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.
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
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