The set is not cheap, but it covers all the information you need to know for the exam. One set prepares you for the multiple-choice format through providing information in a multiple choice question format. It asks the question and then explains the correct answer. Listen to the CD set when you are driving, resting and when you are studying. They are helpful as research shows we are all audio learners to an extent (even those who are very visual learners can learn from them).
There are also print study guides. I found the NBCC study guide less than helpful, but the Encyclopedia of Counseling by Howard Rosenthal has become an all time favorite. It, too, presents the information in multiple-choice format to help you think in that manner (this is crucial for folks who have gone years without a multiple choice exam, as it has a language all its own). I made studying both a game and a family affair. I had family members randomly select questions and present them to me. I also got together with others who were in the field to play games where we would take turns asking and answering questions. We were not competitive with each other, only with ourselves.
Start preparing for the exam NOW. I had so many peers who did not start until a few months before the exam- this is not the best way. You want to encode this information and have it not only prepare you for the exam, but also for the profession. There is no such thing as starting too early.
Premack Principle: If you find yourself putting off studying for other things, remember this principle. Simply stated -put off something you really like until after you study for an hour. Once you study, reward yourself. Try not to use food as your treat or you may find yourself buying a new wardrobe before you get licensed.
Pace yourself: Don’t cram. Have a regular schedule. I used a 4-day-a-week method, basically studying for a short time every other day. That way, I had energy for studying and just as importantly, I had down time to recharge. Whenever you feel that “eyes glazed over” feeling coming on, take a break! You will do yourself no good to continue like that. I found power breaks to be helpful (short breaks ranging from 30 seconds to a few minutes where I walked around or even just closed my eyes).
Have some fluff: All study and no fluff makes for stress and burnout. Find a release. I liked woodworking, but also took time to watch totally useless TV (bad sitcoms, stupid reality shows, wrestling -anything that brings out the “Homer Simpson” in you).
Know the test environment: I have seen folks who had anxiety attacks just going into the building for the exam. Desensitize yourself as much as possible. If you learn that the test will take place in an environment that you don’t know, drive to it a few times, walk around the halls, and get the lay of the land. This can really take the anxiety to a minimum level (think systematic desensitization).
Find a mentor/supervisor: Daily life doesn’t really prepare us for the field and for the exam. Find a mentor/supervisor that has a background in education and supervision. The easy way to do this is by finding someone who has a degree in Counselor Education and Supervision and or who is an Approved Clinical Supervisor (ACS). Last I knew there were about 20 of us in the state of Connecticut. Many of us will provide supervision services through phone, individual or group settings. Rates vary. You could also find a supervisor without the ACS or a degree in Counselor Education and Supervision, but it is more hit or miss (much like going to a counselor who is not credentialed, many are very talented, but there are many hacks as well.) Being credentialed does not guarantee quality, but it does mean you have proven yourself to the credentialing boards as being qualified.
Look for resource sites: Many learners have opened sites that provide general information and also have many reports and articles in the files section. Visit the one that I host.
There is a downside: After studying hard since I started my graduate program, I entered the exam room ready for what I thought would be the biggest challenge I faced in some time. Due to all my preparation, I found that the biggest challenge I faced was leaving the exam room quietly while the others were still working diligently. Unfortunately, I did not feel that giant challenge that day and to a certain extent I felt let down - much like a prize fighter that knocked out this opponent in the first few rounds. You can judge for yourself if this is how you would like to feel.