“There is so much to learn, I don’t know where to start.” “How can I possibly remember all the stuff that could be on the test, it covers everything?” I hear questions like this very often from social workers who are trying to face the (sometimes) fearsome challenge of preparing for their license exam. If you go to www.aswb.org, the website of the test creators, and look up the individual test content (KSAS), you can certainly become intimidated by the vast number of the topics in the outlines.
One way to figure out what you have to learn is to become familiar with the way the questions are put together. We know that there are 170 questions on each test, that 20 are not scored and are considered “experimental”. We know that each question is multiple choice, with four answers; that each is short, never more than a brief paragraph. ASWB tells us that they come in three types: recall, application and reasoning. You can find definitions and examples of these three types in the “Study Guide” published by ASWB.
Now, let’s see what we can figure out that may be helpful. Imagine for a moment that you are an ASWB question writer. Where do you start? You probably have to start with a concept, a fact or situation that you want to illustrate to see if it is known and understood by the test taker. And you have to accomplish this in a few sentences. And it has to be true in every state, every setting, etc., and have very few exceptions. So to accomplish this, we can reasonably conclude:
- the question has to present the essential (basic) aspect of a particular concept, not a rare or unusual aspect of it, not ask you to dig deep or look for complexity
- the question should select one of the most important characteristics of the concept, not a minor one.
- the question Is unlikely to address a controversial topic, or one with many opinions, inconclusive data, etc.
- the question’s topic should be one that most social workers will encounter, independent of their particular education or work experience.
- The question must reflect current practice patterns that are generally acceptable, widely used, etc.
So what are my conclusions? This is a lucky break for the test taker. It’s not so easy to write good questions that meet these parameters, and these restrictions can help us design and focus our test preparation activities. Here are three strategies to use:
- Learn – and understand only the basics of the many topics.
- Identify the most important topics of the social work profession and focus on those.
- Be able to recognize and apply a concept, like “confidentiality,” to many different settings/situations described by the questions on a test.
Passitpro designed its online license course on these insights. We provide the student with a focused test preparation experience; we have made the hard choices so that you are not overwhelmed by endless content to study. And – we teach you how to identify the concept in each question, so you aren’t stuck with the “ I can get it down to two answers, but I can’t choose between them!” problem.
Idelle Datlof, MSW, LISW-S
Learn more about Passitpro at www.passitpro.com. (Make sure to mention you were referred by NASW!)