BCBA Exam Study Tips, Barefoot style!

As someone who recently passed the BCBA exam. It’s my duty to give back to the field. There are many tips out there, but I wanted to share what worked for me (or at least I engaged in) as I prepared to sit for the test.

BDS (Behavior Development Solutions) Modules: Yes I’m referring to those modules everyone keeps talking about on Facebook, Twitter, and the like. I highly recommend going through their training modules. The format of the modules emulates the testing environment very well. I focused on the acquisition modules more than the fluency modules. For me, knowing the content well was more important than fluency. When it came to fluency, I found that I was rushing and memorizing (it’s easy to get caught in that trap if you’re not careful. When I read questions, I immediately read the hint if I could not come to a reasonable answer. If and when I did make an error (I wasn’t completely errorless), I made sure to go through my errors at the end of each module to see where I made a mistake. It was important to understand why I made the error and why the correct answer was indeed the correct answer. At first I dedicated an hour at time a few times a week. A month or so prior to testing time I was on there probably 2 hours a day. The week before testing I was reviewing the modules 3-4 hours a night.

The White Book: Cooper, Heron, and Howard. Applied Behavior boromirAnalysis (2nd Edition): I carried this book with me everywhere. It was always in my bag for quick reference. It was the basis of my graduate coursework and continued to be my go to source as I studied for the exam.  I found that I would refer to this book often. I also went to the book’s website and downloaded the guided notes. I found the guided notes to be useful in organizing the book chapters for me.

Ethics for Behavior Analysts by Bailey and Burch. Trust me, you can’t go wrong with learning about ethics, and this is the book for it.

SAFMEDS: “Say All Fast Minute Every Day Shuffle”. I learned this in my very first Behavior Analysis Course with Dr. Rosales at UNT. I had so many index cards laying around that my wife was giving me “the look”. Whenever she found a stack around the house. You can take them anywhere and study your terminology. I kept envelopes of SAFMEDS in my backpack and I would study while waiting for meetings, kid’s plays, during television commercials. I did not maintain data on myself or my performance using them. But it was an activity that kept me accessing and using terminology which was helpful. If you need more information on SAFMEDS check out Dr. Amanda Kelly’s website, behaviorbabe.com. Excellent resource!

Have FUN: I enjoy finding ways to make learning fun, and applicable to my world.  I know I probably drove my family and friends a little crazy because I kept wanting to explain events and situations in behavioral terminology. But when I explained why I was doing it, after awhile they began to appease me. I created this blog for example as a way for me to translate what I was learning into language I could understand, as well as others. Creating visuals that demonstrate or explained the concepts. Google “behavior analysis memes” and you’ll find many out there. Also Pinterest has plenty of Behavior Analysts sharing their humor, give it a look. Twitter conversations are great as well. On this blog I have posted several transcripts from previous #ABAchat conversations I’ve participated in.

Global Autism Project Webinar: I participated in the GAP’s free “Prepare to Pass the BCBA Exam” webinar about a year ago. I found it useful in that it gave some simple test taking tips and studying suggestions.

Explore the field: Early on I found that immersing myself in behavior analysis was very helpful. Find ways to associate behavior analytic principles into day to day activities. Learn about the various applications of the field. Explore fields such as sports performance, organization behavior management to name a couple. You get a different perspective and learn concepts because you see how they are applied in varying contexts.

Test when you are ready! Just because you registered to take the test doesn’t mean you can’t cancel. When I first registered back in August, I knew I was not ready. I decided to cancel my seat and got my money back. It was one of the best decisions I could’ve made. Why go in with test anxiety when you can make sure you’re prepared.

Again, this is what worked for me. Hopefully you’re able to find something in these tips that will be useful for you. Most importantly………

Sit back, kick off your shoes and you relax, you got this!


You Passed the Big Test: What’s Next?

Congratulations, you’ve passed the Behavior Analysis Certification Board exam and are now a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) or a Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA). So what do you do now? Well, I cannot speak for you, that is a journey only you can answer. I will however tell you what I am planning to do (not necessarily in this order):

1. Membership in Association of Behavior Analysis International (ABAI)Capture
One of my first steps is to join ABAI. I consider this reinforcement for all the hard work I’ve put in. ABAI provides many learning opportunities as well as other benefits of membership. I won’t go into them all, because honestly I don’t know them all. But from what I’ve seen so far, it is definitely worth the investment. Want more information on membership in the Association of Behavior Analysis International? Click here.

2. Register for ABAI Annual Conference2015 San Antonio
I could’ve done this before. It’s not like you have to be a member nor have certifications to attend. But this year it is located in San Antonio, just a few hours from where I live. So therefore it is a must for me to attend! Being in a large room full of other behavior analysts, learning about what else, behavior analysis, is nothing short of awesome. If you’re planning to attend, hit me up, I’d love to meet you down there. Click here for more information on the ABAI Annual Convention in San Antonio, May 22-26, 2015.

3. Get a Tattoo (or a couple)
Another form of reinforcement for all the hard work. This would really be commemorating two events, completing my first official half marathon on Thanksgiving and passing the BCBA exam. As it turns out, according to the BACB records, these two events actually occurred within 3 days of each other. I also have no major issues with scarring my body a little bit more than it already is, at least this way it will look nice.

4. Brew an Honorary Beer

You guessed it, more reinforcement. Being that 1. I haven’t brewed in a while and 2. My supply is low and 3. I really like beer, so the timing is perfect. The only decision is what to brew up. A nice stout or porter? Maybe a nice Belgian dubbel? I always accept suggestions.

5. More learning
Why? I just finished all this learning stuff! Well, one can never stop learning. The field is constantly evolving and growing and I must keep up with it. As of the next test administration the Board is transitioning from the 3rd to the 4th edition Task List. So there is much to keep abreast of. One benefit of certification is getting access to JABA articles for free. No more back door methods for getting access to current JABA articles.

6. Professional Liability Insurance
If you’re already working for a large company you most likely are already covered by that company’s professional liability coverage. However it’s probably a good idea if you’re going to be working as a consultant or operating a small business. I used CPH & Associates in the past. Their rates are very good and their coverage is used by many practicing BCBAs.

7. Repurpose Rubber Band Ball2013-06-19 20.32.51
This was one of my reinforcement tactics for maintaining my studying. I gave myself a few minutes to place rubber bands on my ball for time spent studying. I had to spend a minimum of 30 consecutive minutes engaged in studying behaviors (reading, answering questions, SAFMEDS, BDS modules, doing reviews, etc.) in order allow myself access to the rubber bands. It’s a good “stress relieving” activity by allowing myself access to sensory. The hard part was getting myself to stop once I started. Anyway, now I need to find a new reason to let the ball grow.

There are several other things I’d like to do, and probably should do first. But these are some of the immediate activities I considered. Do you have any other suggestions? How did you celebrate a major accomplishment in your professional life?

A Behaviorist’s Back to School Advice


I always think of this B.F. Skinner quote when I’m making my classroom behavior plans. As we begin this new year, we all know that connecting with students and getting them to perform takes reinforcement. But what we sometimes forget is, kids care less about the “thing” they get than how that thing was given. It’s the little things you do every day to show you care that make the biggest difference.

Here’s to a great school year!


Hit the Trail, Barefoot Style!

I love discovering new places to run. This morning I did a quick trail run in a new location, Crystal Canyon Trail in Arlington, Texas. It’s nice little, semi-paved trail that is perfect for walking, running or hiking. The trail itself is about a half mile loop; great for beginners.

Only 3 years ago, I was working with a specialist to help with lower back pain. I discovered I have not one but TWO degenerative discs, bone on bone. While in those “I’ve tried everything and nothing works” phases, I learned about “barefoot” or minimalist running. It was a long and sometimes painful process, but over the course of a year, I slowly made the transition to minimalist running in Vibram Fivefingers. Starting with half a mile walks, then soon mile jogs, until eventually I was consistently running 3-4 miles every other day. Nowadays, whenever I begin to feel stiffness or pain in my lower back I know it’s a signal to get moving. The relief I feel running minimalist style is almost immediate. That’s what works for me. So my doctor now tells me “keep doing what you’re doing!” (Click here to see my behaviorist take on why I love running.

Now it’s your turn, get moving people! It doesn’t matter if you walk, run, hike, or wander in circles. It might be 4 miles, or to the end of the driveway and back. It might just be doing a few stretches. The only thing worse than little exercise is no exercise. Even a few minutes of daily exercise has benefits and your body will reap the rewards.

A Curse and A Gift

About a month ago, I presented an inservice for crisis support teams. Throughout the presentation I incorporated many examples from my own life. During a break an administrator approached me and said that I seem like the kind of person that “can’t turn it off”, as if I’m always analyzing events and their contingencies. I had to agree, sometimes it seems that I can’t.

As I study to sit for the BCBA exam, I find myself questioning my own sanity. This journey I’ve taken has at times been a gift and a curse:
My curse: Having to find time to read up on research literature, take classes, attend workshops, complete modules, or watch training videos to learn the ins and outs of the field.
My gift: Being able to use the knowledge and skills I’ve learned to help others (and myself) change their behavior in meaningful, socially significant ways.

For all you BCBAs, BCABAs, B.A.I.T.s (Behavior Analyst in Training) and anyone else in the field, what is one curse and gift you’ve experienced?