Frequently Asked Questions About the (ASWB) National Social Work Exam

1. When can I take the exam?

Previously offered only twice a year, the National Social Work Exam is now offered 6 days a week throughout the year at a local testing center. At some locations, it’s offered 7 days a week. Once you have applied and been approved by your state board to sit for the exam, you will receive a second application to take the exam. Once that is processed, you will receive an authorization-to-test letter. You must schedule and take the exam within 60 days of receiving your authorization-to-test.

2. Which level of the exam should I take?

The ASWB offers four different levels of examination—bachelor’s, master’s, advanced generalist, and clinical. The bachelor’s exam is designed for entry-level social workers with a BSW degree. The master’s exam is designed for entry-level social workers with an MSW degree who have less than 2 years of practice experience. The advanced generalist and clinical exams are designed for entry-level social workers with an MSW degree and at least 2 years of postdegree experience. Each state offers one, two, three, or all four levels. You should check with your state board to determine which levels are offered in your state and which level is most appropriate for you. 

3. Which online study program is right for me?

Academic Review offers two online study programs: The Master’s Level Exam Program and the Clinical Level Exam Program. If you will be taking the master’s exam, you should order the Master’s Level Exam Program; if you will be taking the clinical exam, you should order the Clinical Level Exam Program. We don’t currently offer programs for the bachelor’s exam or the advanced generalist exam, but candidates taking one of these exams may consider using our Master’s Exam Program, which reviews both direct and indirect practice. Note that our programs are intended to prepare candidates for the social work licensing exam in every state. Note for California licensees: As of January 1, 2016, California applicants will be required to take the Clinical Level Exam once they pass the Standard Written or Law and Ethics Exam.

Please note: This licensure preparation program and materials associated with it were not included in the Association of Social Work Boards’ Approved Continuing Education (ACE) review and are not approved by ASWB for continuing education nor endorsed by ASWB in any manner.

4. How many questions are on the social work licensing exam?

All levels of the exam have 170 multiple-choice questions. However, only 150 of them count toward your score. The remaining 20 questions are pretest items, which are evaluated for possible inclusion in future exams. Since you won't know which are the pretest items and which are scoreable, you should approach every question as if it counts. 

5. What is the passing score for the social work licensing exam?

The number of questions needed to pass varies with each administration of the exam due to slight differences in the difficulty of the test items. However, the scaled passing score, which is 70 or 75, depending on your state, remains constant. The scaled score does not, however, directly indicate how many questions are needed to pass the exam. For example, a scaled score of 75 on one form of the exam may be obtained by correctly answering 70% of the 150 scoreable questions; on the other hand, a more difficult form may only require correctly answering 67% of the 150 scoreable questions to obtain the same scaled score of 75. 

6. If I pass in one jurisdiction, have I passed for all jurisdictions?

Yes. The passing score is a national passing score. Although some states use different scaled passing scores, these are equivalent. So, if you passed in one state with a scaled score of 70, you will also have passed in a state that uses 75 as the scaled cutoff score. However, you are not automatically licensed in every state when you pass the exam in one state. Every jurisdiction has its own licensing processes, and there are additional steps required for licensure. Note for California licensees: As of January 1, 2016, California applicants will be required to take the Clinical Level Exam once they pass the Standard Written or Law and Ethics Exam.

7. Are the tests the same in every state?

Yes. The level of exam is the same in every state. That is, the clinical exam is the same in Alaska as it is in Wisconsin. However, not every state offers every level of the exam. For example, if you pass the master’s exam in Massachusetts and you later want to become licensed in Connecticut, your score would not transfer because Connecticut only offers licensure at the clinical level. In addition, California has its own exam requirements. 

8. Is there more than one version of the exam?

Yes. There are multiple versions, or forms, of each level of the ASWB exam. Thus, a candidate sitting next to you at the testing center who is taking the same level of social work exam as you may have a completely different form, or set of questions, than you. 

9. Are some versions of the exams more difficult than others?

Since it’s impossible to make the difficulty level exactly the same for every form, there are typically slight variations in difficulty. However, this variation is compensated for when determining the passing score for each form. For example, a more difficult form would require fewer correct answers to pass. 

10. Do I have to know how to use a computer to take the exam?

The social work licensing exams are administered on a computer. However, no previous computer skills are required to take the exam. The program is easy to use and you will be given a brief tutorial on the operation of the computer before your exam. 

11. When is the social work licensing exam administered?

The exam is administered throughout the year at numerous testing sites across the country and is usually offered 6 or, in some locations, 7 days a week. 

12. What is the procedure for registering for the licensing exam?

Generally, after your application for licensure has been approved by your state board you must contact the ASWB to register for the exam. Upon approval, you will receive an authorization-to-test letter. After you receive this letter, you can contact the testing site to schedule your exam. However, you should check with your state board or the ASWB for the specific procedure in your state. 

13. What areas are covered on the social work licensing exams?

A list of the content areas and relative emphases for each level of the exam can be found at the ASWB website: https://www.aswb.org/exam-candidates/

14. Does Academic Review's Social Work Exam Online Study Program cover all of the content areas covered on the social work licensing exam?

Yes. Academic Review’s Program covers all of the content areas found on the Clinical or Master's Level Social Work Exams. 

15. Are Academic Review’s practice exam questions the same as those on the licensing exams?

Our practice exams closely simulate the exam questions found on the licensing exam. Of course, the practice exam questions are not identical to the licensing exam questions, but they are an excellent simulation of, and preparation for, the licensing exam. 

16. What is included in Academic Review’s Social Work Exam Online Study Program?

The program consists of online mock exams, e-books that cover all of the content domains, and flashcards. 

17. When does my subscription time begin?

Your subscription is ready when you are. Your time in the online program begins after you've registered and have begun studying the materials.

18. How long should I prepare for the social work exam?

Most candidates need 100 to 200 hours of study time to adequately prepare for the exam. If you are able to study 15 to 20 hours per week, you could be ready in about 2 to 3 months. The biggest mistake some candidates make is not giving themselves enough time to study. This is not an exam one can “cram” for in just a week or two and expect to pass. 

19. What types of questions are contained in the social work exam?

All of the exam questions are four-option multiple choice. Some questions are straightforward and require simple recall of information, but others are more challenging and require candidates to apply their knowledge, skills, reason, and judgment to case situations. This is particularly true for the clinical exam, but the master’s level exam also includes “application” questions. We explain and illustrate different kinds of exam questions in the Exam Strategies e-book that comes with our online program, and our mock exams allow you to practice answering all kinds of exam questions. 

20. Is there any penalty for guessing on the social work licensing exam?

No. There is no penalty for guessing; therefore, you should answer every question even if you are unsure of the answer. 

21. Should I wait to take the online practice exams during my last weeks of study?

No. Our practice exams are considered the most valuable study tool available. These should be used not only to assess your performance, but also as a way to improve your knowledge and test-taking skills throughout your studies. 

22. How can I improve my test-taking skills for this exam?

Our program includes our popular Exam Strategies e-book that candidates have found very helpful. However, the best way to improve your test-taking skills for the exam is by taking our online practice exams and reviewing the rationales and additional content links. In the explanatory answers, we discuss why the correct answer in each case is better than the other answer choices. 

23. If I fail the exam, how long must I wait to take it again?

The waiting period before you can retake the exam varies from state to state, but the minimum wait is 90 days. You should check with your state board for the exact waiting period. However, if you're like most of our customers, you'll pass the first time.

24. How many times can I retake the exam?

That depends on your jurisdiction. Some jurisdictions place a limit on the number of times a candidate may retake the licensing exam, while others do not. 

25. How can I order Academic Review's Social Work Exam Online Study Program?

You can order your subscription here or by calling our Customer Service line toll-free at 1-800-225-3444.

26. What is the Online Study Program Subscription?

The Online Study Program is a monthly subscription-based program with all the tools you need to study for your exam. Your subscription is ready when you are and does not begin until you log in and begin studying with the materials. Your subscription includes quizzes, mock exams, flashcards, and guidance to where you should focus your studies based on your quiz scores. After you purchase your subscription that will give you total access to all the tools. Before your account expires, we will notify you of your renewal date by email.

27. Are there refunds on training events? 

Workshops are nonrefundable. All reservations for our training events require payment in full at the time of enrollment. If you are scheduled to attend a workshop, but would like to attend a different date for any reason, you can transfer to a future training event for a transfer fee. (Current transfer fee: $20.) You must call Academic Review to inform us that you will not be able to attend the workshop no later than ten (10) working days before the training event begins. It is highly recommended that you read all of the study materials at least once before attending our training events. All training events are nonrefundable once it has started.

28. Do you offer a Pass Guarantee?

Yes! Our Pass Guarantee was written with your success in mind. We consider each step in this process essential.
To be eligible for our Pass Guarantee, the following must be completed:

  1. Purchase a 120-Day Subscription program or extend your monthly subscription until you total a minimum of 120 days continuously or more in the program (with no break in your subscription) and:
    • Take and complete one Diagnostic Assessment prior to taking the exam.
    • Take and complete all of the questions in the Domain Quizzes area prior to taking the exam.
    • Take at least 12 full-length Mock Exams prior to taking the exam.
    • Must have a 75% or higher passing rate before you take the licensing exam.
  2. Study for at least 300 hours in the Online Program prior to taking the exam.
  3. Take the licensing exam within 1 month of completing the last Mock Exam and before your subscription expires.
  4. Provide your test results and contact our office within 30 days of taking the exam.
  5. You must also have taken the licensing exam within 2 weeks of your Subscription ending.

If you follow all of these steps and do not pass your licensing exam, we will provide you with an additional 120-Day Subscription. (All policies are subject to change without notice.)