BCBA Study Tips LXXV

posted in: BCBA, How-To | 4

I keep rolling out the study tips… this is one is by Nick, a fellow FIT guy… you will just have to love his story…

My journey from Nicholas Orland, anxiety ridden ABA student to Nicholas Orland, BCBA

“Time from taking the test until results It’s been about a month since finding out that I passed the BCBA exam. It was my first time taking it and it was filled with a lot of anxiety. Ugh, what a relief. The night I found out the scores were released was one of the most anxiety provoking experiences of my life (and I’m not being dramatic saying that). It was September 24th at around 5:00PM. I took the test on August 23rd. When you take the BACB exam, they indicate that the scores will be available 45 days after the last test is administered. Of course, looking back at when previous results have been released it is not always 45 days. It’s typically 20-30 days. If you are a crazy person like me, you look at the BACB Facebook and Twitter accounts and look at the days when the results are released. In June, I believe the results were released on the 24th. In March, it was the 19th. It was around September 10th I started checked the BACB website about 15 times a day. “Maybe they came up with a new way to get the score done quicker,” I would think. Of course they didn’t and I understand why. They need to analyze each question and throw out bad questions. Frankly, at the end of the day I’m glad they take their time doing that. Though I can assure you when you are going through this experience you will not feel this way.

“I continued to check the website and Facebook sites often and regularly. When I started doing an analysis on what time the scores were released, I realized that I really needed to take a step back and “chill out.” Once it was September 19th thought, that’s when I started getting really crazy with checking the BACB website. After all, in March the scores came out on the 19th. The 19th came and went and no scores were released. I knew that Labor Day may have pushed off the scores so maybe the 20th! The 20th fell on a Saturday in September, so I waited all weekend and began checking like a crazy person on the 22nd. Now when I say “like a crazy person,” I think it’s important that I operationally define that. “Like a crazy person”: defined as checking and refreshing the BACB website 60-80 times a day and checking Facebook groups often to see if anyone posts the “EXAM SCORES ARE UP” posts.

“Some very unfunny people would even post comments saying that the exam scores were up and everyone would check. I have a great sense of humor but to me that came off as cruel. I can’t speak for anyone else other than myself, but I had a lot on the line with this test. My job required that I have this certification. If I failed, I may no longer have the job. I know a lot of other people in the same situation. When you fail, it also means more time away from your friends, family and loved ones because you have to study more. Also, even looking past the job: I love this field. I love working with children with Autism. It is what (I feel) I’m supposed to do with my life, and by failing this test I may not be able to do it. It was a lot of emotions mixed up in this.

“Anyways, the 22nd comes and goes. So does the 23rd. Someone on the Facebook group indicated that the director of the BACB said the scores would be released “early that week.” I REALLY could have used an operational definition on “early”. Now it’s the 24th(Wednesday). I’m going insane. Checking the BACB website, going to the Facebook groups. The moderators of the groups were getting annoyed by all of the posts about the test and I understood why, but it was so painful to wait for. At 4:00PM there were still no updates. My exam status still said “active.” I went home feeling defeated and anxiety ridden. I knew I failed it.

“I don’t understand this effect, but from what others have said they have experienced the same thing. You walk out of the exam confident. “I got this!” I felt. About a week or 2 later a little self-doubt comes into play. You are unsure, but still confident. 3 week, all confidence is gone and you think you failed. Fourth week, you start planning a new career path because you feel not only did you failed, you probably got the lowest score.

“I was on that phase on the 24th when I was at home. I was watching television trying to take my mind off of the test stuff. I was looking at the “Students of Applied Behavior Analysis” group when someone wrote “Scores are posted”. I immediately check the BACB Facebook account (they typically post when the scores are released). Nothing. “Great” I thought. “Another really funny person messing with us.” I didn’t want to check and give this jerk the satisfaction of checking but at that point I was desperate. I checked under test and it still said active. I fell for it again! I HATE PEOPLE!!! As I was getting upset, I went to the certification tab. It wasn’t blank anymore. There was a number.

“OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG. I go back to the test page and I can’t. I try to sign back in and I get the page which indicating that the website is down. NOOO!!!!!!!!!! Wait, I passed though, right??? I thought I did. I mean, why would I see a certification number? But I didn’t see the “active” turn to “pass”. Maybe everyone’s page had a certification number because they were doing a general update?? I try to get back in and I can’t.

“So much is going through my mind. I know I passed but I need confirmation. I’m not assuming anything. I do what I’m not supposed to do. REFRESH REFRESH REFRESH. 2 hours of that. Finally I get in and I go to the test tab. PASSED. I was by myself but I literally screamed “yes” and jumped up and down. Victory was mine. It was over. This craziness was now over. Nicholas Orland, BCBA.

“The first thing is what everyone should do when something good happens: post it on facebook. I then texted everyone I knew and told them. I thanked my BCBA supervisors and just enjoyed the day.

“The challenging part after finding out you passed is how you interact with people who also took the test. I don’t want to push them to see if they passed or not because if I failed I wouldn’t necessarily want to talk about it. You do get a sense of who failed though because they typically go radio silent. It’s a hard thing to do because you want to support them but you also want them to come to you on their terms. Usually a few days later you find out how they did. I went out of my way to reassure them that they will eventually pass. And I know they will.

“As I look back on this, a lot of this obsessing was completely unnecessary. I hope this is not what people in the future go through when waiting for their exam. However, when I talk to my peers a lot of us did. I wish I didn’t care so much about this test. But I do. A lot of us do. And I think that’s a testament to the field and how we love it so much. We all want to succeed and do well. Having your BCBA dictates that.

“I know a lot of people who passed, but also know a lot who didn’t. I wanted to give an overview of what I used to be successful. Hopefully this will help some and make you feel more confident going into the test. This is a test that is passable. You just need to be prepared.

“Cooper Book The first thing you need to want to be a BCBA is a pulse. You’re alive? Awesome, one down! Second, you need a copy of the Cooper book (entitled “Applied Behavior Analysis, 2nd edition.” People refer to this as the bible, and it is. I still refer to it several times a week and it’s a great tool.

“Hopefully, you already have this book and have read it during your course work. I had a copy of the book but I did not read it as much as I should have. I look back on this and really regret it. For new students coming up and taking their course work, I recommend reading this book often and regularly. Not killing yourself reading it, but a little here a little there. There is so much information to take in and understand. You can’t cram for it. By becoming familiar with the text and reading it during your course work, you will learn the basics and feel better going into the “insane study phase” required for the test.

“When I began really focusing on Copper, I made flash cards for every term in the Cooper Book. I’m sure everyone has heard of SAFMEDS at this point (if you haven’t, go to YouTube and find a SAFMED video to give you an overview). Before my exam I was fluent on every term (meaning, I would be able to say the name of the term within 2 seconds of seeing the definition). Overkill? Maybe. But I wanted to pass.

“Once I got the terms down for the chapter, I then read the chapter. This helped me because I knew the basics of what was in the chapter after doing SAFMEDS. Then by reading the chapter, it focused on its application.

Bottom Line: Start reading the Cooper book early!

Website: Go to any website which sells books (such as Amazon) to purchase.

“BDS Modules The BDS Modules were the first tool I purchased. Everyone taking the test said “Buy the BDS modules”. I know a lot of people who passed just by doing the BDS modules. When I first got it I was a little overwhelmed. LOTS of tests. They even test you on how to use it! But it is a great tool!

“You take tests on each of the content area. And each test has two forms. One in which you have an hour to take, the other gives you a predetermined time limit (3-5 minutes typically). This is done so that you are fluent in your answering of the questions. You can also ask for a hint on each question, where it will direct you to a screen where it will explain why the answer is right.

“Also, at the beginning of the test it tells you where the information is based off of (if it’s the Cooper book or another text, and the chapter to find it in). The program can be expensive, but not excessively expensive (and you also get a money back guarantee if you do tests to 100% and fail the BCBA). You have access to the program for 6 months (or longer depending on the particular program you bought).

“The drawback is that there is no teaching component. I found myself memorizing the answers to the test questions sometimes and losing focus of some of the content area. You learn through repetition and self-teaching, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Bottom Line: This helps you get used to exam questions and helps you learn through testing. Loved it. Highly recommend.

Website: http://www.behaviordevelopmentsolutions.com


“My favorite study tool. I LOVE this program. LOVE LOVE LOVE it. Why? For three reasons.

“First, the manual. It is an amazing tool. It breaks down the complex concepts in a way that is easy to follow and uses very entertaining acronyms to remember concepts (I will NEVER forget the 7 dimensions of ABA). The manual is right next to my Cooper book and will always be because it’s a great resource. It also comes with about 300 plus note cards where you write down the concepts/terminology and learn from that.

“Second: The videos. When you purchase the 5 week course, not only do you get the manual but you get access to 15 hours worth of videos. These videos go through each content area of the manual. Prya and Dana (the two instructors) make the videos fun and very informative. I would listen to them on long commutes and it helped me understand the concepts so much better.

“Third: the 5 week remote classes. When signing up for this class, you get 5 2-hour classes with an instructor and classmates. The hours for the class are typically on the weekends so they are easy to attend. The class consists of going through the final test you are assigned each week based on the content area you studied (the instructor thoroughly goes through each question and answers). My instructor (Dana) was awesome. Very knowledgeable, very funny and also held us accountable for making sure our work was done.

“I’ve heard some people complain that it’s a little pricey, but for 15 hours of content, the manual, the 10 hours worth of classes, not to mention that they will respond to any question via email I think it was very reasonable priced.

Bottom Line: There is no program out there that comes close to this in my opinion in terms of exam review. I learned so much from this program and hope others learn about it and use it. I credit this program with passing the exam and making me more knowledgeable on ABA.

Website: http://passthebigabaexam.com

“Hope this helps . Remember, you are not alone in this journey. Groups like “Students of Applied Behavior Analysis” are here to help and support. Good luck!”

Nick, I am so glad that you come out alive from this emotion roller coaster! Thanks for sharing your step-by-step tips, and pros & cons of the preps! Congrats and shout-out to Nicholas Orland, BCBA!

4 Responses

  1. Gail Berger

    Thanks. I thin I failed, but I know I week try again if I did.

  2. Liz

    I am waiting for exam results now, I took it on the 2nd to last day of Feb so I didn’t have so long to wait…I just found myself googling “what is the shortest time it has taken the bacb to release exam results” and I came across this…thank you so much for sharing your experience of waiting for results. Glad to know I am not alone in going from “I aced that exam” to “I need a new career cause surely I failed”

    • Behaviorjedi

      It is what it is… so what’s new? How can I help?