ASWB Exam Changes: Exploring Upcoming Changes to the LMSW and LCSW Exams

By Heidi Tobe on August 9, 2017

The ASWB recently announced that they will be making changes to their licensing exams, to take effect January 2, 2018.


First of all, don't panic! These changes are being implemented to ensure exam content is 1. relevant to current practice and 2. demonstrates both the opinions and the expertise of a diverse group of stakeholders (ASWB, 2017). We have already been getting a number of emails and calls from test takers anxious about these upcoming changes-and rightfully so, as the exam is daunting enough without the uncertainty of new material. The ASWB states, “the updates to the blueprints can generally be described as a touching up and refining of details, with only a few specific topics receiving more extensive adjustments” (ASWB, 2017). This is good news! The changes being made for the LMSW and LCSW exams are minor (the exam undergoing the greatest changes is the Advanced Generalist Exam-an exam you don’t have to worry about if you are on the path to clinical licensure!).

Percentage Changes

masters exam


As is shown in the diagram above, for the Master’s Level exam, the percentage of Professional relationships, values, and ethics questions is decreasing by 2% from 27% to 25%, the percentage of Human development, diversity, and behavior in the environment questions is decreasing by 1%. The number of Assessment and intervention planning questions are staying the same. What was formerly known as the "Direct and indirect practice" is retitled "Interventions with clients/client systems” and will be increasing by 3%.


Clinical exam


As shown in the diagram above for the Clinical exam, the number of Professional values and ethics questions are increasing by 1%. The greatest change in questions is in Human development, diversity, and behavior in the environment, which is decreasing from 31% to 24%. Assessment, diagnosis, and treatment Planning questions are increasing from 26% to 30% and Psychotherapy, clinical interventions, and case management is increasing from 25% to 27%.

As you can see, the greatest percentage changes are 3% within any content area for the Master’s level exam and 7% for the Clinical level exam.

So What’s Changing?

We have spent a great deal of time comparing the blueprints for the current exams and the exams to be released in 2018. Here’s what we found: The new blueprints are more lengthy and detailed. The biggest thing we noticed, though, is that the new blueprints seem largely to be expounding upon the outline of the previous blueprints. For example, what once stated “The impact of the environment (e.g. social, physical, cultural, political, economic) on individuals” now states “The impact of the environment (e.g. social, physical, cultural, political, economic) on individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities” (emphasis added). What used to simply state “interview techniques” now states “The principles and techniques of interviewing (e.g., supporting, clarifying, focusing, confronting, validating, feedback, reflecting, language differences, use of interpreters, redirecting.” What used to say “Indicators and dynamics of abuse and neglect” now states “Indicators of abuse and neglect throughout the lifespan” (emphasis added). “Throughout the lifespan” is a phrase we noted came up frequently in the new blueprints, along with “client systems”

How Does This Impact My Studying?

Honestly, not much. Overall, we think these changes could be a really good thing for people preparing for their licensing exams as the ASWB has taken some of the guess work out of what may show up on the exam. What is great for our users is that we have always been proponents of not over studying and steer away from filling our program with obscure pieces of knowledge that are unlikely to show up on the exam (there’s nothing worse than trying to memorize hundreds of pages of content from a thick textbook!). We encourage those preparing for the exam not to let their anxiety get the best of them, over studying each bullet point of the new blueprints in depth (the ASWB has broken it down well for you, so you don’t need to add more bullet points beneath their bullet points!). Trying to study too much content can feel productive, but is not. Our anxiety tells us if we study every bit of information possible, then we will be best prepared. We know from preparing over 20,000 test takers for their licensing exams that more isn’t always better! Rest assured, TDC has it covered.

TDC is known for providing you, our test takers, with everything you need to pass the exam and nothing you don’t. For years, TDC has already been breaking down these content areas further and in more detail as the ASWB is doing now. Does this mean we will not be making any changes to reflect the new exams? Absolutely not! We want to continue to provide the best exam prep out there and have full intentions of continuing to do so by making small changes based on what the ASWB is putting out later this year. We will be working hard to incorporate some of the minor changes being made to the exams, including ensuring our mock exams reflect accurately the percentage of questions being tested on in each content area for the LMSW and LCSW exams. Later this year, the ASWB will release updated practice exams online so that individuals testing on or after January 2, 2018 have practice materials that fully and accurately reflect the modified exams.

If you are preparing for your licensure exams and still haven’t signed up for an exam preparation program, our structured, straightforward approach to exam prep will provide you with exactly what you need to pass your social work exam or MFT exam and nothing you don’t. You can learn more about our social work licensing exam prep HERE and more about our MFT licensing exam prep HERE. If you’d like to connect directly with one of our coaches, you can do that HERE. We look forward to helping you PASS your exam with confidence!


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August 10, 2017

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