ACE the BCBA Exam!  Treasured Tips for Success.

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Courses are complete (or you can see the finish line), and you’ve signed your last Fieldwork Verification Form.  Now it’s time to get to the heart of studying for what feels like the exam of a lifetime!  Here are some study tips we have learned along the way, to consider before you start diving in. 

  • Know your ideal learning style. There’s a lot of great research showing the efficacy of SAFMEDS but that’s not the only option for learning the content to fluency.  We all learn differently; some people are visual learners and some auditory.  Consider all the options and use the mode that works best for you!

    Other ways to master the content include:

    • Outline the content

    • Pictures and diagrams

    • Listen to the latest podcasts

    • Make your own audio recordings

    • Create or using already-made game-based materials

    • Behavior Development Solutions has a subscription to purchase of online learning modules that use active student responding and integrate fluency trials to master the content.

  • Put aside the outdated resources and spring for most up-to-date versions. Research is ever-changing and it’s critical to use the most contemporary literature.  Applied Behavior Analysis, 3rd edition (Cooper et al, 2020) has been a difficult to obtain in traditional print format.  If the printed text is unavailable, consider purchasing the ebook until more copies are released.  Click this link for purchasing options from Pearson, the publisher’s website.

    Other publications to explore:

    • Pass The Big ABA Exam - BCBA Exam Prep has a well-written study manual to purchase and use as a review; or you can enroll in one of their courses, which are highly valuable.

    • Review the most recent research in the ABA-based journals such as Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, Behavior Analysis in Practice and The Analysis of Verbal Behavior. 

    • Re-read articles and texts from your coursework

    • Ask your supervisor what their top articles are

    • Review the top texts at Amazon or through social networking

  • Think of ABA concepts and principles within the context of everyday occurrences. Behavior analysts need to know the concepts, principles and how to apply them in everyday life.  Oftentimes we think of interfering behaviors when considering the function of behavior.  Although those socially significant behaviors warrant ABA assessment, other operant behaviors exist, too.  Learned behaviors happen when the 3 or 4-term contingency is in effect, which includes the behavior(s) being reinforced by something happening after the behavior occurs, then resulting in an increase of likelihood those behaviors will be valuable again when those antecedent and/or consequence conditions are in place.   

    When studying the material for mastery, it often helps to consider how both desirable and interfering behaviors are reinforced, while using the operant contingencies, in the real world. 

    Things to consider include:

    • Your own morning or ritualistic behaviors, situations with your own peers or even past occurrences when you were younger.  What behaviors were reinforced in the past?  Map out that 3-term contingency.  Hypothesize the function of your own behaviors in a behavior analytic way.

    • Re-watch your favorite TV show or movie.  Which ABA principles are in place there?

    • Look around you!  ABA is all around.  When we were at a pool recently on vacation, for instance, the lifeguard was walking around with a sign saying, “no hanging on the rope”.   Can you name the behavioral term in effect?

  • Master the task-list and ethical code inside and out.   The task list published by the BACB is a valuable resource for studying. 

    Don’t just know the definitions; be able to:

    • List examples and non-examples

    • Explain the rationale to support reasonings

    • Cite the research behind the concepts

    • Be able to apply the concepts to everyday practice of ABA

  • Be sure to keep a healthy balance while sticking your commitments. Studying is an important element in being prepared for the exam; but don’t get burned out while doing it!  Maintain a healthy life balance by setting aside time to be with loved ones and doing what you enjoy too.  Include regular exercise and healthy eating habits to maintain a beneficial mind/body regimen to keep up with your studying.  Treat yourself to the things you love to do, to keep your momentum going.