Part 1 of the National Board of the
Dental Examiner is an eight-hour examination consisting of 400 questions
probing across a broad range of dental and biomedical knowledge. Studying for
this exam can be a laborious process enhanced by the infinite number of “resources”
marketed towards first- and second-year students. Knowing where and when to
begin is essential, and it can help dental students conserve their most
precious resource, time.
the task may appear daunting, remember that you have been preparing for this
exam for years. All of your classes in dental school are topics that will be
covered on the exam. The important part of board preparation is to schedule
dedicated time and set short and long-term goals while studying. While there is
no definite amount of time one needs to allocate to boards review, task
completion can vary from person to person. Therefore, be realistic with
yourself and have general goals set to determine what you need to accomplish
with this process.
order to establish a baseline, take a practice exam at least three months prior
to taking the real exam. This is preferably completed in one sitting (I
recommend a Saturday or Sunday), but can also be divided into two sections if
it seems too overwhelming (200 questions in the first sitting of 3 and a half
hours, and 200 questions in the second sitting of 3 and a half hours).
Afterwards, review the answers in detail by reading the explanations and take
note of your weaknesses and trouble zones in a notebook or computer. Reviewing
the answers may take a while, even two to three times longer than the exam
itself, so give yourself ample time.
you have a decent understanding of your strengths and weaknesses, begin to
spend time reviewing the material that you’re least sure about. Start with a
NBDE part 1 review book; I recommend First Aid. Use this as a guide to
structure your studying around key concepts. Then, tap into other detailed
resources and learn as much as you can about a system or discipline. Get to the
point where most of the information can become intuitive. Memorizing buzz words
and whatnot is a complete waste of time. You may pass the boards, but all the
time spent will have been a complete waste.
The study material should flow from
your brain in an eloquent manner. The only way to establish this is to dive
deeper: learn why something behaves the way it does and ask how certain tidbits
are related to each other. This is a thinking person’s profession and the board
reflects it. Half of the exam is recalling information and the other half is
being able to play with it and come up with a logical conclusion.
once you’re all through studying, take a final practice exam a week before the
real thing. During the week before the exam, review some of the less intuitive
concepts and nuances that must be memorized. Don’t go too hard during this week,
however. Relax, exercise regularly and get ample rest while you study to ensure
that you have a clear mind before acing the NBDE!