Why Programs Have Such Different Bench Tests

Items tested for the bench test to acquire a seat in an Advanced Standing Program vary greatly – some schools have no bench test at all while others let you know exactly what you’ll be tested on (usually 2-3 preparations). Finally, some schools ask for a variety of procedures starting from basic preparations to an endodontic access opening, wire bending and more. Most schools don’t disclose the tested items until the test day.


This brings up a lot of uncertainty and nervousness amongst applicants as well as the question: “How am I supposed to prepare for an exam when I don’t know what I’ll be tested on?”


That’s a fair question to ask, but it is likely to lead to much frustration and little fruitfulness.


To better prepare for any bench test, it would help to understand why programs testing expectations vary so widely, and why tests in general have become so much more sophisticated lately.

In this article we’ll be discussing the reason behind different testing styles, the general sophistication will be discussed in the next article in this series, which will be released in a few days.


To test on more items means more work from the school’s part – more planning and setup along with a lot of grading to do. True, this will also generate more money for the school from testing fees, but that’s really not why they’re holding complicated tests. They wouldn’t bother holding such tests if they weren’t very important to them. In most cases, schools use testing fees they collect to offset the costs of holding a bench test, not to make money from them.


Traditional dental students go through a lot of training during the first 2 years. Executing ideal preparations, wax exercises, and the various other items schools test you on with high standards are all part of passing the curriculum to become a third year student. From the third year on, there are different things to learn as well as start treating patients.


From the school’s perspective, to accept a student into the third year, they need to make sure that whoever they accept is ready for it from the start, meaning their skill and knowledge level is up to par with second year dental students. If a school needs to go back and help someone catchup, teaching them the techniques and skills they should have learned during their first and second year of dental school, that’s a waste of the school’s time and money.


This can sound offensive as we are already dentists abroad, but the reality is many dentists who graduate from other countries were never actually trained in ideal preparations, crown preparations, and so on. They may be amazingly skilled at extractions, much better than their traditional students, but there is a huge discrepancy in several other areas.


Depending on the structure of the program, schools will have more or less capacity to educate and train accepted foreign trained dentists. I know, you’re going back to school to learn and for the amount of tuition you’ll be paying it seems like they should happily teach everything you need to know.


But from their point of view, if they can find candidates that know how to do everything already from the start and will also pay the same tuition, they gladly give preference to those candidates.


The surprising reality is that the majority of the applicants don’t know how to perform a lot of  essential procedures. Depending on how much budget and capacity the schools have to spend on their Advanced Standing students – to teach and train them in things traditional students already know – they will test applicants with more or less complicated procedures for the bench test. So if their school is not designed to accommodate many international dentists, then it’s important for the school to only take in students that can follow along smoothly from the 3rd year curriculum. At the end it’s important for the school to have graduates with good skills because the alumni continue to represent the school’s reputation years down the road.


For programs that accept students based on space availability or only take in a small number of students of generally 5 or less, these programs tend to favor candidates that they don’t need to train much, thus making their bench tests more complicated in a variety of areas. On the other hand, schools with larger or more well established programs for international dentists generally have simpler bench tests – not that they’re that easy, but they are relatively easier.


The same goes with the other items that are included in the test – treatment planning, RPD designing, etc – the goal is to test applicants on things that matter to those particular schools. If RPD is taught to the traditional students during the first 2 years of curriculum, and the school’s clinic has a lot of patients that need RPDs, they need to make sure that you’ll know how to do them.


So that’s the deal with the huge range of different bench tests.


But have you also noticed that many well-established programs have started to give more sophisticated bench tests as well?


We’ll get into it in the next part of the series..


  1. https://www.yahoo.com/ April 22, 2014 at 3:02 pm - Reply

    Wonderful site you have here but I was curious about if you knew of any
    discussion boards that cover the same topics discussed here?
    I’d really love to be a part of community where I
    can get opinions from other knowledgeable people that share the same interest.
    If you have any suggestions, please let me know.

    • Dr. Alyssa April 22, 2014 at 11:43 pm - Reply

      We’re opening one very soon called DentistryUSA! Make a profile by April 27th, it will be closed to new members afterwards, and it’s free. http://dentistryusa.net

  2. Kristina September 17, 2013 at 9:18 pm - Reply

    Hey my name is Christina and I really really wann go back to school to become a dentist. On the other hand, I think about it how many year I should spend the fees and years.

    • Dr. Alyssa September 18, 2013 at 1:43 am - Reply

      Hey Kristina, it’s definitely a big decision because of the commitment the decision takes in terms of time and money. Make sure you’re ready to give your 100% before making the decision. Good luck!

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