How To Pass The BCBA Exam

Thinking of becoming a BCBA therapist? Read on to learn how to ace the exam.

Ruben Kesherim
July 28, 2023

How To Pass The BCBA Exam

How to Pass the BCBA Exam

Understand the Structure of the BCBA Exam

Before you take the exam to become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, or BCBA, you need to understand how the actual test will be structured.

Before you take the exam to become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, or BCBA, you need to understand how the actual test will be structured.

By knowing what to expect as you take the exam and what kinds of questions you will encounter during it, you can study thoroughly and ease any nervousness or anxieties you have about taking and passing it successfully.

The BCBA exam consists of nine separate sections. It also has a total of 92 tasks you must answer or complete successfully to pass it.

As extensive as this number sounds, it is vital you become familiar with each of the 92 tasks, as well as the nine individual sections of the exam, if you want to pass it on your first try.

You will also need to understand fully the list of code of ethics for BCBAs. One of the sections of the test relates entirely to this code. You will need to know it thoroughly if you want to pass the exam and become a BCBA.

Overall, you must answer a total of 185 questions to complete test. Ten of these questions are piloted and will not be graded, however.

The nine sections and each of their number and questions are:

  • A-Philosophical Underpinnings: Five tasks and six questions on the exam
  • B-Concepts and Principles: 15 tasks and 32 questions on the exam
  • C-Measurement, data display and Interpretation: 11 tasks and 21 questions on the exam
  • D-Experimental Design: Six tasks and 12 questions on the exam
  • E. Ethics: Seven tasks and 18 questions on the exam
  • F-Behavior Assessment: Nine tasks and 18 questions on the exam
  • G. Behavior Change Procedures: 22 tasks and 35 questions on the exam
  • H. Selecting and Implementing Interventions: Nine tasks and 16 questions on the exam
  • I. Personnel Supervision and Management: Eight tasks and 17 questions on the exam

Take a Practice Test to See Your Baseline Score

After you familiarize yourself with the sections, tasks and questions of the BCBA exam, you should then find out how well you could pass it on a first try. You can gauge this success by taking an online practice exam on websites like:

  • ABA Wizard
  • Behavior Development Solutions
  • Pass the Big ABA Exam
  • FIT

These websites provide you with practice tests you can take at your convenience as you study for the official BCBA exam. They expose you how the questions may be presented, in what order the tasks and sections will appear on the test and how difficult the actual exam may be while you are taking it.

The practice tests also provide you with what is called a baseline score. This baseline score lets you know how successful you could be at passing the test at any given time. It allows you to see in what sections and on what tasks and questions you excelled and on what ones you need to study more and improve.

The baseline score can also help you organize your studying and allow you to study progressively for the actual BCBA exam.

You can study in depth each section, task and question you may encounter on the real test. You can approach the exam with more co

nfidence and less anxiety and nervousness when you take several practice tests to help you prepare for it.

Finally, the practice tests available to you online are typically free to take. You can take them repeatedly to find out if your baseline score improves as you study. Once you reach a high enough score, you may decide to sign up for and take the actual BCBA exam.

Create a Study Plan that Works Best for You

Once you have a baseline score from taking online practice BCBA tests, you can then design a study plan that works best for you. Your plan may differ entirely from the plans of your peers in your BCBA program. You should tailor this plan so it helps you better understand and prepare for what you will encounter once you actually sit down to and take the test.

Study the Task List, Focusing on Your Weakest Areas First

The practice tests you take should reveal what your weakest areas on the exam are and what parts of it you need to study more thoroughly.

Once you have this information, you can put together a study plan that prioritizes these weakest areas and allows you to devote more time to memorizing and applying them to actual test.

You do not want to lose any knowledge you applied and answered successfully on the test, however.

Your individualized study plan should also include refreshers on information you are already familiar with and can answer successfully on the exam. You can build on that knowledge and increase your chances of passing the test the first time you take it.

Take a Post-test to See How Your Scores Have Improved

Your study plan prior to taking the real BCBA test should involve taking another practice exam to see if your baseline score has improved. If the score has improved, you may decide to sign up for and take the exam. If your baseline score has stayed the same or declined, you can continue to alter your study plan and further review information you need to retain better for the actual exam.

Before Beginning the Exam

Before you start taking the actual exam to become a BCBA, you will first undergo a preparation at the test taking center. The test's administrator will first provide you with a fine line tip marker and a laminated double sided paper to take notes on during the test.

You can use this paper to keep track of your questions and how confident you feel as you progress through the exam.

The BCBA test will last for four hours. The timer for the test starts when you sit down to your computer to take the exam.

Before you begin the test, you should write down the numbers 1 through 185 on your laminated paper. At number 50, you should write “1 hour,” and by number 100, write down “2 hours.” By number 150, you should write “3 hours.” You should strive to complete these number of questions by the time allotted for them.

Finally, you should rate your level of confidence for each question as you complete it. These notes will let you know what you need to go back and study and where you think you did well after you finish the test. You can use symbols like:

  • Smiley face for being confident in answering the question correctly
  • Check mark for feeling good but not 100 percent certain about a question's answer
  • Question mark for not being sure but also being able to go back and answer it later
  • 0 for having no idea and not wanting to waste time figuring out the answer

Taking the Exam

You should also employ an effective plan of action for while you are taking the BCBA exam. This plan of action can help keep you focused on the questions and allow you to answer all of them completely. It can also keep you calm and ease your nervousness or lack of confidence as you progress through the test.

Which Questions to Focus on

The notes you keep on your laminated double sided piece of paper will come in useful when you answer the questions on the test. You should first answer all of them completely, making notes on which ones you feel good about answering and what ones you are relatively certain you got right. It is important you do not leave any of them blank if you can help it.

You should then use your notes to go back and focus on certain questions more intently. Make indicators on your paper so you know what questions to go back to rework or think more thoroughly about so you can answer them correctly.

Take a Break During the Exam (If time allow)

You should also take a break during the exam if time allows for it. This breather can help you ease frustration and anxiety you may be feeling. It can also give your eyes and mind a break and clear your thought processes so you can go back and focus better on the remaining questions.

Remain Calm and Confident

You should remain calm and confident as possible during the time you take the test. Your mental and emotional perspective can play a big role in your overall test taking performance. You should focus on positives like answering many questions correctly rather than negatives, such as not knowing what a few questions may ask for or not knowing how to answer them at all.

Reviewing Your Answers

After you finish all 185 questions, you will be given the opportunity to go back and review them. This review is contingent on how much time of the test taking session remains.

After you finish all 185 questions, you will be given the opportunity to go back and review them.

If you have enough time, you can go to the review screen at the end of the test and click on questions you are unsure about or need to go back and find out if you answered them correctly. You should use your notes on the laminated paper to guide you.

The review screen allows you to click on the actual question number and go back to it. You do not have to click through pages of questions to find the ones you want to answer or review.

After you review and rework the question, you can submit the new answer, and the test will take you back to the review screen. You can continue to review the questions until you feel confident about answering all of them or the time for the test taking session ends.

It is important you do your best to answer every single question on the exam. You do not want to leave any of them blank or only half answered if you want to raise your chances of passing the test on the first try.

You should prioritize going back and answering the questions you marked 0 first so you can make sure they are answered as effectively as possible. You may spend less time on questions you marked as being confident you answered correctly.


A variety of resources exist to help you study for and pass the BCBA test on the first attempt. You should make use of these resources if or when they are available to you so you can avoid having to retake the test and delay your career as a BCBA.

Behavior Development Solutions, or BDS, modules can help you prepare for and pass the BCBA test successfully. These modules are designed to expand on the materials and curriculum your program follow and review.

They may also help flesh out more vague concepts and better explain generalized information you might have struggled with during your studies.

Mock exams are also helpful resources you can access easily online. Many are available for free. Those that are found on highly rated academic websites can expose you to the technicalities and difficulties of the actual BCBA test so you know what you will encounter during an actual test taking session.

Online study groups likewise can be helpful to you as you prepare for the BCBA test. You can meet with and post in these groups at your convenience. You avoid having to set aside time in your busy work or personal schedule to meet with them.

You can also glean vital information and advice from your fellow group members to help you get ready to take and pass the exam.

You can also find checklists for what materials and codes of ethics to review for the BCBA test online. These lists can drive home information you will be expected to know for the test. They are designed to help you organize an effective study plan.


As you approach the time to take the BCBA test, you may feel overwhelmed and not entirely ready for the challenge of passing it on the first try. You may have no idea of what you need to study or how many questions you will actually need to answer to get a passing score.

A variety of resources exist for you to refer to as you prepare yourself for taking this in-depth and complex exam. These resources are either free or low cost. They also are available at your convenience so you can access them readily during the time you study for the test.

One of the most important resources you can use at your disposal while preparing for this exam is a practice test. The practice test gives you a baseline score that lets you know what questions you answer correctly and what ones you failed at completely. You can use this score to gauge your readiness to take the test or what materials you need to study further.

You can also use modules, online lists, study groups and other resources that are available to you online or at your university. You can benefit as well from knowing what the actual test taking session will entail.

You may find it helpful to know you may be given the chance to go back and review your questions before you submit the test for grading. You may also appreciate the fact you can take notes and keep track of the answers to your questions as you take the test so you know what ones to review and what ones you may have answered correctly.



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