From Task List to TCO: A New Name and Content Update
Much like the bar exam covers the content a law student needs to know before entering the field of law, the BACB® Task List has long served as the guide to the knowledge and skills on which a student of behavior analysis will be tested before entering the field as a certified behavior analyst. The Task List — currently in its 5th edition — is revised periodically based on the needs and advancements within the profession. This guide will explore the changes from the 5th-edition Task List to the 6th-edition TCO.
In its February 2022 newsletter, the BACB® announced a change in name for the well-known Task List. Recoined the Test Content Outline (TCO), this new name is meant to "reaffirm the original and core purpose" of the task list as an exam content outline. The TCO, with one specific to each level of certification, refers only to the testable content of the BACB® exams. Additionally, from this point forward, the TCO will be revised independent of changes to the BACB Standards.
Task List 5th edition vs. Test Content Outline 6th edition: What Changed?
The 6th-edition TCO, the first to bear the new name, "describes the content that will appear on the BCBA® Certification examination beginning in 2025." Along with a new name, the 6th-edition TCO reflects the following changes:
- Nine tasks were removed
- Ten tasks combined into five
- Nine tasks separated into nineteen
- Thirteen tasks added
These changes represent a net increase of twelve tasks in the 6th-edition TCO.
Adapting to the Updated TCO: What it Means for Students
Students are naturally curious about the differences between the Task List and TCO, especially if their program focuses on the 5th-edition Task List. While the BACB® did not provide explicit information on removed, combined, or separated tasks, this should not be cause for concern or focus. Rather, attention should be paid to the thirteen tasks newly added to the 6th edition TCO.
Here is the full list of additions as outlined by the BCBA®:
- B.20 Identify the role of multiple control in verbal behavior.
- B.22 Identify ways behavioral momentum can be used to understand response persistence.
- B.23 Identify ways the Matching Law can be used to interpret response allocation.
- B.24 Identify and distinguish between imitation and observational learning.
- C.12 Select a measurement procedure to obtain representative procedural integrity data that accounts for relevant dimensions (e.g., accuracy, dosage) and environmental constraints.
- D.3 Identify threats to internal validity (e.g., history, maturation).
- D.6 Critique and interpret data from single-case experimental designs.
- E.2 Identify the risks to oneself, others, and the profession as a result of engaging in unethical behavior.
- E.8 Identify and apply interpersonal and other skills (e.g., accepting feedback, listening actively, seeking input, collaborating) to establish and maintain professional relationships.
- F.2 Identify and integrate relevant cultural variables in the assessment process.
- G.18 Evaluate emotional and elicited effects of behavior-change procedures.
- H.5 Plan for and attempt to mitigate possible relapse of the target behavior.
- I.3 Identify and implement methods that promote equity in supervision practices.
But my program covered the 5th edition Task List…
There is much concern from students who believe their educational program focused on the 5th-edition task list, leaving them ill-prepared for a 6th-edition. TCO exam. However, it's important to remember that the Task List/TCO documents are not intended to be outlines for educational programs. Instead, they serve as guidelines for the knowledge and skills that aspiring behavior analysts must master.
Educational programs in behavior analysis aim to provide students with a comprehensive understanding of the field. As a result, students may have already been exposed to the content from the updated TCO during their studies. If not, it becomes the student's responsibility to review the TCO and ensure they have mastered all tasks relevant to their exam date.
Moving Forward With Confidence
The 6th-edition TCO, and every edition hereafter, represent a vital step toward ensuring that certified behavior analysts are equipped with the most up-to-date knowledge and skills in the field. The transition from the 5th-edition Task List to the 6th-edition TCO may initially feel daunting, but with a clear understanding of the changes and a proactive approach to learning, students can feel confident in their knowledge and ability to complete the BCBA® exam successfully.