In many states, social workers with their MSW must obtain the LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) credential to practice clinical work, such as therapy. To get the LCSW credential, social workers first need to complete a set number of clinical hours under the supervision of a licensed clinician. After their supervisor signs off on the hours, the LCSW candidate is eligible to take the clinical exam. A few states require an additional exam.
The LCSW exam is challenging, and not everyone passes it on their first try. If you failed the LCSW test, you’re not alone. For those of you who didn’t pass the first time around, here’s how you can bounce back and pass when you take it again!
Take Care of Yourself
One of the hardest parts of not passing the LCSW exam is how you feel after you discover you weren’t successful. It’s normal to feel sad, disappointed, frustrated, or even angry. Give yourself the appropriate time and space to process those feelings through your self-care routines. If things are feeling particularly difficult, consider reaching out to a therapist.
The right self-care will help you stay positive and motivated to take the exam again. Remind yourself that the vast majority of social workers who failed the LCSW exam went on to pass it and be excellent social workers. Stay optimistic about future opportunities.
A strong support network will help you get stronger after disappointing news. This support network can be anyone, including family members, friends, and coworkers, but your strongest supporters will be fellow clinicians. They’ve all been either been through the exam, or are studying to take it, and will understand what you’ve gone through.
If you don’t have one yet, find a study partner who’s also preparing to take the LCSW exam. A good study buddy, or a study group, will help you get prepared and motivated to take the test another time. They’ll also ensure you stay dedicated to your subsequent attempts to pass.
Take Care of Any Special Testing Needs
Before taking the test again, address any challenges you have around taking the test itself. Many people suffer from test anxiety that strongly negatively impacts their performance on exams. If this is you, visit a therapist or coach who specializes in this challenge. A clinician can help teach mindfulness and relaxation techniques and sometimes prescribe medication that will help you feel calmer on test day.
If you have a documented disability, ensure you’ve notified the ASWB and received any accommodations you need that will help you pass. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, you’re entitled to reasonable accommodations when taking a standardized test.
Get the Study Materials You Need
In many cases, great social workers don’t pass the LCSW exam because they’re not prepared for the test itself. Although the examination mimics working in a clinical practice setting, it’s still a different experience to know how to pass the test than to work with clients. Like all tests, LCSW candidates will need to make sure they study in a way that’s productive.
Along with being disciplined about taking time to study and using an accountability group or buddy, social workers will want to make sure they have the best practice materials. This includes the most up to date practice tests and access to information that will be on the test. Depending on your learning style, you might also benefit from workshops or study skills seminars specifically designed to help you get ready for the LCSW.
Over the years, we’ve seen many social workers come back and pass the LCSW after initially failing it. With the right self-care, support, and study strategy, we know you’ll succeed in getting licensed!