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A complete study plan for your NBDE exams!

  • a woman studying with the article heading about NDBE exams

Hey everyone! At what step are you currently in achieving your dream to become a U.S. dentist? Whatever it is, I hope you are maintaining your passion and getting there step by step every day. A little progress each day adds up to significant results! Ready to ace your NDBE exams?

In this article, I will be explaining the importance of NBDE exams, the time needed to prepare thoroughly, some helpful materials and my personal suggestions about how to study. For anybody who is not motivated enough to stick to a study plan, this article will help you to get on track as I share my study plan here.

 

Why NBDE exams?

Passing the National Board Dental Examination (NBDE) Parts 1 and 2 is an essential requirement for initial dental licensure in the United States. The exams assess a candidate’s ability to understand and implement information from the basic biomedical sciences (NBDE Part1) and clinical sciences (NBDE Part2).

The first step you must take as an NBDE test taker is to define your individual goal for the examination. You can tailor your study style and intensity depending on your performance goals. Possible test-taking goals include:

  1. Purely Passing
  2. Acing the exam
  3. Evaluating your knowledge

Whatever your goal may be, it is important to consider it early on in your study period so that you can prepare accordingly.

I will be dealing about the particulars of NBDE part 1 and 2 in the subtopics below.

 

NBDE Part 1

The National Board Dental Examination (NBDE) Part 1 is a one-day exam that is composed of 400 questions from the basic sciences, taken over a seven-hour period.  About 20% of the test is grouped into testlets with an interdisciplinary focus and clinical application. The NBDE Part 1 is a pass/fail exam. A candidate’s total score is computed using the total number of correct answers selected by the candidate. The total score is then converted to a scale score. Candidates who achieve a standard score of 75 or higher get the status of “pass.”

The subject areas tested on Part 1 of the NBDE include:

  • Anatomic Science
  • Biochemistry/Physiology
  • Microbiology/Pathology
  • Dental Anatomy

Personally, I started studying during the latter half of my internship giving one hour a day for six months and 6- 8 hours a day during the last two months before the exam. Apply for the exam only when you have gone through the syllabus once and acquainted yourself with the content.

I would recommend giving yourself at least three months of intensive study to prepare for this exam, depending on your individual study habits. Some people may need more than three months while others can get it done in a much shorter time. In my opinion, it is better to study and learn some new things over a period of time rather than cram information in at the last minute. You do not want to be cramming for this exam!

a girl studying for NBDE exams

 

Study materials

There are plenty of materials available, but I would suggest sticking to one and supplementing it with other materials. Facebook groups can help you with discussing questions and downloading some compiled notes by other candidates. Here is the material I used:

  1. First Aid for the NBDE Part 1
  2. Dental Decks
  3. Released ASDA Papers
  4. Dental boards mastery app

Some other possibly useful materials could be

  1. Mosby’s Review for the NBDE Part 1
  2. Board Vitals
  3. Kaplan Lecture Notes and question bank

You have to choose the most effective combination that works for you. It is an individualized choice.

 

Study tips

The basic sciences tested on NBDE Part 1 could seem overwhelming. The following tips might help you to avoid burnout:

  1. Start early – Do not cram for this examination at the last minute, it would be of no help. This applies to all NBDE exams.
  2. Practice and practice – The importance of revision – I cannot emphasize this enough.
  3. Structure your study sessions – Keep your study sessions regular with scheduled breaks.
  4. Study with a partner – Challenge each other
  5. Start with those subjects which are easier according to you to create an initial interest.
  6. Do not jeopardize a healthy lifestyle at the cost of studying.

Here is the study plan which I followed during the last two months before taking my exam.

a table with a study plan defined for NDBE exams

 

Things to keep in mind

  • This study plan is a suggestion. Change it to fit your needs
  • Revise each topic in every subject at least three times
  • What you study in one week must be revised in the very next, else you will forget
  • A healthy diet and 8 hours of sleep is a must

Ready to continue with the NBDE exams?

 

NBDE Part 2

The National Board Dental Examination (Part II) is a seven (7) hour test period throughout two days.

Day 1 – 4 sections of 100 discipline-specific questions (400 questions, 80% of the exam)

Day2 – 100 case-based interdisciplinary questions (20% of the exam); for each case, a patient scenario/history is given and followed by a problem set of 10-15 questions.

The patient scenario will include:

  • Synopsis of a patient’s health and social history
  • Patient dental charting
  • Diagnostic radiographs when appropriate
  • Clinical photographs when appropriate

 

Your total score is calculated based on a standard score, which is converted from a total number of correct answers. The minimum passing score on the exam is a standard score of 75. The results are reported as pass/fail.

The areas covered on the NBDE Part II include:

  1. Operative Dentistry
  2. Pharmacology
  3. Prosthodontics
  4. Endodontics
  5. Periodontics
  6. Oral Pathology/Radiology
  7. Oral Surgery/Pain Control
  8. Orthodontics/Pediatric Dentistry
  9. Patient Management

a student preparing for NBDE

The good news about testing for Part II is that it is a lot more fun than studying for Part I! Part II is more conceptual and the information covered is more clinically relevant. It is definitely not a drag since you now have points of reference from clinical experiences. So let’s begin with the fun part of NBDE exams.

I took Part 2 four months after taking Part 1. Developing a timeline for taking these exams is an individual choice. The earlier you are done with your exams, the more time you will have to work on your application. I studied for two months intensively for NBDE Part 2. Following the same study plan as that for Part 1, I enjoyed preparing more for Part 2 since it is related to clinical skills. Two months were enough for me; you can take more or less time according to your study habits.

Study materials

The study material I used for NBDE Part 2 was:

  1. First Aid for the NBDE Part 2
  2. Dental Decks
  3. Released ASDA papers
  4. Tufts Pharmacology manual

Other supplemental materials for Part 2 are

  • Mosby’s review for the First Aid Part 2
  • Kaplan Lecture notes
  • Kaplan Question Bank

 

Study tips

Below are a few specific test-taking strategies that I followed for Part 2

  • Know key definitions very well
  • Look for ways to compare
  • Look for the keywords in each question
  • Practice thinking backward
  • Know when you are just clueless
  • Guess! No penalty for wrong answers
  • Organize your time
  • Take a timeout
  • Know when it’s okay to change an answer

 

An excellent way to increase your retention and facilitate your recall information is to be an active user of the material you are learning. Repetition makes memories. Each instance of recall produces a new memory trace, linking concepts and increasing the chance of recalling information in the future. The goal during preparation is not memorization but rather the development of the ability to process and apply the material you have studied in an integrated manner.

 

I hope the above information will prove useful to you in passing the NBDE exams. Stay focused on your goals and keep working hard.

What measures have you taken/ are taking to become a better test taker? We would love to hear some tips from you as well!

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