Table of Contents
    Add a header to begin generating the table of contents

    The board certified behavior analyst (BCBA®) exam is the final step to achieving your dreams of becoming a behavior analyst. This is a monumental step in many people’s careers. Adequately preparing for this exam is imperative. While passing the exam after failing on one’s first try is possible, the data shows that the likelihood of passing significantly decreases on retakes. In 2023, the pass rate for first-time test takers was 56%. On retake attempts, that percentage drops to only 23%!  


    This article will offer recommendations for the best BCBA® exam study materials to help aspiring behavior analysts pass this exam on their first try. Dedicating time and resources toward study preparation can pay off in many ways by reducing stress, saving time and money, and allowing you to begin your career as a BCBA® sooner.  

    The BCBA® Exam Overview 

    The BCBA® exam consists of 185 questions. 10 are unscored pilot questions for future exams, although the candidate won’t know which questions won’t be scored. The questions are all multiple choice, with four potential answers. You can take no more than four hours to complete the exam.  


    Exam questions are currently based on the 5th edition BCBA® task list. However, in January 2025, the BACB® will implement the 6th edition task list, shifting the exam's content.  


    The following grids display the number of questions and percentage of the exam for each content area. This information can help guide your study efforts, as it would be wise to focus on the task list sections that make up a more significant portion of the exam first. 

    5th Edition BCBA® Task List

    A. Philosophical Underpinnings 6 3.43%
    B. Concepts and Principles 32 18.29%
    C. Measurement, Data Display, and Interpretation 21 12%
    D. Experimental Design 12 6.86%
    E. Ethics 18 10.29%
    F. Behavior Assessment 18 10.29%
    G. Behavior-Change Procedures 35 20%
    H. Selecting & Implementing Interventions 16 9.14%
    I. Personnel Supervision & Management 17 9.71%

    6th Edition BCBA® Task List

    A. Behaviorism and Philosophical Foundations 8 5%
    B. Concepts and Principles 24 14%
    C. Measurement, Data Display, and Interpretation 21 12%
    D. Experimental Design 13 7%
    E. Ethical & Professional Issues 22 13%
    F. Behavior Assessment 23 13%
    G. Behavior-Change Procedures 25 14%
    H. Selecting & Implementing Interventions 20 11%
    I. Personnel Supervision & Management 19 11%

    As you begin to research study prep resources, consider which task list the materials are based on. If you will be taking (or potentially retaking) the exam in 2025, ensure your study materials are based on the 6th edition task list.  

    BCBA® Exam Eligibility 

    To be eligible for the BCBA® exam, a candidate must meet the following requirements. 


    • Hold a minimum of a master’s degree 
    • Have completed eligible behavior analytic coursework 
    • Have successfully completed 2,000 hours of supervised fieldwork (1,500 hours in the concentrated route) 

    Upon completion of all prerequisites, aspiring behavior analysts must apply and receive approval from the BACB® to take the exam. Upon receiving approval from the board to sit for the exam, it’s time to start studying!  

    Strategies for Preparing for the BCBA® Exam 

    To pass the BCBA® exam, it’s important to have a comprehensive exam preparation plan. Start by taking an in-depth look at the task list so you have a solid understanding of the content areas on the exam. Then, implement the following recommendations.  


    1. Create a schedule–Develop a robust but realistic schedule that you can stick to. Plan your time wisely and ensure you have enough time to focus on each task list section.  
    2. Establish your baseline–Before jumping too far into your study plan, establish baseline measurements by taking a mock exam or two. Gathering baseline data on the percentage of questions you can correctly answer across each domain will help guide your study efforts and enable you to measure your progress as you move through your study plan.  
    3. Frequently evaluate your progress–Reference the task list frequently as you evaluate the progression of your study efforts. As you master certain task list items, mark them off and focus on others.  
    4. Apply concepts to real-life situations–One of the most beneficial strategies for genuine learning is to apply the concepts and behavior-analytic principles to real life. Ideally, this would be in your client work as you extend your knowledge beyond your fieldwork experience.  
    5. Focus on fluency–A deep understanding of the concepts and principles will help tremendously during the exam. Do SAFMEDS daily as one component of your study plan.  
    6. Lean on peers for support–For a more well-rounded experience, join a study group or find a study partner. Hold each other accountable for achieving your study plan goals.  
    7. Take data and graph–Take data on your study efforts as you study. This is a great way to self-monitor your progress. It’s also helpful in practicing data collection, graphing, and analysis.  
    8. Develop test-taking strategies–The exam content is not the only hurdle. Strong test-taking skills are also essential. Practice reading questions in their entirety and breaking down each component while using the process of elimination. CentralReach’s ABA Knowledge Builder has recorded study groups that offer test-taking strategies to teach these vital skills.    


    Combining a solid study plan with the right study materials may increase your chances of passing on your first attempt.

    Top BCBA® Exam Study Materials 

    With so many study materials on the market, it can be challenging to sift through the noise to decide which ones to try. First, seek out materials that behavior analysts and other experts in the ABA field created. Consider those from trusted organizations within the field. Additionally, while everyone learns differently, digital study resources offer many benefits. One of the greatest benefits is the automated insights into your progress. Mock exams can be automatically scored, with detailed results that show your understanding of each task list to inform your study efforts. From there, a digital study prep platform can create an individualized learning path to guide you through a study plan.  


    Consider the following study materials for a comprehensive study plan to increase your chances of passing on your first attempt.  


    Mock exams–No study plan is complete without mock exam questions. Immerse yourself in many mock exams to test your ability to apply behavior-analytic concepts to various scenarios. Practice exams also help you get more comfortable with exam format and question structure.  


    ABA Knowledge Builder allows candidates to take unlimited mock exams from a bank of over 3,000 mock questions.  


    SAFMEDS–The behavior-analytic approach to flashcards, SAFMEDS, is a research-backed method for learning concepts and principles. It is especially useful for developing fluency, which is vital for the BCBA® exam.  


    Online courses–Hone in on the task list concepts with online courses. Locate classes focusing on the task lists you scored lowest on with your mock exams. Consider individualized curricula like ABA Knowledge Builder, with courses curated for you based on your practice exam results.  


    Textbooks–Review your graduate program textbooks, like Cooper, Heron, and Heward’s Applied Behavior Analysis. Recommended readings from the Cooper textbook are included in ABA Knowledge Builder’s task list courses.  


    Consider the resources already available to you before purchasing them yourself. Ask your supervisor if your organization invests in study materials for aspiring behavior analysts.

    Real Success Stories 

    ABA Knowledge Builder has helped many aspiring behavior analysts feel confident in their knowledge and test-taking abilities before taking the BCBA exam. Here are a few testimonials that highlight the impact that ABA Knowledge Builder had on their journey toward certification.

    "I am so thankful I found this test prep program before taking my exam. The mock questions were perfectly challenging to prepare me for the real exam. Following completion of the course, I felt truly confident in my knowledge. I passed the exam on the first try!"

    - Shayna, BCBA

    "The breakdown of areas tested on the mock exam gave me a clear study plan to cover task list items I was weaker on. I particularly appreciated the practice questions embedded in the C module study materials, with instant feedback on correct and incorrect responses."

    - Merilee, BCBA

    "Listening to these study groups and doing the online minicourses absolutely played a huge role in me passing, I learned so much about test taking, what kinds of things would be on the test, and how to prepare myself mentally to be successful. Thank you so much for your help in this, it was priceless for me!!"

    - Brittany, BCBA 

    Making an Informed Choice  

    Choosing the right study materials for BCBA® exam preparation is essential for maximizing your study efforts. Consider the following recommendations to make an informed decision.

    1. Assess your learning style–Evaluate how you learn best and consider materials that will support your studying in a fun and engaging way.  
    2. Research available resources–Take your time researching different materials available in the market. Focus on resources with positive reviews from trusted organizations within the ABA field.  
    3. Pay attention to which task list the resources are based on–With the 6th edition task list right around the corner, choose a study prep solution that is prepared for this transition and has content based on the new task list.  
    4. Seek recommendations–Ask your colleagues about the materials that made the most impact in helping them pass their exam. 
    5. Consider the comprehensiveness of resources–It can be easy to get caught up in purchasing multiple different study materials, only to find that the disintegrated materials left gaps in your study plan. Evaluate resources that allow for a comprehensive pathway with an all-in-one study plan.


    While the BCBA® exam is challenging, it is passable. A comprehensive study plan with quality materials can improve your chances of passing on that first shot. Aspiring behavior analysts should take the time to establish an individualized study plan with high-quality study materials for effective exam preparation.   

    ABA Knowledge Builder

    Pass the exam with confidence

    CentralReach Launches
    Next‑Gen Mobile App

    Elevating Client Learning Opportunities by 25%
    and Reducing Time to Bill by 2 Days.

    You may also like...

    Related information and stories

    studying for BCBA exam

    BCBA Exam Prep: Study Tips

    April 17, 2023

    Preparing for professional examinations in behavior analysis can be overwhelming. At CentralReach, we were curious about our internal staff members’ experiences. With so many different strategies, we thought who would…

    Continue Reading
    Studying with SAFMEDS in ABA

    SAFMEDS in ABA: Enhance ABA Therapy with Modern Flashcards Alternative

    February 13, 2023

    What are SAFMEDS? SAFMEDS in ABA is a method of studying with a particular focus on fluency. When you’re taking a certification exam, like the RBT or BCBA exam, the ability…

    Continue Reading
    Man studying for BCBA Exam

    BCBA Exam Preparation Guide: Handbook, Task List & Study Resources for Success

    December 13, 2022

    As you finish up your degree and fieldwork hours, the final step is approaching. It’s almost time for your BCBA exam! At first glance, preparing for the BCBA exam can…

    Continue Reading