The clock is ticking…

Tags: Exams
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photograph of flip clock
ASWB members have a little more than two more years of a five-year review period to comply with the policy on examination procedures. Photo by Djim Loic on Unsplash


“We are always willing to talk to your board members and board staff to answer questions or concerns about compliance with exam policy. We want to support you through this process.” — Dwight Hymans, ASWB Chief Operating Officer

In 2016, ASWB drew a line. To protect the validity and reliability of the licensing examinations, the Board of Directors established a five-year time frame for member boards to bring their use of the ASWB licensing exams into compliance with ASWB examination policy 2.1, Procedures. “We are past the halfway point for compliance review,” said Dwight Hymans, ASWB chief operating officer and point of contact for the review process. “We want to remind members about what needs to happen by July 1, 2021, to ensure defensibility for all ASWB members using one or more exams as part of their licensing process.”

Variations on use of the exams have been a concern for several years. ASWB staff documented 24 instances of inconsistency with policy 2.1 in different licensure categories across several jurisdictions in 2016. During the five-year period that started on July 1 that year, member boards are asked to review their use of ASWB’s licensing exams for conformity with policy. Options open to boards that are not in compliance include making necessary changes to laws and regulations, requesting an exception to ASWB’s exam use policy, or stopping use of the exam for noncompliant purposes.

Since the review period started, the Board of Directors has received eight requests for exceptions. It has denied two: one requesting use of the Bachelors exam for candidates without a BSW degree and one requesting that candidates sit for the Clinical exam at any time after graduation from their MSW program rather than the “two years (or commensurate experience as defined by the jurisdiction) of experience in clinical settings” required by policy. The Board granted the other requests, which asked that candidates approved for the appropriate exam be allowed to take it shortly before their graduation from a BSW or an MSW program.

“In all cases,” said ASWB President Tim Brown, “ASWB’s Board of Directors has voted consistently on the issues presented and in keeping with the exam policy. The 2016 Board of Directors took this step as part of its governance mandate. It’s important that subsequent Boards are following through so that the validity and defensibility of the exams are protected.”

“Defensibility of the exams is dependent on maintaining their validity,” said Hymans. “Validity is established through the practice analysis, which surveys practitioners about the minimum competencies needed for their scope of practice.” Each scope is distinct and based on specific education, experience, and knowledge, skills, and abilities. When candidates take an exam that does not match their education and experience, the data collected may become skewed. Consequently, validity can be called into question.

ASWB conducted the most recent practice analysis in 2015–2016 and, in January 2018, launched exams based on new blueprints developed from that practice analysis. ASWB’s exam policy is based on the intended purpose of each exam and the candidate qualifications as defined by the practice analysis.

Use of ASWB exams in the licensing process continues to expand both in the United States and in Canada. More U.S. jurisdictions are licensing multiple scopes of practice, and more Canadian provinces are exploring the use of the exams as an entry-to-practice measure. Policy 2.1, Procedures outlines how the exams are to be used in order to maintain the highest psychometric standards and legal defensibility.

“We are always willing to talk to your board members and board staff to answer questions or concerns about compliance with exam policy,” said Hymans. “In some cases, discussion can help identify different solutions when a waiver seems like the only option. We want to support you through this process.”