Research Studies

The Impact of Training Modalities on Registered Behavior Technician™ (RBT)® Exam Pass Rate and Job Readiness

Health and Human Services
Research Studies

This study explored what training modalities and length of training are currently being used and which are best at preparing staff to pass the RBT Exam and to apply their new skills on the job.


In 2014, the Behavior Analyst Certification Board released its new front-line staff credential the Registered Behavior Technician ™ (RBT®). Within 4 years, the credential has grown to over 37,000 individuals (BACB, 2018). To obtain the credential it requires completion of 40 hours of training in ABA based on the RBT Task List, passing an RBT competency assessment delivered by a BCBA and passing the RBT exam (BACB, 2018). There are many ways to structure and present the 40-hour training. The Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) leaves the modality and training methods of that 40-hour training requirement to the discretion of the Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA) trainers and supervisors. This study explored what training modalities and length of training are currently being used and which are best at preparing staff to pass the RBT Exam and to apply their new skills on the job.


To learn about current practices and modalities of the 40-hour training, we developed a web-based survey and sent it to 2600 individuals who signed up for the Relias RBT training program and shared the survey through social media to attract a more diverse sample. We examined what training modalities they reported using and if they correlate with respondents pass rates. We also explored the perceived effectiveness of the different modalities in preparing for the RBT exam and for working with clients. We also examined the role of demographics including gender, age, region, education or length of training to see if any had an influence on pass rates


Of the 399 people who responded to the survey, 121 people had not passed the RBT exam yet. Of those 278 people who have taken and passed the exam, 246 of them passed the first time with a pass rate of 88.5% for our sample compared to the overall pass rate of 86.4% (BACB, 2018). There was no statistically significant difference between our sample’s pass rate and the overall pass rate reported by the BACB. Meaning, the group we sampled had similar overall pass rates reported by the BACB.

Demographics and Pass Rates. There was no statistically significant difference in pass rates by age, education level, region (in US or outside US), or the duration training received (40-75+hours). Interestingly, there was a statistically significant difference between men and women’s pass rates. For women (n=242), 90.08% passed on the first try compared to only 77.78% of men (n=36) who passed on the first try, p=.03). Based on this survey, the type of training modality was more significant than how many hours they received. It is also interesting that individuals with higher education (bachelors and master’s degrees) had similar pass rates as those with no college education.

Modalities. A one-sample t-test was used to compare the RBT pass rate for the combination of blended learned that was ranked by participants as most beneficial (face to face classroom training, coaching, and observation/shadowing; Table 2), and was significantly correlated with higher pass rates (Table 1), to the overall RBT pass rate for 2016 through March of 2018. Results showed that the pass rate for participants who were trained using this method of blended learning in addition to online training, was significantly higher (96.7%) than the BACB overall RBT pass rate for January 2016- March 2018 (87.5%), t(59) = 3.94, p < .001. While any combination of online training with face-to-face instruction followed by session observation and direct coaching may be the best formula for RBT exam pass rates (96.7%), participants felt significantly more prepared by the Relias RBT (p < .001) with 41% of learners reporting “I couldn’t have passed without Relias online training,” compared to only 16% of learners reporting “I couldn’t have passed without other non-Relias online training”.

Table 1. Correlation between blended learning modalities and RBT pass ratesKey: OTT- Online Training, F2F- Face-to-face classroom, Obs- Observation, RP- Role Play, Coach- Coaching
Type of Blended Learning Total N Percent Passed on 1st try p value
OOT_F2FObs 74 93.2 .14
OOT_F2FCoach 73 94.5 .06
OOT_F2FRP 69 92.8 .20
OOT_ObsCoach 103 91.3 .27
OOT_ObsRP 94 90.4 .47
OOT_CoachRP 104 90.4 .45
OOT_F2FObsCoach 60 96.7 .03**
OOT_ObsCoachRP 82 90.2 .46
OOT_F2FObsRP 55 94.5 .12
OOT_F2FCoachRP 59 93.2 .20
OOT_F2FCoachRPObs 46 95.7 .10

Social Validity of Modalities. Each modality of learning was rated, “To what degree did … prepare you for the RBT exam” by participants on a scale from 0 to 3, with 0 indicating “It didn’t help me at all” and 3 indicating “I couldn’t have passed without it.” Participants rated Relias online training, Coaching (2.14), Face to Face classroom training (2.06), and Observation/Shadowing (2.03). Table 2.

Table 2. Participants RBT Exam Preparedness Ratings
Type of Training Mean rating
Relias RBT 2.21
Online Non-Relias 1.93
Face to Face Classroom 2.06
Coaching 2.14
Role play 1.98
Observation/Shadow 2.03

As a caveat, we would like to report that this sample was a convenience sample and was not representative of the entire RBT training population with 91.4% of respondents using Relias RBT training. We welcome collaboration from other RBT training providers and researchers to replicate this study in a larger, more training diverse sample. Please contact [email protected].


Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) RBT Requirements. 2018. Retrieved from

Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) Certificant Data. 2018. Retrieved from

Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) RBT Exam Pass Rates. 2018. Retrieved from

Miles, N.I., & Wilder, D.A. (2009). The effects of behavioral skills training on caregiver implementation of guided compliance. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 42(2), 405-410


Emaley McCulloch M.Ed., BCBA

Vice President, Relias Institute, Relias

Elise Valdes PhD, MS

Director of Research, Relias


July 2018