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How to Pass the BCBA Exam: Tips & Preparation

A large amount of time and energy is needed in order to pass the BCBA exam. Learn how to pass it in this guide.

steven zauderer
Steven Zauderer
September 5th, 2022

What is the BCBA exam?

The BCBA exam is a test you must take in order to become a board certified behavior analyst (BCBA). Passing the exam is the final step in the BCBA certification process.

According to the Behavior Analyst Certification Board, the purpose of this exam is to ensure that every person who is aspiring to be working as a BCBA possesses entry-level behavior analyst knowledge.

Many BCBAs specialize in working with specific conditions, such as autism, in addition to having more broad knowledge of applied behavior analysis.

Prerequisites to Taking the BCBA Exam

The four main requirements or prerequisites for becoming a BCBA are:

  1. You must obtain a graduate-level degree (master's or doctoral degree).
  2. You must complete relevant course work.
  3. You must complete supervised experience (750-1,500 hours)
  4. You must pass the BCBA exam.

You're allowed to apply to the BACB to take the BCBA exam once the first three prerequisites have been satisfied. Your application will include the following:

  1. Completed online application.
  2. Experience verification forms.
  3. University transcripts.
  4. Additional supporting documents.

The full application payment must be sent at the same time you submit the above documents.

How the Exam Works

BCBA exam applications are accepted on a regular basis. Once you've submitted an application, it should be approved shortly after, and once it's approved, you can register online to take the exam through Pearson Vue. This is the only platform in which BACB exams are offered on.

The BACB explains the specifics about how the exam works:

  1. Length: There are 160 multiple choice questions, with four possible answers to choose from for each question in the exam. You're given 4 hours to complete the exam, so it's important to not spend too long on each question.
  2. Scoring: The BCBA exam uses scaled scores, which start at 0 and end at 500. To pass, your score must be at least 400.
  3. Cost: The application fee is $24 and is paid to the BACB. The examination appointment fee is $140 and is paid to Pearson Vue.
  4. Results: You'll receive exam results at the testing site as soon as you finish the exam.

There are a couple of things that happen once you pass the BCBA exam:

  1. Within 24 hours of passing, you should receive a confirmation email from the BACB.
  2. Your certification goes into effect.
  3. Your BCBA account will be automatically updated.

Can I Retake the BCBA Exam?

Yes, you are allowed to retake it if you don't pass up to eight times within a two-year period that starts when you initially received your initial authorization to take the exam. There are a couple of guidelines you must follow in order to retake the exam:

  1. Pay the $140 exam retake fee.
  2. Submit an examination retake application.
  3. Wait at least 30 days to retake the exam.

How to Prepare for the Exam

There are three primary resources the BACB identified to help you prepare:

  1. Sample exam questions
  2. BACB task list
  3. Exam review courses

The BACB highly recommends these resources to help you prepare for and pass the BCBA exam.

What Happens After You Pass the BCBA Exam

Once you pass the BCBA exam, you are officially certified to work as a BCBA. You will have two main career paths:

  1. Work as an independent contractor
  2. Work full-time as an employee for a larger company

As a BCBA, you have numerous responsibilities, including designing and overseeing the implementation of ABA therapy programs. You'll also be able to work in different settings, including:

  1. Schools
  2. Clinics
  3. Group homes
  4. Workplaces
  5. Higher education institutions
  6. Nursing homes

As a certified BCBA, you may carry out your treatment plan yourself and work 1-on-1 with clients. Another option you have is to supervise other professionals who implement the actual ABA sessions.

You can dive deep into your career as a BCBA, but make sure you don't forget to keep your certification up-to-date by meeting continuing ethics, education, and self-reporting requirements. You also must renew your certification every two years.

Final Tips

To help you prepare to take the BCBA exam, we've put together some general study tips to help you perform best and pass on the first try. Some general BCBA exam study tips are:

  1. Create a study schedule that works for you by setting aside a certain amount of time to study each day.
  2. Don't procrastinate your studying until the day before the exam.
  3. Talk through the materials with others, and ask already-certified BCBAs to help you if you're stuck.
  4. Eat healthy and get plenty of sleep to ensure your mind is sharp when you study and on the exam day. Before the exam, make sure you are hydrated and that you eat a balanced meal.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many questions do you need to pass the BCBA exam?

To pass the BCBA exam, you must get at least 114 out of 150 questions correct, which is a 76% score.

minimum passing score for bcba exam

How long does it take to study for the BCBA exam?

It takes the average BCBA around 3 months of studying before taking the exam. The amount of time you'll need to study will depend on your focus and consistency. We recommend studying for at least one hour a day when preparing for the exam.

How long does it take to study for the BCBA exam?

Why do so many people fail the BCBA exam?

So many people fail the BCBA exam due to a lack of depth in the field and understanding of behavior analysis. Many who struggle to pass the exam don't spend nearly the amount of focused study time that they needed to pass.

What is the BCBA exam pass rate?

The national average BCBA exam pass rate on the first try is 65 percent.

bcba exam pass rate
Source: Cambridge College

Can you use a calculator on the BCBA exam?

Yes, there is a calculator that you can if necessary on the BCBA exam.

Can you use a calculator on the BCBA exam?
steven zauderer

CEO of CrossRiverTherapy - a national ABA therapy company based in the USA.