BCBA Study Tips IX

Busier than a Busy Busy Bee!

Liz Cloius, well… I’ll just let her take over… starting with her intro:

“Hey everyone! My name is Liz Closius and I just recently became certified as a BCBA. I graduated from Marist College in 2008 with a Bachelor’s in Psychology and a minor in Social Work. From there, I took a job as an entry-level ABA therapist. Although I was somewhat skeptical and did not really know what ABA was, I am beyond thrilled I took this job. I learned the basics under a fantastic supervisor and remained at this company for a few years. Leaving for personal reasons, I took a job as an ABA therapist in a local school district. However, I learned that my knowledge base had expanded and that I was ready for a supervisory role. This inspired me to obtain further education in the field. I was accepted in the Sage Colleges Applied Behavior Analysis and Autism graduate program to obtain my Master’s, which I completed in Spring of 2013, just in time to sit for the exam in May. I love working with children with autism, and recognized this as my calling in life. In my “spare time”, I enjoy spending time playing with my dog, being on the lake, and wedding planning!”

Then Comes the Good Exam Stuff!

Here’s how Liz attacked the BCBA exam and turned herself a Jedi:

“Studying for the BCBA exam was, to say the least, an interesting experience. My supervisor pushed me to take the test in May, and this decision was made towards the end of April. Completing my coursework, supervision, getting all of my forms to the Board and reserving a test date in a little under a month was one of the most strenuous things I have done, in addition to attempting to conquer the Task List. Another obstacle was that I could not get my transcripts until May 22, and therefore did not submit my application in full until then! However, that type of stress for me pushed me to study hard and prepare myself (I am getting married in September, and did not want to be overwhelmed by studying/waiting for results at the same time as the most important day of my life!). Here are some of my tips that aided in my success:

  1. Get organized: Create folders, Word documents, and a notebook for your study materials. Keep your books and articles in one place, that way, when you’re studying, you have everything where it needs to be. Getting up to look for something can easily lead to distractions. I always kept my notepad and Word document that I titled “My Study Guide” open when it was studying time.
  2. Reduce/remove stimuli that will have abolishing effects on studying behavior! When I was studying, I was so busy worrying that I wouldn’t get a test date, and felt that because of this unknown, I was less likely to study. However, I kept reminding myself that I needed to put this time in, and reinforced myself for doing so. Schedule studying when the kids are asleep, the dog has been walked, and your phone is unlikely to ring!
  3. Create a plan: My coursework (I just graduated with my M.S. in May, 2013) required that I read Cooper, Heron, & Heward (2007) aka, the ABA Bible, cover to cover. Though I wanted to re-read it, I think I would have ended up with my head on the book, drooling on the pages. I needed something more interactive. I went for the BDS Modules- someone at ABAI last year told me, whatever study materials you want to try out, CHECK THEIR DATA! Look at their pass rates! I enjoyed the BDS Modules, and completed about 93% of them to 100%. I kept myself organized throughout: as I said, I created a “My Study Guide” document, in which I had headings with the 10 content areas from the Task List, and I put notes in on topics I struggled with. When I did struggle, I used the Cooper and colleagues (2007) text to supplement by rereading most of the chapter. I would also use the articles BDS recommends.
  4. Talk to people: I participated in behavior analytic discussions on Facebook groups, my supervisor, and fellow students and friends. I would literally call up my best friend and colleague in the middle of the night to ask her random questions about what was going through my head, “What is the function of singing behavior? What type of verbal behavior is it?!” which lead to an awesome discussion about singing The “Students of ABA” Facebook group was great for me. People were posting awesome practice scenarios that BDS didn’t really cover, and I had heard the test was going to be more applied. These practice scenarios and practice tests were great, but be careful, lots of programs online seemed a little off to me with incorrect answers that would be misleading. Again, look at their data!
  5. Reinforce yourself: Even as a Behavior Analyst, this is hard to do! For me, the thing that really reinforced my behavior was making a checklist for myself, and crossing things off my list increased the future frequency of engaging in the behavior that would get me to cross off more. I did the BDS Modules as they are recommended, rotating through three at a time until mastery is achieved, and then fluency. I would pick three modules from three content areas, and write them on my notepad. (1.01, 2.01, 9.01). I would rotate through until I received 100%, and would then check off the module, and move on to the next. Then I came back to the checked module to complete fluency, and once I obtained 100%, I crossed the module off as it was complete. I made it a goal to get through at least three a day. Most days, it was so reinforcing that I would continue and do 6 or so modules. I was on a tight schedule, and I was dedicating a lot of time to studying. However, after I had completed my goal, I would attempt to relax by watching a favorite show, baking (which I hadn’t had time for in years), or grabbing a drink with friends. Keep your mental health!
  6. Focus on your weak points: Practice makes perfect. Reinforcing your attempts shapes your behavior and leads to success. In my Study Guide I made for myself, I highlighted and made other study guides for things I had a hard time with (establishing operations, schedules of reinforcement). Having other guides to flip to, where I made acronyms, etc., was very helpful for me, and I brought those little pieces of paper with me to look over in my car before walking into the testing site. Having those visual cues I had written myself was also very handy

Hopefully this was helpful for all of those that are studying! One thing I did not do, but would have done, would have been to do the SAFMEDS. After my exam, the area I felt weak in was some of the vocabulary (stimulus equivalence versus stimulus generalization, etc). If you have the time, do it! It definitely can’t hurt, and will make you fluent in being able to recite the definitions out loud, which is a skill that will be useful throughout your career! If anyone has any questions, please feel free to contact me Best of luck!!”

Get the Gist from Liz’s List?

There you have it! This bride-to-be just showed you how she did it! Now your turn!

Questions, comments, suggestions? Leave me something?

May the desired consequence be with you!

6 thoughts on “BCBA Study Tips IX”

  1. Great article, Liz! I miss you already, but I’m proud to claim you as a Sage grad – and beyond proud that you took the exam and passed so quickly after graduation!!!

  2. Thank you for all the great info! For sure i will follow your advice! I had no idea about the modules nor safmeds! I just happened to look up certain aba concepts and Ta-ta…there you were! Ohhhh man am i glad i ran into this page!!!!! Thank you Liz!!!!!!

    1. Oh yeah, Liz is great!!! There are also tips from many newly minted BCBAs… the FB study group is where you can find SAFMEDS and some other great stuff!

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