A few days ago, I had the opportunity to speak with a TDC user who recently passed her MFT Clinical exam. Over the course of our conversation, I learned quite a bit about her path to licensure; it took longer than she hoped, as this was not the first time she took the exam. We discussed her experience using other test prep programs, how she felt following her first attempt at the exam, and the unique aspects of test anxiety that she encountered as she prepared to resit for her exam. The goal of this month’s test anxiety blog, born out of that conversation, is to provide guidance on how to manage the process of preparing to retest and offer some strategies and encouragement for those who find themselves in similar situations.
By the time you are eligible for your licensing exams, you’ve already achieved quite a bit that should make you feel proud and confident! You were accepted into a graduate school program, you successfully completed graduate school and obtained a master's degree, you finished many hours in practicum and learned not only the academic aspects of counseling, but also developed clinical skills by working directly with clients. These are incredible achievements. Unfortunately, they sometimes get lost in the narrative that develops for those who do not pass their exams on the first try. There is a tendency for all of these achievements to become discounted—in cognitive behavioral therapy terms, this is known as a cognitive distortion in which accomplishments are minimized and the result of one thing (in this case, the exam) is magnified. The effect of this cognitive distortion is powerful and can lead people to experience feelings of failure, defeat, and shame. These emotions are a normal response to a difficult experience, so be gentle with yourself and give yourself permission to experience them, but do not allow them to linger for too long or undermine your future efforts.
So what are some ways to deal with this? First, it’s important to take a break. Take the time to understand how this experience is impacting you, and before you begin to prepare for re-examination, begin to work through the negative thoughts and feelings that could interfere with your ability to move forward with confidence.
Following are a few suggestions that could help you through this process:
1. Debrief with a coach: TDC coaches are here to support you, help you identify and understand the obstacles that hindered your success, and assist you in developing a plan to move forward and PASS. Email your coach letting them know about your testing experience. It's helpful if you can include in your email concerns you had during the exam: did you struggle with the wording of questions, particular subject areas, or maybe time management? Having this information will be useful when you begin to study again.
2. Utilize automatic thought records: In addition to the cognitive distortion of magnification/minimization noted above, there are likely other distortions causing you to feel down or anxious about the exam process and your prospects of becoming licensed. Utilizing automatic thought records will allow you to identify unhealthy thoughts as they arise and develop a more balanced perspective. Here is a template you can use along with a list of cognitive distortions.
3. Write a letter to a friend: Imagine a friend did not pass their exam and write a letter of support to this person. Oftentimes, we are more compassionate and understanding toward others than we are toward ourselves. What words of comfort would you offer to this friend? How would you frame their experience? What words of wisdom or encouragement would you provide?
4. Reach out to your support network: Identify friends and/or family members who will be supportive and encouraging, and talk with them about your feelings. Give yourself permission to be vulnerable with them and lean on them to receive the love and care you need.
5. Receive psychotherapy: It is possible this experience has had a profound effect on your psyche and triggered emotions that make it necessary to receive professional support. If you are finding you are unable to process this on your own and your regular coping skills are insufficient, individual therapy could be appropriate.
6. Consider applying for accommodations: If you have, or suspect you have, a physical or mental health disability that is affecting test-taking abilities, consider applying for accommodations. If you have Generalized Anxiety, consider applying for extra time. If you have ADHD, consider applying for extra time and/or a private room. There are many reasons people apply for and receive accommodations-they exist for a reason, so be sure to advocate for yourself if appropriate..
If you take the time to work through the difficult thoughts and feelings and can approach your studies with renewed confidence, it will naturally make the process of re-examination far easier.
When you are ready to begin your studies, use the information you gathered from your exam to inform your studies (a helpful reframe is to view the exam you took as just another mock exam). Develop a clear study plan with an emphasis on addressing the obstacles you identified during this “mock.” For instance, if you struggled with a particular subject area, take the time to really understand the subject—not just memorize information, but engage with it in a new way and reach out for support if you continue to grapple with this topic. If time management was an issue, identify the root cause and contact your coach to develop new strategies that will allow you to move more efficiently through the questions and answers.
It will also be important to integrate self-care and anxiety management into your plan. Let’s talk a bit about what this could look like. Self-care can take a variety of forms; it could include working out, reading a good book, meditating, spending time with friends, and the list goes on. Determine what self-care looks like for you and make a conscious effort to add it into your schedule. This is truly an integral part of your exam prep, so you should always feel good about taking the time to engage in activities that nourish your body and mind. The effects of self-care on your ability to learn and prepare for the exam cannot be overstated.
Finally, take the time to integrate anxiety management techniques every step of the way. Each time you sit down to study, take a few minutes to do a grounding exercise. You can use guided meditation, develop a mantra that makes you feel empowered, or engage in basic deep breathing and counting your breath. We’ve added several blogs in recent months that provide guided meditations that you may find useful.
In addition, pause throughout your studies and again practice relaxing yourself. If you can build this practice up during your studies, you will be able to access it more easily on exam day.
If, over the course of your studies you find anxiety is overwhelming you, remember you are not alone. We are here to help you and promise to be with you until you PASS WITH CONFIDENCE!
I have completed that program and would like to have it re-set, please.
I have completed that program and would like to have it re-set, please.
I completed the program. Please re-set the program again; I need to take longer time to study, review and talk about the material with my peers that are taking the MFT exam.
I have failed the ethics test twice. And am 90% feeling like quoting altogether. This helps a bit. I still feel very defeated.
Hello, I want to be honest and say that I didn’t complete the entire program in it’s entirety. I recently got comfortable on a job and was making a lot of money and thought testing was not an option. Certain changes has happen in my life and has made me rethink my life; I want to be more marketable. Thank you TDC for resetting my program, I am honestly doing the program. I studied and took the test a while back only skunking the program and my score increased by 20. I will pass my test with this program.
Thanks TDC, I hope to have an update soon!
I am truly amazed and encouraged by your commitment to help me through this process. My test anxiety was/is debilitating. I wish I had called a coach prior to my most recent failure. Unfortunately, much of my anxiety stems from my job hinging on my passing this test. Tomorrow I will find out whether or not I still have a job. Either way, I will re-test after I take a break. I will also be more diligent regarding my self care. Thank you for this blog!
This blog is very encouraging. Thank you!
I must admit I was a little sad that I didn't pass the test on 9/22/2020. I found myself feeling depressed and unmotivated. But now I'm in a much better place and looking forward to retesting in Jan.2020. I'm open to studying with others ! I want to thank TDC for helping me through this process, thinking positive.
I felt defeated yesterday after not passing but a little proud of my dedication to the studying and receiving such a high score. The study program is great and will get me to the finish line next year. Thx you for this space to share, learn and grow. For those who are studying, remember self care during those moments too. And to those who passed, congratulations!! You all earned that score!! Peace and blessings to all.
I did feel down for just a moment but then my reframing techniques kicked in. I have fought hard to be where I am so I will continue. Testing has bever been my strongsuit but I will overcome this and pass.
Thank you for your program.
It is truly a great resource.
This article was so helpful after not passing the clinical exam a 2nd time, I was devastated. However, I have began to process and seek the major struggle I have with this exam. Thanks TDC for your continued support... I plan to retake and pass next year.
We are here to support you. Be sure to reach out to your coach if you have any questions or concerns. You can do this!
Wonderful to hear! We are here to support you!
Your positive attitude will serve you well on your exam!
It's normal to feel sad when going through this experience, but happy to hear you are feeling positive as you move forward. We are here to support you and help you PASS with confidence! Be sure to reach out to your coach with any questions or concerns.
This article is pretty much spot on. Thanks Robin. I currently do feel the failure, defeat, and shame. I failed this MFT law and ethics exam for the 5th time on Nov 30, 2020! One thing I must say that after taking your prep program this first time that I was much more relaxed and the way I think about this exam is more confident than in the past. After looking at my scores and calculating them based on their percentages. I was pretty much like one question away from passing that needed to be right in the law section of the test. I am definitely going to take a break and do this over again! I cant quit. Thank you Robin for the support you provided me in your email today. :)
Hi John, I'm happy to hear the article resonated with you and hope it provides some tools to help you move forward. The exam process is tough, but you've made progress and we're hopeful for a different outcome with your next exam!
I just finished my theater and unfortunately did not pass. The automatic feeling of Failure and incompetent are hitting me now. I struggled with the time management and had to guess my las 17 questions! However, what comforts me is that it doesn’t define me as person and I will have another 4 chances within 1 year.
I Will follow some of the advices in the website.
Thanks I need to read this. I failed for the 2nd time. this time by 1 pt. the first it was 4. I am angry, drained and embarrassed. I have always suffered with test anxiety. I have worked hard to complete 2 bachelors degrees and 2 masters degrees. I share this because I was told in highschool I would never be admitted to college. So these failures are a blow to my self esteem. I am thankful for TDC it is a good program. But I need to figure out how to make it work for me.
I'm sorry to hear about your experience with the exam. Be sure to reach out to your coach for support. We are here for you.
Hi Tiffany, I'm sorry to hear about your experience with the exam. Be sure to reach out to your coach for additional support regarding your exam prep, including anxiety management support! You will get this!
I found this article very helpful. I admit that I regreted not getting ahold of a coach when I was studying for my 1st attempt of the exam back in April. It's thanks to my family and friends, I have the confidence to study again. I plan to retake the exam around August. I do feel defeated and upset by my first experience, but I am also feeling hopeful because I have more room to learn and grow as a future therapist. I am also grateful that this program is with me until I pass, thank you TDC!
Thanks for suggesting the blog! I was helpful for two reasons. 1. Most of the strategies suggested were already being embraced and applied. That suggested I was really moving in the right direction. 2. The ones that I had not implemented were useful for application. Additionally, I thought I would study endlessly to really know I am prepared but see the benefit in waiting until I receive my re--take permission and have a set date. I will be in touch again at that time to reset my account. Thanks for the support.