Congratulations on getting into a Dental Assistant program; you’re on your way to becoming a Certified Dental Assistant (CDA). You’ve worked hard to get where you are; skills have been taught and knowledge learned. You’re almost there, but first you must take and pass the dental assistant certification exam.
Taking the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) exam may sound intimidating and put you on edge thinking about it, but don’t let it. You’ll do just fine. However, it will require your time and effort to pass with flying colors.
Reviewing your notes the day before the exam is not enough when preparing for the National Boards. Cramming just hours before taking the exam won’t cut it either. Preparing for the exam should start at least three months before the exam date.
Know What to Expect
Before you can start preparing for the test, you must learn as much as you can about the exam. First and foremost, know and write down the date of the exam, where it will take place and at what time. You may think this is a given, but it’s all part of being prepared, since you don’t want to be scrambling to find this out at the last minute and find you’ve run out of time to prepare.
Once you’ve got the date, the time and the location of the test, you can begin to focus on preparing for it. CDA exams vary from state to state. Know what is expected on the test for the state where you’ll be taking the exam. For example, know what skills will be tested, how many sections there are and the allotted time for each section. This helps you focus and learn to pace yourself when doing practice tests.
This means making a commitment to doing what you need to do: make time. Time management is extremely important. Set aside a time for studying and practicing each day. This, at minimum, will be about 20 minutes a day; that’s all you’ll need.
Cramming for a big exam such as this will not work. In fact, cramming for any test seldom works. Cramming the night before or even hours before test time increases anxiety levels. It makes it difficult to remain calm and relaxed. You may even find it difficult to stay focused and to obtain what you need to know. Most people suffer a little test anxiety as it is; no need to add extra stress and anxiety to an already stressful time due to procrastination.
Allowing ample time to prepare and study the material is beneficial to understanding it and retaining it in long-term memory. You’ll gain self-assurance and confidence by making time to study along the way.
How To Study
There are a number of ways to study. You, at this stage of your academic career, probably know them, but as a refresher, here is a list of different methods of learning:
- Outlines – help you organize your thoughts.
- Flashcards – a method to test yourself. Great for learning new terms and definitions.
- Flowcharts – a great visual aid. They easily show you how one thing leads to another.
- Diagrams – tools showing how concepts are related.
- Listing – another great tool for learning new terms.
You may already use one or more of these methods, but remember they only really work when you’ve allowed enough time to use them.
As Test Time Approaches
Knowing the material is vital to passing the exam. That is a given. But you must also believe in yourself and maintain a positive attitude. You must visualize what you’ve been striving for all these months.
We all have that inner voice that gives us self-doubt – don’t listen to it. Don’t allow that inner voice to give you negative thoughts. When you do have negative thoughts, tell yourself, “I CAN DO THIS!” Tell yourself that as often as it takes to believe it.
Also, do not pay attention to those that tell you how difficult the boards are. You don’t need or want to hear that. Believe you will do well no matter how difficult it may be.
Believe in yourself. Visualize. Self-confidence and a good attitude will get you where you want to be – and soon you’ll have the proof in your hand with that document that proclaims you a Certified Dental Assistant.
Young Lee is a college graduate with a degree in finance, and is currently studying to be a dental assistant. She loves to ski and spend time with family and friends.