Too much stuff!


Is taking the license exam on your agenda? Have you heard that the exam can be difficult, daunting and you aren’t sure how to prepare? I am the creator of Passitpro, an online course for license exam preparation, and I would like to share a few tips that may be of help. My credentials: I am a social worker, I have taken the test and passed, and I have sat with hundreds of social workers in person, on Skype, one-to-one and in small groups. Listening to them has been very educational and has helped me to first identify how they get into trouble and then to create strategies to provide a solution.

Here is one example:

– Good news! To succeed, you just need to know (and understand and memorize) the basic facts about a lot of stuff. You do not need to go deep, or show how smart and complex your analytical skills can be.

– Not such good news: Yes, the exam content is very broad, though again not deep. You will need to learn and recognize concepts that you never had in class and do not use at your job.

– Really good news: it’s possible to both learn and memorize large amounts of information using a simple technique.

Tip # 1 – Repetition really works. Students will read, listen to audio tapes, answer many, many practice questions in an effort to review and understand information that is included on the exam. (Go to and click on “KSAs” to find complete topic lists for each version of the exam.) After doing this, many feel confident that they know the information well. Often, though, an additional strategy is needed to actually commit this information to memory. Being just “familiar” with a concept or fact may not be adequate to produce it rapidly when you are sitting in the exam room. After all, it needs to “stick” to be available, even weeks after you have learned it. You don’t want to go over practice questions and discover that the answer is just out of reach. Think of a phone number, or perhaps a recipe that you have made a dozen times and never have to look up. How did this information get permanently lodged in your brain?

The key to verifiable memory storage is yes, repetition. If a friend asks you to remember a 10 digit phone number, and you have no way to write it down or enter it into a device, what will you automatically do? You will say it over and over and over. In a similar way, repeating the information out loud will get you to the point where if days later someone asks “What’s the name of the defense mechanism…..”you won’t even have to think about it, the answer will just pop up. Writing it over and over works, too. I like to think that each person has a specific number, the number of times that once something is repeated, they’ve got it stored and readily available. What’s your number? See if you can figure it out and use it to be able verify what you really know. (I think I understand why teachers used to make a student write a phrase a hundred times on the blackboard to change a behavior.) Repeat, repeat: Do it over several days, then less frequently but don’t let it go cold over the duration of your exam preparation period.

I hope this is helpful. You can also find several more “Test Tips” video segments on Passitpro’s Facebook page and lots of practice questions as well. I am interested in hearing from you with other questions or concerns about the license exam that I might address in future articles. You can reach me at

Idelle Datlof, MSW, LISW-S

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