Registered behavior technicians (RBTs) are trained medical professionals who practice applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy under the supervision of board certified behavior analysts (BCBAs), RBT supervisors, or RBT requirements coordinators. These managers are responsible for the work that RBTs perform, although the RBT directly treats a client and their family.
ABA therapy is the leading approach to treating developmental conditions like autism, by noting and understanding maladaptive behaviors and teaching the client to replace these with positive behaviors. This therapy improves learning skills, motor skills, communication skills, and social skills, which are the areas that people with autism struggle with the most.
The Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) oversees all credentialing of professionals in the behavior analysis field.
Registered Behavior Technicians: Requirements & Examination
ABA therapy sessions are designed toward the individual needs of each client. An RBT is responsible for providing therapy, taking notes, and reporting to their supervisor. Their feedback will help to determine how the client is improving and if anything in therapy sessions must change to support the client’s needs.
Since RBTs work directly with vulnerable populations, they must have enough training to implement the plans created by their supervisors. Due to a shortage of ABA therapists in recent years, the BACB has updated their requirements for RBTs. Currently, one BCBA or RBT supervisor can manage a team of technicians.
Requirements to become an RBT include:
- You must be at least 18 years old.
- You must have at least a high school diploma. You must pass a background check.
You must finish the 40-hour RBT training program.
- You must complete the initial competency assessment.
You must take certain steps to qualify for the RBT exam, such as taking a 40-hour training program that focuses on ethics and routine job requirements. If you do not meet the minimum qualifications, you cannot apply to take the exam.
What the Exam Measures
The RBT exam is administered by Pearson VUE, a testing organization that hosts sites all over the world where students take exams that meet demanding security requirements. The company has created a specific testing format of computer-based testing.
Immediately after taking your exam, you will know whether you passed or failed. You can set up a second exam at a later time if you failed. Some newer versions of the exam are available online too.
This exam tests your job competency, based on the RBT Task List. There are six primary tasks for RBTs, as defined by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board.
1. Measurement: Technicians must collect data from sessions, enter data and update graphs, and describe behaviors and the environment in measurable terms
2. Assessment: RBTs must conduct preference assessments and assist with individualized procedures.
3. Skill acquisition: Technicians must identify the essential components of a written skill acquisition plan and implement various teaching procedures based on what works for the client.
4. Behavior reduction: Technicians must describe common functions of behavior and implement interventions.
5. Documentation and reporting: Technicians must effectively communicate with a supervisor, seek clinical direction in a timely manner, and comply with legal, regulatory, ethical, and other guidelines.
6. Professional conduct and scope of practice: RBTs must maintain client dignity, respond to feedback, and communicate with caregivers or parents as authorized.
There are 85 multiple choice questions on the RBT exam, 75 of which make up your score. Ten of the questions have no impact on your overall score. You will have 90 minutes to complete the entire exam.
The questions are divided into sections. There are:
- 10 unscored pilot questions to help with improvements on future exams.
- 10 questions on measurement, making up 13% of your exam score.
- 8 questions on assessment, making up 11% of your exam score.
- 24 questions on skill acquisition, which makes up 32% of your total exam score.
- 12 questions on behavior reduction, which makes up 16% of your exam score.
- 10 questions on documentation and reporting, which makes up 13% of your exam score.
- 11 questions on professional conduct and scope of practice, which is 15% of your exam score.
What to Expect on the Day of the Exam
On the day of your exam, you should arrive at least 30 minutes early, with two forms of valid identification, so you can complete the sign-in process.
You will not be allowed to take any personal items into the exam room with you. A locker or storage area will be provided so you have a safe place to leave your belongings. You also cannot take food or beverages into the examination area. No one can come in with you unless you have placed a specific request for that form of accommodation with the testing administrator, based on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Since the exam is computer-based, the program uses a large pool of questions, which are all equally weighted, so your specific exam is randomly generated from these categorized questions. This helps to reduce cheating in case some questions with answers are leaked.
The exam is updated on a regular basis, also for security reasons.
When taking the exam, make sure to read each question carefully, ensuring you understand the question before you answer. Manage your time throughout the exam, so you have sufficient time to finish.
How the RBT Exam Is Scored
Once you have completed your test, you will be notified immediately whether you passed or failed. If you pass, you will receive your certification by email within a week. After you receive it, you can begin applying to jobs as an RBT.
If you do not pass the exam, you can apply to take it again. As of November 2020, the BACB will allow RBT applicants to take the exam eight times in a one-year authorization window. You can retake the exam as soon as seven days, or one week, after your previous exam.
You do not need to reapply to take the exam again. You will receive an email with instructions on how to schedule another exam. You can get information on your performance, showing the areas where you struggled the most, and this information can help you study for your next attempt.
If you experience any exam irregularities that you believe impacted the outcome of your exam, you can file an appeal with the BACB.
In 2019, 87% of exam takers passed on the first try. Of those who took the exam a second time, 52% passed on that second attempt.
How to Prepare for the RBT Exam
The BACB and Pearson VUE do not promote specific study methods to prepare for your RBT exam. The exam mostly involves understanding the RBT Task List (2nd edition). Studying this information will help you best prepare for the exam, using study techniques that work well for you.
If you are concerned about how to prepare for the RBT exam, here are some tips to help you get into the right mental space:
- Set time aside on your calendar, so you can focus for several hours.
- Make sure you have a distraction-free environment.
- Grab the material you need to study, like the RBT Task List.
- Understand your best method for retaining information, like taking a practice test or using flash cards.
- Keep yourself motivated by imagining how your life will look once you become an RBT.
- Get enough sleep and eat healthy foods to support your overall health.
- Review all the information while focusing on areas where you struggle.
- Ask a friend for help reviewing the content.
With eight potential attempts at the RBT exam across one year, it’s highly likely that you’ll be able to pass the exam. You can set aside as much time as you need to study, take the exam, and then retake it as needed.
You can find practice questions in the RBT Handbook on the BACB’s website, and these can greatly help with test preparation.
The Importance of the RBT Certification
An RBT certification is a broadly recognized credential, showing employers and families that you are capable of providing ABA therapy under the guidance of an RBT supervisor or RBT requirements coordinator. This certification is necessary in order to provide ABA therapy in this manner.
You’ll do most of your prep for the RBT exam in your 40-hour RBT course. This is where you’ll learn all the information that is required.
As your exam date nears, review your course information, study practice questions, and create study materials, like flashcards or study guides. Go over the RBT Task List and ensure you understand each concept.
Follow these tips as you prepare for the RBT exam, and you’ll have a solid chance of passing on your first try.
Registered Behavior Technician. Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB).
Registered Behavior Technician Training Second Edition. Applied Behavior Analysis Programs, Florida Tech Continuing Education.
RBT Task List (Second Edition). Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB).
Examination Information. Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB).
How to Study for Exams. The Princeton Review.
Scientifically, the Best Ways to Prepare for Final Exams. (December 2013). The State University of New York.