BCBA Study Tips XVI

Again Go We Here!

The Crazy Sister Marina in Murrells Inlet, SC
Murrells Inlet, SC (Photo credit: Jason Barnette Photography)


It’s study tips sharing time again. After each BCBA exam, I would reach out to the newly minted BCBAs to share their tricks and hope y’all can find something useful and get to you your own 4 letters.

Let’s start with my good friend, Sarah Russell, another successful story from the Sage Colleges!

First Comes Sarah

“The first and foremost thing to remember is this….. we have an amazing toolkit. When you start studying, think about that tool kit. Think about what we do with our clients. Think about the science of behavior. And think about the seven dimensions of ABA.

“When we work with our clients, we always collect baseline. DO IT! Evaluate yourself… see where your weaknesses are (and get to work on those), see where your strengths are. Then, set objective, measureable goals. Set mastery criteria, and continue to work to that mastery criteria. After attaining mastery, work towards fluency and generality. Make sure that what you have learned is not just memorized. Make sure that you know the concept. Take the concept- then, say everything you know about it. Use it in day to day talk. When you are able to fluently discuss a concept and apply it appropriately within specific contexts, consider it mastered. Most importantly, think of our science, our tools, our methodology, our 7 dimensions- USE THEM TO YOUR ADVANTAGE!!!

“Secondly, the next most important thing is to make a schedule and stick to it. Think Premack Principle- set a study goal, engage in the (low frequency) study behavior and follow it by the (high frequency) reward. NO CHEATING! Start out with an attainable goal- even as small as 15 minutes per night. The point is, start studying! And study daily! It is much more efficient to study daily in small doses than cram all at once. Pick a small, attainable goal and gradually increase your study time. But make sure that you do it daily! And again, PREMACK PRINCIPLE!

“Third, graph your data! And graph everything! Graph your study time, graph correct responses, graph rate of responding… whatever dimension you are measuring/trying to alter- graph! I found that seeing the graph alter over time had reinforcing value! Use the graph to your advantage- just as we graph client data to visually inspect and make changes, use it the same way. If there is no change for a while, evaluate your behavior. Maybe you need to change something? But, the graph is a helpful tool for self evaluation!

“Fourth, don’t study to memorization. Study to fluency and generality. Don’t just memorize terms and concepts. Learn the concept. Use the concept. Discuss the concept. Apply the concept. Memorizing will not benefit you. In applying the science, we have to be able to synthesize and analyze the given information, explain the findings to others, and then determine most effective treatment. In order to accomplish those things, we have to genuinely know and understand the concepts. And make sure you are fluent- if you have to pause to think of how to explain something, study more! Work until you can describe a concept without flinching.

“Fifth, talk about behavior. Talk about the concepts. Use the vocabulary in your daily talks with colleagues. Evaluate and assess anything and everything. The more you practice assessing, analyzing, and discussing, the more fluent you become.

“When it comes down to how to study/what to use to study, everyone is different. I don’t believe that there is any one right or wrong way to study, or that there is any tool/book/study material that is superior to any other. It is all in how you use the information presented.

“I did use the modules, however, I did not use them as specified (maybe I should write a disclaimer saying I do not endorse my methods). I tried using them as suggested, but I found that I was memorizing answers. Instead, I worked in many modules at once (sometimes, up to 10) to ensure I was not memorizing (trying to simulate mixing and varying in practice). I used the modules as a baseline for studying (to show what content areas I needed to focus on), and then as a baseline for each content area (i.e. I did a cold probe, studied the relevant materials, and then went back the next day and tested myself). I worked until 100% mastery 2 consecutive days (yes, I intentionally missed problems to keep the module open), and then went back later to do a maintenance check. From the hints, I took notes, and created notecards to study. That was the extent of the modules.

“I also read the corresponding Cooper chapter. I took notes from that as well, and compiled Cooper and Modules notes together to correspond to a skill on the task list. I read corresponding material, books, and articles that were relevant. After I reviewed all of the relevant study materials and completed the modules, I then spent the last 2 weeks working on the task list.

“I also used the Mark Valley Test Prep Book- THIS WAS NOT TO TEST MY SKILL OR KNOWLEDGE!!!! This was only to practice test taking. Let’s be frank- there are 2 different behaviors involved, and we have to know how to take a test. I used that text intermittently just to practice taking the test (I caution you- there are a number of mistakes in the book, and so only use it as a means to practice the test taking aspect alon!)

“STUDY THE TASK LIST! I compiled a notebook, with each content area, under it the skill, and under that notes. I compiled notes, and made sure that when I was writing information, I was writing in my own words/understanding (to help ensure I wasn’t memorizing).

“From the notes on the task list and the note cards I completed, I worked on fluency by timing myself with cards as well as describing different things on the task list. I studied until I felt confident in saying that I knew the material.

“Overall, find what works for you. But above all, don’t overthink it. Look at our science, our tools, and the dimensions of ABA. USE THEM!!!! Use what we already know about behavior, use what we already know about measurement, and apply what we use with our clients to ourselves. That will set you up for more successful studying!

Good luck all!!!”

There you have it, from this Southern girl to you!

Shout out to Sarah for sharing her study tips!

May the desired consequence be with you!

5 thoughts on “BCBA Study Tips XVI”

  1. Love this! Thanks Sarah. As a personal friend and a resident of Murrells Inlet, I must say that picture really does our town some justice. Thanks for sharing these fantastic tips!

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