What is the ASWB Licensing Exam?

Like for many professions, social workers must possess state licensure. This license requires you to take and pass the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) Examination. All 50 states, as well as the U.S. Virgin Islands and certain provinces of Canada, use the exams provided by the ASWB for social work licensure. Passing this exam generally qualifies candidates for state licensure for practicing social work, in addition to meeting other licensure requirements, including education and supervised practice.

The ASWB provides five exams at five different levels. The exam each candidate takes depends on the level of education they have completed, as well as the level at which they hope to practice. These exams measure skills and knowledge in social work-specific content areas, such as human development and behavior, social and economic justice, and intervention processes. Each ASWB exam consists of 170 multiple choice questions, including 150 scored questions and 20 questions used for data collection regarding the effectiveness of the exam. Below, you'll learn more about the exams, including what to expect from the test, and resources to help you prepare.

ASWB Examination Levels

Each level of the ASWB is unique to a level of practice and education: associate, bachelor's, master's, advanced generalist, and clinical. Requirements for licensure and types of practice vary by state, so some areas may not offer all five exams. Although each test covers similar topics, including human development, human behavior, and assessment, each level may ask more questions in certain areas than in others. Questions on higher-level exams may entail more detailed knowledge.

The ASWB Examination Process

In order to register for the exam, you must have approval from the social work regulatory board in your specific jurisdiction. This typically requires submitting a licensure application to ensure your eligibility, though the process varies by jurisdiction. After you've been approved, you must register with ASWB, providing the required materials outlined in their candidate handbook. Once you have approval from ASWB, you will receive an Authorization to Test and then you can register to take the exam. Pearson VUE, a computer-based testing company partnered with ASWB, administers the exam.

Social Work Board Approval

Each state has its own social work regulatory board. Depending on where you live and plan to apply for social work licensure, the process for gaining approval to register for an ASWB exam varies. Some states offer online application portals, while others may require applicants to mail or fax necessary materials. Denial of approval can occur if an applicant lacks requirements mandated by their specific regulatory board, such as certain educational or professional experience. Many states charge fees for licensure applications.

Registering for ASWB Exams

Candidates may register for the ASWB exam over the phone, by mail, fax, or online. At the time of registration, you must also submit your nonrefundable exam fee. The fees vary based on which exam you plan to take, with the associate, bachelor's, and master's exam fee at $230, and the advanced practice exams at $260. Pearson VUE, the exam provider, administers the test at centers around the country. You should register well in advance to ensure your desired date is available.

What to Expect on ASWB Exams

Each of the five different ASWB exams have 170 multiple choice questions. Of these 170 questions, only 150 receive scores; the other 20 serve as "pretest" questions that measure the effectiveness of the exam. Administered electronically on a computer, candidates have four hours to complete the exam. You may take breaks, but the exam time continues during those breaks. You may return to previous questions in the exam at any time. You are not allowed to bring notes in with you. ASWB provides practice exams and ASWB study guides to help you prepare.

What Should You Bring With You on the Day of Your ASWB Exam?

You will present two different forms of identification when you take your exam. ASWB provides a list of acceptable types of ID to ensure you bring the correct forms. You will store all of your personal items in a secure spot in the testing facility while you take the exam. You may not eat or drink during the exam.

Accommodations for ASWB Test Takers with Disabilities or Health-Associated Needs

Certain accommodations exist for those with disabilities, health-associated needs, or language barriers. Those in need of special accommodations must fill out an application form, which requires a signature from a healthcare provider for health-associated needs. Exam candidates must submit formal medical proof of diagnosis or confirmation of the disability, and information on the specific limitations. Those in need of accommodations must apply for them prior to registering for an exam.

How Are ASWB Exams Scored?

The ASWB exam runs on a pass/fail basis. However, upon submitting your exam, you will receive a raw, unofficial score report which documents the total number of questions you answered correctly. Generally, answering between 93 and 107 questions correctly out of the 150 ASWB exam questions will earn you a passing score. Your score comes from the number of questions answered correctly, so answer each question.

Getting Your ASWB Exam Score

When you complete your exam, you will receive an unofficial score report that you may print and take with you. It may take up to two weeks for your official scores to reach your regulatory board. From there, your licensing board will contact you directly regarding your licensure status. If you fail the exam, you may retake it after 90 days.

Helpful ASWB Exam Resources

Test takers have a variety of resources available to help them study for their ASWB exam.

  • Studying for the Social Work Licensure Exam: This website includes valuable insight from licensed social worker Jane Shersher about which topics to study for the exam, how to best prepare for the test, and which apps to download to help you get ready.
  • ASWB Online Practice Exams: These online practice tests feature actual ASWB exam questions, allowing you to prepare for the test effectively. Registered candidates may take this full-length practice test for $85.
  • ASWB Guide to the Social Work Exams: This guide, published by the creators of the ASWB exams, offers insight on how the test works, how to prepare and study, and what to expect.
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