Category Archives: How-To

BCBA Study Tips VII

Zack Migioia of  Virgina Beach, VA also passed the exam in May. He didn’t waste a second to say yes when I approached him for some study tips.

Virginia Beach, largest city and part of large...
Virginia Beach, largest city and part of largest metropolitan area (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here is his advice:

“For those preparing for the BCBA exam:

I would highly recommend the BDS modules. I bought a 6 month subscription and felt like the modules really helped me learn the totality of the task list. The modules were helpful, but not sufficient for complete exam prep. Reading the Cooper book is non-negotiable. The white book provides great explanation of concepts and was helpful in so many ways. Reading the chapter summaries and completing the online quizzes that are connected to the book helped me prepare for the test. I took my first 3 courses through FIT and then completed the Masters program through Ball State University ( M.A. in Applied Behavior Analysis ). FIT was so helpful for me and I would tell anyone who did not go through that program to enroll in the Guided Review. I did not personally do that, but I know those that did were greatly helped. What I did use was a mock exam through FIT. That exam really helped me see the questions that will be similar to the actual exam ( and they were, for the most part ).

I started studying in November 2012 and took the exam May 2013. I truly believe studying 6 months prior to the exam will give you sufficient time to fully prepare for the exam and pass 1st try. Many have failed after only studying 1-3 months, so I would say to anyone only wanting to take this thing 1 time: allow 6-12 months to fully prepare for the BCBA exam.

Zack Migioia BCBA”

Thank you so much, Zack for sharing your Jedi journey with us. He devised and worked his step-by-step game plan to perfection. He is a great model for us all. Plan your attack, give it time to develop your play, there you have it! You can also reach Zack at, go say hi and ask question.

Thanks again and I look forward to seeing and learning from you at a conference soon!

Shout out to Mr. Zack Migioia, BCBA!

May the desired consequence be with you!

BCBA Study Tips VI

Wise Words from Ohio

Brianna Elsasser of Ohio (her hometown is Kenton, and yes, I asked her about Kenton and Canton) actually contacted me first; for some reason, her result did not post at first, which I suspected costing her quite memorable 4th of July. Luckily things worked out on the 5th, and she didn’t have to use any Jedi mind tricks or the mediocre “that’s how you talked to customer service” tactics to engage the board. But hey, she might get full credit, refund plus shipping and handling and more, you never know.

I didn’t waste a moment to congratulate her and ask for some advice. And here’s how Brianna put it:

“My job was the best way to “study”. I had amazing BCBAs to learn from first-hand and supervise me directly. So I learned the principles and ideas directly. I worked hard in classes to really make sense of the concepts and be an active learner, taking situations I knew and applying the principles. After finishing class in January, I was in the midst of planning to move to Manila, but that wasn’t initially to happen until late June. So I planned to study closer to the exam, and after the exam was over I would focus more on packing and moving. Then on April 1 my move date changed to May 1 and all hell broke loose. Lol I had to get ready to move and all studying went out the door. I took my CHH text to Manila along with my laptop, but wish I had taken my binders of notes from my FIT classes as I feel those would have been a very comprehensive means of studying. Once I got WiFi there, I paid for the BDS modules, not knowing ahead of time that I would only be able to complete 30% of the modules before the exam. I used only CHH prior to the BDS, and then a mix of BDS and the resources found on the Facebook page, primarily a list of definitions that I reviewed and made my own notes on. I didn’t feel all that confident going in, but came to terms mentally with the idea that it was okay if I DIDN’T pass, and that really calmed my anxiety about things. Worst case, I take it again, and that’s not that bad! I give the most credit to FIT’s online classes and co-instructors, and to my job where they practice the principles daily, they support those of us wanting to learn more, and they let me be a manager and learn learn learn.

“I also, per recommendation from a friend, paid for a mock exam via Pass the BCBA. They send you a much exam, then you have a 3 hour review online where you grade it. I BOMBED it. As in 40% on some sections. I was so freaked out. But then everyone I talked to said mock exams are all crap and don’t mean anything. Lol

“The mock exam was worded horribly, I don’t know who made it but I wouldn’t recommend it. I think the questions posted on the Facebook page were MUCH more helpful, as was the commentary people would post.

“I have friends taking it over the next 2-3 offerings and I’ve recommended the Facebook page to all of them. I think the resources, both in documents saved and people commenting/using the page, are really helpful.

LOVE FIT! They are fantastic.”

It’s Your Turn!

Great mentors, exam prep, white book, STUDY, STUDY, STUDY! This girl traveled half way around the world and she did it. We joked about how the stars aligned and you just “know” (Sorry, Jose and Skinner, and other Jedi Masters) you could do it! Among those I listed, YOU can manipulate the ENVIRONMENT to your favor (and STUDY!!!) Isn’t this something we learned? You can do it!!!

Shout out to our girl, Brianna Elsasser, BCBA. Say hi to her in the study group when you get a chance.

May the desired consequence be with you!

BCBA Study Tips V

Here Comes Liz! 

Liz Wielebinski, a special education teacher for teens with severe autism, and ABA Tutor in AZ.  She’s also a mom of 2 awesome kids and a wife. When I first reached out to her, she quickly agreed to offer her tips and we also exchanged our gratitude to the sacrifice and support our families made.

Here is her advice:

“I was working two jobs and have a family so for me it was to stay focused. I didn’t get home to start studying until 7:30pm, I would study for 2-3 hours a night and more on weekends. I read cooper before bed religiously, stalked the study group for new scenarios, did SAFMEDS with on my phone with the Flashcardlet app. I did well in the FIT coursework so I knew I had a good understanding of the concepts, I always go back to Corey’s model of figuring out what the question is asking.”

Congrats to another FIT Padawan-turned-Jedi! Shout out to her and her family! She’s a regular in our study group, so come say hi you will!

Sweat and tears, people! Let’s learn from Liz and use that EO to conquer it all!

May the desired consequence be with you!

BCBA Study Tips IV

It Begins with Florida

A Florida navel orange.
A Florida navel orange. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Richele Zvorsky, a special education teacher and part time behavior specialist for children and adult in the sunny Florida, is the very first newly minted BCBA to offer me some tricks up her sleeves.

Here is what she told me:

“I did not study the first time, I only did the guided review through FIT, so I failed the exam. The second time around, I read and highlighted the entire Cooper book, took guided notes, read through all of the chapter’s powerpoints and took all chapter quizzes. I also read the Bailey’s Ethics book, completed BDS modules to at least 90%, practiced with quizlet flashcards for fluency, practiced with paper SAFMEDS provided by FIT co-instructor and read through the all of the different files posted on the study group Facebook page. I created flashcards that corresponded to the task list and practiced with those. I also took the FIT mock exam 2 weeks before my actual exam and then reread any content in Cooper according to my results. I studied approximately 20 hours per week for 3 months.”

Talk about dedication and preparation! Richele got it all! Thank you for sharing your journey and lesson with us! That’s some very actionable advice she just offered us. Now go hit the books, my friends!

Shout out to Richele for her tips!

More tips to come! Be sure to follow here or “like” my FB page for the latest update!

May the desired consequence be with you!

My Tips and More

Reinforcement Coming

List of Star Wars air, aquatic, and ground veh...
Use the Force!!! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I said the plan to learn and help like-minded people and ABA students did not change. (“Nothing!” That’s a line from the Godfather) So, I have been reaching out to people who passed the BCBA exam and asked them to share some tips. A few of them replied me faster than the Millennium Falcon going on hyper drive and I can’t thank them enough! I am in the middle of compiling their advice and yes, each of them will be coming in the near future. (I am going by the order I received the tips!!!) More there will be and hey, my fellow Jedi, if you are ready to share, you know where to find me and I’ll happy to do the heavy-lifting (cut and paste) for you (get credit you will, of course). Please do share! Like my aunt says, “sharing is caring!”

How I Did What I Did

But first, I want to chime in on my approach for the BCBA exam. My application was delayed due to some paperwork mishap, so I did not have time to work on the modules, tutoring, or guided reviews. Luckily I did take the FIT mock exam prep and it really helped me lay out my strengths and weaknesses according to the task list. And yes, they set an extremely high standard for passing: 90% on each task list!!! I remember there were only 8 questions in one particular Content Area. Do the math, you are screwed if you missed ONE! (And yes, miss one I did!) I then spent more time on the areas I was struggling with while putting the stronger areas on maintenance.

I reviewed the entire task list. And if I couldn’t come up with a simple explanation or definition, I used the glossary/index on the very end of the White Book for a quick review. Don’t worry! You are not going to know every terms in the book! For example, I was clueless about many IOA formulas and different kinds of generic tact extensions. As you go through the task list, you will find out more unfamiliar terms. That’s a good start! Now you can go study those terms… or at least take a good look at them and move on. Initial stimulus was probed, now return to the regular programming. There are still a lot to do! A Jedi does more than just wielding a light saber all day ya know!

Need Mentor(s) You Will!

Luke has Obi-Won and Yoda and you surely can use some guiding lights as well! Can you think of people who had taken the exam and are willing to help in person or online? Start with your supervisor(s), colleagues and the instructor(s) in your program. Of course, this study group is always on your side! Whenever I came across a question or a term I was not familiar with, I just reached out to one of my mentors (whom included our very own Behavior Guy, Corey Robertson, his colleagues, Rob Satterfield and Jan Montgomery-Pierce, my friend/former supervisor, Shannon Chang) and my study buddies. Yes, alone you are at the exam but study you can with many Jedi, Padawan or Jawas, or droids if you would like. In fact, I bugged them so often that I thought they might block me, or throw me in the chamber in Jabba’s palace but they are just too nice to do that (ain’t that a SR- for me!)

LSYS: Light Saber Your Self

My primary choice of weapon (well study tool) was my study guides from FIT with the white book as my secondary. For me, this combo worked very well. You need to equip your own tool according to your own study habits, and strengths and weaknesses. Set up the environment to your advantage for maximum results (i.e. don’t study when you are extremely tired or when Mad Men is on). Also, ask yourself this: DO I REALLY UNDERSTAND THIS? If you can’t explain a concept or an experimental design, chances are you haven’t fully understood it yet. I dig Dr. Pat Friman’s approach big time, so I always attempt to do it the layman way (using everyday language for ABA principles) but you may want to go more clinical/academic way. Just go with your instinct and your past history of reinforcement!

On the Big Day

Don’t do anything you haven’t done on the day of the exam. Be familiar with the direction (unlike some idiot who ALMOST didn’t make it because he automatically went on the wrong freeway…) Remember the 10 test-taking tips Behavior Guy listed (it’s on this blog, somewhere… find it before I do… please). What works for me may be vastly different from what you do but you have the talents and EO in you, and remember this:

YOU CAN DO IT!!! (Is my Jedi mind trick working? A little bit?)

Please let me know if you had any questions, comments, suggestions. And go “like” and say hi to me on my page, or go “follow me” here with a quick update!

Thanks again! And you know where to find me!

P.S. Does anyone have any Lego Star Wars photos (No, not that game) please share with me! I could totally use some of those (like Luke carrying Yoda around and stuff) in this post!

May the desired consequence be with you!

BCBA Study Plan from a new BCBA

Returned I Have

Study Area
Study Area (Photo credit: Group3 Planners, LLC)

When I was looking to start this blog, I came across Lukin Murphy. He just got his BCBA early this year. I reached out to him for some advice and he kindly shared how he did it. (Note: I had posted this on the study group awhile back). Sorry, it took me awhile to get this running again.

Fresh Tips!

“Having a solid study plan is very important – the exam is not easy. I studied for 1.5 hours a day for 6 months after I finished my coursework at FIT. I highly recommend that you read the Self-Management section of Cooper – it is important material for the exam, but more importantly use it is a guide to manipulate the contingencies surrounding your studying behavior.

I used a checklist that was posted in my house which required that I use SAFMEDS, take notes of Cooper, and finish two Behavior Development Solutions modules each day. I wouldn’t let myself go to bed before checking off those items. Also, Quizlet has some excellent flashcard sets that you can use from your computer or smartphone as SAFMEDS.

Remember that the outcome of effective studying is passing the exam, but this is so far removed that it is not an effective reinforcer. This makes studying a “rule-governed” behavior. Rules aren’t always effective in maintaining high-effort behaviors, so arrange the contingencies in your environment to provide adequate reinforcement for your study behavior! Reward yourself and share your data publicly – whatever leads to increases in the target behavior.

It is worth the effort – stick with it!”

Quick-fire BCBA Terms

You heard the man! Fluency (SAFMEDS, Quizlet), delayed reinforcement, Premarck principle, Hi-P, behavior contract, go crash it!

Shout out to Lukin and his family!!!

May the desired consequence be with you!

BCBA Study Tips III

More BCBA Study Tips:

English: logo of quizlet
Go quizlet yourself! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As promised, I continue to ask BCBAs to share their advice on studying the BCBA exam. Let’s start round 3.

This is from my former supervisor, Vittorio Matinata, Jr. He is the clinical director of Creative Behavioral Consultants, a non-public agency in Los Angeles. And here is what he suggested:

“I think the main thing is getting comfortable with taking the exam itself. You have to use critical thinking skills during the test.  Take all 4 hours that are given to you, even if you are a fast test taker.

I would go to the BACB website and look at the number of questions per content area and spend more time studying the ones that have more questions.  Also, as you go through the content areas, decide which ones you think you are weaker on, and start breaking down the subjects on what to focus.  Create a study schedule for yourself and stick to it.

I think it would help to read an article a week from JABA. If you have a group, you could each read one article and present a summary of it to the rest of the group.

I don’t have a full practice exam.  I’ll ask someone who’s taken the exam if she has links for free tests to practice online.  I think a website called quizlet has practice ABA questions, and it’s free.”

A shout-out to Vittorio for sharing his tips!

My experience with Quizlet

I used Quizlet (I searched the keyword “BCBA” for you already, just click) to study as well, I recommend you all use the “Test” option as well. I configured the test to be multiple-choice only but you can work on True/False, Matching and Written if you like. I also set a limit on questions at 50 (I did over 50 once or twice, and I found it a bit repetitive and too LONG). I see Quizlet as a good supplemental app for fluency (especially for terms and definitions). However, keep in mind that some of the answers are WRONG. For example, in one of the sets, the definitions of Determinism and Empiricism were mixed up. So proceed wisely, ya?

Go “like” my FB page if you haven’t already? Please? Any comments and questions are welcome!

May the desired consequence be with you!

BCBA Study Tips II

Elephant Nudge
This one’s for you, Carlos! (Photo credit: Siddharth Pendharkar)

Study tips from another co-instructor from FIT and a fellow Heath brothers fan, Carlos Zuluaga:

“To study, I would recommend focusing on the materials from the first three classes (BEHP 5000, 5001, and 5002). Make sure that you review ethics and that you know some of the basics of the Standard Celeration Chart (you might get a couple of questions on this).”

Note: for those who didn’t attend FIT, the first three courses are pretty much the BCaBA requirement: Content Area 2, 3, 9, 10; Content Area 4, 8, 5, 6, 7; Content Area 1, 9, 10

Questions? Ask me. Want specific info? Let me know. I’ll do my best to help you out.

“Like” my FB page while you’re at it, ya?

Shout out to Carlos for sharing the tips!

May the desired consequence be with you!

Take the BACB Exam according to Behavior Guy

It’s May!!! It’s BCBA time! The BACB exam starts today until the end of the month. Work that EO (and in some cases, the AO), we can do it! I will sporadically (re-)post study/test taking tips from different sources. Let’s start with my main man…

Behavior Guy credit:

Behavior Guy a.k.a Corey’s top 10 test taking tips!

1) read the question carefully twice.
2) read the question carefully twice.
3) Determine what the question is asking: what are you being asked to identify, discriminate, etc.
4) Identify the behaver- WHO are we focused on
5) identify the target response: what are they doing?
6) Identify the relevant variables: what are the key words, what elements are related to the target response, etc.
7) Is there an effect on future frequency of behavior? Increase, decrease
What is the nature of the consequence? adding or removing stimuli?
9) Play the 50/50: eliminate any answers that you KNOW (and can rationalize why) are wrong.
10) pick the best answer, and move on. Do NOT go back and change your answer.

Check out my FB page, spread the word, join my study group!

May the desired consequence be with you!