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Tips for the Big Day of a Dental Board Exam

Taking the National Board Dental Examination (NBDE Part I or II) is a big step, but there's no need to be nervous. Taking these testing tips to heart can help you stay calm and sit for the NBDE with confidence.

Calculate the time you have to spend per question - To ensure you have time to answer all questions, it’s helpful to do some quick math and understand 1) how many seconds you have per question, and 2) how many minutes you have for every 10 questions and then to pace yourself with this in mind.

Find the keywords – Important clues in the exam questions are presented as keywords. Focusing your attention on only what is important helps you to mute the background noise and link the clues to the answers. Remember that the questions are drafted by examiners who leave hints, whether intentionally or unintentionally, that can lead you to the correct answers.

Slow down - Often when someone goes into the NBDE, his or her anxiety level rises. It is a completely normal body mechanism because he or she is stepping into the unknown. The natural tendency is to rush through the exam and be concerned about not finishing in time. As a result, the mind skips words that could be critical clues leading to the correct answer. Rushing through questions in the exam is like trying to climb Mt. Everest without taking any supplies!

Play the true or false game - Have you ever made the mistake of not paying enough attention to the words “not,” “except,” or “false” in a question and then selected a “correct” statement when you were supposed to select an “incorrect” statement? This mistake is made commonly because the majority of the exam questions are about detecting the correct answer. Though your brain is trained to recognize and choose a correct statement, you may have to go against your natural instincts to increase your chances of passing a dental board exam.

Quickly skip questions you cannot answer - Do not waste time on questions you have trouble answering, as spending more time on them will not solve the problem. Instead, make an educated guess and move forward. Dental board exams can be very demanding and the clock is ticking. Since there are multiple answer choices for each question, your guess has a 20% to 25% chance of being correct—even greater if you can eliminate one or two potential answers. Save your precious time and tackle questions you can actually solve.

What other common dental board exam tips have you encountered that work for you?
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Tips for the Big Day of a Dental Board Exam

11:27 AM | Oct 27,2017
Great post! Although most of us have been in school for literally decades at this point, I'm incessantly amazed by the helpful exam tips I am still learning daily. We all experience different curricula styles, but none of us is exempt from the dental boards, so this outline is much appreciated as a standard set of tips. Having taken the NBDE 1 this past summer, I can attest that all of these points are sound advice! If I may add some tips from my own recent experience, I will summarize with the 3 P’s. Be Prepared- Many coaches use the mantra “Perfect practice makes perfect”, and this phrase is not just useful for aspiring professional basketball players. To speak to the writer’s point about pacing yourself and watching the clock, time monitoring starts weeks before you reach your exam center. Take all the time you need to learn and review the material, but I highly suggest taking a few practice exams or subject tests to evaluate your preparedness. Treat these as serious test runs; take the exam in a quiet, isolated location (libraries are great!), put your notes away, and really stick to your time constraints. If you don’t know already, this will give you an idea of how you react in test situations - do you misread questions at the end because you’re rushing? Do you get sleepy after lunch? Do you need to pack a jacket? All good things to learn before test day. Pay attention- As the author mentioned, the exam writers often leave implicit clues and hints in the question or answer choices to point you in the correct direction. If you find yourself constantly missing the “EXCEPT” or “NOT” in certain questions, use the highlighting features on the exam to emphasize keywords and phrases. Additionally, if you encounter a question that you know literally nothing about (spoiler alert: this is likely), try looking at the answer choices first. Chances are, 3 or 4 of them have something in common that one does not. This doesn’t always work, but sometimes it can at least get you thinking on the right track. Remain peaceful - Whether it’s knowing when to stop studying the day before (preferably a day and a half, but to each her own) the big day or remaining calm when you encounter 3 tricky questions in a row, it’s unspeakably important to remain calm. These exams test not just your knowledge, but also your endurance. I highly encourage you to take each break, whether or not you want to (but watch your time!). That short walk to the restroom or 7 minute nap at your seat may be the difference between you reading a few more questions correctly or making silly mistakes. Often times, students leave the exam feeling dejected and uncertain of the results. Know that if you studied efficiently and consistently, you can trust your preparation. You’re going to do great, and it’ll all be over before you know it! Best of luck to any students with dental boards coming up soon.