Exam development

Before any candidate sits down to take the social work licensing exam, ASWB has done its homework. The process begins with the practice analysis, a major survey of thousands of practicing social workers. The results of this survey give ASWB a highly accurate picture of social work practice and help ASWB establish the categories of exams offered. The results of the practice analysis are content outlines—blueprints for the licensing exams.

These blueprints are used to develop the exams and to generate passing scores. All of ASWB’s exams are pass/fail. In general, test takers need to answer between 93 and 106 questions correctly to pass the test. The actual number varies depending on the difficulty of the exact version, or form, of the exam. A psychometric process called equating means that the passing score for each form represents a consistent level of difficulty. A passing score is a passing score in every jurisdiction where ASWB exams are used.

Questions on the exam are written by practicing social workers, a group of individuals who are selected to reflect diversity in practice setting, ethnicity, race, and geography. Every question is then reviewed by ASWB’s Examination Committee, a group of experienced social workers who approve all questions before they appear on the exam.

Every question starts out as a “pretest” question, included among the 170 questions on the exam but not counted toward the passing score. After the pretest questions been answered often enough to provide statistically significant data, they are evaluated for difficulty as well as for signs of bias. Only after this statistical review is completed can a question become part of the bank of scored items on the exams. Each of the exam categories has its own bank of questions, and all questions go through the same process.