Passing the NBDE Part II

Posted by Dr. Patrice Smith on Thu, Mar 24, 2016 @ 12:00 PM

example-test-scantron.jpgYou have gone through the rigors of dental school and are now on the home stretch to obtaining your dental degree! The end is near, but there are still a few hurdles to jump: You are now preparing to take the National Board Dental Examination (NBDE) Part II.

The National Board Dental Examination (Part II) is typically taken during the latter part of your third year, or later in your fourth year of dental school. It is taken over a seven (7) hour period over the course of two days and comprises 400 questions on day one, and 100 case-based questions on day two.

The areas covered on the NBDE Part II include:

  • Operative Dentistry
  • Pharmacology
  • Prosthodontics
  • Endodontics
  • Periodontics
  • Oral Pathology/Radiology
  • Oral Surgery/Pain Control
  • Orthodontics/Pediatric Dentistry
  • Patient Management

You have taken a myriad of exams in dental school and have already completed the NBDE Part I, so you should have a good idea of what to expect with the NBDE Part II. You may find the ADA’s 2016 NBDE Part II Guide here:

Testing yourself and seeing where your strengths and weaknesses are, in my opinion, always a good idea and a good place to start. You can purchase reprinted copies of old exams from the ASDA website here:

The good news about testing for Part II is that it is a lot more fun than studying for Part I! Yes, studying can indeed be fun! Part II is more conceptual and the information covered is more clinically relevant. It is definitely not a drag since you now have points of reference from clinical experiences.

By now, you should know how to test and motivate yourself to study. I can tell you from experience, however, that remaining focused and motivated when you have so much going on (clinic requirements, school exams, leadership and organization responsibilities, upcoming graduation, etc.)—especially while senioritis kicks in—can be quite a challenge. The best advice I can give you is:

  • Outline your plan of action and stick to it!

Be steadfast in your plans about this. Just think, the sooner I get this out of the way, the sooner I can move on and focus on other things. This is just one more step towards the finish line.

  • Avoid distractions.

Seriously, remove all social media apps from your phone and scope out a space where you can really zone in and get some solid study time. More power to you if you can focus at a place like Starbucks, with all the music, foot traffic, and the array of different delicious aromas!

  • Break up the routine.

Give your brain a break. A change of scenery after a couple hours in one spot can be very helpful. You can even go for a walk, indulge in some online retail therapy, and, if you’re home, make a meal or bake a cake! Do something to break up the monotony. When you return to the books you will be refreshed for Round 2!

  • Take practice tests and go through questions.

After you’ve gone through your study materials, the only real way to know if you’ve been retaining any of the information is to test yourself. It’s also a great way for you to learn some things. Practice make perfect!

Some very good resources that can be used for preparing for the NBDE Part II are:

  1. Mosby’s Review for the NBD Part II

I would recommend starting with Mosby’s Review. It has a great deal of information and covers each area well. It is pretty dense, but you will have a pretty good foundation after going through it. Pay attention to the patient management section. Kaplan and First Aid for the NBDE Part II would be reference materials of similar value.

  1. Dental Decks

This is always a top recommendation! The Dental Decks are very thorough and they cover each section well. The great thing is you can stuff a few in your pocket and study on the go.

  1. Tufts Pharmacology

This document is a gold mine for the pharmacology section. I would say it’s an absolute must, so get your hands on it. Here’s a copy:  A quick Google search can also help.


THE NEXTDDS will very soon be launching its self-testing tool where you will have access to a bank of over 5,000 questions and answers. You will be able to take practice tests that are structured to align to the NBDE Parts I and II. The question formatting will be flexible to include MCQs, short answer, fill-in-the blank, and video/visual recognition and response, and you will have real-time feedback and coursework scoring. This is all very exciting! Stay tuned for the launch.

Any combination of the resources above will almost always guarantee success on the NBDE Part II. Remember, you must know yourself and your study habits. Create a study schedule and stick to it. Almost there guys!

Good luck!

Tags: studying, NBDE, Passing the NBDE, National Board Dental Examination, resources

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