How TF Do I Get Ready for the BCBA Exam?

How TF Do I Get Ready for the BCBA Exam (#tipsandtricks)?

When it comes to the BCBA exam, everyone here at Study Notes ABA can relate to the feeling of confusion that surrounds the test. What’s it like? How should I study? What materials should I use? What do I write on this whiteboard? They give me one of those?

Don’t worry folks, the SNABA team has always got you covered and are here to answer all of the questions regarding how to get ready for the hardest and most rewarding test of our field, the BCBA exam. We have all the information to help you understand the structure, know what and how to study, how to prep before the big day, and even what to do while in the testing center to ensure that you are your most prepared self so you can pass the f#%king test!

Exam Structure

What exactly is the exam like? The BACB is very straightforward with the information they provide to all applicants within the BCBA handbook, but let’s be real, it’s super long and we will summarize that information here for you! We got you, boo. 

The BCBA exam itself consists of 185 multiple choice questions, but 10 of those questions are testing questions that will be unscored. Unfortunately they don’t tell you which 10 they are, so treat all 185 like they count! The multiple choice questions have 4 possible answers and you will have 4 hours in duration to complete the exam. 

Additionally, the BACB outlines the content of the those questions using the following grid:

Updated 06/2023, Copyright 2023, BACB


These letters align with the  BACB’s 5th Edition Task List, or content areas that are covered in both your coursework, Cooper book and supervision. Please note that The Ethics Code for Behavior Analysts is also tested as indicated by Task List Section E. Ethics.


Are You Ready?

Let’s think like behavior analysts for a bit… How do you know if the skill of ‘passing the test’ is in your repertoire? Collect some data of course!

1. Take our diagnostic Mock Exam: this mock exam has questions that are similar in format and content to those that will be on the BACB exam. Once completed, the feedback from The Diagnostic Mock given to you will indicate task list areas that you are strong in and identify areas that need to be strengthened.

2. Join a collective!: In our Collectives, our instructors cover every single task list item and give students acronyms, examples, and visual notes that will help you remember hard concepts come testing! We offer various versions including live collectives, recorded collectives, and drop in courses (if you only need to touch up specific task list items). Choose what works best for you!

3. Read Cooper: aka our field’s white bible! When we say read Cooper, we mean every line, every box and even the tiniest of text. Be sure to use our White Bible Highlighters to have bleed free pages!

4. Use our Tutors: still struggling with a concept that you just can’t grasp? We offer both group and individual tutoring with our instructors!

5. Take a Follow-Up Mock: we offer both full version BCBA mock exams and mini-mock exams to follow-up on your diagnostic mock to see if you have increased your score! Check out our mock exams here.

Twas the Night Before Testing….

Come on guys, you must know that prior to a big event, your body needs rest! Make sure that you eat a good dinner and get plenty of sleep. This is not the night to stay up and binge the newest series. You want to make sure that your mind is ready to perform at maximum performance. 

You might be tempted to review concepts that you might have continued difficulty with. This is ok, but keep it brief. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself or overwork a concept to the point of additional confusion. 

Holy Sh*t, Today’s the Day

The BCBA exam is given via computer-based testing (CBT) format at Pearson VUE testing centers. Pearson has created a BACB Certification Testing page that offers a tutorial, testing locations and details.  Please note the following requirements so that you are best prepared!

  • Arrive 30 minutes early to the center for the check-in process
  • Have 2 forms of Identification with you that matches the information in your BACB account. These both must have your signature
  • All personal items including jewelry must be stored away in a locker provided by the testing cite
  • No additional items can be brought into the testing area however, a dry erase board and marker will be provided for you
  • Earplugs are available if needed by request
  • No food or beverages are allowed in the testing area
  • No questions regarding content can be asked to the proctors
  • You can take breaks by raising your hand and requesting the proctor. If you get up without permission you will not be able to continue testing.

Wear comfortable clothing and make sure that you have eaten prior to going to the testing center. Comfort food or food that you know will digest well is highly recommended. Your nerves will be at an all time high


During the Test

A common question we get here at SNABA is wtf do I write on my whiteboard? It varies from person to person, but we encourage all of our test takers to write down those catchy acronyms that we use to cover content in our collectives! It’s a great point of reference while testing to easily glance down at your whiteboard. You can also use the whiteboard to double check calculations, write down a question number to go back to, or write down something quickly that you think you might forget.

Many people like to use the flagging option on the CBT formatted electronic test to indicate which questions to go back to. Some people even advise that if you have enough time to review all of the questions. SNABA falls somewhere in between these two extremes. Flag a question if it is hard but you think you know the answer. Move on if you are completely unsure, you don’t want to waste too much time on a concept that you are sure that you don’t know. If you are confident in your answer, don’t go back to review it later. This could potentially cause you to change an answer to something that you know fluently out of nervousness. 

Remember, if you want to get up for any reason, raise your hand! You have to get permission from the proctor to move. You’ve worked hard for this exam, don’t F it up!

Once completed, you will walk over to the proctor and your exam results will be printed out pretty quickly. #immediacy Some folks look immediately, some people fold it and wait until they get in the car… it’s really your #preference

Overall SNABA Fam Advice

  • Do a run through of your testing site. Practice driving there, check out the location, know what floor to go to etc. #AntecedentIntervention
  • Trust your gut. If you feel like you don’t know a question don’t waste time on it. If you feel confident in your answer, move on!
  • Try various methods of testing. Flashcards, connect the dots, coloring pages, pretty notes… try it all. It increases your chances of getting the material to stick!
  • Have tight stimulus control of your study environment. Condition your materials to be reinforcing not aversive.
  • Study with your tribe. Find people around you who are going through the same process and talk it out! Use each other for community and support.
  • Write your own questions and try to have someone else from your tribe try to answer it. This helps you identify keywords and ways to pull information from questions.
  • Talk out your concepts as much as you can. Explain your concepts to people who don’t know our science and let them ask questions.
  • Recognize and apply concepts in your everyday life. This will help you #slay concepts
  • You are worthy of sitting with us! You’ve done all the hard work and met the requirements to sit for the exam. You can do this!
  • We always got you, boo. Love ya, mean it!

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