert but I had to do a lot of work getting prepared for this and these are just a few things that helped me. Enjoy! 

1. Organize: The study program I used was a big proponent of this. They set a schedule that was easy to follow and on target with a timeline. If you don't have one I recommend making one, with each section you are planning to tackle in order and with a space for the dates you plan to cover them and another space for the date you actually cover them. The recommendation I got from my study tools  was to do so about 3-5 times a week, for only up to two hours at a time. I gave myself some room so that if I missed a day here and there I wouldn’t feel too behind or worried. Although I didn’t know for sure when I’d be able to take my exam, I still followed the regimen for the most part with a ballpark date in mind. It was really helpful so I didn’t feel overwhelmed by the amount I had to study since it was all broken up into days and time. Each time I finished a position, I happily crossed it out on my schedule and it felt really satisfying! 

2. Eat, sleep and exercise: This I believe really made the biggest difference for me. I made sure to get in exercise as much as possible, particularly on the days I wasn’t studying and before studying as much as possible. There is research to show how exercise, eating healthy and getting enough sleep will really help in retaining new information successfully, as well as  helping execute on exams. I’ve always neglected how much my diet, sleep and exercise has impacted my brain functioning throughout my academic career and even in my professional one, but as you can imagine it really does have an impact. 


3. Study at your high point: I am a morning person so studying at night is basically a waste of time for me. The best advice I can give is to study when you are most awake and ready, otherwise it won’t be effective. I compare it to eating a big meal before a workout, you won’t push as hard or feel as good exercising after eating, and while it’s always a good idea to exercise, I realized that’s not going to maximize my time. Same for studying, make it count or else you will likely forget a lot and have to relearn it again. 

4. Still enjoy life: Even the weekend leading right up to my exam involved a lot of time with friends but I still planned out how to get the studying in. Since I’m a morning person I chose to get up early everyday leading up to the exam and study for a couple hours before going to work, seeing friends or running errands so that it was out of the way and I could rest afterwards. It also helped me relax and forget about my mounting test anxiety leading up to the exam, which was really helpful. 

5. When you take the exam: Breathe, literally I forget to do this, as many do. Exams are about endurance and so finding a calm, steady, focused stance is extremely important. I tend to rush through things when I am anxious and this is something I really had to work on while studying as my exam was four hours long and required lots of reasoning to find the best answer. So I took a breath and stayed on task. The advice from my study material was to "attack the test" and that is the position I tried to maintain, taking an active, assertive role for the duration of the exam, no matter how much I wanted to finish and veg out! The other recommendation was to have a snack in the middle of the test, particularly something with sugar like fruit and juice. Unfortunately I showed up at the test without having arranged a special accommodation beforehand so I wasn't able to to do this but I did eat a hard boiled egg before leaving home that morning and then half a banana right before the actual test. Either way, it's crucial you have something to sustain you as test taking is extremely draining! 


Good Luck!!

-MGN

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