Dana Do’s: A Trick to Help Dissect BCBA® Exam Questions on Experimental Designs

Experimental design tends to trip lots of people up. Here’s an exam trick for breaking down questions about experimental design. But first, a caveat: please take the time to study and understand the main designs. While this trick is going to help you dissect questions, maybe even answer some questions correctly, it is not enough to make you fluent.

Visualize and memorize three defining features of each design: How many independent variables does the design test? How many dependent variables does the design measure? What is this design used to do? That’s easy enough. Then be sure to include these features on your whiteboard, even during practice tests.

  • Reversal or withdrawal designs: one IV, one DV. Used for proving that the IV is responsible for the changes to the DV.
  • Multi-element design: two to four IVs, one DV. Used for quickly comparing the effects of several procedures on one behavior. Also, this is the design that we use for functional analysis.
  • Multiple baseline design: one IV, two or more DVs. Use for looking at the generalizability of one IV across the different behaviors, different subjects, or different behaviors of one subject, or the different settings in which a behavior might occur.
  • Multiple treatments reversal: one or more IVs, one DV. Use for proving and comparing the effectiveness of more than one IV.
  • Changing criterion design: one IV, one DV. Use for showing how criteria can control responding.

Now, make sure to take some time to understand and visualize these features. When you have an experimental design question, break down the question by plugging in these features: How many IVs? How many DVs? And what is the purpose of the experiment in the scenario? Chances are, considering the number of IVs and DVs, and the purpose of the experiment will help you get closer to a correct answer.

  • D-5   Use single-subject experimental designs (e.g., reversal, multiple baseline, multielement, changing criterion).
  • Changing Criterion Design
  • Experimental Designs
  • Mini Mocks D
  • MiniBig C D F
  • Multi-element design
  • Multiple Baseline Design
  • Multiple Treatments Reversal
  • Reversal Design
  • Section D
  • Section D-5
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