Quick Study: A 48hr Success Story (AKA An Argument Against Over-Studying)

By Amanda Rowan on May 27, 2012

Car driving on the freeway When it comes to passing the LCSW and MFT exams, people frequently ask me, "how much do I need to study?".  They rarely ask, "how little do I need to study?". The first question is harder for me to answer.  For one thing, people vary greatly in their studying efficiency.  Most people say they are studying, but when you measure how much they’ve learned in that time, it’s very little.   The other potential problem is that people tend to review the same material so many times that their brains stop listening and tune out, just as it does when a person tells you the same story over and over. Both of these issues actually dull the thinking processes in the brain, especially when it is done for months on end. The second question, “how little do I need to study?” puts a smile on my face because I know the answer: 10 hours.  That is how long it would take you to get through TDC study materials one time. To illustrate this point I’d excited to share the story of Monica Stel.  In her own words, Monica shares how the TDC approach helped her pass the exam in 8hrs of studying. She's not the first person to "speed study with TDC" and pass, just the first one to put it in writing!

"I think I'm still in shock.  It is amazing but true: I passed my test.  About a year ago I was cleared to take my first exam.  I graduated with my MSW in 2003 so it took some time to accrue the necessary hours.  In addition I work as an Executive Director for a small, residential non profit so my duties are many and definitely less clinical than I would like.   I took a weekend seminar and bought an intimidating pile of books.  There was so much information to memorize and theories I was in no way familiar with, not to mention the DSM  that I shut down and there is always much to do and little time so the exam study went to the back burner.

I thought I had to test by July something and since I also teach at Cal State Long Beach I thought I would start a study schedule as soon as the semester ended about May 15 and study up to July.  As I was sitting down on May 20 to make the grand plan and read my exam notice and it said, "This is the only notice you will receive.  You must take your exam by May 23, 2012,".  I had to do a little crazy dance.  What the...oh no...I'm hammered".  The notice also said I would forfeit my entire application if I did not sit for the exam and have to submit all my paperwork again.  Oh, hell no, I thought, I'll just fail (paperwork is my nemesis).

When I could breath and sit still again I emailed TDC to see if I could at least have a clue about the material when I took the test.  Amanda was so encouraging and seemed to think 48 hours could be enough.  Honestly, I thought, well she doesn't know "my" situation.  Nevertheless, I was a little encouraged because at least there was some action I could take.

I downloaded the 8 hours of seminars and planted myself in front of my computer and followed directions.  I found the first discussion   "How to think about the exam" just what I needed to hear.  I am definitely an intuitive learner with a very hands on, practical approach to my social work practice.  I believe that ethics should guide my work, not rules, but that clear, fair and evolving boundaries are essential and safety is paramount for everyone.  I am a fierce advocate but I do not like to fight and I am resistant to memorizing someone else's ideas but love to learn.

So hearing that this is not an adversarial relationship (between myself and the exam), that they just want to know if I am going to be a competent and safe therapist and that my own reasoning and knowledge would be valuable skills in passing the test was, well, a moment.  It really opened up my perception to a whole new approach that fit my way of being, and I really can't be any other way.

I found the workshops very well organized because I could see the broader picture of the exam and the variety of exercises helped to wrap my brain around different ways of approaching the material.  I learned how to spot the words, phrases and information within the questions that were key to finding the answer instead of trying to memorize answers, which I could not have done even if I did have months to study.  Actually, the shortened time frame and TDC's framing of the material worked well together because I didn't have time nor did I hear any reason to build the exam into a big, hairy monster.

Since I had a 2.5 hour drive to the test center I plugged in the final phase of the workshop that goes over the rational for the mock test questions and listened to it all the way.  I also took your advice about taking a break and having a snack.  I heard your voice in my head as I read the questions and it all came together.  I passed.

Yours is a simple and straight-forward approach offered in an encouraging and genuine way and it worked very well for me.  Thanks so much and as soon as they tell me I can schedule for the vignette exam I'm going to just keep the momentum going, so you will hear from me again soon.

Thanks so Much, Monica"

Congratulations, Monica!  And thank you for illustrating how the way you think and understand the exam is far more important than months of memorization.

Think our straightforward, sensible approach could help you PASS your social work or MFT exam? If you're preparing for a social work exam, check out our Social Work Study Materials. If you're preparing for an MFT exam, check out our MFT Study Materials. Learn more about our offerings at The Therapist Development Center.

Looking for more practice questions and some study tips? Check out our new Social Work Exam Study Guide:

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