How to Study for the BCBA Exam

how to study for the bcba exam

What to do first when preparing for the BCBA Exam

Congratulations! You’ve done the hard part. You’ve passed your classes, collected your supervision hours, and you are now ready to study for, and pass, the BCBA exam. I know, I know, this might sound like an impossible task to some of you. We’ve all heard horror stories of the low BCBA exam pass rate (60%), people who take the exam multiple times, and people who just never pass the exam at all. But the good news is that won’t be you. So, before you begin your exam prep, pat yourself on the back for making it this far. Now, let’s get into the details of how you are going to prepare for your BCBA exam.

What is on the BCBA exam?

One of the first question we always get from our tutoring students is what to expect as far as content goes on the exam. Luckily, the BACB outlines exactly what you should expect to see from the BCBA exam. First, there are 185 multiple-choice questions on the exam. 10 of these are unscored and are considered pilot questions. You will not know which ones are unscored so you should answer every question as if it is real. Each question has 4 possible answers and you will have 4 hours to complete the examination. Content is broken down as follows:

Content Number of Questions Percentage of Examination
Foundations (YouTube Breakdown)    
Philosophical Underpinnings 6 3.43%
Concepts and Principles 32 18.29%
Measurement, Data Display, and Interpretation 21 12%
Experimental Design 12 6.86%
Applications (YouTube Breakdown)    
Ethics 18 10.29%
Behavior Assessment 18 10.29%
Behavior-Change Procedures 35 20%
Selecting and Implementing Interventions 16 9.14%
Personnel and Supervision Management 17 9.71%
Total 175 (185 with pilots)  

So, what can we learn from this chart? Well, in our opinion, not much. As you can see, the content areas are broken down fairly evenly. And, since there is no way to predict exactly the material you should expect to see on your exam, this chart doesn’t do you much good. Our advice is to ignore this breakdown and focus on learning all the fifth edition task list as well as possible.

BCBA Exam Study Schedule

Next, people really want a study schedule. You can pay some companies too much money to design a study schedule for you. Our advice: don’t waste your money with study schedules. Only you know how you prepare for tests. Our advice is give yourself 3 months of studying before you take your exam. How you spend that time should be entirely based on your specific needs. We do recommend at least one hour a day of focused studying when preparing for the BCBA exam. We also recommend you take at least two mock BCBA exams before your real exam. And when we say take mock exams, we mean sit down, time yourself and treat it like the real thing. If you score 85% or better on your mocks, we believe you are ready for the real thing.

But, if you really want us to break down how we think you should plan your studying, here it goes:
1. Learn the task list terms and definitions to fluency
We believe this is the most important part of preparing for the big ABA exam. If you don’t know your definitions backwards and forwards you will struggle on the exam. Although the exam does no test your knowledge of definitions, it does test your applied knowledge of definitions. This means the bare minimum they expect of you is to know what each term means. Do not move on until you know terms and definitions. We recommend the SAFMED method using flashcards and our task list study guide.

2. Practice Questions. Practice Questions. Practice Questions. And Then Review.
You should do as many practice questions as possible before you take your exam. You should read every answer choice, determine why the right answer is correct, and why the wrong answer is incorrect. If you miss a question, you should thoroughly review it to understand why you got the question wrong. We believe reviewing your questions is the most beneficial way to get better at taking the exam. Too many people skip reviewing their mistakes. Don’t do be that person.

How should you review a question you missed? Start by rereading the question and identifying any information you missed or skipped when you initially answered the question. If you are consistently missing information while reading questions – slow down. Then, look up each answer choice and familiarize yourself with the definition and examples. Finally, identify why the right answer is correct, and why the wrong answer is wrong. You should spend MORE time reviewing questions than doing questions. Although tedious, it is the best way to get better at the BCBA exam.

3. Take Mock Exams
Finally, take mock exams. And when you take a mock exam, treat it like the real thing. Eliminate all distractions, time yourself, and pretend you are taking the real test. We think scoring 85% or higher on mock exams is a good indicator of how prepared you are for the real thing. Once you finish your mock, grade it, you should review every question you missed using the method above. The review is more important than the practice exam.

What to Use When Studying for the BCBA Exam.

We recommend using our study materials to prepare for the BCBA Exam. We offer a full length 5th edition task list study guide and two full length mock exams. Additionally, we put out BCBA YouTube videos every Friday and Saturday. These videos include exam breakdowns and BCBA practice questions. Now, of course we are going to recommend our materials, But, we do believe there is merit in using material from multiple sources. Especially when it comes to practice exams. And that’s that. Please reach out to us if we can help you with your preparation in anyway. Work hard. Study hard. Good luck.


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