Dana Do’s: SAFMEDS or Flashcards? How to Choose the Tool Most Effective for You

If you are wondering what study aids may best best to help learn all the material for the BCBA/BCaBA exam, its best to know what kind of learner you are and go from there. First and foremost, there isn’t a one size-fits-all formula or solution. While there are empirically validated learning processes, like Bloom’s taxonomy, for example, it may not be right for you. For the purpose of focusing on tools, lets discuss SAFMEDS and flashcards to help you to decide which one would be best for you.

Any sort of a study card is a more portable and condensed study tool. It’s also very convenient. We already have textbooks and journal articles with the comprehensive explanations and the supportive research. We have the PTB Study Manual (aka, the other “White Book”) to consolidate all the information in the literature. But with the cards, you get a more focused study activity. They are not designed or ever intended to be used instead of the literature. They should be used to supplement the comprehensive and more intensive activity.

SAFMEDS, which is an acronym for “say all fast minute each day shuffled”, typically require rote definitions and therefore, rote memorization. This is great for those who are good at, and benefit from, rote memorization. This is a well researched process, with a defined procedure to ensure that you do it right, such as a “fill in the blank” format, having short definitions, using small cards, timing the practice.

The problem is that some may misuse the SAFMEDS, which results in not truly understanding what they are memorizing. It is fundamentally a rote definition without context. Using SAFMEDS effectively requires that you have a high level understanding of ABA as a science and the exam content. You can offset by writing your own definitions. That’ll ensure an understanding of the content prior to memorization. In that case, creating the SAFMEDS content is also a learning activity.

Flashcards are a great solution for people who need context, individualized language, visuals, pneumonic devices. Flashcards provide learning with salient notes. With flashcards, you tend to have a larger sized card that leaves room for all of that nuance. The call to action is putting the ABA language into your own, brief words, surrounded by whatever effects will support your type of learning– things like lists, examples, doodles. Since the flashcard content is individualized, the exercise of creating the card is a study activity in its own right.

Finally, there is a third option. This is something new that PTB developed called FlashMEDS. The PTB FlashMEDS combine the rote definition of SAFMEDS with individualized active-learning of flashcards. It’s the best of both worlds for those who need rote clinical language with nuanced individuality. PTB FlashMEDS have rote SAFMEDS definitions on a small portion of the card, but since the card is the size of flashcards, there’s plenty of room left over for the individualized effects. This is a great solution if you want the textbook language coupled with your own salient extras.

With any of these tools, it’s important to be running through all of the cards repetitively. If you need a more variety, you can do a combo of any of these options. These tools are not mutually exclusive. You can choose more than one.

So there you have it. Three pretty solid activities, all of which also require repetition and time. I hope this helps you choose the one, or the ones, that are best for you.

Happy studying.

  • FlashMEDS
  • SAFMEDS
  • Study Manual
  • Related Content

  • 6 Science-backed tips to improve memory.6 Science-Backed Tips for Improving Your Memory
    The first part of those all-important MAC skills: memorization. Being able to recall information, facts, concepts, and terms is essential (that probably goes without saying). If you find your memory…
  • What kind of learner are you? PTB co-founder Dana Meller spells out the differences between flashcards and SAFMEDS, so you can pick the best study tool based on how you learn.Dana Do's: SAFMEDS or Flashcards? How to Choose the Tool Most Effective for You
    What kind of learner are you? PTB co-founder Dana Meller spells out the differences between flashcards and SAFMEDS so you can pick the best study tool based on how you learn.
  • Power through your exam prep with foods that fuel.Fuel Your Focus: 5 Foods That Help You Study
    Preparing for the BCBA® exam takes focus, stamina, and a whole lot of brain power. You’ve got to learn the entire Task List– from top to bottom– plus, the ethics…
  • Add to Cart: Shop PTB’s ABA Holiday Gift Guide
    PTB is making a list and you’ll want to check it out once (or twice). If you’re not sure what to put on your holiday wish list this year, PTB has the ultimate gift guide for ABA professionals and future BCBAs. Browse now and don’t forget to ask Santa, if you see him.
  • The Science Behind Gratitude
    Spoiler alert: it’s good for your mental, emotional, and even physical wellbeing.
  • Beat the Odds: Factors that Impact Performance on the BCBA® Exam
    Though the exam may be difficult, it’s not impossible to achieve a passing score. There are several ways students can improve their chances and beat the odds. The right preparation is essential.
  • The problem with rote memorization.Dana Do's: A Common Misconception About the Role of Memorization
    Memorization is a crucial skill, but it may not be enough to get you a passing score. PTB co-founder Dana Meller shares her insight into how rote memorization can create a false sense of confidence while offering tips to improve knowledge generalization.
  • Five tips to make your study space more soothing5 Science-Backed Tips to Make Your Study Space More Soothing
    #1 – Declutter to De-stress Fortunately, this first tip costs nothing. Unfortunately, it may require a bit of elbow grease. Organizing your study or work station can help you better…
  • Small Stack SAFMEDS
    Designed to build fluency and enhance generalization, the PTB Small Stack SAFMEDS contain 500 essential ABA terms and peer-reviewed definitions, representing full coverage of the Task List. Meticulously curated, written by co-founder Dana Meller (MA, BCBA) and peer-reviewed, each card features definitions that integrate relatable and clinical language to enhance rote memorization, alongside precise section numbers for easy navigation. Lightweight and portable, the custom box allows for easy transport, creating more opportunities to study anytime, anywhere. An ideal supplement to the PTB ABA Exam Study Manual, in its 11th year of printing. Discount/Promo Codes Not Applicable FREE SHIPPING (U.S. ONLY): Delivery within 7 – 10 business days. PRIORITY SHIPPING (U.S. ONLY): Delivery within 3 – 5 business days for an additional fee. Select USPS Priority at checkout.
  • How to Optimize MemorizationDana Do's: How to Optimize Memorization
    PTB Co-founder Dana Meller reinforces the importance of memorization and offers some practical, empirically validated tips for memorizing the task list.
  • Memorization, application and comprehension are key to building fluency.Dana Do's: Get Your M.A.C. Skills Together
    PTB co-founder Dana Meller offers a key to building fluency and BCBA® exam readiness. Memorization. Application. Comprehension.
  • Why You're Not Passing the BCBA® ExamDana Do's: Why You're Not Passing the BCBA® Exam
    PTB cofounder Dana Meller helps candidates retaking the exam consider a functional approach to defining the obstacles holding them back.
  • Advice for juggling life with exam prep.Dana Do's: BCBA® Exam Prep Studying Tips
    PTB co-founder Dana Meller shares helpful tips about incorporating studying into your already busy lives.
  • How to Make Time for Studying for the BCBA® ExamDana Do's: How to Make Time for Studying for the BCBA® Exam
    PTB co-founder Dana Meller shares helpful tips about incorporating studying into your already busy lives.
  • You know what they say about making assumptions on the BCBA® exam.Dana Do's: The Problem With Making Assumptions on the BCBA® Exam
    PTB co-founder Dana Meller shares practical insight on the importance of approaching exam questions at face value.
  • Threats to Validity Exposed: When Misleading Data Plays Tricks on Your PerceptionThreats to Validity Exposed: When Misleading Data Plays Tricks on Your Perception
    Test your knowledge of measurement procedures with PTB co-founder Dana Meller as she explains, in detail, one of the threats to validity with several corresponding examples. Dana also shares a clever memorization study tip that will help you on the Big exam. Refer to BCBA® Task List (5th ed.) Section C-8: Evaluate the validity and reliability of measurement procedures.
  • Dana Do's: What is the Difference Between Trial-Based and Free-Operant Teaching Arrangements?
    Not too sure about discriminating between the different teaching arrangements? Not to worry. PTB founder Dana Meller is here to explain trial-based vs free operant procedures.
  • Dana Do's: All the Validities in ABA, Explained
    PTB founder Dana Meller helps connect each of the validities to the validity of this explanation.
  • ABA in Your Day-to-Day: Products That Use the Power of Behavior Principles
    The principles behind Behavior Analysis (ABA) are everywhere– if you know what to look for. It probably wouldn’t surprise a BCBA (or future BCBA) to know that ABA inspires everyday…
  • The PTB ABA Exam Study Manual: A Guide to the Other 'White Book'
    The PTB ABA Exam Study Manual has become a mainstay of BCBA® exam prep– and with good reason. Expertly written to break down the critical Task List information the BACB®…
  • Dana Do's: Tips for Exam Questions About Ethics
    There is a difference between ethical decision-making in practice, versus ethical decision-making on test question scenarios.
  • Dana Do's: Cracking the Ethics Code on Consent vs. Assent
    The ethics code asks behavior analysts to obtain informed consent before starting a treatment plan. But…what does that entail? PTB co-founder Dana Meller breaks down informed consent, assent, and the ethics elements you need to know. Refer to BCBA® Task List (5th ed.) Code Section E- 2.11 Obtaining Informed Consent
  • Get the Scoop: What You Need to Know About the BACB’s Transition to the 6th Edition
    You may have heard horror stories about the last BACB transition from the 4th to the 5th edition Task List. Not without good reason, too. The 5th edition brought changes to the supervision requirements, an increase to the number of test questions, and the introduction of the Ethics Code. Luckily, this time around won’t be such a shake up. Candidates caught on the cusp of this transition will be relieved to know that most of the updates are minor. Many find these transitions intimidating and overwhelming because they think they’ll have to learn an entire list of new information. Thankfully, that’s not the case. Think of it as more of a restructuring, rather than a total revamp.
  • What Is a BCBA® Certification and Why Get One?
    The Board Certified Behavior Analyst® exam (or, BCBA® exam) is a graduate-level certification in behavior analysis administered by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board® (BACB).
  • How Hard is it to Pass the BCBA® Exam? 
    The question every future BCBA® inevitably asks: how hard is it to pass the BCBA® exam? If you’ve heard the stories or seen the data, then you know the exam has a reputation for being difficult. Ask around and you’ll likely hear that it’s sort of like running a marathon. But barefoot, on broken glass, in a giant corn maze, guarded by storm troopers and you can’t remember where you left your lightsaber…oh, and your headphones just died. 
  • Dana's Do's: Struggling with ABA Jargon? Watch This.
    The clinical jargon of ABA can be one of the most intimidating parts of BCBA® exam prep. However, as PTB co-founder Dana Meller explains, understanding the source material like textbooks and literature— no matter how dense they may be— is imperative for exam day success.
  • It often feels like the board is asking candidates to study concepts you may never use in practice. PTB co-founder Dana Meller explains why that's actually inaccurate. The philosophical assumptions underlying the science of behavior analysis is so much more integral than just passing the big exam. Refer to BCBA® Task List (5th ed.) Section A-2: Explain the philosophical assumptions underlying the science of behavior analysis (e.g., selectionism, determinism, empiricism, parsimony, pragmatism).Dana Do's: What Do Philosophical Assumptions Got To Do With It?
    It often feels like the board is asking candidates to study concepts you may never use in practice. PTB co-founder Dana Meller explains why that's actually inaccurate. The philosophical assumptions underlying the science of behavior analysis is so much more integral than just passing the big exam.
  • Desk Yoga: 7 Stretches for Your Next Study Session
    Long days and even longer study sessions, can leave your back and neck feeling stiff. Luckily, PTB has just the thing: 7 desk-friendly, do-anywhere yoga moves. While it can’t replace your regular yoga routine, these stretches can help you reset your mind and body when you’re glued to your desk (or couch, or kitchen chair). 
  • 5-Foods to boost your brainpower when studying for the BCBA® exam5 Foods to Boost Brainpower While Studying
    #1 Green tea You’d be hard pressed to find an ABA student who isn’t reaching for caffeine in one form or another. Try sipping on green tea the next time…
  • PTB co-founder offers a new approach to reframing your mindset when answering questions on the BCBA® exam that may help you beat the odds.Dana Do's: What Would Cooper Do?
    PTB co-founder offers a new approach to reframing your mindset when answering questions on the BCBA® exam that may help you beat the odds.
  • What chaining methods to use on what behaviors.Dana Do's: What Chaining Method to Use When?
    The books don't really say much about what chaining methods BCBA's should apply to what behaviors. PTB co-founder Dana Meller breaks it down. Refer to BCBA® Task List (5th ed.) Section G-8: Use chaining.
  • What are the Markers of a Good Supervisor?Dana Do's: What are the Markers of a Good Supervisor?
    PTB co-founder Dana Meller identifies the markers of being a good supervisor. BCBA® Task List (5th ed.) Section I-8: Evaluate the effects of supervision (e.g., on client outcomes, on supervisee repertoires).
  • By examining BACB Task List verbs, you can actually determine the specific type of discrimination required in your BCBA exam studies.Dana Do's: Yes, verbs are clues that can help you prep for the BCBA exam
    PTB co-founder Dana Meller shares how the verbs used in the Task List can provide you with significant clues for effective studying. By examining task list verbs, you can actually determine the specific type of discrimination required in your studies. Learn how understanding these verbs can guide your preparation and better equip you for success on the big exam.
  • 6 Science-Backed Study Tips for Your Next Study Session
    Switch Up Your Environment Studying in a new environment has been shown to help improve memory and concentration levels. Try studying at a coffee shop, library, or a new spot…
  • PTB Study Essentials for BCBA® exam prepAdd to Cart: PTB’s Study Essentials
    When it comes to test-prep, you need the right tools for the job. PTB has compiled a must-have list of study supplies so you can stock up on your next…
  • How to decode the BACB® ethics code.Dana Do's: How to Decode the Code
    PTB co-founder Dana Meller suggests that memorizing the sections of the BACB® Ethics Code for Behavior Analysts will in fact help you make correct discriminations when prepping for the BCBA® exam.
  • Why Retaker Odds Are LowerDana Do's: Why BCBA® Retaker Odds are Lower
    There's a danger of studying only the score report. PTB co-founder Dana Meller offers insight on why it's important to study like a test virgin.
  • Freaking Out Over the BCBA® ExamDana Do's: That Feeling of Freaking Out Over the BCBA® Exam
    Everyone feels like they won't pass the BCBA® exam, not just you. PTB co-founder Dana Meller talks about the experiences her students share as they prep for the exam. And surprise surprise, you are not alone in feeling scared, dealing with the pressures of everyday life, and trying to negotiate so many variables. If that's you and you're struggling, the good news is that it's temporary. And the payoff, that is fantastic.
  • The Task List is a Jigsaw PuzzleDana Do's: Imagine the Task List is a Jigsaw Puzzle
    PTB cofounder, Dana Meller treats the task list like a puzzle, and so should you. Like a puzzle, all the task list items are interconnected. To be exam ready, you need all the pieces, and every piece needs to be in place.
  • Look at the World Behavior AnalyticallyDana Do's: Looking at the World Behavior Analytically
    Why should you look at the world behavior analytically? Because it will help you build ABA fluency.
  • Dealing with the Frustration of Missing the BCBA® Passing Score by a Few PointsDana Do's: Dealing with the Frustration of Failing the BCBA® Exam
    PTB cofounder Dana Meller offers some unsolicited advice for candidates who have experienced the frustration of failing the BCBA® exam by only a few points.
  • Shortcuts to BCBA® exam prep don't workDana Do's: Short Cuts Don't Work
    PTB co-founder Dana Meller talks about avoiding shortcuts in your exam prep. Becoming a BCBA® is not just about passing the Big Exam, it is about taking on a professional identity.
  • How to Know When You're Ready to Sit for the BCBA® ExamDana Do's: How to Know When You're Ready to Sit for the BCBA® Exam
    PTB co-founder Dana Meller talks about measuring exam readiness. How do you know if you’re ready to sit?
  • Why its Important to Speak ABADana Do's: The Importance of Speaking ABA
    PTB co-founder Dana Meller shares the importance of speaking ABA and being able to fluently read and understand the Cooper text in order to pass the big exam.
  • The ABC's of ABADana Do's: Understanding the ABC's of Behavior Used to Break Down Test Questions
    PTB co-founder Dana Meller shares how our ABA superpowers can be used to break down exam questions to organize BCBA® exam prep.
  • Put On Your BACB® Board HatDana Do's: Put On Your BACB® Board Hat
    Want to know what to study for the BCBA® exam? PTB co-founder Dana Meller reminds candidates that the exam is a knowledge assessment, not a skill assessment.
  • Use your BCBA® mock exam mistakes to assess how you test.Dana Do's: Use Mistakes to Assess How You Test
    PTB co-founder Dana Meller shares insights on how to use your mock BCBA® exam mistakes to assess and improve your test-taking behavior.
  • 5th Edition Study Manual (Current Version 2.2)
    Universally recognized as the “other white book”, the comprehensive PTB ABA Exam Study Manual organizes and breaks down the complete 5th Edition Task List, distilling the Cooper text (Applied Behavior Analysis by John Cooper, Timothy Heron and William Heward) to include all critical exam concepts. The Manual is structured for quick navigation, contextualized with situational and relatable examples, salient visuals, and detailed explanations. In its 11th year of publication, the Manual is widely regarded as an ideal study companion and ABA bible, proving valuable as a quick reference tool beyond the exam. Save $60 when purchased with the PTB Big Exam Prep Workshop. FREE SHIPPING (U.S. ONLY): Delivery within 7 - 10 business days. PRIORITY SHIPPING (U.S. ONLY): Delivery within 3 - 5 business days for an additional fee. Select USPS Priority at checkout.
  • Shopping Cart
    Scroll to Top