How I Prepared for the LMSW Exam

In this blog post, I will share my experience and the steps I took to effectively prepare for the LMSW exam.

My Background

  • I got my MSW in South Korea and received the international degree review by CSWE (I did not get an MSW education in the US!) – please see this post in Korean about the international degree review
  • I am pursuing my PhD in social work in the US
  • I studied 7 hours/day for three days before the exam
  • I passed my LMSW exam on my first try!

Step 1. Understand the exam format and content

The first step in my preparation was to familiarize myself with the exam format and content. The LMSW exam consists of 170 multiple-choice questions covering a wide range of topics related to social work practice.

The ASWB LMSW exam consists of 170 multiple-choice questions, which can be categorized into three main types: recall questions and reasoning questions.

  1. Recall Questions: Recall questions test your ability to remember and retrieve specific information related to social work practice. These questions often ask about theories, concepts, terminology, and facts that you have learned during your social work education and training.
  2. Reasoning Questions: Reasoning questions assess your critical thinking skills and ability to apply your knowledge to real-life scenarios. These questions present case studies or situations that require you to analyze the information provided, identify the key issues and select the most appropriate course of action.
  3. Application Questions: Application questions evaluate your ability to apply social work concepts, theories, and practices to specific client situations. These questions often present a case scenario and ask you to determine the most appropriate intervention, assessment, or course of action based on the information provided. Application questions are designed to assess your practical skills and decision-making abilities in real-world social work settings.

Scoring and Passing Threshold: To pass the LMSW exam, you need to correctly answer a minimum number of questions. The exact passing score is not publicly disclosed by the ASWB, as it may vary slightly between exam administrations due to a process called equating. However, based on historical data and candidate feedback, it is generally estimated that you need to answer correctly between 95-105 questions out of the 170 questions to pass the LMSW exam.

It’s important to note that the ASWB includes 20 “pretest” questions on the LMSW exam. These questions do not count towards your final score and are used by the ASWB for future exam development. However, you will not know which questions are pretest items during the exam, so it’s crucial to approach every question with equal attention and effort.

Step 2. Create a study schedule with available resources

Remember, everyone’s learning style is different, so find the strategies that work best for you. My learning style is more like cramming rather than studying a bit by bit for this type of exam – so I studied 7 hours/day for three days before the exam 🙂

Step 3. Utilize study materials

There are various study materials available for the LMSW exam. I used a combination of textbooks, study guides, and online resources. I used the resources in order! The number of stars indicates how much I recommend the resource 🙂

I have read multiple posts on r/socialwork reddit on LMSW exam and found this post really helpful. The advice is 1) do not spend too much time on Apgar book and recall questions, 2) spend more time on application questions with Social Work Career Acronyms, and 3) take an AWSB practice exam.

Resources I Used

  1. ASWB’s official study guide (Free – ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐): I found the ASWB’s official study guide particularly helpful, as it provided an overview of the exam content and practice questions.
  2. Pocket Prep Application (Free Version – ⭐⭐⭐): The Pocket Prep application was a valuable resource during my LMSW exam preparation. I used the free version, which provided me with various practice questions and explanations. The app was convenient and allowed me to study on the go, making the most of my free time.
  3. ASWB Practice Exam ($85 – ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐): I purchased the ASWB practice exam, which simulated the actual exam experience. It helped me familiarize myself with the exam format, time management, and the types of questions I could expect on the real exam. The practice exam also provided detailed explanations for each question, allowing me to learn from my mistakes and reinforce my knowledge.
  4. Therapist Development Center (TDC) Mock Tests and Materials ($250 – ⭐⭐⭐): The Therapist Development Center offered a comprehensive study program for the LMSW exam. I utilized their mock tests and study materials, which were specifically designed to mirror the actual exam content. The TDC materials provided in-depth explanations, test-taking strategies, and a structured study plan that kept me on track.
  5. The Acronym for FIRST/NEXT and BEST/MOST Questions (⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐): I used the “FAREAFI” and “AASPIRINS” acronym developed by Social Work Career and used them for FIRST/NEXT and BEST/MOST type questions! They were SO HELPFUL, so I highly recommend memorizing them and then writing them down when you take the exam — you will be given the whiteboard with a marker on the test day. Please check out these practice questions utilizing this acronym.
  6. Secrets for Passing the LMSW Exam by Social Work Career (⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐): The tips by Social Work Career were really helpful! I also wrote down the sentence “the client is the expert” on the whiteboard to remind it on the test day 🙂 The clarification of the meanings of refer, confront, and contract was also useful. Please check out the post!

YouTube Videos: I watched 3-5 videos on the following YouTube channels. I did not sign up for the study session or study group but just watched the videos on the practice questions.

from Agents of Change YouTube Channel
  • Agents of Change – watched several videos on practice questions
  • RayTube – watched several videos with top views (on defense mechanisms, Erikson’s state of development, code of ethics, and Piaget’s Cognitive Development Theory)
  • Phillip Luttrell – useful for reasoning/application questions

I did not use the Apgar book and did not spend the time memorizing the contents for recall questions (e.g., the medications or DSM-5) — I have rather focused on reasoning questions but spent some time on Pocket Prep for recall questions by using free questions. However, this is my case since I have been doing research on mental health, so I have some background knowledge of the contents of recall questions.

Step 4. Test Day

Test Day Preparation and Strategies: On the day of your LMSW exam, it’s essential to be well-prepared and focused. Here are some strategies to help you perform your best:

  1. Get a good night’s sleep: Make sure you get enough rest the night before your exam. A well-rested mind is better equipped to handle the challenges of the test.
  2. Eat a breakfast: Fuel your brain with a nutritious breakfast on the morning of your exam.
  3. Arrive early: Plan to arrive at the testing center at least 30 minutes before your scheduled exam time. This will give you ample time to check in, settle in, and compose yourself before the exam begins.
  4. Bring necessary documents and materials: Don’t forget to bring a valid government-issued photo ID and another identification method (e.g., a credit card with a signature). You may also want to bring a light sweater or jacket if the testing room is cold.
  5. Manage your time effectively: The LMSW exam allows you 4 hours to complete 170 questions. In my case, the questions were generally shorter than the ASWB practice test, so there was no need to rush! If you encounter a difficult question, don’t spend too much time on it. Flag it for review and move on to the next question.
  6. Read each question carefully: Pay close attention to the wording of each question and all the answer choices. Read the question stem and options thoroughly before selecting your answer— highlight FIRST/NEXT or BEST/MOST.
  7. You can leave the testing site earlier if you are done 🙂

I hope it helps. Good luck with your LMSW exam!

  • May 5, 2024