BCBA Exam Advice
Disclaimer: Please note that this BCBA exam advice is based on the opinions of the creators of StudyABA.com. While this BCBA exam advice may be helpful to some, other people may benefit from completely different tips and strategies. There is no single “correct” method to prepare for the exam. Please also note that the BACB® may change their policies and procedures over time. If any information on this page conflicts with the information provided by the BACB®, always give priority to the information that the BACB® provides.
Understand the Structure of the BCBA Exam
What Information the Exam Covers
- Be fluent in all areas of the BACB’s Fourth Edition Task List found HERE. The task list 11 content areas with 115 total individual tasks listed on it. This task list was designed specifically for people taking the exam so they can become familiar with all 115 of the tasks listed. Each of the 115 areas (that are within sections A-K) will have at least 1 question. For the “Foundational Knowledge” area of the task list, the BACB® says you are not specifically tested on these terms. However, you need to know them to answer some of the questions. Be very familiar with these terms! They could come up on the exam. You will need to know the meanings of each of these terms to help you choose correct/incorrect answers on the exam.
- Be fluent with the BACB’s® ethical code found here HERE. The BACB® states that there will be around 20 questions related to ethics questions on the exam.
How to prepare: Find your Baseline
- Take a full-length BCBA® Mock Exam to gather your initial baseline data. This will help you identify which areas of the exam you will need to concentrate on most when studying. Other than the practice exams at www.StudyABA.com, there are a handful of other sites out there that also offer practice exams (ABA Wizard, Behavior Development Solutions, Pass the Big ABA Exam, FIT, etc.). The BACB® does not officially endorse any websites that offer mock exams. Therefore, it is important for you to look for data showing how similar these websites’ exams are to the actual certification exam. If you can afford it, you should take practice exams from as many websites as you can! The more practice exams you take, the more fluent you become with the materials that the actual exam covers. StudyABA’s practice exams are very similar to the actual exam’s format (taken online, 160 questions, 4-hour time limit, 1 question per page, you can review questions before you submit, etc.). They reveal your overall score as well as your per-content-area scores so you can assess your strengths and weaknesses. Our Untimed Mock Exams even provide answer explanations for every question!
- Read the entire Cooper (white bible) book. Skim through areas you are most familiar with, and really concentrating and taking notes on areas you scored poorly on. Purchase (or create) a study guide if you think it would be helpful. We are in the process of developing a study guide but it is not yet available. However, there are a few other websites out there that offer study guides. Creating flashcards for key terms to gain mastery and fluency may be helpful to you. Studying the BACB’s® Code of Ethics is strongly recommended.
How to Prepare: Focus on Your Weakest Areas
- If you are still struggling with particular content areas of the BACB’s Task List, we recommend taking our Content Quizzes. These quizzes will give you additional practice and will also provide you with your percentage score and explanations for every question. The Cooper book also has quizzes at the end of each chapter.
- Finally, we recommend taking a full-length BCBA® Mock Exam a week or two before the actual exam. This will allow you to assess which areas you should spend the rest of your limited time studying. It is also absolutely essential to familiarize yourself with the timing of the test: there are 160 questions and you have 4 hours. If you do not answer a question, it is automatically wrong. So make sure you leave yourself enough time to answer every question on the real exam!
- To summarize our BCBA exam advice: We recommend first taking a full-length mock exam to determine your strengths and weaknesses for each content area. Then we recommend reading the Cooper Book, making flashcards, making study guides, etc. while reviewing all of the material the test covers (and hitting the areas that you are least familiar with the hardest). We then recommend taking content area quizzes for the areas you need the most help with. Finally, we recommend taking another mock exam in the last few days/weeks leading up to your real examination date. That way you can work on your rate of responding and also determine which areas you should spend the rest of your time studying the hardest.
Final Hours Leading up to the BCBA® Exam
- Hit the areas you are having the most difficulty with and briefly review the areas that you feel confident on. However, do not stay up all night studying the night before the exam. This is very important BCBA exam advice. A full night’s rest will likely be more beneficial to you compared to studying a couple of last terms, etc. A lack of sleep could result in poorer performance in all areas.
- On the day of the exam, eat a full breakfast and try to remain calm. You can try to brief over a few areas, but we don’t recommend “overworking your brain” since you will already be taking a 4-hour test later that day.
- Wear clothes that will help you stay comfortable while sitting in a chair for 4 hours. The last thing you want to wear are clothes that will be uncomfortable or otherwise distract you. Wear warm clothes if you get cold easily. Put on sweatpants if jeans are uncomfortable. Or wear dress clothes if they make you feel confident, etc. Keep in mind that this is not a fashion show. The BACB® will not see what you are wearing at the testing center. Do not feel like your professionalism will be judged if you wear pajamas to the testing center.
Arriving At the Testing Center
- (ALWAYS trust the instructions that were given to you by the BACB® or the testing center. If those instructions differ from anything on this page, give priority to those instructions and disregard ours. Procedures and policies may change over time and may vary based on your testing location.)
- The testing center tells you to arrive at least 30 minutes before your exam is scheduled, or you may not be able to take the exam. The testing center will confirm your identity by asking for your identification, taking a picture of you, and scanning your fingerprints. You may be confused about the ID requirements because the center says you need a government-issued picture ID and another ID with your signature. A driver’s license and a credit card with your signature on the back would suffice.
- You will get a locker assigned to you and you will be given a key. They will ask you to empty out your pockets and put everything in the locker except for the clothes on your back.
Taking the BCBA® Exam
Before you Begin
- The testing center staff will sit you down at a computer and hand you a fine-tip marker and a double-sided laminated paper to take notes on. This is not a dry erase marker, but you can ask for another piece of paper if yours fills up. (You may have to turn in your previous laminated paper if you asked for another one, rather than having both at once.) The 4-hour timer will start as soon as you sit down at your computer.
- Start out by writing 1-160 on your laminated paper. This way you can mark which questions you feel good about and which ones you will want to go back and review. After each question, mark your laminated paper to indicate your level of confidence in your answer for that question:
- 🙂 (smiley face)= I’m 100% sure that is the correct answer.
- Checkmark= I feel good about my answer, but not 100% certain.
- ?= I’m fairly unsure but may be able to determine correct answer later.
- 0= No idea, never heard of this term. Almost a waste of time to go back to this one.
- When you write 1-160, make a mark at 40 questions that says “1-hour”, at question 80 write “2 hours” and at question 120 write “3 hours”. Keep track of your timing while taking the exam to see if you have plenty of time to spare or if you will have to pick up the pace.
While Taking the Exam
- Go through the exam one question at a time and mark a :), checkmark, ?, or 0 on your laminated sheet. Every question is a multiple-choice question with 4 possible answers. DO NOT LEAVE A QUESTION BLANK when going through the first time. Even if you have no idea what the correct answer is, make your best guess by eliminating the bad answers first. By doing this, you at least have some answer put down for that question if you run out of time. (When a question is left blank it is automatically marked incorrect… even if you completely guess the answer, you have a 25% chance of getting it correct.)
- Many people say that the questions come down to two possible correct answers, with one being more correct than the other. Read through every possible answer entirely as some answers may sound incorrectly based on the first couple of words, but then turn out to be the correct answer.
- When you go through the test the first time, you can scroll through the questions by clicking a left arrow to go back 1 question and right arrow to go forward 1 question. However, when you switch between questions, there may be a 3-5 seconds lag (similar to having a bad internet connection). You can use a lot of time by flipping back and forth between the questions. Therefore, we recommend taking the test all the way through the first time and marking down whether you want to go back and review that question or not. This way, you will save time by not having to scroll back and forth between questions throughout the exam.
Reviewing Your Answers
- When you have finished all 160 questions, you will be given a chance to review all of the questions. From here, you can click on each question number you want to go back and review based off of your laminated paper. For example, you could click on question #99, rather than clicking the left arrow 61 times. This review page will also show you if any questions were left unanswered. You should go through the questions that you felt like you were on the right track with, but didn’t feel very confident about (the questions marked with a ?). Then go through the questions you felt confident about but weren’t 100% sure on (the questions marked with a checkmark). Finally, go through the questions you had no clue on (the questions marked with a 0). When you click on a question number you are unsure of, that question will pop up. When you answer that question, it will go back to the review screen showing all 160 questions. Go through all questions you were unsure of in the order suggested above. When you feel good with all of your answers or the 4 hours is up, you submit your exam.
Final BCBA Exam Advice and Tips
- If you start to get sidetracked or feel “out of it” from staring at the computer screen for so long, this can negatively impact your performance. Our single-best piece of BCBA exam advice is to take a break when you become overwhelmed or when you start to lose concentration. You will need to raise your hand and someone will escort you out of the testing room. Get a drink, use the restroom, do jumping jacks, walk around for a minute, etc. “Give your brain” a little break from the stress. Be aware that your timer does not stop, so these breaks count against your 4-hour time limit.
- If you get stuck on a question or begin to feel down on yourself, briefly review your laminated paper to see how many smiley faces you have recorded. These can give you motivation and confidence that you are doing well. They can also remind you that you should not beat yourself up over one confusing question.
- When you select an answer, you can click on the letter (or the entire answer) to highlight it as the answer that you believe is correct. Be careful: if you click on the screen by accident, it could choose a different answer than you intended.
- There is a timer on the screen that tells you how much time you have remaining. There is also a calculator that you can use if/when necessary.
- The exam consists of 160 multiple-choice questions that must be taken within 4 hours (240 minutes). This means you have 90 seconds per question.
Remember that it is no fluke that you are able to sit for this exam. You have met all of the same requirements as everyone else taking the exam. Carefully analyze each question and use the knowledge you have acquired over the years to answer each question confidently and carefully. Don’t get hung up on a difficult question. Simply mark the answer you think is best and flag it for review. Then move on to the next question without shifting your focus back to the question you were unsure of. The current question you are on will need 100% of your focus. Remain calm and confident.