Studying in Unusual Places

By, Roxy Simons   February 29, 2016

With classes, work, extracurricular activities, not to mention a social life, students are swamped. Finding a three hour time slot to sit down and study can seem like an impossible task, which is why learning to study in unusual places is of the utmost importance. The key to being able to study anywhere and anytime is to always be prepared. Make sure all your notes are neat, organized, and easy to read, so you can absorb information with just a quick glance. Keep flash cards handy. Carry a textbook with you. Any free moment you spend staring into space is a moment you could be studying. Once you get into the habit, you won’t believe all the time you used to waste not studying.


More than likely, the bathroom is the only room in your home without a TV, computer, or comfy couch, which means you’re more likely to be able to focus there. It may seem silly or gross, but keep a stack of flash cards next to the toilet to peruse while you’re doing your business or thumb tack your notes to the opposite wall so you have to look at them while on the toilet. You could also write a few notes on the mirror in erasable marker, so you have to do some reviewing every time you look at your reflection. And of course, if you’re going to take a long bubble bath, you might as well get some studying done! Put your notes in plastic sleeves so they don’t get wet or prop your textbook up on a bathtub tray.


While you’re strengthening your body, why not simultaneously strengthen your mind? Take your textbook or notes to the gym and prop them up on the stand on a treadmill, elliptical, or bike.

Public Transportation:

If you rely on a bus or train to get around, you already know that you have an extra free 20 minutes to do whatever you want; after all, you don’t have to focus on the road. Bring headphones to help you block out the chatter and general commotion of commuters entering and exiting, but don’t let your music distract you either. My favorite study music is classical, but any songs without lyrics will do. Set a goal each ride to read a certain amount of chapters or to memorize a certain number of facts.


Being stuck in the library for hours on end staring at your notes can be tedious and exhausting. While it’s important to study, you also deserve some rest and relaxation. Take your notes to the beach or pool. After you’ve gone in for a swim and taken a nap on your towel, get back to work.

While Waiting

Whether you’re waiting in line, waiting for the bus, or waiting for class to start, this is precious time that could be spent looking over your notes. If you have to stand, no problem! Just have your flashcards ready to skim. If you’re able to sit, then you have no reason to not whip out your textbook and get some reading done.


The Pros and Cons of Multiple Choice Exams

By, Roxy Simons  February 24, 2016

What do romantic comedies, award shows, and multiple choice exams have in common? You either love them or you hate them. While you can choose to avoid the first two, multiple choice exams are a bit trickier. These standardized tests are used to measure knowledge and progress from elementary school all the way through your university days. There are both pros and cons to multiple choice exams, but regardless of your feelings, it’s time to start appreciating the pros and minimizing the cons. After all, these tests aren’t going anywhere.

Most people hate the multiple choice format because there is not partial credit: if you select the wrong answer, then that’s it. No discussion. Those who struggle with these tests often do not focus on the detailed instructions, lack confidence in the moment, or don’t take each question at face value. These tests also don’t allow critical thinking; they primarily rely on memorization without full understanding. Standardized tests may seem impersonal and unfair, but there are many advantages to these assessments. For example, because they are so easy and quick to grade, there is a faster turnover from the time you sit the exam to when you receive your results. Your professors also can’t be subjective in grading, as with essays or fill-in-the-blank format, so your results often truly reflect your level of knowledge regarding a certain subject. This helps you keep track of the information you need to review later. Because many social work students work full time while working towards their degree, there is no leeway for wasting time. Each course needs to maximize the material covered, which multiple choice exams make possible. Finally, you don’t have to take the time to formulate long-winded answers to simple questions, making it easier to stick to the facts.


If you have a multiple choice exam coming up, the best way to prepare yourself is to take as many practice exams as possible. Knowing the format of the test beforehand is extremely advantageous. Time yourself to ensure you’re prepared on test day. Before starting the exam, fill out the necessary information, like your name and the date, before beginning. Read the question prior to looking at the answers, and try to come up with the correct answer by yourself. Then read all answers thoroughly and select the option that best suits your answer. If you’re unsure, eliminate any answers you know are incorrect. This should help you take an educated guess. Try to not skip around, but instead answer the questions in order to stay organized. Make sure to pay attention to the wording of each question. For example, wording like, “Which of the following is NOT correct?” can be tricky. Also, correct answers rarely include words like “always” or “never” and usually use terms like “usually” or “probably.” Oftentimes, the option with the most information is the correct answer. Because multiple choice exams allow professors to include more information than a regular exam, be sure you are prepared to face a wide variety of topics. Study, study, study!



Finding Time and Motivation to Study

Unless you’re one of the lucky few who love the structure of test taking, preparing for an exam can be a real pain. The two most challenging aspects of studying are 1) making the time; and 2) finding the motivation. Because let’s face it: even if you happen to have three free hours on a Sunday night, it’s easy to waste them catching up on your favorite show. Hopefully, the following tips will come in handy for your next big exam.

Making the Time:

No matter how busy your schedule, as a student, academics must always come first. Most students work part- or full-time jobs while working towards their career, which can make finding time to study a challenge. Invest in a physical paper calendar, whether it be a planner that you can carry with you or something to thumb tack over the desk in your room. Start planning study sessions about three weeks before an upcoming exam. Write it in a bold color so that it stands out every time you glance at your calendar. Make your own detailed schedule, including how many hours you’ll study and how many breaks you’ll take, and then stick to it! Staying organized will help you find the time to study. If your days are filled with work, class, and appointments, look for opportunities where you can squeeze in half an hour of studying, like during your breaks, before dinner, or early in the morning. Carry note cards or textbooks with you so you can always study on the go. Studying everyday leading up to a test serves you better than cramming for hours the night before.


The thought of studying can be overwhelming, which is why taking it one step at a time helps. First, get into comfortable clothing. Second, find your perfect study spot, whether that is the library or your kitchen table, but avoid your comfy bed at all costs! It’s easy to become distracted by the lure of sleep. Third, set out all your study materials (books, flashcards, writing utensils), as well as water and snacks. Fourth, remove all distractions from your study area, namely, your phone and social media. Apps like SelfControl, Cold Turkey, and StayFocsd allow you to block distracting websites like Facebook for certain periods of time, so you’re guaranteed to stay focused. Set small study goals for yourself and then reward yourself once you complete those goals. For example, spend 30 minutes memorizing DSM-5 criteria, and once you’ve actually accomplished this, take a 5 minute break to reward yourself. Taking short intermittent breaks keeps your mind sharp and open to new information. You might eat a snack, watch a music video, call your mom, or have a dance party; whatever motivates you to get your work done. If your own daydreams cause you to become distracted, think about the end goal: not just acing this test, but getting your degree and making a difference in the world. Visualize yourself at your dream job, and then make that dream come true.

Taking the ASWB Exam as an Experienced Social Worker

The social work licensing exams are written for social workers with different levels of experience.  For the Bachelors and Masters exams, no experience is assumed. For the Clinical and Advanced Generalist exams, there is an expectation that you have 2 years of experience.  This is important to recognize when you are studying and taking the exam because you don’t want to overthink and overanalyze the question coming up with an answer that a much more experienced social worker would give.  We often tell students that the test writers are looking for “text book answers.” This can often be challenging for the more-experienced social worker.  That being said, if you have been practicing for many years and are just now taking the ASWB exam, you should know that you’re not alone. There are many practicing social workers who are taking the exam later in their career for many different reasons. Some experienced social workers take the exam due to changes in state laws and requirements, a move to a new state, or simply waiting until they feel confident that it is the right time to take the test. Whatever the reason, it is possible to successfully take the ASWB exam as an experienced social worker.

Experience in the field offers lessons that you can’t fully get in the classroom. This can work to your advantage as an experienced social worker taking the ASWB exam. Both the Advanced Generalist and Clinical levels of the exam are designed to test the knowledge of social workers with two years of field experience. Having already worked in the field, you may be more prepared to answer some of the tougher questions as you may be more familiar with the material. The scenarios on the test may remind you of situations that you have actually experienced in the field.

It is important to keep in mind, however, that your experience may also make taking the test a little harder. Although it is beneficial that you may have experienced similar events, you have to remember that an exam scenario is likely never the exact same situation as one that you have experienced. Experienced social workers tend to pull from their experience and that can often lead to assuming or adding information into the question. It can be difficult to step back and read the case vignettes with a clear mind, using only the facts provided to choose an answer. Be sure not to let your experience get in the way of thoroughly reading and answering the questions based on the material.

Being experienced gives you a lot of insight into what it is really like to work in the field, but remember this is still a test. You still have to take the time to study the material and brush up on your test taking skills. You may not have taken a test since you graduated. That is okay; just remember to give yourself a little extra time to prepare. It might be a good idea to take a few practice tests to get you back in the swing of things. Preparation is the key to doing well on the ASWB exam. offers a comprehensive study guide with social work content summaries and practice questions along with some test taking tips. Check out for access to the latest study material for all levels of the ASWB exam.

Good luck!



ASWB Plans No DSM-V Changes

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fifth Edition) (DSM-V) is scheduled for publication in May 2013. There are currently no changes planned for the ASWB exam to reflect the new edition.

Although ASWB is reviewing the implications of the DSM-V changes and how they may affect the current exam, ASWB has stated that no changes will be made to the exam before January 2015. Until further information is released, the ASWB exam will continue to test on the DSM-IV-TR.

At such time as exam changes are announced, our study guides will be revised accordingly. For current study materials to help you pass your social work licensing exam, please visit the Social Work Guide site.

Using Time Wisely on the ASWB Exam

There are 170 questions on the ASWB exam for social workers. You must complete the exam within 4 hours. Many exam takers make the mistake of rushing through the exam and not using all of the allotted time. While you don’t want to get caught running out of time, you want to try to use all of the time given. (more…)