Passing The BCBA Exam: Know the Language. Understand the Field. Avoid Misrules. Prepare Correctly

If you are not learning the correct language and concepts of Applied Behavior Analysis, if you are not talking the language of Applied Behavior Analysis you will not be properly prepared either for the #BCBAExam or to function as a BCBA. You will risk #BCBAexamretakes for reasons that are not your doing. And so many different graduate programs; so many different test prep and review systems can also bring a myriad of sometimes significant misrepresentations and mis-perceptions.

As #examretakes increase, many folks wind up simply typing 'BCBA Test Prep' into Google. Unfortunately, this is not unlike typing 'autism.' You'll get very large return with both (though certainly far more with 'autism') but few of either come with ways to evaluate or establish their respective relevance, accuracy or credibility. And there is a wide range of information and presentations available based on an even wider presenters


A first priority when studying for the BCBA exam along with a cursory way to evaluate these so very many programs which promise so many things the majority can't come close to fulfilling is to consider how they use the language of Applied Behavior Analysis.


Start with how the different sites and programs identify the four research-based functions of behavior. No matter often taught by how many persons, for instance, the 'SEAT' acronym is incorrect. Sorry....but it really is incorrect! The four research based functions of behavior include Automatic Reinforcement rather than 'sensory' which is a category far more driven by pseudoscience than behavior analysis.


Automatic Reinforcement is part of the behavior analytic model and represents behavior which is NOT social mediated. It is something the individual does simply because they like doing it. I like to twirl a pen between and across my fingers. I have a few other 'stims,' too. How about you? Self stim, in other words, is just another human behavior While this can create a kind of sensory feedback loop, saying behavior is 'sensory' driven is misleading and a misconstruction. You also will not see 'Sensory' identified as a behavioral function on the exam.


In the same way, 'Tangible' is not behavioral function but a single component of the research based function of 'Access.' While there certainly are Access related behaviors where the individual may want a tangible item, Access also references attempts to change environments, to do a different activity, be with another person and, for individuals with higher rates of self stim behavior...to Access time alone to stim.


Let's talk briefly about self stim behavior which, by it's nature, starts with a presumptive function of Automatic Reinforcement. And I stim; you stim; we all stim. Self stim behaviors are normal and natural until they become interfering to the child's success, learning, access to new choices and preferences and disruptive to the larger group.

But say we have a child with a very strong predilection to a specific and rather persistent self stim behavior who suddenly discovers she is being blocked from doing so during a learning activity. In such a circumstance, that child may become disruptive less for escape (though that must come first in this case but only as a secondary function) in order to be sent away to 'think about her behavior,' to do 'calming strategies' or other such non-behavior analytic 'interventions' thereby creating and connecting it to the primary function of 'Access.'


And in that particular response - based on the consequence delivered by the adult - the child suddenly becomes aware that her previously automatically reinforced stim behavior works really well for escape/avoidance which then provides Access back to her stim behavior. The child's stim behavior has now officially become, based on context as with every other behavior, socially mediated and shaped by adult consequences.

Similarly, a child who prefers to play by him or herself is most very often NOT engaged in Automatic Reinforcement. I keep hearing this over and over and it is just not accurate. A child may prefer to play alone simply for that being more in line with her or his general temperament. A range of others may do so based on explicit social interactive; social engagement and/or more general social skill deficits. Regardless, all need to better and more comfortably interact across peers even as we still respect individual preferences.


With this as a specific example, Automatic Reinforcement is, itself, used as a presumed behavioral function far to often and is more the result of a misunderstood, incorrect and/or mis-prioritized assessment process.

DRO, on the other hand, is not a strategy of 'omission' but one of differential reinforcement with extinction leading to a reduction in behavior. Yes, I am aware that Cooper does make such a reference which, subsequently, has been picked up and misapplied by those among the cottage industry of BCBA test prep. But a strategy of omission;' omitting what, exactly? DRO is correctly understood as a reduction or reductive strategy.


Who can identify the other two strategies that are reductive across the different differential reinforcement frameworks? How about the three which are additive?

Another example which several of my students have asked me about is what is a misrepresentation of behavior contract effects. Behavior contrast is not when a target behavior increases due to the presentation of a more favorable reinforcer than offered previously. Instead, Behavior Contract Effect happens when differential schedules of reinforcement or reinforcement and punishment are utilized across different settings


If your grad program required BDS modules and called it a 'test prep' course; it wasn't. If your grad program required you to buy BDS while also paying for a full course which did not have a classroom teacher but insisted you complete a specific number of modules each week based on the BDS construct, you might consider a refund. And the principle flaw in the BDS modules is that they are primarily designed far more for rote memorization than learning and studying.

Rote memorizing flash cards for speed is also not how to pass. Content is key but such memorization is not learning and the BCBA exam has very few 'definition' questions. The key when engaged in #BCBAtestprep is 'WWCS' or...What Would Cooper Say. Anything else will mislead.

If you haven't yet done a full FBAssessment to include developing and implementing a comprehensive BIP, that can represent a gap in learning which I directly address as part of my test prep services. And, by the way, using the FAST does not count.

If you think a particular mock exam is confusing, it's because you are very likely correct. That, along with the many which come with incorrect questions and/or explanations. It takes a lot of training and even more practice to know how to write exams and test questions. And scoring low...or high...on the range of mock exams out there does not presume #BCBAexam outcomes.

It's not you because in far to many cases and through far too many programs, you have not been taught correctly.

Relax a bit and reorganize. Contact me through my website. Passing the BCBA exam requires authentic content AND non-content knowledge....and we will practice both extensively. Experience also matters. I have 40+ years proving behavioral services to include 10 in higher education.


And unlike some, my first conversation is without charge or obligation.

Contact me....let's talk.

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