Coaches’ Corner: Preparing for the BCBA Exam — Tips from a BCBA

Coaches’ Corner: Preparing for the BCBA Exam — Tips from a BCBA

The process of becoming a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) can be time-consuming. On top of going to school and collecting fieldwork hours, the final piece to becoming a BCBA is to pass the BCBA exam. Passing the BCBA exam can be intimidating. An applicant to the exam has often spent several months to years waiting for this moment, which all rides on answering enough questions correctly. Often, an applicant may not know where to start in terms of prepping for the exam. Applicants who are currently in this spot may consider the following:

1. Begin studying for your exam sooner rather than later.

Test takers procrastinate. Test takers often wait until the last minute to begin test prep, which can lead to stress and being unprepared for their exam. The BCBA exam is based on the BCBA task list, which contains over 80 topics that BCBAs are expected to be proficient in. Within these 80 topics are multiple sub-topics, which can be overwhelming to review. BCBA exam candidates should identify a targeted testing month as soon as possible. From there, BCBA exam candidates can develop a strategic plan for studying, from when to start studying, what topics to study, and which materials to use. Additionally, test takers should consider beginning studying multiple months out from their targeted exam date, even as soon as 6 months out from the exam. By starting earlier, test takers will have more time to build competency in the topics needed to pass the exam.

2. Utilize the task list strategically to develop permanent products to gain experience that leads to further understanding of the task list itself.

As mentioned previously, the BCBA task list contains all topics that a BCBA candidate is expected to be proficient in. Additionally, the BACB refers to the development of products that display competency in the application of the topics listed within the task list as a form of proof of documentation. When going through the task list and building competency in the topics, BCBA exam candidates should consider building true fluency of the topics. Fluency is much more than being able to recite a definition, but should include activities such as applying the topics to 2+ clients, in addition to being able to train others in the implementation of these task list items. Tast list competency building should begin on day 1 of a BCBA exam candidates’ fieldwork experience through the development of quality permanent products. Through the development of quality permanent products, a BCBA exam candidate will become more prepared not only for their exam, but also their career as a future BCBA.

3. Utilize a variety of resources, such as the Cooper et al. textbook, the BDS modules, the Bailey and Burch Ethics Book, Pass the Big ABA Exam, practice exams, and so much more.

By using a variety of study resources, a BCBA exam candidate is able to expose themselves to the content that will be in the BCBA exam multiple times. The saying “practice makes perfect” is a statement that is applicable multiple times, which can help lead to better understanding of the material. In behavior analysis, this teaching method is calling “multiple exemplar instruction”, which provides a learner with several versions of a stimulus to promote generalization of the skill. For example, to teach a learner that all pencils are pencils, they may show an example of a yellow pencil, a a green pencil, or even a mechanical pencil. A BCBA exam candidate should take a similar approach to their studying: utilizing multiple examples of the content on the task list to build their competency of the topics covered during the BCBA exam.

4. Find a study buddy

BCBA exam candidates should consider finding a fellow BCBA candidate to study with. By finding a study buddy, a BCBA exam candidate is able to receive precise and immediate feedback from someone who understands the material. BCBA exam candidates can use their study buddy to find motivation to stay on the study plan, even when things may seem challenging.

5. Take a break from studying the day before and the day of your exam.

When it’s all said and done, BCBA exam candidates should consider taking the day before and of their exam to relax. The BCBA exam candidate has finally made it and should spend the day prior to their exam doing something they love: whether it is going out to dinner with a friend, sleeping in, watching TV, or going on a long walk. Additionally, the morning prior to the BCBA candidate’s exam should be relaxing as well: eat a good breakfast and engage in whatever stress-relieving that benefit them traditionally . This way, the BCBA exam candidate walks into the exam feeling refreshed, relaxed, and ready to take the exam that they have worked so hard to take.

By: Lauren Broadwell, M.S., BCBA