By William T. Beverly, Ph.D., L.C.S.W. (Virginia & Texas)
If one ventures over to the Association of Social Work Boards’ Website, one might notice that there is a section called, “Examination Content Outlines”. OK>>> Wait!!! Before you go on… thinking you know what I am going to say, listen for a moment.
Sure, anyone who has signed up for the examination or who has taken an Examination Prep class is familiar to a certain extent with these outlines.
BUT.… Question: Have you tried to study for your exam using the provided Outline as a strict guide?
In other words, have you ever thought about how all those available study guides get written. Sure, there may be some who have somehow gotten some inside info and then there are others who have either taken and memorized an actual exam or paid someone to do it for them. Perhaps even they polled previous examination takers to learn about the content.
But I would be willing to bet, that no matter what method they used; no method could be as reliable as that of following the provided outlines, then creating a study guide based on predominant applicable substance, theory, facts and then couching it within a context of real-life professional social work practice.
So, I am not suggesting that anyone ignore any examination preparation materials. I AM Suggesting that one consider organizing allthose other study materials around an actual current outline, as provided by the ASWB.
After all, quoting from the ASWB Website regarding who writes the actual examination questions; their response is:
“Social work practitioners across the country are contracted and trained by ASWBto write and edit potential items for the ASWB item pool. All examination items must meet with the approval of the ASWB Examination Committee before being pretested. All examination items are pretested before they are included as official scored items.
In other words, the ASWB has the first, mid and last word on the content of the test.
ANDthey have provided us with an outline that has subcategories as well as indicators of how much weight a given section will have on a given test. The obvious value of the ASWB Examination Content Outlines is the product of combining: (A) The fact that ASWB essentially authors the examination; with (B) the fact that the same organization (ASWB) is providing us with the outlines; and (C) The fact that good educational practice would hold that if ASWB provides candidates with this examination outline prior to the examination and also offers this outline as a primary ingredient in their “study guide”; then it is highly probable that the examination and the outline share a great deal in common.
The heaviest section on the Masters Examination is “Direct & Indirect Practice” which weighs about 22% of the total examination. The specific content items include:
- Intervention models & methods
- The intervention process
- Intervention techniques
- Intervention with couples and families
- Intervention with groups
- Intervention with communities and larger systems
- Consultation and interdisciplinary collaboration
My suggestion would be that one begin to use such specific content items as a backbone for her or his study guide.
Certainly, it will not be easy to identify which “Intervention models and methods” to study; but one should probably assume that having a working knowledge about the 5 most popular models could be sufficient. Any reliable purchased study guide, such as the one the ASWB provides, would be the best place to get basic information as to which models or theories might be most likely to appear on the examination.
By a “working knowledge” I mean that this person should:
- understand the theory behind the model;
- know (perhaps by diagram) the model itself (like as a working system);
- be familiar with the primary concepts and assumptions of the model or theory;
- have an idea about how the model can be applied to practice; and
- become accustomed to thinking along the lines of what one would do with this model in a variety of given real-life professional social work situations.
So, in short I would suggest that one take the applicable Examination Content Outline as provided by the ASWB, then apply something very similar to the brief “working knowledge” development steps I proposed above to each individual line of the outline. Pay special attention to whether or not you understand every single term in the outline. And finally, I would give the appropriate weight to each outline section studied.
Finally, I would use all that study material that has already been purchased and all the texts, handouts and notes from classes to fill in that outline from top to bottom. Don’t be surprised if you end product looks and feels like a study guide — the kind you would typically purchase.