Five Strategies That Helped Me Become A BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst)
Taking the Big Exam is something that I have feared since entering into graduate school and learning more about Applied Behavior Analysis. As someone who is not a great test taker, and as someone who struggles with test anxiety, it was this big dark cloud that was just looming over my impending graduation. However, after graduation I realized that I was behind on obtaining my supervised hours, which only increased my anxiety and pushed my test date back for almost an entire year after graduation. I did what I said I wasn’t going to do and I panicked and started to read all the statistics about people who wait to take the Big Exam after graduation; and let me tell you, those statistics aren’t great. DO NOT PANIC (like me)! I am here to ease some of the anxiety and tell you that you can prove those statistics wrong.
I found several strategies that helped me get back into study mode and that helped me face my fear of this Big Exam. Below are a list of 5 different strategies that helped me become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst.
1. Set a study schedule and create deadlines for yourself.
For example: Monday (Study Section 1 and 2), Tuesday (Study Section 3 and 4), etc. This was one of the most important things that I did while starting to study for the exam. When I first attempted to start studying, I found myself not following through with studying and would get easily distracted. It was also the start of the pandemic and at the time I was balancing two different jobs, which made it difficult to find the time to study. The study schedule that I created allowed me to visually see that material that I needed to study for the day and held me accountable for when I didn’t study.
2. Set up either a study group or have a study partner.
Having someone (or a group of people) who are able to have open discussions about different examples and terminology is very important for building up fluency and understanding difficult concepts. I found it effective having a study partner because we were able to keep each other on a strict study schedule and we motivated each other when we were feeling down. My study partner was from my previous employment which was great because throughout the day when we had some downtime, we would quickly quiz each other and would turn it into a fun game, making studying actually fun!
3. Take A LOT of mock exams.
As my test date got closer, I found that taking mock exams and treating them as if they were the actual exams helped to ease my test anxiety and build up my confidence. In the era of the pandemic and having to wear a mask, I found that taking these mock exams while wearing a mask was very helpful in having me get used to wearing one in a high anxiety setting. I would time myself while taking the mock exams so that I knew how long the actual exam would take me and to also make sure I wasn’t taking too long. There are a ton of online resources that have great mock exams (see below) and what is important to note here is that once you are done, the exam reviews the content that you got wrong to help build up your knowledge.
4. Have confidence in yourself when studying AND taking the exam.
This was something that I struggled with throughout the duration of studying for the exam. It wasn’t until a couple weeks before my test date that I truly started feeling confident in myself and I believe that is why I was able to pass the exam. I just kept telling myself that I was capable and that I knew the terminology and the all the different concepts. I had worked so hard to get to this point in my life. It was only right to walk into the testing center with my head held high and with the confidence that I was about to become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst.
5. Take the day off before your exam to relax.
I know what you are all thinking, "How could you relax the day before this huge exam?" However, I found that it was beneficial for me to keep myself occupied the day before, so that I wasn’t just sitting at home thinking about the exam. Go get your nails done, go shopping, get a massage, watch your favorite TV show, take a nap, anything to keep your mind off the exam.
I hope that these strategies and tips are able to help you on your journey to start studying for the Big Exam! Have faith in yourself and the confidence that you know the concepts and that you will become an amazing BCBA/BCaBA. Best of luck!
Resources: ABA Wizard, StudyNotesABA, Pass the Big ABA Exam, Studying old study guides/exams from your graduate program
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Kacy Jubanyik, M.A., BCBA
Kacy is a Board Certified Behavior Analysts and joined the Sunshine Center team in August 2020. She received her B.A. in Psychology and minored in Sociology with a Concentration in Child Behavioral Studies from Rowan University; where she also received her M.A. in Applied Behavior Analysts. Kacy found her true passion of working with individuals with Autism and other development disorders when she interned for several different companies throughout college. She enjoys collaborating with the entire therapeutic team and learning about new and effective interventions and strategies.
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