Debunking Myths About BACB Examinations

Debunking Myths About BACB Examinations

  1. An effective RBT, BCaBA, or BCBA examination is:
    1. Reliable
    2. Valid
    3. Fair
    4. Confidential and proprietary
    5. Informed by the practice of behavior analysis
    6. All of the above

Knowing the Terms

To better understand how the BACB develops and maintains examinations, it’s helpful to know these terms:

  • Criterion-Referenced: Criterion-referenced examinations measure success in relation to fixed requirements set by qualified professionals. The BACB’s examinations are criterion referenced.
  • Examination Blueprint: The purpose of an examination blueprint is to provide a structure for the content that will be covered in an examination. Essentially, it’s an overarching arrangement that precisely tracks how the different content components of an examination will be emphasized.
  • Psychometrician: An expert in the science of educational and psychological measurement who determines the reliability, validity, and fairness of a test or examination. The BACB works closely with psychometricians, subject matter experts (SMEs), and members of the BACB Board of Directors when establishing examinations.

7 Myths and Clarifications About BACB Examinations

There are many myths surrounding the way examinations are developed and maintained at the BACB. So, in the list below, we break down and debunk some of the most common myths about BACB examinations.

  • Myth #1. The BACB created the processes they use to develop and maintain examinations.
  • Clarification. The processes used for examination creation and maintenance are based on the best practices used in the measurement, assessment, and testing professions. These processes are widely accepted and practiced in the development of high-stakes examinations.
  • Myth #2. BACB staff members write examination questions.
  • Clarification. To create examination questions, the BACB consults a panel of SMEs who currently practice applied behavior analysis (ABA). The SMEs write and edit all BACB examination questions.
  • Fun fact: Over 100 SMEs helped write and edit BACB examination questions in 2019 and 2020!
  • Myth #3. The BCBA and BCaBA examinations are the same, but the BCBA examination has 20 additional questions.
  • Clarification.. Although the BCBA and BCaBA examinations are similar due to the overlap in their content and practice requirements, each set of certificants must be tested on this content at a different level of understanding. SMEs who help write and review examination questions are trained to account for the different levels of performance necessary to practice at each certification level. So, while the BCBA and BCaBA examinations may share similar content, they do not share questions.
  • Myth #4. The comments testers write will impact their examination scores.
  • Clarification. Examination comments do not impact the score a tester receives on their examination. In fact, the comments testers write are only used if a question is reviewed by SMEs at a later time.
  • Myth #5. Some examination questions have more than one right answer.
  • Clarification. While multiple answers to an examination question may seem correct, there is only one best answer. This is because each question is designed to differentiate between individuals who fully understand the content and those who do not. So, in some cases, subtle details make the difference between a good answer and the best one.
  • Myth #6. Examinations get harder with each retake.
  • Clarification. Every BACB examination adheres to the difficulty established by a base examination. Each base examination is developed alongside every new version of the examination blueprint and then approved by the Board of Directors. All following examinations developed by the BACB Testing department are statiscally equated to the base examination before they are administered in Pearson VUE testing centers.
  • Myth #7. The BACB examinations are norm referenced (i.e., they measure success in relation to a group with like characteristics rather than a set standard).
  • Clarification. Every BACB examination is criterion referenced. Criterion-referenced examinations measure success against a fixed standard that was established by a panel of experts using a formal process. This standard does not move or change regardless of the testing group’s characteristics (e.g., training quality, skill level). For example, an entire group of individuals taking the examination on the same day might all pass—or they might all fail. The test taker’s score really depends on the quality of training that they received, not on the skill levels of the other people taking the examination at a given time.

Bonus question: Why don’t we provide scores to individuals who pass the examination?

Many certificants who pass the RBT, BCaBA, or BCBA examination ask to see their raw score afterwards; however, the BACB does not provide raw scores. This is because our examinations are designed to put candidates in two categories: those who have learned enough to safely practice ABA and those who haven’t. Anyone who passes an RBT, BCaBA, or BCBA examination is qualified to practice at their relevant level of certification. So, while we don’t provide your numeric, raw scores after you pass a BACB examination, rest easy knowing that you have met the minimum requirements to practice as a certified RBT, BCaBA, or BCBA.

For more information about BACB examinations, listen to Episode 12 of the Inside the BACB podcast. Happy testing!

Episode 12: Myths and Misconceptions About Examination Development

In this episode of Inside the BACB, Director of Testing and Accreditation Kyle Jordan and Deputy CEO Dr. Melissa Nosik do more than debunk common myths and misconceptions surrounding BACB examination development. Tune in to find out who writes examination questions, how success is measured, why the BACB doesn’t provide raw scores to those who pass the examination, and much more.

Resources:
Examination Information Page
Pearson VUE’s website
Subject Matter Expert (SME) Information

For a transcribed version of this episode, please watch the episode on our YouTube channel with closed captions.

The BACB: What It Is, What It Does, and Why

The BACB: What It Is, What It Does, and Why

It doesn't matter if you have been a BACB certificant for many years, are newly certified, or are just starting to explore becoming a practitioner in behavior analysis—it is likely that you have a number of questions about the landscape of the applied behavior analysis (ABA) profession. There are many reasons for this, but chief among them is that ABA is a relatively new profession, with professional credentialing only existing for a few decades. This is where the importance of understanding the role of the BACB in the profession comes in.

The BACB was established in 1998 to meet the credentialing needs of ABA practitioners, governments, and consumers of ABA services. In the BACB's early years, its certification programs grew consistently but slowly. In its first 13 years, the BACB certified 10,000 individuals. In the last seven years, this number has grown to more than 100,000 certificants! In addition, since 2009, 31 states have passed laws to license behavior analysts. These developments mean that professional certification and the credentialing of ABA practitioners are relatively recent events, about which many people have questions. These include: What is the BACB's role? What is credentialing and why is it important? Why can't the BACB speak for behavior analysis? Why are there so many acronyms!?

While we can't address every question, we hope to answer a few.

What Is The BACB?

The Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) is:

  • A nonprofit organization — The BACB was founded in Florida as a nonprofit corporation in 1998 and has 501(c)(3) tax–exempt status from the IRS. Both of these legal and regulatory frameworks place important limits on BACB activity.
  • A credentialing organization — The primary function of the BACB is to operate certification programs, similar to a regulatory entity. In this role, the BACB provides practice requirements, an ethics code, and a disciplinary system designed to protect consumers, among other certification–program activities. In this capacity, ABA practitioners must interact with the BACB regularly to maintain their certification.

What Is Credentialing and Why Is It Important?

As mentioned earlier, the BACB's certification programs exist as a regulatory–like mechanism to protect consumers of behavior–analytic services. To protect consumers, the BACB establishes entry–level eligibility standards for education and training AND provides a mechanism to discipline behavior analysis practitioners who violate their ethics code.

Professional Credentialing

Credentialing is vital to behavior analysis because of the particularly vulnerable populations that a majority of behavior–analytic practitioners serve. Without credentialing, how would we know who is qualified to enter the profession and who isn't?
Two of the many differences between private certification and government–issued licensure are highlighted in the boxes below because these are the two primary ways behavior analysts are credentialed to practice.

Private Certification (BACB)

  • Voluntary
  • Disciplinary enforcement is limited to those who are certified by the BACB and the consequences are limited to revocation of certification.

Licensure (31 states)

  • Mandatory
  • Disciplinary enforcement may be enacted upon anyone practicing, with or without a license, and consequences include substantial fines and possible incarceration.

 

In ABA, practitioners who obtain certification by the BACB have a great deal of mobility because their certification will meet licensure requirements in almost any state with licensure for the practice of behavior analysis. For more information about US state licensure, please refer to the BACB's US Regulation of Behavior Analysts or visit APBA's Licensure and Other Regulation of ABA Practitioners webpage.

NCCA Accreditation and Consumer Protection

All three of the BACB's current certification programs are accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). The BACB must adhere to NCCA–established processes, similar to the way BACB certificants and applicants must meet BACB requirements.

Using the NCCA processes, the BACB convenes groups of subject matter experts (SMEs) to evaluate and potentially revise requirements for each BACB credential. SME recommendations are then voted on by the BACB Board of Directors before they are adopted. Through this process, the requirements change as needed to ensure greater consumer protection through standards that accurately reflect the ever–evolving practice of behavior analysis. As usual, everything comes back to consumer protection.

For anyone interested in a little more reading about the processes that are used by the BACB to develop standards and examinations, they are outlined in a number of our publications and can be found on our Resources webpage. In addition, you can give us feedback if you have suggestions for future SMEs to consider as they revise requirements in the future.

What Is the BACB's Role in The ABA Profession?

The major professional organizations in ABA have very specific missions and roles and substantial limitations on their activities from various sources. These limitations include state laws where the organization was founded as a nonprofit, IRS rules, and for the BACB, our NCCA accreditation requirements. Let's start with the role of the BACB.

To recap, as we mentioned earlier, the BACB's job is to credential practitioners of behavior analysis and to coordinate with regulatory authorities. Although we are sometimes called upon to engage in advocacy and political and social commentary, our involvement in these activities is necessarily restricted by some of the entities mentioned earlier. In our regulatory–like role, the BACB is prohibited from engaging in political activity and has very strict limitations on its acceptable activities. That said, a number of the questions we receive indicate that some think of the BACB as a professional membership association, with flexibility about our public behavior. This is just not true. Although we sometimes wish we could engage in a broader array of advocacy activities, we have a very limited role in ABA—again, due to restrictions imposed upon us by certain legal statutes and IRS rules. It's useful to think about the BACB as similar to a licensure board, since we serve a similar and often interrelated regulatory function. It is notable to mention here that other professions may have certification boards that look like the BACB in function but are regulated differently under law and IRS rules, which allows them greater flexibility than the BACB. We know that this makes understanding our limitations pretty tricky!

A professional membership association is charged with representing the interests of its members and speaking on behalf of a profession. The BACB doesn't have members; we have certificants. Fortunately, ABA has a number of state, provincial, and national professional associations to serve the membership role.

Two major professional membership associations in behavior analysis are the Association of Professional Behavior Analysts (APBA) and the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI). These organizations were established to provide different services than a certification board and are permitted much more flexibility in their permissible activities, including making public statements and taking a stand on social issues. We strongly encourage our certificants to become members in their state and national professional associations if they have not already. In fact, at the very beginning of a certificant's professional experience, we send a welcome letter encouraging them to join and become involved in their relevant professional associations. The professional membership associations are permitted to engage in a wide range of important activities. They are truly the voice of behavior analysis and have the primary obligation to represent our profession.

Because the BACB cannot speak on behalf of the profession of behavior analysis, we hope all certificants and practitioners join their state and national professional membership associations. Together, membership associations, the BACB, and, most importantly, behavior analysis practitioners and stakeholders can work to improve the discipline of behavior analysis.
If you're interested in hearing more about this topic, check out Episode 11 of the BACB's podcast, Inside the BACB.

Episode 8: The COVID-19 Pandemic: A March 2020 Update

In this episode, Drs. Jim Carr and Melissa Nosik discuss BACB resources and guidance available to certificants in the face of the COVID–19 pandemic, and provide an update on important testing activities.
Resources:
COVID–19 Updates from the BACB
OnVUE Online Proctored Examinations

For a transcribed version of this episode, please watch the episode on our YouTube channel with closed captions.

BACB Examinations at Pearson VUE

August 12, 2020 Update:

Pearson VUE testing center availability has been changing on a daily basis due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, many testing centers that have opened are operating at a reduced capacity to implement social distancing measures (including the required use of masks). For the latest information regarding Pearson VUE testing centers and availability, please visit the Pearson VUE website.

Individuals who held an examination authorization in May 2020: We extended the expiration date of your examination authorization due to Pearson VUE testing center closures during the entire month of May 2020. If you did not receive an extension and held an examination authorization during that time, please review the Administrative Appeals Policy and file an appeal.

We continue to monitor this situation closely. To reach a customer service representative, please use our online Contact Us form.


 
April 27, 2020 Update: On May 1, 2020, Pearson VUE will begin reopening testing centers in areas that permit operation. Testing centers will open at a reduced capacity in facilities that can be equipped with appropriate social distancing measures (including the required use of masks). Please visit the Pearson VUE website for further details and scheduling.


March 18, 2020 (Modified August 12, 2020)

On March 16, 2020, Pearson VUE made the difficult decision to close all Pearson VUE–owned testing centers in the U.S. and Canada for a minimum of 30 days in response to the COVID–19 pandemic. Many other countries have closed their testing centers as well. For the latest information regarding Pearson VUE testing centers, please visit the Pearson VUE website.

Pearson VUE's decision was primarily based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which now recommends that no more than 10 people congregate in the same physical space in an effort to help contain the COVID–19 pandemic. We understand the closure of Pearson VUE testing centers presents a hardship for our certificants and consumers of ABA services. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and provide guidance to all those unable to test in the weeks ahead.

Individuals who hold a current examination authorization: We will extend the expiration date of your examination authorization by the number of days Pearson VUE testing centers are closed and you are unable to test. If you receive an automated email from the BACB that includes the date of your authorization expiration (e.g., reminders, expiration notices), please be aware that date will be adjusted once we know when Pearson VUE testing centers will reopen. Should your examination authorization expire during this period, we will reinstate it based on the number of days testing centers are closed and you are unable to test. This applies to all BACB testing candidates regardless of location.

Individuals who have submitted or will soon submit a BACB certification application: We will continue to process applications. If your application is approved, please disregard the examination authorization expiration date you receive in your approval email from the BACB. We will adjust the date your examination authorization expires once we have more information regarding the availability of testing.

We continue to receive inquiries about potential modifications to our standard testing practices, including whether candidates may test at other venues or in a remote environment. Because the BACB contracts solely with Pearson VUE, testing at other venues is not permitted. It is also likely impossible given that many other testing vendors are closing in response to the COVID–19 pandemic. Finally, due to our stringent examination security requirements and standards, we are unable to offer remote examination delivery at this time.

Again, we will continue to monitor this situation closely. While we have implemented remote operations to ensure the health and safety of all BACB employees, we remain operational and continue to process applications and respond to emails. To reach a customer service representative, please use our online Contact Us form.

BACB Examinations at Pearson VUE

Effective March 16, all Pearson VUE testing centers in the U.S. and Canada are closed in response to the COVID–19 pandemic. The BACB recognizes the hardship this will cause our applicants and consumers of ABA services. We offer guidance for candidates currently authorized to test or those who have submitted — or will submit — a certification application.

COVID-19 Update from the BACB

March 18, 2020 Update: In response to the COVID–19 pandemic, Pearson VUE has closed all its testing centers in the US and Canada. Please visit the Pearson VUE website for the latest updates and to reschedule your BACB examination for a later date. You can cancel up to 24 hours before your scheduled examination without being charged a cancellation fee.


March 17, 2020 (Modified August 12, 2020)

The COVID–19 pandemic has implications for every aspect of society. Given this unprecedented situation and the impact it will continue to have on our certificants, clients, families, and trainees, we are offering the following information for BACB certificants and trainees in a number of areas related to our requirements.

Experience, Fieldwork, and Supervision for Trainees, RBTs, and BCaBAs

Our certification requirements were developed to provide flexibility in how they are met across a variety of conditions. In special circumstances, however, we have a compassionate–exception appeals process in which reasonable deviations that still meet the intent of our requirements may be accepted. This process may include greater leniency around specific requirements that involve interactions with clients (e.g., number of trainee- or RBT–client observations, minimum number of experience hours in a month). It is particularly important that you keep detailed documentation in the event you are subject to a BACB–requirements audit. That documentation should include information about how the pandemic impacted your services, supervision, etc., and the steps you took to try to meet the requirements. Finally, we encourage every BACB certificant and trainee to seek guidance from their supervisors about how supervision and service delivery might be impacted in the weeks ahead. Please see the “Temporary Allowances for Experience/Fieldwork and Competency Assessments” COVID–19 update for more information.

Examinations

Pearson VUE has implemented additional safety procedures and is providing regular updates to ensure the safety of our candidates. Remember that all BACB examinations are available on demand and you can schedule your examination for a later date. Additionally, you can cancel up to 24 hours before your scheduled examination without being charged a cancellation fee.

Continuing Education

The number of recent conference cancellations and the use of social distancing measures might impact how some of you with upcoming recertification dates were planning to obtain continuing education. Although we can't recommend specific continuing education providers, please note that there are many options available online. In addition, the new CEU requirements implemented in January 2020 no longer restrict types of CE activities, so some of you might be able to earn CEUs from other sources.

Application Submissions

Because mail service and processing may be impacted by changes to delivery timelines, the more information you submit electronically, the better.

Finally, we have implemented measures to ensure the health and safety of our employees, including remote work for employees beginning on March 17th. Although we have discontinued phone–based customer service during this period, we will continue to process applications and respond to emails. To reach a customer service representative, please use our online Contact Us form.

Continual BCBA and BCaBA Certification Exams Launch on Feb. 1

Following extensive testing to ensure that our systems are optimized, we're pleased to make the official announcement: As of Feb. 1, BCBA and BCaBA examinations will be offered on a continual basis. Applicants will not have to wait for testing windows to take their certification examinations once authorized. Additionally, BCBA and BCaBA applicants will get their results immediately at the testing center upon completing their examination. Visit our Examination Information page for more information. You can also learn more about these changes by reading the BACB blog or listening to the Inside the BACB podcast.

BCBA and BCaBA Exams: Immediate Results and Year-round Availability

BCBA and BCaBA Exams: Immediate Results and Year-round AvailabilityConvenience and immediate results: We seek both in virtually every aspect of our daily lives – from our food and entertainment to our transportation. Now you can expect these same qualities in your BCBA and BCaBA certification exams.

Following extensive work to ensure that our systems are optimized, we will move to continual testing on Feb. 1, which means that those of you seeking BCBA and BCaBA certification will not have to wait for testing windows to take your exams. Once you apply for certification and your application is approved, you’ll be able to schedule your certification exam as soon as you receive your "authorization to test" email (typically within 24 hours of your application being approved). This means that YOU pick a time, date, and location that works for YOU.

And, if that’s not enough to get you excited, when you take your BCBA or BCaBA certification exam, you’ll get the results BEFORE you leave the testing center. You read that correctly: When you walk out the door, you’ll know whether you’re certified or whether you have to retake the exam. If you pass the exam, your certification is effective immediately (woo hoo!) and you’ll find your certification number in your BACB account within 24 hours. If you fail the exam, you’ll be able to start planning your retake right away: The retake application will be available in your BACB account within 24 hours, and once your completed application is authorized, you can sit for the exam 30 days from the date of your last attempt. That gives you plenty of time to study and prepare.

Why Now?
Given our excitement about these changes, many of you may be asking, "Why didn’t the BACB offer continual testing and immediate exam results before now?" Well, we did – but only for our RBT certification exam. With the dramatic growth of the profession in recent years – and the number of you applying for BCBA and BCaBA certification – requests for greater flexibility in scheduling those exams have increased exponentially. Similarly, our growth as an organization means that we now have the psychometric infrastructure to make these changes without impacting the quality of the BCBA and BCaBA exams.

Our ability to provide you with your score report before you leave the testing center is tied to how we now equate our exams – or in simpler terms, how we ensure our exams are fair and valid. Historically, we used a post-equating model to analyze exam data in order to ensure fairness and validity. It recently became possible for us to implement a pre-equating model, however, something that enables us to perform data analysis earlier in the testing process, which means immediate results for you.

Keep In Mind
When you can take the BCBA and BCaBA certification exams may have changed, but their look, feel, format, and rigor has not, nor has the overall testing experience or our stringent security standards.

Another thing that hasn’t changed is how many attempts you have to pass the certification exam: You still have eight chances to take and pass the exam within a two-year period after you’re authorized to take it. Like before, we urge you to prepare for each exam attempt you make. If you fail the exam, use your score report to identify the areas in which you need additional study time – or training or fieldwork – for your next attempt. The bottom line is, if you use all of your eight exam attempts before the end of your two-year authorization period, you’ll have to wait for that period to end before you can reapply for that certification. And anyone authorized to take the BCBA or BCaBA exam on January 1, 2020 or later has a two-year authorization that will expire after the transition to our 5th edition standards on January 1, 2022. This means that if you don’t pass your exam within your two-year authorization window, you’ll have to reapply for certification under the new standards, which entail additional coursework and fieldwork requirements.

While this rarely happens, if you’re authorized to take the BCBA certification exam and you use all eight exam attempts before the end of your two-year authorization period, you have the option of applying for BCaBA certification. Perhaps you’re not quite ready to practice as a BCBA and need a bit more training and experience in behavior analysis. If you apply for and pass the BCaBA certification exam, you can start working in the field and preparing yourself to become a BCBA. Should you take this route, you will have to reapply for BCBA certification and meet the requirements applicable at the time you reapply.

One final thing to consider: Now that certification application deadlines and testing windows have gone out the . well, window, it will be harder to predict when busy application periods will be throughout the year. You may apply during a period when we happen to receive a high volume of applications, which means it will take us a little longer to review your application than it would if you applied during a low-volume period. To be safe, allow up to 45 days for your application to be processed. As always, you can visit our Customer Service page for the latest on application processing times.

Want More Information?
We hope you’re as excited about the changes to our BCBA and BCaBA testing as we are. We’re SO excited, in fact, that we dedicated an entire episode of the Inside the BACB podcast to this topic for your listening pleasure. Additionally, everything you need to know about these changes is available at bacb.com, the official source of information for everything BACB.

Happy testing!

All BACB blogs are intended for general information only. Readers should refer to bacb.com for the most up-to-date information regarding BACB policies, standards, and requirements as blog content does not replace or supersede this information. All BACB blogs are the property of the BACB and may not be commercially reproduced or edited in any medium.