NBDE Part 1, Marriage, and a Honeymoon

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Erin and Richard Dawson

Whew, what a wild ride the last few weeks have been! I wish that I had more time to post here on the blog in that time, but frankly the time just got away from me. With finals, then the NBDE Part 1, my wedding, and now the honeymoon, there was simply not enough time to write a decent blog post!

But, I have some downtime here in Italy thanks to the jet lag, and decided that this would be a good morning to catch up a bit on the blog. I have lots of things to do on the site still, but that’s neither here nor there. The great news is that I passed the NBDE 1! In the not-too-distant future perhaps I can write about wedding planning during school.

The NBDE Part 1

The NBDE Part 1 is a broad examination that tests your knowledge of four basic science categories: microbiology/pathology, biochemistry/physiology, anatomic sciences, and dental anatomy/occlusion. All dentists must pass both the NBDE parts 1 and 2. With the first part out of the way I am 50% of the way through the licensure examswoohoo!

Studying for the NBDE is stressful. The mountains of preparatory materials that were available for the DAT are just not there for the NBDE. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of prep materials to choose from. But study guides, software, and videos aren’t as abundant as what you find for the DAT.

I plan to write some posts about studying for the NBDE Part 1 in the future. Perhaps if I have the time I will create some materials here on the site that will help future dental students better prepare for the exam. Obviously, if I can do it while wedding and honeymoon planning, then anyone can do it. Indeed, around 95% of everyone who takes it will pass, even though it is probably one of the hardest examinations you will ever take.

Don’t let it intimidate you

What makes the NBDE Part 1 difficult is the fact that it draws on such a large body of knowledge. It’s like the DAT on steroids. The exam tests concepts you learn in your first semester of freshman biology and all the way up through your last quarter of head and neck anatomy in dental school.

Being entirely prepared for everything is virtually impossible. But because you can miss so many questions, passing the exam is actually relatively easy. The exam is now pass/fail, so you really just need to score around a 65% to pass. That number varies from test to test, but based on historical data it the passing statistic seems to hover somewhere around that mark.

What I used

I used the NBDE Boards Mastery app which is really a great resource. They stand by their product with a 200% refund guarantee if you don’t pass the exam. Given the high pass rate for the boards even before their app came along, I’d wager that is a very safe bet for them.

In addition to the app, I used the First Aid for the NBDE Part 1 book. This book has been a staple of NBDE study prep for years. Now in its third edition, the authors have done a pretty good job of condensing and organizing the material. It is better than just going back and studying all of your class notes in my opinion. Also, the beginnings of each section are more high yield than what follows. And the little notes they put in the margins of the pages are a great indicator of what may appear on the exam.

Some people use Dental Decks, but I did not. Two complete passes over the decks is all you need most people say. One of the newer materials that has come online recently is BoardVitals. Our school purchased a license for us this year. But reviews from my fellow classmates and students at other schools were pretty mixed. So I avoided it and stuck with the materials that had worked for others in the past.

ASDA Papers are essential

Besides the Dental Boards Mastery software, probably the most important thing I used was the ASDA papers. You could only study these and I am certain that you would pass. The ASDA papers are releases of past dental board exam questions from prior years. You can purchase them from ASDA, but many students get them from someone else for free. Some schools purchase them in bulk for students to study for the exam.

The ASDA papers are lettered in incremental fashion. For example, the latest one from 2009 is N, then 2006 is M, 2005 is L, and so on. I studied from K through N, and did the dental portion of exams going back to H. I felt that this was plenty of exposure to the material, and enough that I started to see repeats which are a good indicator of what the examiners think is important for you to know. Your mileage may vary, but this worked for me.

Two weeks is more than enough time to study for the NBDE Part 1 if you did well in your basic science courses. Most people say they study around eight hours per day in that time, but I did about half that. I was burned out after finals, and I was juggling my studies with everything else. I still passed, so if you are short on time or stressed that others are studying more than you, just know that you will probably be just fine. Hit your weakest subjects hardest and you will be just fine!

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Abhishek Sharma

very interesting article. thanks for sharing. Completely agree with your viewpoints and observation. The information provided in this article is correct and the best. I have checked several websites pages for NBDE Part 1 syllabus like http://dentalexamshelp.com/nbde-part-1-syllabus-pattern/ and got good info like syllabus along with number of questions. Good luck and keep posting the great post like this.