ASWB License Exam

ASWB License Exam Prep and Study 

Introduction and Welcome!

Here is where I'm writing notes as I prepare and study for the ASWB license exam.  I'm studying on my own for the exam, and looking for resources, so I guess you are, too!  This page is offered to the public for free, in hopes of aiding my fellow graduates of social work schools in studying for the ASWB license exam.

This site will always be a work-in-progress; it is by no means perfect, nor am I -- thank goodness!  Good luck to you all!  Please leave me comments if you find this site helpful.  Also let me know if there's anything you'd like to see covered that's not here already.

NOTE: A lot of the information I've posted is from Wikipedia, which provides reliably factual social work study materials.  I remember a time when professors warned that Wikipedia was not appropriate for use in scholarly writing because its information was unreliable and lacked citations.  That is no longer the case (if it ever was true), as Wikipedia has progressively become a resource work that contains only verifiable references for all contents.  Please join Wikipedia's Social Work Wiki Project to help expand the amount of available information about social work in the web's free encyclopedia!  

The Application and Exam Process

First of all, I would like to mention that it took quite a bit of time just to apply for the social work license.  I started in July 2012 and am still waiting for approval and permission to take the exam as of September 2012.

I had to fill out the 3-page application as well as include payment for the application process, order my graduate transcripts from my alma mater to send to the state board, have fingerprints taken, fill out the authorization forms to run a criminal background check (CORI), buy a money order to have it sent to the state police to run it, and finally take and include a passport photo of myself.  I got a letter acknowledging receipt of the application and saying that they are waiting on the state police to send my criminal records.  

The next step in the process is for the board of social work examiners to decide whether to approve my application; they meet only once every six weeks.  The board will then send me permission to register for the exam.  I will need to register with ASWB, pay for and schedule the exam, which I guess will take a week or two, at least.  I will know immediately after the exam whether I passed or not, but I will need to wait for the scores to be sent to the state office, which will then send me notice that I passed and can be licensed.  I will then pay the fee to be licensed and later get my license verification (and certificate).  In Louisiana, I will be licensed as an LMSW (Licensed Master of Social Work).  At that point, I will start my job search in earnest as a credentialed practitioner.   
I started this process in July 2012 and expect to be employed by November 2012.

Needless to say, it has taken much longer than I anticipated.  You may choose to do things in a different order than I did -- as far as getting a job without being licensed -- but, at any rate, it's wise to be prepared for a lengthy process of your own.  

Site Organization

1. Focus Areas of the License Exam


  • Developmental theories Systems theoriesPsychodynamic theories
  • Family theories
  • Group theories 
  •  Behavioral, cognitive, and learning theories
  • Community development theories
  • Person in environment 
  • Addiction theories and concepts 
  • Communication theories
  • Defense mechanisms
  • Normal and abnormal behavior
  • Indicators of normal physical growth and development
  • Adult development
  • Effects of life crises 
  • Impact of stress, trauma, and violence 
  • Emotional development
  • Sexual development
  • Aging processes
  • Family life cycle
  • Family dynamics and functioning 
  • Cognitive development
  • Social development
  • Child development
  • Basic human needs
  • Adolescent development
  • Human genetics
  • Gender roles
  • Impact of environment on individuals
  • Impact of physical, mental, and cognitive disabilities on human development
  • Interplay of biological, psychological, and social factors 
  • Effects of family dynamics on individuals
  • Dynamics of grief and loss
  • Impact of economic changes on client systems
  • Effects of body image on self and relationships
  • Cultural, racial, and ethnic identity development 
  • Strengths perspective
  • Abuse and neglect concepts 
  • Indicators and dynamics of sexual abuse 
  • Indicators and dynamics of psychological abuse and neglect 
  • Indicators and dynamics of physical abuse and neglect
  • *       Characteristics of abuse perpetrators
  • Indicators and dynamics of exploitation

  • Influence of culture, race, and/or ethnicity on behaviors and attitudes
  • Influence ofsexual orientation and/or gender identity on behavior and attitudes
  • Influence of disability on behaviors and attitudes
  • Effects of differencesin values
  • Impact of cultural heritage on self-image
  • Impact ofspirituality and/or religious beliefs on behaviors and attitudes
  • Effects of discrimination
  • Systemic (institutionalized) discrimination
  • Professional commitment to promoting justice
  • Impact ofsocial institutions on society
  • Impact of diversity in styles of communicating
  • Influence of age on behaviors and attitudes


  •  Psychopharmacology
  • Components of a biopsychosocial history
  • Components of a sexual history
  • Common prescription medications
  • Components of a family history
  • Basic medical terminology
  • Symptoms of mental and emotional illness
  • Symptoms of neurologic and organic processes
  • Indicators ofsexual dysfunction
  • Indicators of psychosocialstress
  • Indicators of traumatic stress and violence
  • Indicators ofsubstance abuse and other addiction
  • Use of collateralsourcesto obtain relevant information
  • Methods used to evaluate collateral information
  • Process used in problem identification
  • Methods used to assessthe client’s communication skills
  • Use of observation
  • Methods of involving clientsin identifying problems
  • Indicators of client’sstrengths and challenges
  • Use of assessment/diagnostic instrumentsin practice
  • Methods used to organize information
  • Current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual diagnostic framework and criteria
  • Components and function of the mentalstatus examination
  • Process ofsocial work assessment/diagnosis
  • Methods used in assessing ego strengths
  • Methods used to assess community strengths and challenges
  • Methods used in risk assessment

Indicators of client danger to self and others
Indicators of motivation and resistance
Methods used to identify service needs of clients 
Use of interviewing techniques 
Process of assessing the client’s needed level of care


Factors used in determining the client’s readiness/ability to participate in services
Criteria used in selecting intervention modalities 
Components of an intervention or service plan
Human development considerations in the creation of an intervention plan 
Methods used to develop an intervention plan 
Techniques used to establish measurable intervention or service plans
Methods used to involve clients in intervention planning
Methods for planning interventions with groups
Methods for planning interventions with organizations and communities
Cultural considerations in the creation of an intervention plan 



Client advocacy
Empowerment process
Methods used in working with involuntary clients
Psychosocial approach
Components of the problem-solving process 
Crisis intervention approach
Task centered practice
Short-term interventions
Methods used to provide educational services to clients
Methods of conflict resolution
Use of case management
Techniques used to evaluate a client’s progress
Use of contracting and goal-setting with client systems 
Use of timing in intervention
Phases of intervention
Indicators of client readiness for termination
Techniques used for follow-up in social work practice
Use of active listening skills 
Techniques used to motivate clients
Techniques used to teach skills to clients
Use and effects of out-of-home placement
Methods used to develop behavioral objectives
Client self-monitoring techniques
Technique of role play

Assertiveness training

Role modeling techniques
Limit setting
Methods used to develop learning objectives with clients
Models of intervention with families 
Couples intervention/treatment approaches
Interventions with groups 
Techniques for working with individuals within the group context
Use of expertise from other disciplines 
Approaches used in consultation
Processes of interdisciplinary collaboration
Methods used to coordinate services among service providers
Multidisciplinary team approach
Case recording and record-keeping
Methods used to facilitate communication
Verbal and nonverbal communication techniques
Techniques that explore underlying meanings of communication
Methods used to obtain/provide feedback 
Methods used to interpret and communicate policies and procedures
Methods used to clarify the benefits and limitations of resources with clients
Use of case recording for practice evaluation or supervision
Use of single-subject designs in practice
Evaluation of practice
Interpreting and applying research findings to practice
Process used to refer clients for services
Use of cognitive behavioral techniques
Culturally competent social work practice 

Applying concepts of organizational theories 
Impact of social welfare legislation on social work practice
Methods used to establish service networks or community resources
Techniques for mobilizing community participation
Techniques of social planning methods
Techniques of social policy analysis
Techniques to influence social policy 
Techniques of working with large groups
Use of networking 
Approaches to culturally competent practice with organizations and communities 
Advocacy with communities and organizations
Impact of agency policy and function on service delivery


Professional values and ethics
Client self-determination
Intrinsic worth and value of the individual
Client’s right to refuse service
Ethical issues regarding termination
Bioethical issues 
Identification and resolution of ethical dilemmas
Applying ethics to practice issues
Responsibility to seek supervision
Use of professional development to improve practice
Professional boundaries 

Legal and ethical issues regarding confidentiality, including electronic communication 
Use of client records
Ethical and legal issues regarding mandatory reporting 
Obtaining informed consent

Social worker-client relationship patterns
Concept of empathy
Process of engagement in social work practice
Concept of a helping relationship
Principles of relationship building
Professional objectivity in the social worker-client relationship
Concepts of transference and countertransference
Use of the social worker-client relationship as an intervention tool
Social worker-client relationships in work with communities and organizations
Social worker-client relationships in work with small groups
Methods used to clarify roles of the social worker
Social worker’s roles in the problem-solving process
Client’s roles in the problem-solving process
Influence of the social worker’s values on the social worker-client relationship
Dual relationships
Influence of cultural diversity on the social worker-client relationship

Advanced Generalist 
Social Work Practice Area
Percentage of the Exam
Direct and Indirect Practice (Micro and Macro)
Human Development & Behavior in the Social Environment
Professional Values and Ethics
Assessment and Diagnosis (Treatment Planning)
Service Delivery
Supervision, Administration, and Policy
Diversity and Cultural Competency
Professional and Therapeutic Relationships
Research and Evaluation

2.  Practice Questions on all of the above subjects.

3. Test-taking strategies and tips

  • Use the Code of Ethics as a lens with which to view and answer the questions
  • Positive Thoughts - see it in your mind's eye - FTW!

Links and Resources

1. Study Groups 

2. Independent Sites 

Flashcard samples , test prep site

Professional Social Workers group in Google groups

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