Social Work Exam

Preparing for the Social Work Exam

To become a licensed clinical social worker, you need to take and pass the social work exam(s) to obtain your professional license and practice legally in the United States. In preparation for the social work examination, the first step is obtaining your master’s degree from an accredited university. After this, you practice under supervision prior to obtaining clinical licensure. Like all regulated professions, the licensing process helps ensure each individual has acquired a high level of expertise and experience and protects the public from those who lack knowledge of ethics or clinical competence. No matter which state you reside in, passing the social work exam is a MUST on your path to becoming a licensed clinical social worker.

Acquiring this license is no small feat. From the time you begin your master's (MSW) program at a CSWE accredited school, to the time you are a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), this process can take anywhere from four (4) to eight (8) years. The culminating moment is sitting for your licensure exam, which can be a stressful and overwhelming time for many people. That is why the Therapist Development Center has created a series of programs to give social workers the exact set of skills and mindset needed to pass the social work exam with CONFIDENCE. Learn more about how to become a licensed social worker in your state.


Different Levels of Social Work Licensure Available

While every state has different levels of licensure, the five (5) social work examinations that the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) provides are:

  • Associate
  • Bachelor
  • Masters
  • Advanced Generalist
  • Clinical

Which exam you need to take depends on your level of education and experience, as well as what licenses your state regulatory board offers. The bachelor's social work exam is intended for those with a bachelor’s degree in social work who have recently graduated from their undergrad program and looking for an entry-level position. If you obtain your master's in social work, taking the bachelor’s exam is not required. The master's social work exam is for those who have recently graduated from their MSW program and ready to begin accruing work hours towards a higher-level license. Know that not all states require the master's exam to be taken before social workers can begin their required work experience. Some states only require the clinical social work exam. And finally, the advanced generalist and clinical social work exam are for those who have completed their state’s required work hours, and ready to practice independently. The difference between the two licenses is Advanced Generalists provide non-clinical services, while Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW) provides clinical support. Very few people take the Advanced Generalist Exam.

Here at TDC, we’ve created social work exam prep programs for those studying for their Masters and Clinical exam. We also offer exam prep for the state-specific Law and Ethics exam for California social workers.


Learn How to Become a Social Worker by State

Social worker studying on laptop

Each state has its own regulatory board that approves and administers each license. While you become licensed by your individual state, the social work exam itself is a national exam (so you take the same test across all 50 states) and it is administered by the ASWB. After you take your test, your exam scores are submitted to your individual state’s board for approval. While a majority of the licensing process is the same state-to-state, there are slight differences in regards to what level of licensure each state provides, what the licenses are called, the requirements for work experience and supervision, and the application process. To learn more about these differences and to get the name of your state’s social work board, check out TDC’s Social Work Licensure state overview, and click on your state for details.

*with the exception of the California LCSW Law & Ethics Exam which is administered by the CA Bureau of Behavioral Sciences (BBS). California social workers must take this exam before taking the ASWB Clinical social work exam.


Social Work Examination Fees & Registration

Once you’ve met the appropriate requirements and received approval to take the social work exam from your state board, you will need to register with the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB). The ASWB charges a registration fee of $230 for the Associate, Bachelor, and Masters social work exam, and $260 for the Advanced Generalist and Clinical exam. The ASWB then sends a confirmation of eligibility to test. Once you are eligible to test, you contact Pearson Professional Centers (Pearson VUE) to select your social work exam location and test date. Most Pearson Centers now offer this exam six (6) to seven (7) days a week, providing a lot of flexibility for exam takers and their busy schedules.


Social Work Exam Prep

Check out TDC's Social Work Exam Prep programs here:

LCSW Exam Prep    LMSW Exam Prep    California LCSW Law & Ethics


Social Work Examination FAQs

How to pass the social work licensing exam?

To pass the social work licensing exam, all you need is Therapist Development. Our program is designed to give you exactly what you need to pass and nothing more: no unnecessary memorizing, no booked filled with overwhelming content, and no stress. TDC’s social work licensing exam prep programs provide an organized, concise program that teaches you how to think about the exam. If you want to pass your social work licensing exam on the first attempt, select the appropriate program above, and start studying!


How many questions are on the social work exam?

There are 170 questions on the ASWB social work exams, however, only 150 of them count towards your score. The remaining 20 questions are only included on the exam for the ASWB to evaluate if they should be included on future social work examinations. Also know the ASWB has several different versions of the test being administered at any given time, so someone else taking their social work test on the same day may have a different version of the test than the one you’re taking.


What is a passing score for the social work exam?

As mentioned above, there are different versions of the test being administered at any given time. Pass points range from 93-107 of the 150 scored questions, which equates to 62-71% depending on the version of the exam you get. The variance in the passing score exists because the difficulty level of each version of the test is slightly different. If you get an easier version of the exam, you are required to get more questions correct overall (closer to that 71%). If you get a more difficult version of the exam, fewer correct answers are required to pass (closer to that 62%). Or-more likely- you may get a version somewhere in between that.


What are the average passing rates for each type of social work examination?

The social work exam is no doubt a difficult one. In 2018, the ASWB reported the following national pass rates.

  • Associate - 72.1%
  • Bachelor - 69.2%
  • Masters - 75.5%
  • Advanced Generalist - 56.2%
  • Clinical - 73.2%

HOWEVER, did you know that TDC has a pass rate of 95% for its clients? Learn more about our social work exam prep programs and how we’ve helped THOUSANDS of customers obtain clinical licensure.


Are there practice tests available for the social work exam?

The ASWB does provide practice exams for an additional cost of $85. The official practice exam is taken online and can be purchased from the ASWB for $85. Remember that just going through sample questions for the social work exam and memorizing information is often not enough. Very little of the exams are made up of factual recall and are primarily reasoning based clinical scenarios. The best methodology is learning how to think about the exam and develop the reasoning skills to help you understand what each question is really asking and identifying the correct answer. This approach eliminates unnecessary memorization, relieves anxiety, and gives you the confidence needed to pass the social work exam. This is our approach at TDC and we’ve helped tens of thousands of social workers successfully pass this exam on the first try!


Are there scholarships available for social work examination fees?

Not there we are aware of, but if you find a scholarship or grant program for the social work exam, we’d be happy to share the good news with the community. Just email us at with any information.


Why am I having such trouble passing the social work examination?

The answer to this varies depending on your situation, but oftentimes customers come to us who have been using exam prep books that overload them with information and leave them feeling anxious and overwhelmed. Often times people try to memorize an impossible amount of information, and when they take the social work exam they realize this didn’t prepare them for the types of questions that actually show up on the exam. Sometimes anxiety and second-guessing lead to test-takers selecting the wrong answers because they entered the exam lacking confidence and feeling underprepared. Whatever your situation is, at TDC we have a staff of coaches here to help you figure out where your weaknesses are and devise a strategy to help you pass this exam. If you’ve recently failed the social work exam, TDC can help give you the strategies needed to be successful and get you on the right track to success. And this coaching support is all included as part of TDC’s social work exam prep programs. Check us out!