All three licenses currently require passage of a written examination and an oral examination. The MFT Licensing Law specifically requires the passage of a written and oral examination as a condition of licensure as an MFT. The Psychology Licensing Law, however, states (Section 2942) that the licensing board may examine by written or oral examination or both, thus leaving it to the board's discretion. The board has the power to change existing regulations to require only one examination. Additionally, the Psychology Licensing Law (Section 2946) allows the board, at its discretion, to waive those parts of the examination, including either the whole of the written or the oral examinations, when in the judgment of the board the applicant has already demonstrated competence in areas covered by those parts of the examinations. Such waivers are not permitted under the MFT licensing law.
The clinical social worker licensing law and regulations also suggest that both examinations may not necessarily be required for licensure. In the section of law which states the qualifications for licensure as an LCSW (Section 4996.2) passage of an examination is not mentioned. Another section of law (Section 4996.1) states that the board shall issue an LCSW license, ". . . to each applicant who qualifies therefore, and if required to take it, successfully passes the examination given pursuant to this article." Additionally, Section 1877 of the regulations governing licensing as an LCSW, states that the examination may consist of, but is not necessarily limited to, a written examination and an oral examination. However, Section 4996.3 states that applications for original licensure shall be accompanied by fees for the written and oral examinations. Thus, as mentioned earlier, written and oral examinations are currently required.
The rigorousness of each exam by each board is somewhat hard to compare. While the pass/fail rates on each examination may differ, the content and relative difficulty of the exam, of course, influences the pass/fail rates. The confidentiality of each exam (required by law) also makes it difficult to make meaningful comparisons that will hold up under strict scrutiny. Anecdotal information is certainly not reliable either. Suffice it to say that all of the examinations test the applicants for their competency to safely and independently practice the profession regulated. Although each profession would probably like to take credit for having the most rigorous exams, none can do so.