“We always have to balance security concerns with the comfort of the test-takers,” says Director of Exam Administration Felicia Dennison. “These new measures illustrate ASWB’s commitment to evaluating existing procedures and revising them based on both feedback from test-takers and evidence of their effectiveness.”

 

The ASWB has announced important exam changes that will impact the social work exam test-taking experience beginning 2023.  

Based on candidate feedback and in an effort to improve the testing experience, the ASWB announced updates that will affect Bachelor, Masters, and Clinical level exams beginning January 2023. The ASWB has identified these exam changes as enhancements intended to reduce test-taker stress and promote a better social work examination process.

These enhancements are a combination of updates to the exam, test-taker comfort, and testing center security and will impact both the actual exam format and the testing experience.  These  changes to the exams should result in a material improvement to the test-taking experience, encouraging less stress and contributing to a more effective exam.


Now, let’s go over the ASWB Exam Changes.

Access to Food Is Now Allowed During Exam

While eating food during the exam was previously prohibited, candidates can now access their lockers to retrieve a snack during the exam. This change provides test-takers with the opportunity to take a short break to recharge and gain what might be a much-needed energy boost. Two important things to note about this update: 1) The snack must be consumed in the waiting area and cannot be taken into the testing room. 2)The exam timer does not stop during breaks. Due to this, it’s important to factor planned breaks into your practice exam sessions prior to exam day so that you can best manage your exam timing.

Cell Phone Bags Are No Longer Needed

The second, and possibly the most minor of the three ASWB exam changes, is that test-takers will no longer be required to place their cell phones or electronics in a tamper-proof bag in their lockers.  Electronics must still be powered off prior to being placed in a locker.

Fewer Question Answer Options

Beginning January 2023, ASWB exam forms will include a mix of both three- and four-option questions.  This will replace the previous multiple choice exam format of four-options questions. The reduction in the number of answer options is, per the ASWB, designed to ‘offer test-takers a better experience by reducing time pressure and ensuring a focus on a test-taker’s social work knowledge.’   

The ASWB intends to gradually phase in additional three-option questions moving forward, eventually transitioning to three-option multiple choice questions by 2025.

While this exam format update may seem like a big change, rest assured that this transition to three-option questions is a good thing!  Fewer answer options will offer a more streamlined exam-taking process that improves the odds of correctly answering the question, reduces some of the test-taking time pressure, and focuses more on the candidate’s social work knowledge and less on reading comprehension.

Let’s take a look at how this exam update might affect how you would answer a social work exam question.  

 

We’re starting with a Masters level ASWB sample exam question:

 

After being physically abused by his husband, a man seeks medical attention from an emergency room. The next day, the man seeks individual therapy from a social worker recommended by emergency room personnel. What should the social worker focus on FIRST with this client?

a. Identifying coping strategies to empower him.

b. Healing the effects of this trauma.

c. Establishing safety and providing information.

d. Confronting denial that prevents him from taking action.


Let’s take this same question and remove an answer option to make it a 3-answer choice question.


After being physically abused by his husband, a man seeks medical attention from an emergency room. The next day, the man seeks individual therapy from a social worker recommended by emergency room personnel. What should the social worker focus on FIRST with this client?

a. Healing the effects of this trauma.

b. Establishing safety and providing information.

c. Confronting denial that prevents him from taking action.


All of the answer choices in both questions focus on things you likely will work on during treatment with the client; however, the question is asking what to focus on first. Taking appropriate steps to address potentially serious safety concerns affecting your client is always a priority in therapy. Because this client is at risk, the social worker should begin by helping him establish greater safety (e.g., developing an escape plan) and offering relevant education and resources. Focusing on the key word first allows you to quickly eliminate any answer choice that is a longer-term goal.

 

Now, let’s practice with a Clinical level ASWB sample exam question:


A social worker begins working in individual therapy with a client who is from a culture that differs from her own. The social worker knows relatively little about the client's culture and acknowledges this to him in the first meeting. What should the social worker do NEXT?

a. Invite the client to tell her something about his culture.

b. Shift the focus to the presenting problem.

c. Offer to refer the client to a therapist from his own culture.

d. Tell the client that she will seek information about his culture before the next session.


Let’s take this same question and remove an answer option to make it a 3-answer choice question.

A social worker begins working in individual therapy with a client who is from a culture that differs from her own. The social worker knows relatively little about the client's culture and acknowledges this to him in the first meeting. What should the social worker do NEXT?

a. Invite the client to tell her something about his culture.

b. Shift the focus to the presenting problem.

c. Offer to refer the client to a therapist from his own culture.

The correct answer is to invite the client to tell her something about his culture. Since this is the first session you are still in the process of gathering information and learning about the client. There is no reason to wait until future sessions, so in eliminating this answer choice the correct answer stands out knowing you are in the assessment phase of treatment.

AATBS is committed to providing you with the most up-to-date and comprehensive study materials for the Bachelors, Masters and Clinical Level Social Work Exams. Feel prepared to pass with expert test content, exam-specific tools and resources, and one-on-one support.