Entry-to-Practice Exams – What You Need to Know

On September 10, 2021, College Council passed a motion to approve, in accordance with the ASWB’s timeline, entry-to-practice exams for social work and social service work applicants to the College. This decision is in line with the College’s Strategic Plan 2020-23, which includes an objective to “review registration processes and consider entry-to-practice exam for new social workers and social service workers.”

Entry-to-practice exams are an additional tool that help measure applicants’ readiness to practise, ensuring that only those with specific qualifications are eligible for registration. In keeping with regulatory practice in most professions, including health practitioners, the College must take all necessary measures to be in a position to assure the public (including service users) that successful applicants entering the professions will practise safely and ethically, without causing harm.

Registration requirements which include both educational qualifications and successful completion of an entry-to-practice exam are standard across all health professions in Ontario; together, these measures provide a system of checks and balances which ensures that applicants are ready for practice. Neither a degree in social work nor a diploma in social service work alone is sufficient to measure readiness to practise.

Most other Canadian social work regulators now either use, or intend to move toward, use of the ASWB exams.

Updates on the implementation plan and timeline will be posted on this webpage as they become available. Please contact the Communications Department at communications@ocswssw.org for inquiries related to the entry-to-practice exams.


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Development and implementation

The ASWB is responsible for developing and implementing the entry-to-practice exams. There are a number of initiatives that will be developed in accordance with the ASWB’s timeline prior to implementation of the exams. These include:

  • adopting entry-to-practice exams for both social work and social service work, and French versions of both exams;
  • supporting the execution of a practice analysis for social service work and the development of a social service work exam; and
  • developing an implementation plan.

The development and implementation of the exams will take several years. It is anticipated that the exam requirement will not be fully implemented until 2027.

During the development and implementation of the exams, the ASWB will carefully consider matters related to accessibility and inclusivity, including (but not limited to) the following:

  • Ensuring that each question is written and reviewed by practising social workers and social service workers and reflects diversity in practice setting, ethnicity, race and geography. All questions will be reviewed and approved before ever being used on an exam.
  • Considering the geographical locations of testing centres to ensure accessibility in all areas of the province.
  • Making every effort to reduce barriers for applicants through ongoing communication and collaboration with social work and social service work educators, and the provision of resources for their students.

For more information on the development of exam questions, including the ASWB’s practice analysis, visit the ASWB website.


ASWB Exam Pass Rate Analysis

In August 2022, the ASWB published its Exam Pass Rate Analysis which found that racialized candidates have historically had lower exam pass rates than white candidates. The publication of this data is a necessary first step toward identifying the current systemic issues that extend beyond entry-to-practice exams and allowing for an intentional emphasis on making changes and measuring progress.

The ASWB exams that are currently in place, to which the data relates, are not the versions that the College will be using. The ASWB is currently preparing for a broad practice analysis across Canada and the United States which will create the blueprint of the version of the social work exam that the College will use in 2027; a similar practice analysis will take place for the development of the social service work exam.

For more information:


College Updates


Related FAQs
  • Entry-to-practice exams are an additional tool that help measure applicants’ readiness to practise, ensuring that only those with specific qualifications are eligible for registration. As part of its mandate to protect the public from unqualified, incompetent and unfit practitioners, the College must take all necessary measures to be in a position to assure the public (including service users) that successful applicants entering the professions will practise safely and ethically, without causing harm.

    Registration requirements which include both educational qualifications and successful completion of an entry-to-practice exam provide a system of checks and balances which ensures that applicants are ready for practice. Neither a degree in social work nor a diploma in social service work alone is sufficient to measure readiness to practise.

    Most other Canadian social work regulators now either use, or intend to move toward, use of the ASWB exams.

  • The ASWB will develop and administer the entry-to-practice exams. The ASWB is a nonprofit organization composed of and owned by the social work regulatory boards and colleges of all 50 U.S. states and all 10 Canadian provinces, including the College.

    The ASWB currently administers a number of English exams, including the social work entry-to-practice exams. They will also develop a social service work exam, and French versions of the social work and social work exams.

  • The ASWB follows strict test development standards to ensure and maintain fairness. The first step is a practice analysis, a major survey of the tasks of thousands of practising social workers to ensure representation from various backgrounds and geographic areas. The survey results give ASWB a clear sense of what entry-level social workers do, and help establish content for exam questions. A practice analysis will also take place prior to the development of the social service work exam. For more information on the practice analysis, visit the ASWB website.

    More than 150 practising social workers, who represent diversity in practice setting, ethnicity, race and geography, develop the exam questions. The question writers receive training to avoid bias, as well as any particular wording, assumptions, and stereotyping that can make a question unfair for some. Every question is reviewed at each step in the process for signs of potential bias. The same process will take place prior to the development of the social service work exam. For more information on the development of exam questions, visit the ASWB website.

  • All social worker and social service worker applicants will be required to complete the exam successfully, as part of the College’s registration requirements. This includes applicants applying for registration through the equivalency stream. Current members will not be required to complete the entry-to-practice exam.

    College members who let their membership lapse and wish to reinstate their membership at a later date will be required to adhere to all registration requirements at the time of application, including successful completion of the appropriate exam.