Thursday, July 5, 2012

Important Thoughts Regarding the Recent BCBA/BCaBA Exam Pass Rates

It's been about a week since the most recent cohort to take the BCBA and BCaBA certification exams have found out whether or not they passed.  I either personally know or know of a number of people who both passed and failed the exam this go around, and I've been putting together some thoughts on it.

I have seen a lot of people who are upset because they have not passed.  They have put a lot of time and effort into becoming certified.  Taken the required courses, done their supervision hours, spent countless hours studying the material.  I can understand being frustrated by failing, especially frustrated by the pass rate.  I see some saying, but that's not fair!  I have worked years towards this.  Some people question if it is unfair, or if it is too hard.  I'm not sure those are the right questions to be asking.

What we need to be asking is, do we think this version of the test is focusing on the right things, in the right ways?  Is the test too hard, or do the programs leading up to the test failing in some way in preparing the students for the exam, and more importantly to be behavior analysts?  Are the people who are passing the exam the kinds of clinicians who we want to be in positions to make important decisions about people who truly need our help?

These are very, very important questions.  I took the exam before the changes, so I have not taken the new test to be able to see what it focuses on, or how the questions are phrased.  What I do know, is that I see amazing therapists who both do well 1:1 with kids, but also put forth their greatest effort to apply the material they are learning to their own clients, both for the benefit of their clients and for their own understanding of the material.   I have seen this type of therapist FAIL the exam.  Multiple times.  I have seen other therapists who in all honesty aren't great with kids, aren't open to feedback, and who may be able to give definitions but would be hard-pressed to apply the concepts in a real life situation who have PASSED the exam.  I will be honest, it rather scares me to see some of the people who have passed the exam (even with the lower pass rate) and are going to be flung forth into the field, thinking of themselves and being treated as experts, when they have only the vaguest idea of what they are doing.

I believe that what we, as currently certified behavior analysts, need to ensure, is that we are putting our support behind those who will do the best job being behavior analysts.  People we would be proud to call our peers.  People who do not come out of the exam with a failing grade with a sense of entitlement lost, but with a positive attitude that they are going to focus on how they can better themselves and do better next time.  People who take personal responsibility for their results.  People who truly do everything they can, before taking the exam and after failing or after passing, to continue to better themselves.  People who take an active role, because our field is growing and evolving and just passing the exam and standing still is not enough.

The BACB made their standards stricter because they are trying to weed out the people who aren't genuinely good behavior analysts.  Our field cannot afford a high percentage of poor behavior analysts- it makes us all look bad.  I applaud the BACB in their continued tightening of standards in an attempt to ensure the incoming behavior analysts are of higher quality.  We need to continue to examine whether or not the steps taken by the BACB are serving the desired purpose.

I believe we need to have an ongoing dialog about where the standards are set to currently, whether or not incoming behavior analysts are meeting our own professional standards, and what, if anything, we can or should do to continue to fine-tune the certification process.  I would love to hear others opinions on what is going right, or what is going wrong.



  1. I have no problem taking the exam over and over my problem is that they are making a load of money every time we take the exam. 100.00 for an applictaion fee! Come on!!!! I can see 25.00 and Pearson vue 50.00 but 225.00 each time is nuts!!!

  2. I have no problem taking the exam over and over my problem is that they are making a load of money every time we take the exam. 100.00 for an applictaion fee! Come on!!!!

  3. Hi Kathryn,

    I would love chat with you via email in regards to the exam for the BcBa. I was wondering if you took the courses or actually received a degree in the field? I am starting my masters and I wanted to take the courses as well before the rules change. I would actually be finishing a month before the deadline if I take 3 classes at a time not including the ones to qualify for the exam. Am I setting myself up for failure? Thoughts? You can email me at I would really appreciate your insight :)