by Kristie Overstreet, PhD, LPCC, LMHC, LPC, CST
If you don’t feel overwhelmed just thinking about your study schedule, you may want to check your pulse. How can you not feel anxious when you look at all of the topics and prep questions you need to cover for your exam? It would be easy for you to get lost in all of the information that you are expected to know.
Our best piece of advice: To pass this exam, you need to focus on the quality of your studying, not the quantity of material you work through or the amount of time you spend prepping.
It would be easy to say you spent 20 hours studying this past weekend. However, did you retain the material? Do you remember everything you covered? Can you apply it to clinical care? Were you focused and present in studying the entire time? Looking back, you may realize that you only completed 10 hours of study time. The quantity of time and material you work through is less important than the quality of your study habits. By focusing on quality, you will naturally learn the content.
These three tips will help you stay focused on the quality of your studying, not on the overwhelming amount of content.
It can be staggering to think that you are expected to know everything you learned in school to pass your exam. It is unrealistic to believe that you have to know it all because you don’t. This pattern of thinking will cause your anxiety to spiral out of control. The idea that you have to know everything isn’t correct. Do you need to understand a lot of information? You know the answer is yes. However, it’s more important to understand how the concepts apply to clinical care. Your exam questions will focus on your knowledge of subject matter, assessments, interventions, and treatment.
As you begin to study, be sure to focus on how you will take the concepts and apply them. For example, you are reviewing anxiety disorders. Think about how you will be assessing and treating a client who may have anxiety. As you learn the difference in generalized anxiety versus social anxiety, picture how the client will present. Think about what type of assessment you would use in determining which type of disorder they have. Then think about the best treatment intervention for them.
Here is another example to consider. You read a question that asks what type of assessment instrument is used to help determine a provisional diagnosis of depression. You aren’t required to know every assessment instrument used in psychological testing. However, you do need to know the more common ones and why they are used in clinical care. It is more important to know the purpose of each assessment instruments versus the details of how to apply each one clinically.
Your books and prep guides are stacked high. You have access to hundreds of exam prep questions. You are ready to wade through all of the material, and you don’t have time on your side. You need to focus on the quality of your studying and not get derailed by topics you don’t fully understand.
As you work your way through the study material, don’t get stuck on a topic that you don’t understand. This can cause you to feel frustrated and panicked. You need to identify this issue or area in your material. Next, write it down on a “need to review” page. Also, write down the sample question that caused you to struggle. You will come back to this topic at the start of your next study time. Don’t let it get you stuck. Make a note and keep going. You will be surprised when you go back to your “need to review” page and see just how much you know about the topic.
For example, you read a question that asks about the purpose of creating a family crest? One of the answers is about family myths. If you don’t fully understand the relation, then jot family myths and family crest on your “need to review” page. Taking this step will allow you to focus on the quality of what you are studying while working through the vast amount of information.
You know what learning style works best for you. Whether you retain information better through listening, reading, or writing depends on your style preference. Don’t put all of your energy into one study tool. Use at least two different types of study tools. You have many great options such as study guides, mock exam questions, and flashcards.
The most important way to test what you know is by using mock study exams. This is a great tool to help build your confidence in your knowledge. Add another tool such as flashcards. These cards only contain the pertinent information you need to know about each topic. They are portable and easy to use anywhere. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to pull out the flashcards and go through a few each day. Also, have a friend help you study by asking a few questions from the flash card to test your knowledge.
Don’t try and reinvent the wheel. Many others had gone before you and helped create tools that will make your studying efficient. You have a lot of material to cover so don’t forget to use these three tips to focus on your quality of studying. You will learn the information you need for the exam by focusing on the quality of your studying.
When you want the best results, you make the right choices. AATBS has been the guiding light for exam preparation for so many people over the years. Let us help you get the results you deserve.
Make an appointment with our Educational Coordinators to help you build your study plan.