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15 Steps to pass the NBDE exam

The national dental examination in the United States for professionals and students in dentistry is called National Board Dental Examination (NBDE). Internationally-trained dentists must take the NBDE to get admission to advanced standing programs in dental schools in the United States. I would like to share a few tips on how to prepare and pass the NBDE exam.

At IDC, we have been asked multiple times to guide students for the NBDE, hence we thought that an article regarding this subject would be very useful. I passed both parts of the NBDE on my first attempt. I have guided many of my colleagues and fellow juniors in the past. I am sharing 15 tips from my personal experience to help you have a better understanding of the NBDE, and be able to pass it at your first attempt. 

NBDE exam for indian students

NBDE exam for Indian students

15 Steps to pass the NBDE exam

  1. Plan early as the first step to pass the NBDE exam.

    Create a timeline for your exams.  Make sure to apply in the application process early and do not just barely meet the deadline. CAAPID opens in early March every year; make sure you have everything ready by this time. There is no use in successfully clearing the exams but going past the deadline.

  2. Start preparing now.

    small effort made at the right time might save a calamity later on.” If you have a busy schedule and you are able to spare only an hour for studying, that counts too. Personally, I used to study about 2 hours during internship for 6 months and devoted about 10 hours, one month before the exam, since I had all that time to myself. 

  3. Try to correlate theory with practice.

    Whenever I would study a topic in dental anatomy, I would get a jaw model from the library and use it to study the cusps and fossas. It really helped me in clearing my concepts about occlusion. You can apply the same strategy for other subjects too.

  4. Make notes.

    For me, writing what I have read, reinforced the concept. This method makes learning easier since you are involving more of your senses. You can make notes either on the same book or designate a notebook just for this. Notes are also really handy for last minute review.

  5. Stick to one source and supplement it with many for the NBDE exam.

    There is no use in buying all the books and trying to read them all at once. You have to study smart. I used the First Aid for NBDE as my main source and supplemented it with Dental Decks, Mosby’s Review etc.

    National Board Dental Examination for indian students

    National Board Dental Examination for Indian students

  6. Solve as many questions as possible.

    The NBDE is an objective test. Hence, it is better to solve MCQ’s from multiple sources. Studying this way is much more fun.

  7. Time yourself.

    Take mock tests and make sure you are managing your time efficiently for the exam.

  8. Find a study partner.

    If you think you aren’t very self-motivated, seek help.  A study partner or a study group will help you in being more productive.  This will also be an opportunity for you to help each other in solving queries. There are a lot of Facebook groups for studying NBDE, if you join one, it’d be easier for you to find a study partner.

  9. Make a routine or a time table and stick to it.

    Research has proven that establishing a routine to meet your goals increases your chances of achieving them!

  10. Review and Review!

    There’s always room for you to improve when answering complicated questions! Continuously review the things you have difficulty in answering!

  11. Find your stress busters.

    Talk to you family and friends whenever you need inspiration. You’ll enjoy studying only when you are happy.

  12. On the day before the exam, Make sure you get a good night’s sleep.

    You have a long day ahead and to perform at your optimum potential, rest is a must.

  13. Have a good breakfast on the day of the exam.

    A healthy breakfast can give you the energy you need for long exams. For the scheduled breaks during the exam, make sure you also carry snacks that are high in calories to gain energy. Personally, I carried cookies and flavored soda.

  14. During the exam, take one question at a time.

    Don’t spend too much time on one question. When in doubt, go with your gut feeling. 

  15. Lastly, stay positive. (the most important tip on NBDE exam for Indian students)

    Efforts are awarded sooner or later. Even if you don’t make it the first time, it is not going to be the end of the world.

NBDE for indian students

NBDE for indian students

Passing the the NBDE exam for international students might be difficult for some but it is not an impossible task. Many have aced it and you can too if you are committed! If you need more information on the exam, check ADA’s site here 

I hope these tips are helpful for your journey in getting the ‘PASS’ status for your NBDE attempts. Do you have any question or need any specific guidance? Do let us know in the comments.

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