Earlier this month, I took the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) exam and became a board certified behavior analyst (BCBA). I had already been practicing applied behavior analysis (ABA) for more than a decade and doing case management. Due to a series of life events and fear, I just never sat for the exam. After spending months in my house in New Jersey in lockdown, I realized I wasn’t happy or fulfilled. So, I drove across the country and spent the winter in Arizona. I fell in love with the desert and decided not to leave. I still don’t have any of my things. 

Making this move helped me to find a strength I never knew I had and after years of contemplating the exam, I did my supervision and sat for my exam. I passed on the first try. I put a lot of work and effort into studying. Despite being very confident in my ABA skills, I had graduated a long time ago and forgot a lot of the terminology.  I knew the best way to learn the content well enough to test would be to learn the content well enough to teach it so, as many of you know, I started to make videos and write blog articles on the terms. I put a lot of time into studying. I had the ability to take off two full weeks and studied those weeks over 10 hours per day.  

Now that I did pass, I will continue to make content to help others study because I have so many friends that are amazing therapists who are struggling with the exam. I want everyone to be able to pass and to do so without spending crazy amounts of money on study materials. I have friends that got thousands of dollars in debt with exam prep material who have still not passed the exam.  I have been helping several friends daily dissect questions. Here’s the number one mistake that I have noticed that people make. As long as you know the material, this one tip will help you pass your exam.

My number one tip to help you pass your BCBA exam on the first try is…

Answer the question they are asking! 

It’s that simple. Oftentimes when taking the BCBA exam people will choose answers that sound correct but DO NOT answer the question.  For example, it may say:

Jessica’s teacher wants to use positive punishment. Which of these examples should she choose?

  • She should give just a timeout when she talks out of turn in class.
  • She will give Jessica more recess time when she raises her hand.
  • Positive punishment is banned by the BACB so she shouldn’t. 
  • She will slap Jessica in the face when Jessica talks out of turn.

In this example, many people will answer what they think Jessica’s teacher should do instead of answering the question. “Which is positive punishment?” 

The answer to this question is. She will slap Jessica in the face when Jessica talks out of term. Obviously, if she actually did this she would go to jail and she SHOULD NOT do it. However, it is the answer to the question.

It is really that simple. The key to passing your BCBA exam comes down to knowing what they are actually asking and answering what they are asking.

Let’s Study Together

Our 5th ed. Task List Crash Course is designed to prepare you for the BCBA® exam. We created the ultimate “Task-List Take-Over” by systematically breaking down the components that comprise the 5th ed. Task. This course is equipped with a vast collection of informational content videos presented by Dr. Katherine May, Ed.D., BCBA and Jessica Leichtweisz, BCBA. This course is pre-recorded for the accessibility of downloading and watching at your own convenience. We tactically tailored the 5th ed. Task List Crash Course to fit comfortably into your own individualized study schedule and routine. The course videos are strategically designed to promote self-paced instruction equipped with data sheets to self-monitor your progress. In addition to the videos, practice exams, and preparation resources are included which are not only informative but also challenging to ensure sufficient preparation for the “real” exam. We are confident that completion of this course and included mock exams and resources will certify that you’re thoroughly prepared for the exam.