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SmarterDA - Dental Assisting Boards Prep Courses
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All You Need To Know About The California RDA® Exam!

All You Need To Know About The California RDA® Exam!

11/13/2018 11:15:54 AM   |   Comments: 0   |   Views: 2215

All You Need To Know About The California RDA® Exam

(updated October 2018)

Hello, beautiful #DAtobe!

“Did you know that it is a criminal offense to practice as a registered dental assistant without first receiving a license!” In this article, we have summarized all the information you need to know about the California RDA® written exam. Originally, there were three separate exams – the Practical (hands-on) Exam, the Written Exam, and the Law and Ethics Exam. But recently there have been a couple of major changes to the RDA exam process:

• The RDA Practical Exam has been suspended until January 1, 2020 (as per Assembly Bill 1707, Chapter 174, effective August 8, 2017). The Dental Board of California will still issue licenses to applicants who met all other requirements, including passing the written exams. 
• The RDA Written Exam and the RDA Law and Ethics Exam were combined into one exam, the “RDA® General and Law and Ethics Written Exam,” as of May 24, 2018.

But before we dive into the details…

What is the success rate for the California RDA® written exam?

Hold on to your seats, because the results are NOT good. According to the Dental Board of California,  out of the 461 candidates for the August 2018 exam, 205 failed. WOW!!! To summarize:

• Failure rate: 44%
Passing rate: 56%

This is exceptionally high, even compared to other industries. My recommendation is that you grab your favorite dental assisting exam prep book or an online tool and start studying. The journey to become a dental assistant is not always easy, but once you PASS the California dental assisting boards and become an RDA®, you don’t need to take the tests again.

 Qualifications for the California RDA®Exam

Since the Practical Exam has been suspended and the written exams were combined, that means you only have to prepare for ONE exam. Not so bad, right? Before you can register for the RDA® General and Law and Ethics Written Exam, you need to send your RDA application to the Dental Board of California first. Note that the application fee (paid to the Board) is separate from the exam registration fee (paid to the exam administrator). Once the Board approves your application, you will receive exam registration details from PSI licensure:certification (PSI), the exam administrator. There are rules to follow before you can apply to take the California RDA® exam. Here are the answers, directly from the Dental Board of California:

To qualify for RDA® examinations, candidates must:   

• Graduate from a Board-approved RDA educational program; or
Complete at least 15 months (1,280 hours) of satisfactory work experience as a dental assistant with a dentist licensed in one of the states in the United States; or
Complete a California Department of Education-approved 4-month educational program and 11 months of work experience with a dentist(s) licensed in one of the states of the United States.
Complete Board-approved courses in coronal polishing and radiation safety.
Complete and show proof of completion of a Board-approved course in the Dental Practice Act completed within five (5) years of application.
Complete and show proof of completion of an eight (8)-hour Board-approved course in infection control completed within five (5) years of application.
Complete and show proof of completion of a basic life support course offered by an instructor approved by the American Red Cross or the American Heart Association.
Submit fingerprint clearances from both the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI). This process can take 60 days or more. If a candidate has a criminal history, the arrest report and court records must be obtained and investigated before a decision is made to issue or deny the license.

For more information, or to submit your RDA application, visit the Dental Board of California’s website.

About the Written Exam

Exam content

The RDA General and Law and Ethics Written Exam is a 3-hour multiple-choice exam administered via computer at various examination centers in California. Once the Board accepts your RDA® application, you will receive information on how to register for the exam.

The exam is composed of:

• 125 scored questions
25 non-scored multiple choice questions

The general content includes:

Patient Treatment and Care (25%)

Dental Procedures (35%)

Direct and Indirect Restorations
Preventative Procedure

Dental Specialty Procedures (10%)

Endodontic Procedure
Periodontal Procedures
Orthodontic Procedures
Implants, Oral Surgery, and Extractions
Prosthetic Appliances

 Safety (30%)

• Infection Control
Radiation Safety
Occupational Safety       


Once the Board accepts your RDA®application, PSI licensure: certification (PSI), the exam administrator, will mail you information on how to register for the written exam.

NOTE: Your examination eligibility expires, and your application is deemed abandoned if you fail to take the RDA®General and Law and Ethics Written Exam within two years after being deemed eligible by the Board.

You may choose to register for the exam through the internet, telephone, fax or standard mail.   
Internet registration:

• Complete the online Test Registration Form at and choose your preferred test date. Upon successful registration, you’ll receive a traceable confirmation number.    

Telephone registration:

• Complete the Examination Registration Form (with credit card information) and call the PSI registrars at (877) 392-6422, Monday-Friday from 4:30 am to 7:00 pm, and Saturday-Sunday from 6:00 am to 2:30 pm, Pacific Time to register and schedule your exam appointment.

Fax registration and scheduling:                

• Complete the Examination Registration Form (with credit card information) and fax it to PSI at (702) 932-2666 (accepted 24 hours a day). Registration will be processed within 4 business days.
After 4 business days, schedule your exam by calling PSI at (877) 392-6422 (Monday-Friday from 4:30 am to 7:00 pm, and Saturday-Sunday from 6:00 am to 2:30 pm, Pacific Time). You may also schedule your exam online through PSI’s registration website at

Standard mail registration and scheduling:

• Complete the Examination Registration Form (included at the end of the RDA Candidate Information Bulletinand pay via credit card (VISA, MasterCard, American Express or Discover), money order, company check or cashier’s check (checks should be payable to PSI, print your social security number on it for identification). Mail the completed form and payment to PSI. Registration will be processed within 2 weeks.
After 2 weeks, schedule your exam by calling PSI at (877) 392-6422 (Monday-Friday from 4:30 am to 7:00 pm, and Saturday-Sunday from 6:00 am to 2:30 pm, Pacific Time). You may also schedule your exam online through PSI’s registration website at     


• Examination Fee is $38.50

The same fee applies for first-time and repeating exam takers. Registration fees are not refundable or transferable.


You may cancel and reschedule your exam without forfeiting the fee if your cancellation notice is received within 2 days before your scheduled exam date. Call PSI at (877) 392-6422 or use the PSI website and talk to a customer service rep to cancel your exam. Cancellation via voicemail or email is NOT accepted.

Exam results 

You will receive the results of your written exam at the PSI test center, and the results will also be sent to the Board. If you fail the exam, you’ll receive a failed score report and an application form for retaking the exam. Licenses will not be issued automatically after passing the exam. The Board will only issue the licenses after completing the criminal history investigation for each applicant. If you do not receive your license 30 days after passing the exam, contact the Board.

How can I study for the California RDA written exam?

Your school may have helped you prepare for the dental assisting examinations. But it is always a good idea to find more resources, to make sure that you PASS the California Dental Assisting Board Exam®. Here is a list of some extra materials that you may use:
The California RDA® Written Examination Prep Book (3rd Edition), FADE Institute  $109+
Dental Assisting Exam®, Learning Express  $151+
Modern Dental Assisting, Elsevier  $99+
SmarterDA California RDA® Exam Prep (ONLINE), $58


SmarterDA has a super useful payment plan available   You can pay in two installments of $29 each. We know that this is an investment for you, but we want to help you with your finances as much as possible!         

This prep course is the ONLY online exam prep that you can take from your PHONEand COMPUTER. (that means you can study from anywhere! pretty cool, huh?) 

Did you know that SmarterDA has a FREE trial for the California RDA® exam?  The entire chapter on Patient Education and Homecare is FREE! I wish you the best in everything you do! Dental assistants are crucial members of the dental office. So let your skills shine!


Related Article: How To Register And Prepare For DANB's ICE® Exam


About the author:

Claire Jeong is an educator and entrepreneur. She founded StudentRDH and SmarterDA – which offer dental hygiene and dental assisting exam review courses. The online platform delivers content of the highest quality through the latest e-learning technology. According to some students, studying is now “addicting.” Claire was invited on various podcasts to speak about memory techniques and learning efficacy; topics she also promotes through articles, speeches, e-books, and blogs.

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, she has been mentoring students for 15 years and was an education specialist at Boston Children’s Museum. Claire is licensed to practice in the United States as well as Canada

Disclaimer: RDA is a trademark of the American Medical Technologists. This article is not reviewed or endorsed by or affiliated with the American Medical Technologists.

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