Preparing for your Licensed master social worker exam

If you've graduated from an MSW program and need a supportive environment to prepare to take you LMSW, you've come to the right place. Talk Time Therapy is creating a space for people to come in and feel comfortable while preparing for that baseline competency exam now required to work with an MSW. Let's gather and support each other. You can pick my brain and get as much information as you need about all things Social Work. Why study alone, there's a bunch of you in need of support, motivation, encouragement, and maybe even some guidance or clarification on a few things. I can help. Call me at 203-747-8708. We can move through the process together. 

Preparing to take the Association of Social Work Boards ASWB examination involves three general steps:

1. Obtain your social work board’s approval to sit for the exam
2. Register to take the examination with ASWB
3. Make an appointment with Pearson VUE to take the test after you have received your Authorization to Test email from ASWB                                    

The registration and appointment processes are fairly simple, provided you get organized before making the necessary calls or going online. Your registration experience will go much more smoothly if you are prepared to supply the information needed. The printable registration form mirrors the phone registration process. You may find it helpful to fill out this form to use as a reference before making your registration call or registering online.

The first thing you need to know is whether you are eligible to take the social work licensing exam. In all jurisdictions, your board will inform you of your eligibility to sit for the ASWB examination after you have submitted your licensing application. There may be variations in how eligibility to take the exam is established. Most jurisdictions assess the application and/or licensing fees that are in addition to examination costs paid to ASWB. Communication with your board is therefore essential. 


The following are key points social workers need to know about the new Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) license:

  • The LMSW law does not change the requirements for the LCSW except that your 3000 hours of post-graduate experience MUST be as an LMSW as of May 1, 2015. Also as of May 1, 2015 all clinical social work in Connecticut must be performed by either an LMSW or LCSW.
  • Upon graduation, all MSWs seeking to practice clinical social work must pass the LMSW. A one-time temporary license is available for those working in a clinical capacity who has not yet taken the exam. This temporary license is valid for the first 120 consecutive calendar days starting with your graduation date.
  • LMSWs must practice under the professional supervision of a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Licensed Psychologist, Licensed Marital and Family Therapist, Licensed Professional Counselor, Licensed APRN or Licensed Physician. Supervision is at minimum monthly and must be face-to-face.
  • LMSWs can only diagnose with the consultation of a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Psychologist, Marital & Family Therapist, Professional Counselor, APRN or Physician.
  • LMSWs cannot practice independently. As of October 1, 2013 independent practice requires the LCSW.
  • LMSWs will need 15 hours of continuing education each license year. At least one hour must be in cultural competence and two hours must on veterans and/or veteran’s families. 

Social workers exempt from the new law are those practicing non-clinical social work including administration, community organization, policy & planning, or research as long as they are not performing any clinical tasks or supervising a clinical social worker engaged in clinical practice with clients; BSWs performing non-clinical functions; nursing home social workers practicing under state and federal regulations; certified school social workers practicing within their school social work certification; and social work students practicing within their internship.



The content outline for each ASWB examination defines the content that will be measured on the exam. The content outlines were developed through the practice analyses conducted with licensed social workers in a variety of practice settings across the United States and Canada.

Each content outline is organized into content areascompetencies, and knowledge, skills, and abilities statements (KSAs).

  • Content areas are the broad areas of content knowledge that are measured by each exam. The content areas structure the content for exam construction and score reporting purposes. When receiving exam scores, failing candidates are given feedback on their performance on each content area of the exam.
  • Competencies describe meaningful sets of knowledge, skills, and abilities that are important to the job of a social worker within each content area.
  • Knowledge, skills, and abilities statements (KSAs) structure the content of the exam for item development purposes. The KSAs provide further details about the nature and range of exam content that is included in the competencies. Each KSA describes a discrete knowledge component that is the basis for individual exam questions that may be used to measure the competency.

Each examination contains 170 four-option, multiple-choice questions designed to measure minimum competencies at four categories of practice. Only 150 of the 170 items are scored; the remaining 20 questions are pretest items included to measure their effectiveness as items on future examinations. These pretest items are scattered randomly throughout the examination. Candidates have four hours to complete the test, which is administered electronically.

Examinations are administered by appointment at Pearson Professional Centers worldwide. There are no fixed administration dates. Instead, registered candidates can go to Pearson VUE's website to schedule a time to take the test.

Protection of the Public
The central purpose of legally regulating social work practice is to protect the public, the consumers of social work services. The ASWB Model Social Work Introduction xxiii Practice Act (ASWB, 2015b) affirms that social work is “a professional practice affecting the public health, safety, and welfare and is subject to regulation and control in the public interest” (p. 3). The act further asserts that, in order to ensure public trust, only qualified people should be allowed to practice social work. Regulatory bodies establish the qualifications for practice, issue licenses, and monitor the safe and competent practice of social work to protect consumers of services from unethical and unlawful practice.

This fact sheet is for information purposes only. DPH has final say on licensure decisions.


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