What Are the Three Types of Questions on the ASWB Social Work Licensing Exams?

Susan Jane Golding. “Close Examination”. Licensed Under Creative Commons on Flickr.

One of the most important points to drive home is that the social work licensure exam is not a memorization test.

While knowing your theoretical models and four major content areas is important, the licensure exam is designed to measure for competencies as much as it is designed to measure for knowledge. All together these are known as knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) a social worker at a Masters or Clinical level should have mastered. The test isn’t just testing what you know, but also how you apply your social work skills.

There are three types of questions you’ll generally see on the exam.

  1. Recall Questions: These are the closest thing to memorization questions since they will require recall. However, it’s not recommended that you spend all your studying memorizing a lot of material unless they’re major foundational theories like human development, DSM criteria, or the stages of the helping process.

    Example: Cocaine is a
    A. Stimulant
    B. Depressant
    C. Opiate
    D. Hallucinogen

    Key (A) – This requires recall of substance types.

  2. Application Questions: These are shorter scenario questions that require one or two pieces of information for you to apply.

    Example: A child who has been attending regular school counseling sessions for the past 6 months to treat anxiety shows up to session with a markedly changed affect. What should the social worker do FIRST?
    A. Make a mandated report for child neglect
    B. Begin play therapy interventions
    C. Assess changes in their home situation
    D. Schedule a conference with the teacher

    Key (C) – This requires us to know that assessment is an ongoing process that occurs at all stages of the helping process.

  3. Reasoning Questions: These are slightly longer scenarios that usually requires applying one or several social work principles and skills. You will have to pay attention to all of the information that’s given to you.

    Example: A social worker has been facilitating a group for young adults for the past 4 months when one of the members tells the social worker that he will leave the group if another group member doesn’t leave. This other group member had said something that bothered the client. What is the BEST way for the social worker to address this conflict?
    A. Speak to both group members after the group.
    B. Take the first group member aside for individual sessions to resolve the conflict.
    C. Ask the first group member to address the second group member in the group.
    D. Ask the group what the conflict is bringing up for them.

    Key (C) – One of the curative factors in group work (according to Yalom) is interpersonal learning. Since this group has been meeting for some time, it may be somewhere between the power and intimacy stage where conflict is normative and where there is an opportunity to model healthy conflict resolution by having the group members address each other (instead of handling it outside of the group or leaving the work to the social worker or other members).

Want more practice? Check out practice tests here.

Want to explore tutoring? Contact me for a free initial consultation.

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