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'Breaking the Pattern' of BCBA Exam Retakes

Whenever a BCBA or BCBA-in-training tells me they wouldn't know what to do other than provide autism services, it saddens and frustrates. (When this happens, I most often then offer them a list!) With this includes the reality that far too many BCBA students also may not recognize they’ve really only learned a small piece with regards to services to children with autism and that true best practices for autism and best practices in Applied Behavior Analysis are exactly the same.

And those who continue to so compartmentalize; BCBA candidates (many BCBAs, too) who more often see 'ABA' as a strategy/a singular framework rather than more actively pursuing the deep and comprehensive field of Applied Behavior Analysis also hugely reduce the their probability of passing the BCBA exam while simultaneously remaining locked into the very 'Pattern' they correctly want...and very much break.

BCBA candidates who primarily see themselves as yet another ‘autism specialist’ are also far more likely to fail the exam. A BCBA candidate trained as Clinical Behavior Analyst FIRST becomes far more likely not only to pass the exam but then be a much stronger, highly diversified and highly employable BCBA. I believe this disorientation about our field is among the primary reasons why so many very competent, experienced and knowledgeable candidates continue to fail this exam.

Passing the BCBA Exam? Five Keys to Success. Review Strategies Matter...I Can Help (blog on this site)

How many of you reading this, for instance, know that stimulus equivalence theory is a fundamental aspect of verbal operant training? Knowing the definition of stimulus equivalence theory is great but not understanding this basic concept connection and how it works not only reduces the likelihood of passing the exam but will minimize the clinician's subsequent ability to individually correct/revise verbal operant training which is not working for a given child.

So many folks who have had to repeat the BCBA exam - sometimes more than once or twice - all have the requisite zillion (more or less, anyway!) flash cards. And between retakes, so many folks basically return to reading and rereading those cards; Cooper and Bailey chapters.

This isn't the way to go but, instead, serves only to further lock onto the exact 'Pattern' which has already greatly decreased the probability for test success.

While having core definitions and concepts to a point of automaticity is critically important so, too, is understanding how to use and combine these definitions into treatment and instructional planning. Memorized definitions without understanding their development and application will also greatly decrease the probability of success on the BCBA exam.

While the BCBA exam may have a small number of direct definition type questions, most of the exam - and correctly so - expects a fundamental core behavioral analytic knowledge which is then tested by applications to and understanding of vignettes and concept questions. In this way, I always guide my test prep (and BCBA supervision) students to Section 3 of the 4th Edition Task list which we then address in more detail.

When I talk to folks between retakes, so many advise that they plan to re-read chapters in Cooper and Bailey yet again while continuing to pay for the same non-individualized; non-differentiated mock exams even though these broader strategies have already not been useful.

Figuring out what to study; how to prioritize areas to study; why previous exam attempts have not been successful is my focus.

I regularly talk to folks interested in BCBA test prep services to actively include those who have already had to schedule multiple retakes. So many tell me they want to ‘Break the Pattern’ in which they’ve been trapped. But 'Breaking the Pattern' means doing things differently to include differentiated and individualized test prep services structured for YOU.

And this is exactly what I do...

Effective BCBA test prep must also prioritize direct attention to the many non-content aspects of the BCBA exam to include being able to select the correct answer when all, or most, seem correct...or incorrect (!); carefully reading each question without being sure you 'know' the answer BEFORE even looking at those offered; recognizing the SPECIFIC question asked/response being requested; being able to narrow down to a correct answer when not certain; effectively reading and better prioritizing different vignettes ....and more...

Prepping for the BCBA Exam is More Than Content; Memorizing Alone (blog on this site)

I will help you ‘Break the Pattern’ but may be less able to do so if you only give me a few weeks.

One person with whom I'd started providing test prep services a couple of cycles ago suddenly decided to discontinue in order, he told me, to spend more time first ‘understanding’ the concepts and principles. Since his need in this regard was evident, his past strategies to resolve the issue hadn't worked and this was the exact area he and I had just started to address - I wasn't sure how to respond.

I have, however, continued to give it thought.

Many of the folks who contact me to talk about test prep services have already not been successful on the BCBA exam. Some of the folks who contact me then get frustrated, unfortunately, when I advise that I not only cannot ‘promise’ success before the next test cycle in a few weeks but sometimes actively suggest they skip the next text cycle for additional time to better understand and 'Break the Pattern.'

But, and as I’ve already discussed…I can't routinely correct for weak grad programs and understandably connected content and concept gaps; commonly held problems with experimental design/measurement; previously limited/less able BCBA supervision; inadequate practice/clinical application opportunities; sometimes individually idiosyncratic learning styles still not effectively supported; multiple attempts to

pass this just a few weeks.

Why Do So Many First Time BCBA Test Takers Fail: What’s Going On (blog on this site)

We need to figure out what's going on together; what you need individually pursue; your most effective learning style and any relevant learning history; to be able to calm very understandable test anxiety. As would any teacher, I need time to know you towards individualizing and differentiating my service and instruction. And many of those with whom I've both worked with and talked to need time to catch up.

The many who’ve struggled with but continue highly motivated to pass this exam and be Board Certified Behavior Analysts; those who already have a deep investment in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis; those ready to work with me and through my process while - maybe - delaying their next BCBA test into at least the next cycle - I most definitely can help.

Experience matters, too, as part of the 'Pattern.'

'Breaking the Pattern' means considering the background and depth of experience held by the BCBA supervisor; the BCBA test prep provider. I bring about 40 years of clinical experience across a huge range of human need and cultural priorities. I have years of experience as college faculty, developing curriculum, individual courses, comprehensive professional training and BCBA supervision and support.

If this is your first exam or if the basis for your retake is more immediate and/or acute, I may well still be able to help in the near term. But also remember that the goal is to pass; to get your BCBA done…rather than continuing to get even more frustrated and stressed while spending money for generic study systems followed by another retake.

I schedule either weekly or biweekly for online sessions of about 90 minutes each; identify and address your specific content needs to actively include the use of my own original mock exam on which I've continued to receive very positive feedback.

I remain available by email and/or text for questions/thoughts and feedback between sessions (I've even had test prep students occasionally send me screen shots of other online mock exam questions they've done but aren't quite sure!); I ALWAYS individualize and differentiate for EVERY test prep student while providing my own study materials by way of PPTs, specific readings and other resources depending, of course, on the individual need and reality of each test prep student.

Since this level of service/review intensity can quickly come to a great many hours, I tend to charge a 'block fee' with a base rate at $125 per bi-weekly session which includes everything I've identified above. For folks who want to meet weekly for my full and more intensive test prep service, I will modify my base rate accordingly. And for those folks who’d prefer a less intensive hourly-based service framework, that is also not a problem.

We can meet bi-weekly or weekly; for a few weeks or longer. My goal is to help and provide support in the same way I long provided clinical behavioral services; that is, one client or one student at a time! As I individualize and differentiate instruction and test prep, so can I with regards to fee and contact schedules based on what works best for you and your unique circumstances.

Folks who want to work with me rarely can’t afford to do so!

But either way, effective preparation for the BCBA exam - in general and especially for those who've already not been successful - will more often take a bit of time.

And for those in need of; interested in online or face to face BCBA supervision, I routinely include all of the above described test prep services and resources into those sessions.

My first contact is always without charge. Let me know when you'd like to schedule a first conversation by phone or video. I typically use VSee for sessions and will send you an 'invite' if you don't already have it on your computer.

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