“By far, the best way to study for your BCBA exam is to come up with examples and non examples of each term. That’s because the exam does not focus on memorizing applied behavior analysis terms and picking out their definitions. It focused on applying the principles of behavior to real life situations. If you can write your own examples of applying terms, you will be able to understand the scenarios on your exam.” Jessica Leichtweisz

This blog post written by Katherine Yohn, models some examples from Task List A.

Task List A

Description (Scientific understanding of behavior)

Example of upholding description- Mark, a BCBA, observed Tommy hit his classmates 5 times before gaining access to the toy.

Example of violating description- Sally observed Billy playing with his toys. Billy started crying when he saw another classmate playing with another toy. Sally wrote that he was crying due to wanting the toy that Bill had. 

Prediction (Scientific understanding of behavior)

Example of upholding prediction- Marsha engages in aggression and SIB when told she needs to wait for food. Tony, her BCBA, observes her for a few sessions and realizes that when Marsha requests the food item she wants and is told to wait, she engages in aggression and SIB. Tony predicts that each time she requests food and told to wait, she will engage in aggression and SIB.

Example of violating prediction- During the summer months, the weather is hotter and more people are in the pool. The summer months have a higher increase in drowning due to more people being in the pool when it is hot.  

Example of upholding control- During a functional analysis for a client who engages in SIB, it was found that during the alone, demand and tangible conditions the client did not engage in SIB. However, during the attention condition when attention is removed from the child the child engages in SIB. When attention is given back to the client, the client does not engage in SIB. 

Example of violating control- A client has been taught to request for break when a green cue card is present. However, when a red cue card is present the child must continue working on the tasks and no break is allowed. The client continually requests for break during both the red and the green cue card being present. 


Ontogeny- Sally hikes every day because her past hiking trips haver resulted in reinforcement. 

Phylogeny- When Teddy (the puppy) gets startled, his heart races and he starts to growl. 

Determinism- Katherine really enjoyed the tutoring session with Jessica the other day. She saw she had an opening in her schedule, so she signed up for more tutoring sessions. 

Example of violating determinism- Sally started throwing items and engaging in SIB. Her mother came into the room where the BCBA was and stated that Sally’s behavior came out of nowhere. 

Example of upholding empiricism– Tommy read studies, journal articles and attended a conference about implementing a DRO to reduce biting. Tommy wrote out an intervention plan based on the research of DRO for his client.

Example of violating empiricism– Kim saw posts on Facebook about the keto diet and only eating chicken helped her someone lose 30 pounds. Kim decided to start drinking following the diet. 

Example of upholding experimentation– A researcher is conducting an experiment on rats to see if a new medicine would decrease the levels of serotonin in their brain. The rats were tested in 2 groups, one a control group without access to the medicine and another group had access to the medicine. After a week, the medicine was removed to see if the levels would return back to the control group brain levels. The levels went back to normal and the medicine was reintroduced after a week in the non-control group rats to show that the levels of serotine was reduced due to the medicine. 

Example of violating experimentation- A BCBA failed to conduct a functional analysis to see why a client was engaging in noncompliance when given demands. An intervention was introduced using a token economy to decreased noncompliance. After a week, noncompliance was at a higher level than before. 

Example of upholding generality- Sally ran a program with Billy, a non-verbal child, using FCT to help decrease aggression. Sally saw a decrease in aggression for Billy and decided to run the same program with another child who is also-non-verbal. Sally was able to replicate the results of decreasing aggression in non-verbal clients with using FCT. 

Example of violating generality- Sally ran a program with Billy, a non-verbal child, using FCT to help decrease aggression. Sally saw a decrease in aggression for Billy and decided to run the same program with another child who is also-non-verbal. Sally was not able to replicate the results for the child. 

Example of upholding parsimony- The dogs peed in the house due to it raining outside.

Example of violating parsimony- Amy’s son started grabbing his ear. She mentioned this to the school BCBA that he started a new behavior of grabbing his ear and he has never done this before. The BCBA decided to run a functional analysis to see why he is grabbing his ear.

Example of upholding philosophical Doubt- Monica completed a study using DRO for a client that engages in behaviors for attention. Her research should that it would have had similar results if she used NCR instead. Monica talked to herself about the limitations she had with her study and how she wants to do another functional assessment to make sure attention was the function of behavior. 

Example of violating parsimony- Teddy is a BCBA and conducted a study using NCR and FCT to reduce throwing behavior. Even though Teddy knows the research was only done once. He insists that it was accurate. Teddy decides to tell has RBTS to implement the intervention for all of his students. 

Example of upholding pragmatism- Andy was hired by Dunder Miflan to increase work productivity for the wholesale department. Andy decided to implement the simplest intervention he could think of, interdependent group contingency. 

Example of violating pragmatism- Aaron started working with a client who engages in spitting to gain attention from his mother. Aaron decided to implement an intervention that used DRO, NCR, and a token economy, making it overly confusing. Which assumption of science did this violate?