Measuring competence fairly

The social work licensing exams follow strict test development standards that ensure fairness. Every question is reviewed at each step in the process for signs of potential bias.

  • ASWB’s commitment to inclusivity is evident in the exam development process, which is continual and includes many checks and balances along the way. It begins with a major survey of thousands of social workers to ensure representation from various backgrounds and geographic areas. The results of this survey, called a practice analysis, give ASWB a clear sense of what entry-level social workers do, helping to establish the categories of exams offered and the content for measured competencies.
  • More than 150 practicing social workers, who represent various types of social work, including the racial, gender, and geographic diversity of the profession, develop the exam questions to test a social worker’s knowledge. The question writers are trained to avoid bias, as well as any particular wording, assumptions, and stereotyping that can make a question unfair for some groups
  • ASWB also convenes an Examination Committee, made up of a diverse and experienced group of exam question writers. Members of the committee are selected after previously serving as question writers and go through rigorous training to understand how to prevent bias in the exams. The committee continually reviews questions to ensure accuracy and fairness, and to assure that issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion are considered in every question.
  • Every question approved by the Examination Committee is included as a nonscored pretest item alongside scored items on a live exam. Only items that don’t give an advantage to any subgroup of test-takers become scored items.
  • Each question on the exams is thoroughly and continually reviewed by testing experts and by ASWB’s Examination Committee to make sure the exams meet and exceed industry standards for licensing exams. Questions identified as failing to accurately test candidates’ knowledge, as well as those with potential bias, are not included on the exams.
  • The social work licensing exams follow nationally recognized test development standards to ensure validity, reliability, and fairness. These testing industry standards are set by the American Psychological Association, the Joint Commission on Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing, the American Educational Research Association, and the National Council on Measurement in Education.

Examination program yearbook

ASWB’s exams are built with input from dozens of highly qualified social workers who reflect the diversity of the profession.

Browse the 2022 Examination Program Yearbook 2021 yearbook 2020 yearbook 2019 Yearbook 2018 Yearbook 2017 Yearbook 2016 Yearbook
ASWB's Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Putting Social Work Values to the Test

The role of the Association of Social Work Boards is to maintain the high quality and rigor of social work licensing exams, but it is also tasked with ensuring that social work’s mission, values, and ethics are reflected in the exams.

Read the full article in Social Work Today


  • Practice analysis

    The process of creating the exam begins with a practice analysis, a major survey of the tasks of thousands of practicing social workers.