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Understanding the BCBA Task List

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BCBA Task List

BCBAs are in high demand as the Applied behavior analysis (ABA) field continues to rapidly expand. Behavior analysts are critical for the implementation of high-quality, ethical ABA therapy. BCBA certification is a big step in an ABA professional’s career trajectory. Earning this certification allows for increased opportunities and career advancement. If you’re an aspiring behavior analyst or just want to learn more, join us as we explore what it takes to become a BCBA, including mastering the BCBA Task List.  

What is a BCBA? 

A BCBA is a clinician with graduate-level education who specializes in the science of behavior within the ABA field. Behavior analysts analyze skills and behaviors, such as communication, social, and functional living skills. After conducting in-depth assessments and analyzing the results, they create and implement interventions to teach new skills and modify behaviors. The primary goal of a behavior analyst is to teach skills that will enable their learners to experience the highest possible quality of life. Approximately 75% of BCBAs work with individuals with autism, while others work in schools, clinical behavior analysis, within organizational behavior management (OBM), and other subspecialties.  

What are the Requirements to Become a BCBA? 

Becoming certified as a BCBA requires a combination of education, fieldwork experience, and an exam.  

The minimum requirements to earn BCBA certification include: 

  • A master’s degree 
  • Applied Behavior Analysis coursework 
  • 1,500-2,000 supervised fieldwork hours 
  • Passing the BCBA exam 

Learn more about the steps to become a BCBA here.  

What is the BCBA Task List? 

The BCBA Task List serves as the basis for the content behavior analysts need to know before obtaining certification. The BCBA exam questions are based on the Task List, requiring candidates to demonstrate knowledge of core ABA principles before becoming a BCBA.  

Currently, the exam consists of content from the 5th edition task list. However, starting in 2025, the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) will switch to the 6th Edition Content Outline. The following information covers the current task list and a brief overview of the differences between the 5th and 6th editions.  

Philosophical Underpinnings 

The first section, Task List Section A, covers the philosophical foundations of behavior analysis. This section entails tasks such as the philosophical assumptions of behavior analysis, radical behaviorism, and the dimensions of ABA. 

Philosophical underpinnings make up the smallest portion of the exam. Candidates can expect 6 questions from section A, making up 3.43% of the test.  

Concepts and Principles 

Section B of the task list covers key concepts and principles of ABA. This domain encompasses schedules of reinforcement, punishment, generalization, motivating operations, verbal operants, and several other concepts.  

This content area makes up a substantial part of the exam. Of the 175 questions, 32 are comprised of questions related to section B, making up 18.29% of the exam. 

Measurement, Data Display, and Interpretation 

Behavior analysts must deeply understand strategies for measuring behavior and displaying and interpreting data. Section C of the BCBA Task List covers this content area. Some tasks in Section C include establishing operational definitions, measuring temporal dimensions of behavior, and interpreting graphed data. 

Section C comprises 12% of the exam, with 21 total questions.  

Experimental Design 

Understanding experimental design is critical not only in research but also in applied work. Section D covers experimental design, with tasks such as distinguishing between internal and external validity and using single-subject experimental designs.  

12 questions of the BCBA exam include content from Section D. This accounts for 6.86% of the questions.  

Ethics 

Section E, ethics, starts the applications section of the exam, which includes more practice-oriented skills. The ethics domain of the Task List covers the ethical responsibilities of a behavior analyst, as found in the Ethics Code for Behavior Analysts

Candidates will find 18 ethics questions on the BCBA exam, accounting for 10.29%. 

Behavior Assessment 

Section F is all about behavior assessment. BCBAs must understand how to assess and interpret data to inform treatment recommendations. Tasks included in this domain involve describing the functions of behavior, conducting preference assessments, and analyzing functional assessment data. 

Questions concerning behavior assessment make up 10.29% of the exam, with 18 questions in this domain.  

Behavior-Change Procedures 

Behavior analysts use assessment results to inform behavior-change strategies. There are many ways to modify behaviors. Section G comprises procedures such as shaping, using differential reinforcement and token economies, and self-management strategies, among others.  

Section G is the largest content area of the exam. It encompasses 20% of the game, with 35 questions. 

Selecting and Implementing Interventions 

Section H covers the strategies for selecting and implementing interventions. This domain includes tasks such as identifying potential interventions based on assessment and scientific evidence, monitoring client progress, and collaborating with others.  

The BCBA exam includes 16 questions from section H, accounting for 9.14%. 

Personnel Supervision and Management 

The final domain of the BCBA Task List is Section I, Personnel Supervision and Management. This section includes tasks such as establishing clear expectations for supervisees, using a functional assessment approach to identify variables affecting personnel performance, and using function-based strategies to improve performance.  

Candidates can expect 17 questions regarding personnel supervision and management, making up 9.71% of the exam.  

Comparing the 5th and 6th Edition BCBA Task Lists 

The 6th edition BCBA Task List has some differences. It has the same 9 domains/content areas, with the exception of section A. Philosophical Underpinnings becomes Behaviorism and Philosophical Foundations in the 6th edition. Another difference is that in the 6th edition, the content areas are more evenly distributed. As we highlighted, the content areas of the 5th edition task list varied significantly. The smallest portion of the exam, philosophical underpinnings, makes up 3.43% of the exam, compared to the largest portion, behavior-change procedures, which make up 20% of the exam. In edition 6, this ranges from 5% in domain A (behaviorism and philosophical foundations) to 14% in domain G (behavior-change procedures).  

Some of the specific tasks within each domain have also changed. Candidates testing on the 6th edition Task List are encouraged to compare and contrast the task lists to understand the differences in depth.  

Final Thoughts 

Mastering the BCBA Task List is critical as you pursue a career as a behavior analyst. The task list encompasses the foundational knowledge behavior analysts need to be successful in their role. Mastery of the task list allows BCBAs to competently apply the principles of ABA to craft meaningful behavior change in the lives of their learners. Learn more about the requirements for becoming a BCBA and consider whether this is the career path for you.  


Our ABA solutions are designed to help ABA professionals and practices better handle scheduling, billing, documentation, data collection, and more. Schedule a demo to see how our BCBA-designed software improves the quality and delivery of ABA services. 


References 

Behavior Analyst Certification Board. (n.d). BACB certificant data. Retrieved from https://www.bacb.com/BACB-certificant-data

Behavior Analyst Certification Board. (2017). BCBA task list (5th ed.). Littleton, CO: Author. Retrieved from  

https://www.bacb.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/BCBA-task-list-5th-ed-230130-a.pdf

Behavior Analyst Certification Board. (2023). BCBA Test Content Outline (6th Ed). Retrieved from https://www.bacb.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/BCBA-6th-Edition-Test-Content-Outline-231221-a.pdf  

Behavior Analyst Certification Board. (n.d.). Board Certified Behavior Analyst Handbook. Retrieved from https://www.bacb.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/BCBAHandbook_231227-a.pdf 

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