Student K (nickname) was a top student in her program. Nobody had ever imagined that she would fail the dental hygiene boards.
Some students “FAIL” at the Dental Hygiene National Boards (NBDHE, NDHCE). Student P (nickname) failed the written boards twice. P was an excellent clinician and was loved by all her faculties. Student K (nickname) was a top student in her program. Nobody had ever imagined that she would fail the dental hygiene written boards.
Those are true stories. Today, I would like to share some of the mistakes I have repeatedly seen with those who failed. Don’t worry, I am not trying to put those students down, as they all kindly let me share their struggles. Let’s try to achieve the opposite; to learn from others’ mistakes.
I am going to skip the obvious, not studying enough. Let’s dive into some other reasons students failed at the Dental Hygiene Boards.
#1. Letting anxiety take over
Whenever I get on a Skype call with students who had past failures, the #1 concern I hear is “I am nervous, I am scared.” However much you have studied, there will always be doubts in your mind - “Should I postpone the exam?,” “Am I going to fail?,” or “this is the 10th question I did not know the answer to.” Stress and anxiety are part of our normal human defense system, they alert us to danger. Being attacked by a bear is an immediate danger, but having a small hole in the brain during the dental hygiene exam is not.
“But don’t let a small bump on the road ruin the rest of the exam. Regain control.”
There will be times you will be afraid and anxious. This can happen while you are studying for the examinations (NBDHE, NDHCE, CSCE, WREB), while you are at school, the day before the exam, or during the exam. Anxiety has a snowball effect. It grows and grows with imagination to the point you want to give up and cry.
Solution: create a mantra that will take you out of the negative loop. Use a WHEN… THEN phrase.
Here is an example: “When…… (I start feeling like I don’t know anything), then….. (I will think about the day my boyfriend proposed).”
The idea is to master your emotion and mind. The NBDHE and NDHCE are very difficult exams! But don’t let a small bump on the road ruin the rest of your day. Regain control, fast.
#2. Reading too fast
If you ask students who failed at the National Boards (NBDHE, NDHCE) how much time they had left to finish the exam, they would most likely tell you: “a lot.” For the NBDHE (US exams), the average test-taking time is 3-4 hours out of the 8-9 hours given. So that is FAST. For the NDHCB (Canadian exams), most students finish way before the 4 hours given.
“Rushing through questions in the exam is like building a car while skipping through some lines of instructions.”
We all have the natural tendency to rush through the exam, being concerned about not finishing on time. As a result, our eyes skip critical words. Rushing through questions in the exam is like building a car while skipping through some lines of instructions. You can probably imagine the consequence of such a problem.
Solution: Slow down. Read every word of the sentences. Taking 3 more seconds per question is way more beneficial than finishing early.
The idea is to have precision. Do not sacrifice the details, the clues can be anywhere.
#3. Studying and practicing with printed material
Student K (nickname) was one of the top students in her class but failed the written exam. Then I discovered that she only studied with printed material – books, notes, FREE trial printed from StudentRDH, seniors’ notes, etc. She said she learns better if she can mark things with her pen and have the material in front of her. This applies to most of us; we like physical copies. I do too, even though I am the founder of 2 dental related prep courses that are 100% online (StudentRDH.com and Smarterda.com)
“The idea is to create a replica of the environment you will be tested from.”
The dental hygiene boards (NBDHE, NDHCE, CSCE, WREB) are administered ONLY as electronic versions. It is scientifically proven that computer screens are more tiring on the eyes compared to papers. This, in turn, brings fatigue, and your performance can dramatically decline. Ask anyone who took the dental hygiene national boards (NBDHE, NDHCE); they will testify that the computer format was very “stressful” on the eyes and brain.
If you don’t prepare for the computer exam, you are significantly lowering your chances to perform well. Is playing tennis in a real court with a friend the same as playing an online match? I will let you imagine the answer.
Solution: Study from an ONLINE review course. Practice questions through a computer or phone screen. Give your eyes and brain the proper training.
The idea is to create a replica of the environment you will be tested from. The harder you try, the more likely you will pass the boards. This is why StudentRDH is 100% ONLINE. This method had proven to enhance student’s confidence and performance level. If you want to test yourself through this ONLINE format, start with the FREE trial. If you have other dental hygiene boards review materials, practice with the online version.
I hope that this article helped you understand why students failed the exams. Special thanks to students who allowed me to share their experiences. We all strive for the same “PASS” results. I wish you the best in everything you do.
Let’s achieve #SUCCESSandNOTHINGless. High five for reading this article!
Author: Claire RDH, MS
Claire is the founder of StudentRDH and SmarterDA. The online platform delivers content of the highest quality through the latest e-learning technology. According to some students, studying is now “addictive.”
Claire has a Master’s Degree in Administration from Boston University and a Dental Hygiene Degree from Forsyth School of Dental Hygiene in Boston. Prior to her career in the dental field, Claire Jeong was an education specialist at Boston Children’s Museum. Claire is licensed to practice in the United States as well as Canada.
She also advocates for efficacy in learning and in life through her articles, speeches, and business.