9 Important Tips to Follow When Becoming a BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst)
You have sat through 2+ years of coursework, an extensive amount of clinical hours, and have heard from the BACB that you are ready to schedule your exam. Now what? When I first received my confirmation email from the BACB, my initial reaction was complete panic. Out the window went the fact that I had been preparing for this for years and in to stay was sheer fear that the test was finally here. Now that I am on the other side, I am always happy to share what I learned in taking the test about myself as well as how to pass. Below please find some of my tips:
Take "Pass the Big ABA Exam."I cannot recommend the Pass the Big ABA Exam enough. Their study manual is very helpful in itself and became my bible. However, the class really taught me how to take a test of this caliber.
Listen to podcasts.There are many podcasts about behavior analysis as well as the Pass the Big ABA modules that are included with the class. I listened to these every chance I could get: driving to work, in the shower, at the gym, so much so that I could even recite any corny joke that may be coming up. I found that when it came to sitting down at the test I could hear their voices in my head talking about different topics.
Create Study Guides.I broke the task list down into each section and made study guides as well as posters per section. It helped me consolidate the information as well as focus on areas of the task list where I struggled.
Make Flashcards.I used flashcards. They work for me. However, I know they are not always a crowd pleaser. I found it helpful to separate into piles I knew and piles I did not know. On days where I was feeling frustrated, I would go through the cards I knew to show that I really did not “know nothing” as it sometimes felt in my head. If you choose to go this route, hang them all over your house. My second bedroom became the designated Exam HQ, I had flash cards and diagrams posted all around the room. As a fitness junkie, I would actually have workouts themed around the different cards hanging (i.e., at the first set of cards I had to do squats, the next jumping jacks, etc.) That may be a bit extreme but it was a great way for me to multitask!
Join Facebook groups.There are a lot of Facebook study groups out there. Take advantage of them! I found the group ABA Study Group to be a great resource.
Take breaks.Give yourself grace and a break. Studying for this exam is no small task and you do not want to burn out. I would set timers that would force me to step away, even for a few minutes. Additionally, each night of studying ended with Bravo and mint chocolate chip ice cream as a reward-it’s the little things!
Get Help.If you have questions, GET HELP! As a member of the Sunshine Center, you have a plethora of BCBAs at your disposal who have been through exactly what you are going through. Use us! There are many topics that you sometimes just need to talk through with another person
Create a study group.At the time I sat, I was working in a center-based program and the BCBA supervising me created a “Fun Friday” group. It was a chance for us to all sit down and get quizzed on topics in a more lighthearted way. With COVID, I know this may be a little bit harder to accomplish but there is always Zoom.
Take full-length mocks.This is something that I did not do enough of and wish I had done more. As previously stated, this is a very lengthy test. I only ever took a mock that was half the length so sitting for the whole test was a lot. Mocks are truly the best way to learn if you really know your stuff. You can study every text ever made related to ABA, however, if you cannot apply it to the exam it will not get you anywhere.
I hope you are able to find some of these tips useful to apply to your own study habits. At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that you have been through the coursework, you have studied the materials, and you have applied it into clinical practice. You can do this!
The Sunshine Center is always looking for dedicated, compassionate therapists and behavioral specialists to join our team of pediatric therapy experts. Learn more here.
Heather Bazarnicki Fiorentino, BCBA
Heather has been working as a BCBA at the Sunshine Center since October 2020. She earned her BCBA credentialing in February 2018. Prior to working at the Sunshine Center, Heather worked as a Team Leader at a center-based full-day program in Northern New Jersey. Heather began her career as a special education teacher and fell in love with the science behind ABA as well as the population it serviced. She is a certified Elementary School and Special Education teacher in New Jersey but her passion is working with children with autism in more generalized settings. She loves to be able to have a chance to collaborate with families in order to see meaningful changes in the clients she works with.
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