If you want to become a clinical social worker, you will need to complete a Master's in Social Work (MSW) at an accredited college or university. In addition to a bachelor's degree in a related field, some MSW admissions offices will also request that you take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE). The GRE is a standardized test administered by the ETS (Educational Testing Service). It is a three-part test covering critical thinking, verbal and quantitative reasoning, and analytical skills. You do not have to take the GRE test to be admitted to an MSW program, but you might be requested to take it if your application doesn't meet admissions criteria in other areas.
What Is the GRE Test?
The Graduate Record Exam is similar to SAT and ACT tests that are given to students to determine admission priorities for bachelor's degree programs. It is offered on paper or via a computer. The test includes three sections: verbal, quantitative, and analytical writing. The computer version of the test is "adaptive," which means if you answer one question correctly, the next question will be of a slightly higher level of difficulty. The test includes two writing portions, multiple choice and other types of verbal questions, and a math section. The GRE is intended to measure your readiness for graduate-level work.
Ways the Test is Used in Admissions
Few MSW programs require applicants to take the GRE test with no other alternatives. Most frequently, applicants are asked to take the test if their grade point average is below a certain threshold. In this case, the exam is used to determine admissions priority and qualifications. It could help you to get into a program where you otherwise might not be admitted. Because the Graduate Record Exam determines skills that you have learned throughout your education, it is expected to help measure your readiness to do the work in a graduate-level social work program. Social work requires aptitude in all of the areas the GRE tests, including math/quantitative analysis.
Criteria in Addition to the GRE
Most social work programs have varying areas of degree concentration or specialization. Cal State University, Los Angeles (CSULA) offers concentrations in Aging & Families, Children, Youth, Women & Families, and Forensic Social Work. Programs with specializations similar to CSULA prioritize applicants who have work experience in these fields of concentration. They also prioritize undergraduate grade point averages. Most programs do not have a set cut-off point for GPA, but averages above 3.0 are generally considered appropriate for graduate program admission.
The Graduate Record Exam is a challenging test. It's easy to understand why many people who want to become licensed clinical social workers or other social work professionals would rather just apply and be admitted to an MSW program based on their grades and volunteer or paid work experience, not a standardized test. Most MSW programs do not require applicants to take the GRE test. Instead, you will find programs requesting the test if applicants have grade point averages lower than 3.0, or who lack sufficient volunteer or work experience in the field. The Graduate Record Exam could get you into an MSW program, but if you do not take it and have good grades, it will not keep you out.