Measuring social work competence
The social work licensing exams are designed to determine whether an aspiring social worker has the minimum competence to begin practicing social work safely, competently, and ethically. This measure of entry-level competence is critical for public protection.
Associate: Candidates who do not hold a baccalaureate degree in social work
Bachelors: Candidates who have completed a baccalaureate degree in social work, typically a BSW
Masters: Candidates who hold a master’s degree in social work, typically an MSW, with no post-degree experience
Advanced Generalist: Candidates who hold a master’s degree in social work, typically an MSW, with two years of experience in a nonclinical setting
Clinical: Candidates who hold a master’s degree in social work, typically an MSW, with two years of experience in a clinical setting
The content outlines for the social work licensing exams were developed using the 2017 Analysis of the Practice of Social Work, a survey of licensed social workers selected to reflect diversity in demographics, geography, and practice areas.
The social work licensing exams follow strict test development standards that ensure fairness. Every question, called an item, is reviewed at each step in the process for signs of potential bias.
The process of creating the exam begins with a practice analysis, a major survey of the tasks of thousands of practicing social workers.
The Examination Committee reviews each exam question before it is included as a pretest item on the licensing exams. Committee members are selected from among the item writers trained to write questions for the exams.
In any pass/fail exam, there is a ”pass point,“ the number of questions a candidate must answer correctly in order to pass the exam. All jurisdictions that use the ASWB exams recognize the same pass point.
Every question, or item, on the social work licensing exams is written by a practicing social worker and depends on verifiable social work knowledge.
See the most recent pass rates for individuals taking an exam for the first time.
- Exam materials for faculty
Helping students better understand the licensing exams can help reduce their anxiety about the experience. By reviewing test questions together, educators and students can explore rationales and engage in critical thinking.