Tips on Studying for the National Counseling Exam
Tips on Studying for the National Counseling Exam

Tips on Studying for the National Counseling Exam

Kristie Overstreet Ph.D., LPCC, LMHC, LPC, CST

The National Counselor Exam (NCE) is a rite of passage in the field of behavioral health. You completed your master’s degree and are working in the clinical field but, there is another hurdle to cross before you can obtain your license.

Many counselors have conquered the exam, and you will be the next in line to pass. Make your determination and persistence pay off by thoroughly preparing to pass the NCE. Here are a few study tips that will help you accomplish your goal.

Schedule your exam a few months out

Give yourself plenty of time to study for the exam and anticipate issues to arise. For example, scheduling your exam 3-4 months out will give you enough time to study while allowing you to encounter any unforeseen problems that may occur in your schedule.

When selecting your date, avoid big events that may be upcoming. If you have a family event, wedding, illness, or pregnancy, don’t try to tackle your exam during this time. If you don’t, you may regret it if you don’t pass your exam.

Get comfortable saying ‘no’

Since the NCE is very important in your licensure steps, you need to get comfortable saying ‘no’ to people. Your family, friends, and employer will need you for various things during the time you will be preparing for the exam. They will make demands of your time, but it’s your responsibility to say ‘no’ as much as possible.

Let them know about your study plan and needs, so they are aware ahead of time. Be firm and tell them that you have to focus on preparing for the exam. Saying ‘no’ can be difficult, but after you pass your exam, you will be glad you did.

Take time off to study

Your busy working as a counselor and you don’t know how you are going to make time to study. When you commit to a testing date, the clock starts ticking. The NCE is crucial to your career growth, so you need to value your time in preparing for it.

Give yourself permission to take time off to study for the exam. For example, plan to take a few hours or days at a time to prepare. Since you will be planning ahead of time decide when you will take off of work to prepare.

Create a realistic study plan

The idea of a study plan isn’t enough. You need to create one that you can see, revise, and visualize daily. One example is to print off blank calendars of each month before your exam. If you are taking your exam in July, and it’s April, print blank monthly calendar of each month to the exam date.

Next, take each study topic and pencil it in for each week. Planning ahead of time will keep you focused and ensure you get through all of the material leading up to the exam.

Don’t ignore mock exam questions

As you review relevant material and study guides, don’t forget to practice with mock exam questions. Balance your studying with these questions that will help you during the exam.

Don’t make the mistake of only using practice exam questions a few days before your exam. These questions will help you improve your test-taking skills.

Attend a study workshop

Find a study workshop that teaches you strategies that can help you with your test-taking skills. These workshops can be attended in person or virtually.

If you learn better listening to a facilitator or like to have your questions answered, a workshop can be a great supplement to your study plan. Whether it’s live or recorded, there are many benefits to attend a training.  

You will hear many different study tips but make sure you adopt the ones that fit well with your style of learning. There are many programs available that will customize and assist you with your preparation. If you decide to seek help with this, be sure to find one that has a proven track record. AATBS has this proven track record and a pass guarantee. Consider checking out their study materials and packages to help you find success in passing the NCE.


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