A significant amount of time and energy is needed in order to pass the BCBA exam. Before sitting for the exam, you must meet all prerequisites, including obtaining a graduate degree, completing supervised field work, and submitting an application to take the exam.
Once you have received authorization to take the exam, it is time to start studying. Sample questions and an exam task list are offered by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board. Additionally, exam prep courses can help you master the material.
The exam takes four hours and covers 160 questions. It is offered in a computer-based format at Pearson Vue testing centers worldwide. Results are given instantly at your testing center. Should you need to retake the exam, you have eight chances to do so within the two-year validity period of your exam authorization.
As soon as you pass the BCBA exam, you are a board certified behavior analyst. You can begin work right away as a BCBA in a school, clinic, hospital, nonprofit, or community agency, among other settings.
After being certified, you must remember to stay current with recertification requirements and renew your certification every two years.
What Is the BCBA Exam?
In order to become a board certified behavior analyst (BCBA), you must first pass the BCBA exam. Passing the exam is the final step in the certification process.
The purpose of the BCBA exam is to ensure that every person who will be working as a BCBA possesses entry-level behavior analyst knowledge, explains the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB).
In addition to having broad knowledge of behavior analysis, which is covered on the exam, many BCBAs specialize in working with specific conditions, such as autism or developmental disabilities. These specializations typically develop over the course of a career. You may begin as a general BCBA and then specialize in a particular client base later.
Prerequisites to Taking the Exam
Before you can apply to take the BCBA exam, you must submit documentation that shows you have completed all the prerequisites. The four main requirements for becoming a BCBA are:
- Obtain a graduate-level degree (master’s degree or doctoral degree).
- Complete relevant course work.
- Complete supervised experience (750 to 1,500 hours, depending on the placement).
- Pass the BCBA exam.
Once the first three prerequisites have been satisfied, you can apply to the BACB to take the BCBA exam. An application includes:
- Completed online application.
- University transcripts.
- Experience verification forms.
- Additional supporting documents, such as degree equivalency documentation, coursework assessment, or degree evaluation documentation.
At the same time you submit the above documents, the full application payment must be made.
How the Exam Works
Applications to take the BCBA exam are accepted on a rolling basis. Once your application is approved, you can register online to take the exam through Pearson Vue. BACB exams are only offered through Pearson Vue.
The BCBA exam is administered via computer-based testing (CBT), explains the BACB. Pearson Vue offers free online tutorials so you can become acquainted with the format ahead of time.
The BACB outlines specifics about the exam process, including:
- Cost. An application fee of $245 (paid to the BACB), plus an examination appointment fee of $140 (paid to Pearson Vue) are required.
- Length. The exam consists of 160 multiple choice questions, with four possible answers to choose from for each question. You have 4 hours to complete the exam.
- Passing scores. Scaled scores are used for the BCBA exam, starting at 0 and ending at 500. You must get at least a 400 to pass.
- Exam results. Your results are given to you at the testing site as soon as you finish the exam.
As soon as you pass the BCBA exam, your certification goes into effect. You should receive a confirmation email from the BACB within 24 hours, and your BCBA account will be automatically updated.
Retaking the Exam
In the event that you do not pass the exam, you are allowed to retake it. You can retake the BCBA exam up to eight times within a two-year period that starts when you received your initial authorization to take the exam. In order to retake the exam, you must:
- Submit an examination retake application.
- Pay the exam retake fee of $140.
- Wait at least 30 days to retake the exam.
If you are unable to pass the exam after eight attempts but your two-year eligibility window to take the exam is still not up, you must wait until that two-year window ends. After that time, you can entirely reapply for BCBA certification. An alternative to waiting for the two-year testing window to expire is to apply for an assistant BCBA (BCaBA) certification.
Preparing for the Exam
The BACB has identified three primary resources to help you prepare for the BCBA exam. Sample exam questions, the BACB Task List, and exam review courses are all highly recommended by the BACB to help you successfully prepare for and pass the BCBA exam.
The BACB provides five sample questions from prior BCBA exams to give you an idea of the format and structure to expect on the exam. Take time to review these example questions several times until you feel comfortable.
Here are two examples of questions that are similar to what may appear on the BCBA exam:
1. If Kevin puts his clothes in the laundry hamper after he changes into his pajamas, he earns screen time, which he enjoys. Despite this, Kevin does not consistently put his clothes in the laundry hamper. As Kevin goes into his room to change his clothes, his mom says, “Remember to put your clothes in the hamper or you won’t get screen time.” Kevin changes into his pajamas and then puts his clothes in the laundry hamper. His mom’s reminder is an example of which of the following?
a) Positive reinforcer b) Verbal prompt
c) Negative reinforcer
d) Physical prompt
a) unconditioned response
b) discriminative stimulus
c) generalized fear responser
d) conditioned response
BCBA Task List The BACB Task List is another resource offered to people studying for the BCBA exam. It is an 11-page document that outlines all possible topics that are likely to be covered on your exam. Familiarizing yourself with the task list will ensure you will not encounter any surprises during the exam. The three primary categories on the task list include:
- Basic behavior-analytic skills. This section covers basic skills that are commonly used by a practicing behavior analyst.
- Client-centered responsibilities: These tasks apply to work with all clients in most practical situations.
- Foundational knowledge: This section covers basic foundational concepts of behavior therapy that are necessary for performing work as a behavior analyst.
Exam Review Course
The BACB’s final tip for passing the BCBA exam is to take an exam review course. Courses are offered online and in person. Though the BACB does not endorse any third-party providers of such courses, it does acknowledge that review courses can be highly effective forms of review.
Many of these BCBA prep courses include practice exams. You’ll take at least one practice exam as part of a review course, but many courses have participants take several. This is one of the best ways to prepare for the exam. If you are taking practice exams on your own, make sure to time yourself to ensure you are completing each exam within the allotted time limit.
Like all prep courses, BCBA exam review courses cost money. Most ABA-related prep courses are fairly affordable.
After You Pass the BCBA Exam
After you pass the BCBA exam, you are officially certified to work as a BCBA. You may choose to work as an independent contractor or full-time as an employee for a larger company in a variety of settings.
As a BCBA, you are responsible for designing and overseeing the implementation of ABA programs. Each care plan will be individualized to meet the goals of each of your clients.
You may carry out your treatment plan yourself and work directly with clients, or you may supervise other professionals who hold the actual therapy sessions. Most BCBAs work with registered behavior technicians (RBTs) who put their treatment plan into action when they work with clients on a one-on-one basis. As a BCBA, you can work independently, whereas RBTs must be supervised by a BCBA, BCaBA, or BCBA-D.
After you pass the BCBA exam, you can dive into your career as a board certified behavior analyst. Don’t forget to keep your certification current by meeting continuing education, ethics, and self-reporting requirements, and renewing your certification every two years.
As you prepare to take the BCBA exam, follow general study tips to ensure you perform best and pass on the first try.
- Create a study schedule that works for you, allocating a set amount of time to study each day.
- Don’t cram. Include plenty of time in your study schedule to ensure you won’t be rushed.
- Talk through the materials with others. Verbalizing your answers can help to ingrain them in your mind.
- Get plenty of sleep. Good sleep is essential to memory and will ensure you are at your best.
- Practice good nutrition. Eat a balanced meal before the exam and make sure you are hydrated. If you are hungry or thirsty, you won’t perform as well.
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- What Is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst? Your Guide to BCBA Requirements.(July 2017). The Chicago School of Professional Psychology.
- Frequently Asked Questions about UMass Lowell's Graduate Programs in Autism. UMass Lowell.
- What Is the Difference Between BCBA and RBT? University of Cincinnati.