What Does the BCBA Exam Consist Of?

The Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) exam is a crucial step for those aiming to achieve certification in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). Understanding the structure and content of the exam can help candidates prepare effectively and approach the test with confidence. This blog post provides a detailed overview of what the BCBA exam consists of, including its format, content areas, and the type of questions you can expect.

Exam Format

The BCBA exam is a computer-based test administered at authorized Pearson VUE testing centers. Here’s a breakdown of the key elements of the exam format:

  • Number of Questions: The exam consists of 185 multiple-choice questions. Of these, 160 questions are scored, while the remaining 25 are unscored pilot questions included to evaluate their potential use in future exams. These pilot questions are randomly distributed throughout the exam and are indistinguishable from the scored questions.
  • Time Limit: Candidates have 4 hours to complete the exam. This time frame is designed to allow sufficient time to carefully read and respond to each question.
  • Multiple-Choice Questions: Each question has four answer choices, with only one correct answer.

Content Areas

The BCBA exam covers a wide range of topics within ABA, organized into major content areas. These areas are based on the BCBA Task List (5th edition), which outlines the knowledge and skills necessary for competent practice as a behavior analyst. The content areas include:

  1. Foundational Knowledge (FK)
    • Basic concepts and principles of behavior analysis, such as reinforcement, punishment, and stimulus control.
    • Understanding of behavior-analytic terminology and philosophical underpinnings of the science.
  2. Applications (AP)
    • Practical application of behavior-analytic principles in various settings.
    • Development and implementation of behavior change programs.
  3. Ethical and Professional Conduct (EC)
    • Adherence to the ethical guidelines and professional standards established by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB).
    • Decision-making in ethical dilemmas and maintaining professional conduct.
  4. Measurement, Data Display, and Interpretation (MD)
    • Methods for measuring behavior, including data collection techniques.
    • Data analysis and interpretation to inform decision-making and evaluate intervention effectiveness.
  5. Assessment (AS)
    • Behavioral assessment techniques and tools used to identify and analyze behavior.
    • Functional assessment and analysis to determine the causes of behavior.
  6. Intervention (IN)
    • Designing, implementing, and evaluating behavior change interventions.
    • Utilizing evidence-based strategies and procedures to modify behavior.

Type of Questions

The questions on the BCBA exam are designed to test both theoretical knowledge and practical application. They include:

  • Direct Questions: These questions test your understanding of specific concepts and principles. For example, “What is the definition of positive reinforcement?”
  • Scenario-Based Questions: These questions present a scenario and require you to apply your knowledge to solve a problem or make a decision. For example, “A client exhibits self-injurious behavior when demands are placed on them. Which intervention strategy would be most appropriate to reduce this behavior?”
  • Ethical Dilemmas: These questions assess your ability to navigate ethical situations. For example, “You observe a colleague using a non-evidence-based intervention. What is the most appropriate course of action according to the BACB ethical guidelines?”

Preparation Tips

  1. Review the BCBA Task List: Familiarize yourself with the content areas and specific tasks that will be tested.
  2. Use Quality Study Materials: Invest in reputable study guides, textbooks, and practice exams that cover the BCBA Task List comprehensively.
  3. Practice with Sample Questions: Use practice questions to get a feel for the format and types of questions you will encounter.
  4. Join Study Groups: Collaborate with peers to discuss complex topics and share insights.
  5. Gain Practical Experience: Engage in supervised fieldwork to apply theoretical knowledge in real-world settings.


The BCBA exam is a comprehensive assessment that covers a wide range of topics within Applied Behavior Analysis. Understanding the structure and content of the exam is essential for effective preparation. By familiarizing yourself with the BCBA Task List, practicing with sample questions, and gaining practical experience, you can approach the exam with confidence and increase your chances of success.

Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top