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Preparing for NBDE I and II as an international dentist

In 2011, I graduated with my Bachelor of Dental Surgery in India and worked at a military hospital as a dental officer and at a volunteer organization for almost two years. Not long after, my husband and I moved to the United States, and I began my path to become licensed to practice in the US.

When we first moved, I was unsure what the future would hold for me, and the challenges that awaited. I spent the first several months adjusting to my life here before I started to figure out my next step. My mind raced with questions like “what’s next?” and I knew that I couldn’t sit idly and waste my time.

I decided to find out what I needed to do to become licensed in the US. I quickly learned that I needed to pass part I and part II of the National Board Dental Examination (NBDE). At the same time, I realized it would be difficult to prepare for the exams, since they cover such a broad scope of information, and my time was split volunteering at two dental clinics as a dental assistant. I accepted the challenge because I knew that nothing worthwhile comes easily.

Buy materials to prepare

Hitting the books again wasn’t very difficult since I had already prepared for my postgraduate entrance exam in India while working in the army hospital. Early on, I saw that some of the subjects would be more difficult than others. In some cases, I knew I would just have to brush up on things I had learned before, and in others I knew I would need to start from scratch. I also knew I could rely on my clinical knowledge, since I was used to seeing between 25 and 30 patients a day for a variety of treatments. The next three to four months of preparation for NBDE part I were a roller coaster ride.

Take notes while you study

The first thing I did was to take notes while studying. I also found that watching YouTube videos made topics easier to understand. This especially helped me understand gross anatomy, since I needed to prepare without access to an anatomy lab or lecturers to help me understand the topic. We didn’t have the advantage of using YouTube when I studied anatomy in the first year of my BDS.

Draw on previous clinical experience

Of all the sections, I found some of the concepts in dental anatomy somewhat difficult to understand. I had never learned the mediotrusive and laterotrusive concepts before, and had a hard time finding helpful videos explaining the concept. For these concepts, I relied on my clinical experience to help me understand. I had a few pictures and videos of cases I treated during practice, and used these to understand occlusion.

Tips for Part II

Soon after clearing NBDE part I, I started preparing for part II. I found preparing for part II easier than part I because the material was more clinically relevant, and I was able to draw from my clinical experience both in India, and here in the United States. Although there was a lot of information to be covered for part II, I was able to cover it well in 2 months. A few of the concepts were completely new to me, especially those related to patient management. Distinguishing insurance types and policies, and learning terms like upcoding, downcoding, bundling, and unbundling was confusing at first. I found that my clinical experience in endodontics made reviewing that section the easiest. After completing more than 500 RCTs in India, and learning to manage a variety of potential complications, gave me a unique perspective and made it fun to review and expand my knowledge.

Another tip I found helpful was joining discussion groups dedicated to NBDE preparation on Student Doctor Network and on Facebook. This helped me meet many other international dentists preparing for the NBDE and gave us the chance to share tips with one another. We would discuss topics, ask questions, answer others’ questions, conduct quizzes, make mnemonics, and share tips that helped us prepare thoroughly. For example, my friend Juhi posted “All the questions posted here and all the discussions helped me a lot in improving myself.”and my friend Umang posted “My advice to everyone is that you should follow all the posts in the group because you never know what might trigger your memory!”In addition to the helpful tips, I was inspired seeing so many other people preparing with such dedication.

The result

After months of preparation, I finally received the exam results in the mail. The feeling when I opened the results and saw “PASS” was truly amazing, and I knew the hard work had finally paid off. I also enjoyed brushing up on topics I had forgotten, and learning things I had never learned before. I learned a lot from my experience, and I look forward to preparing my applications for international dentist programs and beginning my journey to become licensed to practice in the US.

~Shruti Singh, predental member

Are you preparing for the NBDE? ASDA sells reprints of past exams to help you study. Click here to purchase reprints. Become an ASDA member for a members-only discount!

Shruti Singh

Shruti completed her Bachelor in Dental Surgery in 2011 in India. She has worked as a Dental Officer at Command Military Dental Centre, India. Currently she is looking forward to attend interviews with an aim to pursue DDS from a US dental school to further enhance her skills and dexterity. Her aim is to practice the art and science of dentistry with pride and determination, and she wants to give back to the community. She loves to spend time with family and friends and feels rewarded by helping others.

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19 Comments

  1. Richa Pande says:

    A very informative post. Being an Internationally trained dentist myself, I reckon passing NBDE-1 and 2 are the stepping stones to success towards the challenging path of DDS journey .

  2. Aditya says:

    Thanks a lot for the inspiration. It was amazing to read your article. Our path is a lot difficult but words of wisdom that you have shared will definitely go a long way with me. Wish you all success in your journey.

  3. Kumar says:

    Very nice read. Wish you success in life..

  4. Ben Canida says:

    Congratulations on passing your exams! The stress of studying you describe has prompted us to create a better way to study to pass your boards. We created a company B&B Dental and wrote a book with all the information in one place then after reviewing all the old tests available we made videos guiding you through the material telling you what areas to emphasize. We then made flashcards to review all of the main points for quick easy review.

    Check us out at bandbdental.com/try

  5. priya says:

    hi international students of dentist, pls visit this site and add ur signature asking for the right to work without studying in colleges in usa.
    https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/allow-foreign-trained-dentist-obtain-license-one-state-wout-going-back-school-it-was-ca-03-blockg

  6. I am an international student of dentistry about to apply for the MA program and was wandering whether UCSF offers preparatory programs for the NBDE part I test. Please let me know.

  7. Pratik says:

    can you plz suggest some books for preparation.?

  8. Anupama Manjunath says:

    Hi Shilpa.

    Excellent Article and will really help many International dentists who are pursuing their american dream of continuing their careers and Community service in dentistry.

  9. Vijaya says:

    I am looking for class room preparation coaching for Part 1 exam around NJ, can any one suggest. Help much appreciated.

    Regards

  10. supratim tripathi says:

    Dr. Shruti Singh,
    congratulations for your achievement. This is one Post which I found was the most informative and inspiring. I have done my Masters in Endodontics, from India. I am aspiring for DDS this year, can you please guide me through the steps of achieving the same. I will be highly grateful if you please help me in this. How to proceed and what all to do as a biginner.
    Thankyou and Regards,
    Dr. Supratim Tripathi

    1. Hi Supratim,

      You can find more resources for international dentists here: http://asdanet.org/tips-for-international-dental-students/

      Thanks for reading!

  11. Excellent article.

  12. Raj Kumar says:

    Can you please help me step by step process to visit US for the exam. I completed my BDS in india

  13. Raj Kumar says:

    I completed by BDS in india, i wanted to visit US and take the exams I & II can you please guide me the step by step process

  14. Open free courses and online mcqs for the boards. Please check out of open source website!

  15. Open free courses and online mcqs for the boards. Please check out of open source website!
    @ instadontics.com

  16. Renuka Kumari says:

    kya aap mujhe ye bta sakte ho ki …….. NBDE part 1 BDS second year ke bad hi de
    i mean agr final year ke bad de skte h kya ????????????

  17. Renuka Kumari says:

    kya NBDE Part 1 second year ke bad hi de skte h kya

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