Social and Political Action and the Social Work Exam

justiceIt's easy to get distracted as a social worker preparing for the licensing exam by material that seems like it will definitely be on the exam. Privacy and confidentiality, suicide assessment, basic diagnoses--that sort of stuff. No thorough exam prep ignores the NASW Code of Ethics. But will it cover all of the code? Here's an essential piece for social work exam prep and social work practice worth revisiting. It's the final section, 6.04, Social and Political Action:

(a) Social workers should engage in social and political action that seeks to ensure that all people have equal access to the resources, employment, services, and opportunities they require to meet their basic human needs and to develop fully. Social workers should be aware of the impact of the political arena on practice and should advocate for changes in policy and legislation to improve social conditions in order to meet basic human needs and promote social justice.

(b) Social workers should act to expand choice and opportunity for all people, with special regard for vulnerable, disadvantaged, oppressed, and exploited people and groups.

(c) Social workers should promote conditions that encourage respect for cultural and social diversity within the United States and globally. Social workers should promote policies and practices that demonstrate respect for difference, support the expansion of cultural knowledge and resources, advocate for programs and institutions that demonstrate cultural competence, and promote policies that safeguard the rights of and confirm equity and social justice for all people.

(d) Social workers should act to prevent and eliminate domination of, exploitation of, and discrimination against any person, group, or class on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, marital status, political belief, religion, immigration status, or mental or physical disability.

Lots of social workers have recently been putting these principles action more than they may have in the past. Exam writers are no different. Don't be surprised if they visit this section with increasing frequency as new editions of the exam emerge. Exam writers are like you, only they've been licensed for some time. They read headlines, the watch the news, and, while you do your exam prep, they write exam questions.

Imagine questions like these pulled directly from the code.

A client's access to [some important resource] is limited by [a systemic obstacle]. What should the social worker do?

A client reports experiencing racial discrimination in her hunt for an apartment. What should the social worker do?

A supervisor promotes a social worker over her more qualified colleague who has a disability. What should the social worker do?


Look the code. The social worker "should engage in social and political action," "should act to expand choice and opportunity," "should promote conditions that encourage respect," "should act to prevent and eliminate domination, exploitation, and discrimination." That's all pulled directly from the language of section 6.04. That's the stuff that'll be included in the correct response. Watch out for distractors that involve more mild interventions; "Explore the client's reactions..." "Discuss in supervision..." "Research the problem..." The code wants real action. That's your answer.

Some additional reading on the topic, including a long slide show pdf from Columbia U.:

For exam questions about social justice, the Code of Ethics, and the entire range of likely exam content, get started with SWTP's exams and boosters now!

Happy studying and good luck on the exam!

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