ASWB Exam: How to Pass your LCSW or LMSW Exam

By Amanda Rowan on September 17, 2012

Definition of Strategy with the word Strategy highlighted

Are you looking to pass the ASWB exam for your LCSW, LiCSW, LMSW or LGSW? The Therapist Development Center is here to make that process a little easier.  And we know first hand, because unlike the other companies out there, all of our study materials, blogs, and free tips are created by social workers who have actually taken these exams recently.

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How to Pass the ASWB Exam

Below you will find 6 easy strategies that will make a big difference in your final score on the ASWB Exam.

  1. The exam is a MARATHON.  It is a really long test – 170 questions!  So your brain needs to ready to think. You get 4 hours to complete the test.  You should spend about 70 seconds or less on each question.  That will allow you an extra 40-minute buffer to take breaks (see secret #3) and have extra time to review your marked questions.
  2. Practice time management.  It is REALLY important to time yourself when you are taking practice exams.  In fact, one thing you can do right now is put your phone timer on for 70 seconds and see how much of this list you can read before it beeps.  It is really important to have an internal sense of what 70 seconds feels like because you don’t want to waste time checking the clock for the whole exam.  Other companies encourage you to take their exams in study mode, without the timer.  That is a waste of a practice exam. You need to be trained to think quickly.
  3. Take breaks. During the exam, we recommend 2 breaks, one at question 70 and one at question 140.  Like we mentioned about, the ASWB exam is a Marathon for your brain, so its important to get up, move around and eat a snack (see secret #4).  We get calls all the time from people who have failed and most report that they never took a break.  Bad idea.  If you are averaging 70 seconds or less you will have enough time to take two 10 minute breaks and still have 20 minutes to check your marked questions.  
  4. Fuel up.  Your brain makes up 2% of your body mass, but consumes 20% of the energy.  And that’s on an average day; it consumes a lot more when it is thinking hard.  Studies show that when your brain is working a maximum capacity, like it will be when it is taking the ASWB exam, it consumes more glucose than any major muscle group does when it is working at maximum capacity.  Why are we telling you this?  Because you need to make sure to fuel up right before you go in to take the test and during your breaks. In our workshops, we give you more details on the specific foods you should eat and drink on the test day.
  5. Get to know your testing center.  The last thing you need to worry about is getting lost on your way to the test.  We recommend driving there a week before to get oriented.  It is also important to call the testing center a couple of weeks prior to finding out about their snack policy. The ASWB exam is administered by Pearsons ( They may tell you that you can’t bring in snacks.  But make sure you are clear that you won’t be bringing snacks into the test room, but that you need them available in the waiting room.  If they give you any hassle, remind them that this is a 44-hour exam and that you get hypoglycemic if you don’t get a snack. If worse comes to worst, get a note from your doctor.  They can’t say no to that.
  6. Manage your anxiety.  The best way to do this is to have clear strategies that you are going to use on the different questions in the exam.  We provide you with anxiety-busting strategies throughout our workshops.  Another essential tool is to get some exercise in the days leading up to the test.  Stress and anxiety are actually just chemicals pumping through our bodies.  The quickest way to get rid of them is to filter them out through our kidneys.  This is one reason why people “feel better” after a brisk walk or a workout.  Speeding up your heart rate means that those stress chemicals will be removed faster. We recommend taking a 15-20 minute walk before you start studying and if you have time, on the morning of the ASWB exam.

At TDC we know there is more to passing the exam than memorizing a big book of facts.  We focus on strategies and how to think. When you are ready to study smart and pass with confidence, you know where to find us!  Also, be sure to check out our blog for other free study tips. Good Luck.

Think our straightforward, sensible approach could help you PASS your social work exam? If you're preparing for a social work exam, check out our Social Work Study Materials. Learn more about our offerings at The Therapist Development Center.

Looking for more practice questions and some study tips? Check out our new Social Work Exam Study Guide:

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Commenter Name
March 6, 2018

I will be taking exam in approximately 5 months

Commenter Name
April 17, 2018

I just found out that it's against ASWB policy to eat or drink during the exam! I confirmed with ASWB and they say it's because it's "too distracting" I am getting special accommodations so that I can eat and drink during my breaks.

Commenter Name
June 10, 2019

Trying to study for the Social Work Exam.

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