Preparing for the social work license exam requires diligent study and strategic planning. To help you make the most of your preparation time, we have compiled a list of valuable studying tips and FAQs in one place here.. By following these tips, you can enhance your understanding of ASWB exam content, improve your test-taking skills, and increase your chances of success. Let's dive in!

Understand the Exam Format and Content

Begin your preparation by thoroughly familiarizing yourself with the exam format and content. Review the exam outline on the ASWB website, which spells out the topics and subtopics that will be covered. Understand the structure of the exam, including the number of questions (170), time limit (four hours without accommodations), and question types (vignette-based multiple choice). This knowledge will guide your study plan and ensure that you allocate sufficient time to each area.

Develop a Study Schedule

Create a study schedule that suits your learning style and availability. Break down the content into manageable study sessions, setting aside dedicated time each day or week. Establish a routine that balances your study time with rest and relaxation. Consistency is key to retaining information and building confidence. How long should you take to prepare? It depends upon how much time you can set aside for studying. Most social workers take between three weeks and three months to get ready for the licensing exam.

Utilize Reliable Study Materials

Choose reliable study materials specifically designed for the social work license exam. (SWTP, for example–”By social workers, for social workers.”)  Look for resources that cover the exam content comprehensively and are up-to-date with the latest guidelines. This can include textbooks, study guides, online courses, and reputable practice exams. These resources will help you gain a solid foundation of knowledge and reinforce key concepts.

Engage in Active Learning

Avoid passively reading or memorizing information. Instead, engage in active learning techniques. Summarize concepts in your own words, create flashcards for quick review, and participate in study groups or discussions to exchange ideas and perspectives. Actively engaging with the material promotes better understanding and retention.

Practice with Sample Questions

Practice answering sample questions regularly to familiarize yourself with the exam's question format and style. Analyze the rationales behind correct and incorrect answers to deepen your understanding of the subject matter. 

Simulate Exam Conditions

As your exam date approaches, simulate exam conditions during practice sessions. Set a timer, create a quiet environment, and attempt full-length practice exams. This will help you get accustomed to the time pressure and build stamina for the actual exam. Assess your performance, identify areas of improvement, and adjust your study plan accordingly.

Seek Support and Collaboration

Don't hesitate to seek support and collaborate with fellow social work exam takers. Join study groups or online forums where you can share resources, discuss challenging topics, and exchange study tips. Exploring different perspectives can deepen your understanding and provide valuable insights.

Take Care of Your Well-being

Maintaining your well-being during the preparation period is crucial. Take regular breaks, get enough sleep, eat well, and engage in physical activities to keep your mind and body in optimal condition. Prioritize self-care to reduce stress and improve focus.

Review and Reinforce Weak Areas

Regularly review and reinforce areas where you feel less confident. Dedicate additional study time to these topics, seeking clarification through textbooks, online resources, or consulting with experienced social workers. Practice questions specifically focused on your weaker areas to strengthen your knowledge and boost your confidence.

Stay Positive and Manage Exam Anxiety:

Maintain a positive mindset throughout your preparation journey. Acknowledge your progress, celebrate small victories, and visualize your success on the exam. Develop relaxation techniques to manage exam anxiety, such as deep breathing exercises or meditation. Trust in your preparation and believe in your ability to perform well.

Free Social Work Licensing Exam Resources


Free Practice Test Free set of ten practice questions.

Blog Practice Questions Long series of free practice questions.

Study Guide Guidance about what to expect on the exam and how best to prepare. 

On the Web

Pass the ASWB Exam Free quizzes.

Simmons University Practice Questions Free ASWB exam practice questions.

Social Work Licensing Exam Process

Quick answers to common questions about the licensure process.


To register for the ASWB exam, you need to contact your state or provincial social work board responsible for licensure. They will provide you with an application form and instructions on submitting it along with any required supporting documents. Once your application is approved, you will receive information on how to schedule your exam through the testing service. Make sure to pay the required exam fee and prepare for the exam using appropriate study materials and resources.


If you require accommodations for the ASWB (Association of Social Work Boards), contact your state or provincial social work board, which is responsible for administering the exam. Typically, you will be required to submit documentation from a qualified professional that outlines your specific needs and supports the accommodation request. The social work board will review your request and supporting documentation to determine the appropriate accommodations that can be provided. It is essential to communicate and initiate this process well in advance of your desired exam date to allow sufficient time for the review and approval of your accommodation request.

Passing Score

The ASWB has 170 questions, but only 150 of those are scored. The other 20 are unscored questions the ASWB is trying out for possible use in future tests. Treat all questions as if they are scored. Since the exam changes regularly, there is no fixed number of correct answers specified by ASWB to pass the exam. Generally, between 93 and 107 correct answers (65-70%) is a passing. When you complete your exam, you’ll receive your score right away.


To retake the social work licensing exam, reach out to your state or provincial social work board, which oversees the licensing process, to inquire about the retake process. Generally, you will need to submit a new application and pay the exam fee again. The waiting period for retaking the exam varies depending on your jurisdiction. A list of licensing boards is here

Pass Rates

To obtain the most accurate and up-to-date information on pass rates, visit the ASWB website. Between 70% to 85% of first-time test-takers pass the test, with 88% eventually passing. Due to alarming inequities in results, the NASW declared its opposition to using the ASWB exam for social work licensure.

Essential Review

The right materials will ensure you have a solid foundation and a clear understanding of the exam content. Many of the essentials are free on the web.

From the ASWB

ASWB Exam Guidebook Crucial exam information from the ASWB. 

Also, as mentioned, review the exam content outline for your exam level (Clinical, Masters, Advanced Generalist, or Bachelors).


The NASW Code of Ethics. The single most important item to review and understand for the social work licensing exam


Find details from the DSM at  the National Institute for Mental Health or Wikipedia. Focus on the diagnoses most often found in a front-line social work setting (personality disorders, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, PTSD, and so on). 

Content Review

This free Study Guide from University of Missouri outlines crucial exam content. 

Practice Tests

Utilize high-quality practice tests to learn both exam process and content and surface areas that require further review.


Above, you have everything you need to begin preparing for and passing the social work licensing exam.

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Happy studying and good luck on the exam!

June 13, 2023
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