The journey to social work exam
licensure can seem long and overwhelming. The best thing to do when
you're faced with an impossible-seeming mega-task? Break it down
into parts. You don't have to worry about the entire licesnsing
process, just focus on the next indicated task ahead, one by
Here are the four steps you'll have to take to pass the ASWB
exam and get your social work license.
Step One: The Paperwork
The first step in becoming a licensed social worker is applying
with your state
licensing board. Different exam levels require different
amounts of experience. Requirements vary from state to state. Your
state licensing board has answers to any questions you may have
about those details. They're a few clicks away.
Once you've been approved by the state board, register for the
exam with the ASWB at aswb.org.
As of this writing, registration fees are $230 for
Associate, Bachelors, and Masters-level exams; $260 for Advanced
Generalist and Clinical-level exams.
You're still not done with the purely logistical, paperwork
portion of exam prep. Once you've received an Authorization to Test
from the ASWB, you're clear to book an exam date via Pearson VUE.
And now, finally, with your appointment made, the real work
Step Two: Learn the Exam
The next step in the road to getting licensed is getting your
bearings. What's on the exam? How long is it? How many
Some answers: The exam is 170-questions long. A portion of those
questions--twenty, to be exact--don't count toward your final
score, but you're not told which ones they are. You'll have to stay
focused and do your best on all 170.
The exam is made up entirely of multiple choice questions with
four answers each, often in vignette form. Questions are not
related to one another--each stands alone. Trick questions are not
a part of the ASWB approach. Nor are "none of the above" or "all of
the above" answer choices. Many questions end asking for the MOST
likely, NEXT move, or BEST choice in any given situation.
You have four hours to complete the exam. That's 240 minutes for
170 questions, or a little bit less than a minute-and-a-half per
The social work exam at all levels is meant to assess knowledge,
skills, and abilities expected from beginning social workers. You
do not need to memorize the entire DSM. You don't need to know
every detail of every developmental theory ever conceived. You do
need to know the basics--essential social work wisdom that might
reasonably be expected to have been acquired by social workers
starting out in their careers.
Step Three: Prepare for the Exam
While you can set aside deep exploration into obscure wings of
social work know-how, that still leaves a lot to know. There are a
lot of social work essentials. Your MSW textbooks should be
The NASW Code of Ethics is a core part of lots of exam
The best way to prepare for the exam is to take realistic practice tests. With good, 170-question
tests, you increasingly gain a sense for the pace and feel of a
four-hour exam on social work essentials. You learn your strengths
and weaknesses when it comes to both content and process. You
gather insight into which topics you need to review and into what
it's like for you to sit for a big, four-hour test. Do you need
breaks? A snack? Knowing ahead of time gives you a meaningful
advantage on exam day.
Got practice? Getting passing practice test scores? You're ready
for the next and final step.
Step Four: Pass the Exam
The last step is the quickest one: Go in, take the exam, pass
It's the easiest of the four steps when you think of it that
way. Half a day and it's over.
That's it. You're licensed. Celebrate!
Congratulations in advance. Good luck!
with the SWTP Study Guide, free when you create an SWTP