Educators, practitioners, regulators, and social workers are involved in the Path to Licensure program to ensure that students successfully transition to professional practice with a clear understanding of the value of licensure and regulation. When ASWB initiated the Path to Licensure campaign, it was a priority to establish as partners both the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) and National Association of Social Workers (NASW). This provided a balanced and authoritative foundation to the program. Together, along with ASWB, individual social work regulatory bodies, and accredited social work school programs, these organizations are the key stakeholders.
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Path to Licensure makes it easy for educators to include information about professional regulation and licensing requirements in the social work classroom. ASWB collaborated with the Council on Social Work Education and the NASW Risk Retention Group on the newly published Curricular Guide for Licensing and Regulation which provides relevant and useful information that can be integrated into educational activities such as student orientation, field placement, practice classes, policy classes, student association activities, etc. Educators can apply for and receive a stipend to participate in the Path to Licensure Institute. Scholars learn about integrating information about social work licensure into the social work program, implement a Path to Licensure program in their school, and complete research on social work regulation ASWB also connects educators with the social work regulatory body responsible for licensing in the jurisdiction where their program is located. ASWB can help facilitate the involvement in meetings or hearings of the regulatory body and identify the specifics of licensing requirements in the local jurisdiction.
Social work professional regulation plays a critical role in public protection and in ensuring high standards for safe, competent, and ethical professional practice. Professional regulation and licensure serve as a safety net for social work practitioners, by setting minimum standards of competence to become and remain licensed, and for the public, to fairly and objectively have complaints addressed. At the time of licensure, however, students typically have a limited understanding of how regulation is central to public protection, what their individual licensing requirements are, and the roles and responsibilities of key social work professional organizations and licensing bodies. Bridging this knowledge gap is the goal of the Path to Licensure program, which will support students’ transition to practice and their competency as a professional.
Participation in the campaign is open to all social work schools and departments that are accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) and the Canadian Association of Social Work Educators (CASWE).
Involvement in the campaign is at the discretion of each individual school program. It is not expected that time or resources beyond that which is normally expended to develop and implement curriculum and related activities will be necessary.
Complete the Path to Licensure interest form or contact Jan Fitts at 800.225.6880 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Access to a practice test costs US$85. Payment by credit card (Visa, Mastercard, Discover) only.
No. You may purchase only the practice test for the category (Associate, Bachelors, Masters, Clinical) you will be taking on the day of your licensing test.
You will be provided with an email address for payment-related questions and concerns.
Yes. Technical support is available from ASWB. You can get assistance by completing this online form. This account is monitored and responses are sent between 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday–Friday (Eastern time).
Yes. Because you can come and go as you wish, being “dropped” from your Internet connection will not prevent you from re-entering when your connection is restored. The testing program timer will stop running and is programmed to pause while individual test pages are loading. The timer runs only after the page has fully loaded.
Yes. You will receive a score that reflects the total number of questions you answered correctly and the total number that you needed to answer correctly in order to “pass” the practice test. You will also receive your correct-answer totals in each of the examination content areas, as well as the total number of questions in each area. After the actual ASWB examinations, only failing candidates receive the content-area scoring breakdowns.
Yes. The testing software functions in ways similar to the software used in Pearson VUE test centers. The test itself is composed of test questions retired from the ASWB licensing examinations.
After you finish your practice test, you will receive a score report. This report lists the number of questions you missed in each content area. You may review the questions you missed, all questions, the questions in individual content areas, or any combination of these. There is no timer involved in this part of the program—you can spend as much time with this portion as you want to, until your 30-day access window closes.
The products offered by ASWB are not designed to prepare you to pass the actual social work examinations. The exam guide and practice tests were created to provide examination candidates with a thorough understanding of how the exams work and what to expect on the day of the actual examination. These resources can help reduce pretest anxiety and can assist candidates in understanding their own strengths and weaknesses, but they do not supply the minimum knowledge to pass any ASWB social work examination.
The ASWB Guide to the Social Work Exams goes into much greater detail about how the examinations are constructed, including the structure of items. The exam guide also includes content outlines and suggested references for each exam category, as well as example questions that show how items work. The exam guide is available for purchase to all individuals. The ASWB online practice tests do NOT include references, detailed information on item or test development, or test content outlines. The practice tests are just that—full-scale 170-question practice tests that use retired test questions from past exams and provide posttest diagnostic information and item rationales. Online practice tests are available for purchase only to candidates registered to take the Associate, Bachelors, Masters, and Clinical exams. Note that candidates registered for the Associate exam may purchase the Bachelors online practice test, which shares the same content outline. However, the score for the Bachelors practice test will be applied. There is only one version of the online practice test for each category.
No. The user agreement limits use of the service to a single customer.
No. You must be registered to take one of the ASWB licensing examinations first. Additionally, at the time you purchase practice test access, you will be required to accept an end-user agreement that includes this restriction, as well as other requirements regarding the use and sharing of the contents of the practice test.
Yes, but there is only one set of content for each category (Associate, Bachelors, Masters, and Clinical). If you purchase the online practice test multiple times, it will be the same set of questions.
No. The US$85 fee allows you to take the test only once. You do not have to take the test in one sitting, however. You can come and go as much as you wish, or you can choose to have a more “realistic” experience by taking the test in one uninterrupted four-hour block.
The 30-day access begins when you first enter your email address and purchase code to log in.
- 4 hours to take a 170-question practice test one time.
- 30 days (total) to review the questions, answers, and rationales. The 30-day period begins when you enter your email and purchase code to log into the practice test.
The online practice tests are Internet-based, and work with Microsoft Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox on Windows operating systems and with Safari on Macintosh operating systems. For best results accessing the online practice test, use the following:
- Windows 7 or higher
- Mac OS X 10.9 or higher
- Microsoft Internet Explorer 9.0 or higher
- Apple Safari 7.0 or higher
Yes. The Application for Disability Accommodation must be filled out completely and sent to ASWB, and accommodations approved, before you will be able to register for the test. You can download the application form. For more information, contact ASWB at 800.225.6880.
Generally, no. Paper and pencil test administrations are available only under limited circumstances, primarily as a disability accommodation.
To arrange for special accommodations, you must request and receive approval for the accommodation. Learn more about testing accommodations.
Yes. Keep in mind, however, that every jurisdiction chooses the examination categories to be administered, so not every jurisdiction offers every category. The examination categories themselves are the same—the Clinical ASWB examination in Illinois, for example, is the same as the Clinical ASWB examination administered in Virginia. That is where the similarities end—exams are not equivalent between categories. (For example, the Masters examination is not equivalent to the Bachelors, Clinical, or Advanced Generalist examinations.)
The International Social Work Degree Equivalency Recognition Service (ISWDERS) provided by the Council on Social Work Education is the most widely used program among social work regulatory boards in the United States. The CSWE evaluation will provide the regulatory board with a determination as to whether the degree you earned outside the U.S. or Canada is equivalent to a social work degree from a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. In almost every state, CSWE accreditation is required for purposes of licensure.
Procedures vary by state or province. Contact the individual board office for instructions. Generally, licensing boards will require that you have a social work degree that is determined to be equivalent to a social work degree issued in the U.S. and Canada, and that (in some instances) you have achieved acceptable post-degree supervision. You will also be required to take a licensing examination.
Your jurisdiction’s social work board sets the rules for this. It is extremely important that you check with your board to ensure that you are following all the requirements. Contact your board for details. You can obtain basic information on supervision requirements through ASWB’s online social work regulations database.
That varies and depends on many factors. Generally, after the application for licensure is sent to the board, it is not unusual for it to take a month or more to receive word on whether you can register for the exam. After you register for the exam, you must wait one day before calling to schedule your appointment. Scheduling an exam depends on appointment availability at the test centers. Once the board has received your score (a process that can take up to two weeks), the board must issue the license, which can mean another wait of a week or more.
With a few exceptions, no. A few states offer an “associate” type license for people without social work degrees (check requirements in the online social work regulations database), but those exceptions are extremely limited. For the most part, you must have a degree in social work (BSW or MSW) to obtain a social work license.
If your report states that you passed the exam, it means you have achieved (or exceeded) the passing score required by your licensing board. ASWB no longer provides candidates with scaled scores. Instead, candidates receive more detailed information on the actual number of questions they answered correctly. Remember that licensing examinations are really only concerned with whether you pass—provided you achieve a passing score, the number of questions you answered correctly does not have an effect on your license. All that really matters is that you have passed the examination. And your pass will remain a pass even if you have your results transferred to another licensing board.
Yes. Your score reports will show your performance in terms of the actual number of questions you answered correctly, and the number of questions required to pass the version of the exam you took. If you fail the exam, you will also be provided with a breakdown of the number of questions you answered correctly in each content area, as well as the total number of questions in each content area.
This varies, depending on the category of exam you’re taking, and which form (version) of the exam you get. Generally, passing scores range from 93 to 107 or more correct of the 150 scored items. Remember, the test also includes 20 non-scored pretest items mixed in with the scored items.
ASWB publishes the most recent North American pass rates.
Yes. The passing score for the ASWB examination is a national passing score. That does not mean you are automatically licensed across the country—every jurisdiction has its own licensing processes, and there are additional steps that must be taken in order to gain licensure. Also, not every jurisdiction uses every examination category offered by ASWB. Always check with the social work boards for details.
Foreign licenses can’t be transferred. You must apply to the individual social work board and undergo some kind of evaluation of your degree and (in some cases) post-degree supervision.
Yes. Remember, however, that you will be required to comply with each board’s requirements for maintaining your license, and that a violation of one jurisdiction’s licensing law will likely affect the licenses you hold in other states or provinces.
No. In order to protect the confidentiality of all licensure candidates, score reports are never given out over the telephone.
The exam isn’t graded on a “curve.” The grading “curve” we are used to from school is a process by which the instructor moves the grading scale up or down, depending on the performance of the group being tested. This does not happen with the ASWB examinations. Because different test takers receive different sets of questions, however, ASWB does have to account for differences in the difficulty levels of individual items on different versions of the tests. When a candidate completes an examination, the testing software calculates a raw score—the actual number of questions you answered correctly. Because raw scores can be affected by the difficulty of individual items on a particular form (version) of an examination, these variations are accounted for through an equating process. Equating adjusts the number of items you need to answer correctly up or down depending on the difficulty levels on a particular form of the examination. Through equating, the passing raw score is adjusted for each examination so that fewer correct items are needed to pass a more difficult form of the test (and more correct answers are needed to pass an easier form of the test). Making these statistical adjustments ensures that the overall ability that needs to be demonstrated remains the same from test form to test form. In other words, no one receives an advantage or disadvantage because of the version of test received. This is why ASWB cannot identify an unchanging number of correctly answered items needed to pass the examinations.
Individual states and provinces are responsible for regulating their professionals as they see fit. While using the same numerical score would certainly make things more understandable, the fact that jurisdictions use different scales does not alter the number of questions you need to answer correctly in order to pass. This is set nationally, and the individual jurisdiction scales are just that—different scales that describe the same passing point.
No. Some jurisdictions require that candidates receive a score of 70 or better to pass. Others require that candidates achieve a score of at least 75 in order to pass. Still others simply require a “pass” without specifying a score. This does NOT mean that it is easier to pass in one jurisdiction than in another. These systems are just two ways of reporting the same thing. It’s similar to the way thermometers may use two different systems to describe temperature: water freezes at 0 degrees Celsius or 32 degrees Fahrenheit, but those numbers are identifying the same point. The 70- and 75-point systems are just two ways of describing the same level of performance on the exam.
No. A failure in one jurisdiction would be reported as a failure in any other jurisdiction. While some states require a score of 70 to pass and others require a 75, the overall exam difficulty remains consistent from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. (See “Is it easier to pass the exam in one jurisdiction than another?”)
Yes. The ASWB exams are available through Pearson Professional Centers in locations worldwide.
The required wait is to allow ASWB and its testing vendor time to transfer and check candidate data.
Candidates registered with ASWB will be able to make an online appointment at a Pearson VUE test site approximately 24 hours after registration. Learn more about making an appointment to test at a Pearson VUE test site. Candidates with special arrangements will not be able to schedule appointments online.
Yes. You need to apply to your board and pay any application fees before you can take the test. (Your board may also assess a fee to issue your license after you pass your exam.) You must begin by contacting your board.
No. But many jurisdictions do allow special accommodations for candidates whose primary language is something other than English. Contact your board for information.
If you have a disability, you may be eligible to receive testing accommodations. To arrange for special accommodations, you must request and receive approval for the accommodation.
ASWB offers the examinations through a network of test sites owned by or affiliated with Pearson VUE.
The examinations are administered by appointment at test centers. There are no set test dates—you must schedule a time to come in and take the exam.
As the owner and developer of the social work exams, ASWB is focused on providing a valid, reliable test of minimum competency. The association can recommend only the exam guide and online practice tests that we have developed to help you understand how the exam is constructed and how questions are structured. The ASWB Guide to the Social Work Exams, 2nd edition. is available in print for US$20 (plus shipping) to anyone preparing for the exam. An e-book version (US$15) is also available. The exam guide includes content outlines and suggested references for all the exam categories and is the perfect companion to the online practice tests. ASWB online practice tests, the only practice materials that use retired questions from past exams, are currently available for US$85/30-day subscription. The online practice tests are available only to candidates who are registered to take the Associate, Bachelors, Masters, or Clinical exams.
The best way to prepare for the exams is to figure out what works for you and follow that plan. While many private companies, NASW chapters, and social work schools or programs offer test prep services, ASWB does not review or endorse any products or services outside its own materials. The ASWB Guide to the Social Work Exams, 2nd edition includes tips to help you customize your own study plan as well as in-depth information about how the exams are constructed and how the questions are structured. For hands-on practice, the exam guide is the perfect companion to the ASWB online practice tests, the only practice materials that use retired questions from past exams. Both products are the only materials written by ASWB, the organization that creates the social work exams. What works for you will be for you to decide.
Social work practitioners across Canada and the United States are contracted and trained by ASWB to write and edit potential items (questions) for the ASWB item pool. All examination items must meet with the approval of the ASWB Examination Committee before being pretested. All examination items are pretested before they are included as official scored items.
No. In the United States, these boards are NOT affiliated with the National Association of Social Workers or state NASW chapters.
The Association of Social Work Board is the nonprofit association of social work licensing boards in the United States and Canada. The association is NOT affiliated with the National Association of Social Workers, nor is NASW in charge of licensing in any state. The association does not create or enforce licensing requirements for individual jurisdictions—that’s the responsibility of the individual boards. The association owns and maintains the licensing examinations used by its member boards, and also provides services to boards and social workers, such as the Approved Continuing Education program, the ASWB Social Work Registry, and the Public Protection Database.
Yes. The ASWB examinations meet the testing standards established by the American Psychological Association. ASWB and its testing vendor monitor the validity and reliability of each test administered.
Yes. If the state/province uses the exam category you took or are taking, you can have your scores sent to that state or province and not have to retake the exam. Be aware that some states put limits on how old a score can be in order to be accepted. At present, five years is the most stringent limit in place. The Social Work Registry is a helpful service developed by ASWB to make applying for a new license faster and easier.
That depends on where you’re getting licensed. Your scores on the examination are automatically forwarded to the board you designated when you registered. This usually happens within two weeks after you take the test. In most jurisdictions, the board processes this score and issues the license (turnaround times for this vary). In a few jurisdictions, you may still need to contact the board to proceed with your license application. Registration materials sent to you by ASWB include a sheet that explains what should happen after you take your test.
Day 1 of the 90-day wait begins the day after your test date. All days (including weekends and holidays) are counted; in other words, it is not based on 90 business days, weekdays only, etc.
Candidates must wait at least 90 days before retaking any ASWB examinations; however, exceptions may be made on a case-by-case basis when there has been serious, documented malfunction with administration of the examination. Exceptions may also be made when a candidate’s employment is in jeopardy and the candidate’s raw score on the most recent examination was within five (5) exam items of the passing score. The employment circumstance must be documented in writing by the employer and the exception must be approved by the member board. A maximum of two (2) waivers are permitted per examination category. For more information, contact ASWB at 888.579.3926.
No. The purpose of the social work licensing examinations is to determine if social workers have the minimum knowledge necessary to practice in a competent and safe manner with little risk to the public they serve. The examination program cannot help social workers pass the test, nor can active items be used as learning tools; therefore, examination review is not allowed. Examination security is another important reason ASWB does not permit examination review. Examination review could allow candidates to use the review for purposes other than for their own information. For example, the questions could be memorized and sold to examination preparation companies. This has happened in other testing programs. From a practical standpoint, there is no assurance that reviewing the questions you missed would help you do better on the next examination. At any one time several versions of each ASWB exam are being given, with different questions on each version—although the content being tested is the same. If you were retesting, you would be given a different version of the exam with a different set of questions from the exam you took previously.
Score verification can be done for a fee by contacting ASWB at 888.579.3926. Because the tests are scored electronically, however, there is little probability that your score would change. Requests to verify scores must be received within 90 days of the date you took the exam.
It is not unusual for examination scores to vary only slightly for most candidates who take a test more than once. This is because the ASWB examinations are reliable; that is, they measure candidate knowledge in a consistent manner. If there is no measurable increase in a candidate’s knowledge between administrations, a candidate will usually score within .5 standard deviation from a previous score, provided that the score reflected the candidate’s true level of knowledge at the earlier administration. A high degree of reliability—something present in all ASWB examinations—is an indicator that the test is a fair and accurate measure of competency.
No. The ASWB examinations are designed to be taken and scored as a whole, on individual attempts.
Your social work licensing board makes this decision. Some have limits, others do not. You should contact your board directly to find out.
To allow yourself the best opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge, it is important that you fully understand the ways the examination measures knowledge, the limits of individual test items, and the ways in which items may be worded. It is also helpful to have a “big picture” view of the examination and how items are distributed across content areas. Finally, the strong reliability of the ASWB examinations means that you need to think about ways to increase your level of social work knowledge before the next time you take the exam. Putting energy into trying to figure out how to “beat” the examination through various strategies that employ “tricks and tips” is a waste of your time and will probably not improve your score. Reassessing your social work knowledge, however, and conducting an honest appraisal of your weaknesses and strengths may well put you on the road to success with the examination. A good starting point for this process is the detailed score report you received after you completed the exam. This report details how many questions you answered correctly in each content area and offers insight into areas where you may be weaker. When coupled with the thorough understanding of the exam’s mechanics and intent, a concerted effort to fill in the gaps in your social work knowledge can make a difference in your performance on your next attempt.
That depends on the jurisdictions in question. Continuing education requirements may overlap in ways that will allow you to apply the same CE hours to multiple licenses, but often there are variations in hours needed and course topics accepted. Contact the relevant social work boards for details.
Social work regulatory boards have differing requirements for not only how many hours of CE you should obtain, but also how these hours are counted, and which kinds of activities will be accepted for CE. You must contact your social work board to get the details on requirements.
Your jurisdiction’s social work board sets the rules for CE requirements. It is extremely important that you check with your board to ensure that you are following all the requirements. Contact your board for details. You can obtain basic information on continuing education requirements through ASWB’s online social work regulations database. ASWB also offers some basic advice about CE.
You will need to contact your licensing board for this information.
No. Although the ASWB examination is administered through a computer, it requires no previous computer experience. The equipment will allow you to skip questions and return to them, change your answers, and mark questions for later review. You will be given a brief tutorial on the operation of the computer.
Almost all candidates complete the examination well within the four-hour time limit.
You will have four hours to complete the examination. If you have a disability that qualifies you for special accommodations, you may be allotted extra time. Some jurisdictions also allow additional time for candidates for whom English is a second language. Check your Candidate Handbook for details on how to arrange for special accommodations.
There are 170 questions on the ASWB examination, but only 150 count toward your score. The remaining 20 are pretest items, questions that are being evaluated for possible inclusion in the examination item pool.
The ASWB social work licensure examinations are multiple-choice examinations that offer test takers four options (A,B,C,D). The examinations are administered via computer at test sites.
No. There are multiple versions, or forms, of each category of ASWB examinations, and within those forms, the order of items is changed frequently. Some items will be the same from one test administration to the next, but all items are reordered as part of the new examination.
Your board or college of social work determines which exams are used to determine competence. Contact your board to find out which exam is appropriate for the license you would like to earn.
As of January 2016, California began using the ASWB Clinical social work licensing exam for new licensure candidates. California accepts score transfers for social workers who passed the ASWB Clinical social work licensing exam in the past. If you took the California licensing exam rather than the ASWB Clinical exam, most states will not accept your score for licensing purposes.
Basically, none. Reciprocity is the system that would allow you to obtain a license in a new state or province because you have a license in another state or province. No such system exists for licensed social workers in the U.S. Licensing in Canada is governed by the Canadian Free Trade Agreement, allowing social workers to practice across provincial borders with limited exceptions. Each time you begin practice in a new jurisdiction, you will need to provide the new state with much of the same information as the state in which you are currently licensed (transcripts, supervision documents, background information, etc.). The exception may be with your examination scores—more often than not, these can be transferred from one jurisdiction to another. Much of the hassle of providing these materials each time you add a new license can be lessened by joining the ASWB Social Work Registry.
There is no national social work license available. The United States Constitution reserves the regulation of professions to the individual states. ASWB is working to create more uniformity among state regulatory frameworks, but licensing is likely to remain a state-governed issue for the foreseeable future.
Look up the website, statutes, and regulations for your board in our online database. To reach someone by phone, try to call during non-peak hours—lunchtimes are almost always busy—and investigate the possibility of sending an email instead of or in addition to your call.
No. There can be significant variation in the way states and provinces set up their licensure categories, as well as the titles conferred. The various acronyms – LCSW, LSW, LGSW, etc. –can mean different things and be accompanied by different requirements. ASWB’s online social work regulations database contains information on how requirements and titles vary among jurisdictions.
We mean the regulatory body in charge of issuing licenses in your state or province. Usually this is called a “board,” but it is also known as “board of examiners” or, in Canada, a “college,” or other terms such as council, association, department, or bureau. In the United States, these boards are NOT affiliated with the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) or state NASW chapters. ASWB is NOT a board.
Basically, a jurisdiction is the state, province, or territory within which authority may be exercised. Regulatory boards or colleges (in Canada) gain their ability to license and regulate social workers through their jurisdictions.