ASWB Advanced Generalist Content Outline

The Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) Advanced Generalist exam is designed to test those with a Masters in Social Work (MSW) over a vast array of topics pertaining to their discipline. It is one of several steps those who hold MSW’s must take in order to obtain official state licensing and be able to practice or work many of the social work jobs that are in existence.

Many people who are facing the ASWB Advanced Generalist exam want to know what the exam will be testing. While it is easy to find information on the five overarching content categories that the test will question them on, it is not as easy to find more specific details about what each of these content categories will contain. This guide is aimed at helping you narrow down what is fair game for the exam and what isn’t so that studying doesn’t have to be so hard!


Content Area One: Human Development, Diversity & Behavior in the Environment
This area has four main subsections that questions will be based on, and they are: Models of human growth and development through the lifespan, models of functioning of various systems, effects of the environment on systems’ behavior, and diversity discrimination and stereotypes.

For this portion of the exam, it is good to be both familiar and comfortable with feminist theory, addiction theories, conflict theories, the family life-cycle, and different models of human/group development, the socialization process, impact of social and economic status’ on individuals, and the effects of discrimination based on culture or economic background.

This portion of the test will account for 18% of your total test score.


Content Area Two: Micro Assessment and Planning
This section of the test has six different subsections that questions will be based on, and they are: Use of assessment instruments and methods, use of social history, impact of life stressors on systems, intervention planning, assessments of strengths and challenges, and identification of common indicators of risk and disorders.

For this portion of the exam, it is good to be both familiar with psychological and educational tests and measurement, various methods use to assess client’s communication, motivation, or level of care required, components of biopsychosocial history, components of an individual’s history, the effects of stressors on individuals and families, the effects of life crisis on the individual and family, methods used to create behavioral objectives, how to assess clients’ strengths and challenges, effects of body image, and psychotropic/non-psychotropic prescriptions and their side-effects on the client.

This portion of the test will account for 22% of your total test score.


Content Area Three: Micro Practice and Social Work Relationships
This section of the test has four different subsections that questions will be based on, and they are: Application of theories, methods, and processes to microsystems, micro-intervention techniques, dynamics of the social worker-client relationship, and the application of evidence-based practices.

For this portion of the exam, it is good to be familiar with problem-solving models, behavioral approaches, small group theories, techniques to motivate clients, use of goal-setting, couples intervention and treatment approaches, process of co-therapy, concept of empathy/helping relationships, applying evidence-based practices to programs, and verbal/nonverbal communication techniques.

This portion of the test will account for 18% of your total test score.


Content Area Four: Macro Practice
This portion of the test, has ten different subsections that questions will be based on, and they are: Research methods and design, program evaluation and outcomes, record keeping and reporting, program developments, interdisciplinary collaboration, policy analysis/advocacy, theories and methods of social change, administration/management, supervision/consultation, and risk management.

For this portion of the exam, it is good to be familiar with types of service delivery programs/systems, use of networking, legislative advocacy, social planning methods, time management approaches, governance structures, models of group supervision/peer supervision, methods of managing critical incidents including debriefing for clients and staff, the policy implications of risk management, methods used to plan and assign work for staff, and policy implications of research findings.

This portion of the test will account for 18% of your total test score.


Content Area Five: Professional Values and Ethics
The final section of this test contains four different subsections that questions will be based on, and they are: values, boundaries, and ethics, confidentiality, self-determination, and professional responsibilities for ethical practice.

For this portion of the exam, it is good to be familiar with medical, ethical, and legal issues, professional boundary issues, process of obtaining informed consent, limits of self-determination, legal and ethical issues regarding confidentiality, including electronic information and the social worker’s various ethical responsibilities.

This portion of the test will account for the largest portion of the test at 24% of your total score.


Remember that this guide does not delve into every single caveat that the test will question you on, it is meant to give you a more specific direction and guidance in brushing your social-work knowledge base. If you want to get every specific, visit the ASWB website.

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