The National Board Dental Examination is a two-part test given to dental students. Part one covers science basics, including anatomy and dental anatomy, biochemistry, microbiology, occlusion, pathology and physiology; it is taken in the first or second year of dental school. Part two covers clinical dentistry subjects including endodontics, operative dentistry, oral pathology, oral surgery, orthodontics, pain control, patient management, pediatric dentistry, periodontics, pharmacology, prosthodontics and radiology. Part two is taken in the third or fourth year of dental school. Studying for the exam is a months-long process.

Step 1

Set up a study schedule. According to a study done by the University of Texas Health Science Center, the best predictor of performance on the NBDE, both overall and in the individual sections, is the test-takers overall grade point average and grades in the classes corresponding to each section. Make a schedule beforehand that has you spending more study time on the class subjects that were the most difficult for you and in which you achieved the lowest grades. Include breaks in your study schedule so you don't burn out before the test.

Step 2

Read the most up-to-date textbooks and study guides. Study a first aid for the NBDE book, an NBDE review book and textbooks from your dental classes. Use additional books found at your school's medical library if needed.

Step 3

Study with the "Dental Decks" flashcard system. Use the flashcards alone or with a study group. A survey by the American Student Dental Association found that "Dental Decks" were rated as the most helpful study aid by test-takers. If you have a smartphone, there are also flashcard-type NBDE study apps available for studying on the go.

Step 4

Take the released older versions of the NBDE exams, published by the American Dental Association. Taking practice tests will familiarize you with the types and format of the questions asked. Previous tests are available for purchase from the ASDA or may be found in many medical libraries free of charge.

Step 5

Read the "NBDE Candidate Guide" available from the ASDA. This guide will familiarize you with the testing guidelines and structure of the exams before exam day.


Review preparation courses are available for the NBDE, but the University of Texas Health Science Center study found that review courses did not have much impact on test scores. The ASDA survey of test-takers also found that the majority of the test-takers who took a review course did not rate it as very helpful.

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