4 effective studying tips for your DANB exam

a person taking notes by a laptop

Taking a DANB exam is an exciting step toward earning certification and furthering your dental assisting career. How can you ensure you’re as ready as possible when the big day arrives? We have a few helpful study tips as you prepare for your exam.

Create a study schedule

DANB exams contain a lot of material — they have between 50 and 255 questions that test your knowledge of dental assisting in multiple ways. With so much information to learn, beginning the studying process can seem daunting. One way to get started is by creating a schedule.

Blocking out time in your calendar for studying will help you to fully grasp all the exam material. You can get as detailed with the schedule as you want. You could plan out the specific materials or topics you want to study each day, and for how long. Or, you can just plan to set aside a few hours each week to dedicate toward studying. The choice comes down to your preferences and how you learn best.

Make sure your studying regimen begins well before exam day. Because DANB tests cover so much ground, waiting until the last few days to study is not recommended. Cramming also isn’t effective for long-term information retention, which can leave you ill-prepared to perform essential job functions in the dental office. Leaving yourself plenty of time to study can also alleviate your stress levels — cramming before a test can be overwhelming — and help you feel more confident on test day.

How long before the test should you begin studying? Many people who have taken a DANB exam have said they began studying 1-2 months before their test day. You may need a bit more or less time than that — creating a study schedule will give you a better idea.

Review the exam outline

The exam outline, which you can find here for your specific exam, is a valuable resource when you’re creating a study schedule. The outline tells you how much of the exam consists of each subject area, letting you know which areas to focus on the most. From there, the outline further breaks down each subject area into specific subtopics that will be covered on the exam.

Exam outlines also come with suggested references to help you study, including textbooks, online reading materials, and review courses from the DALE Foundation.

Find somewhere you can focus

Where you study can be just as important as how you study. When you’re able to put your full focus into the material, you’re more likely to retain it and be able to recall and apply it. That’s why it’s important to find or create an environment that allows you to focus.

Different people focus better in different environments. Generally, however, a quiet place with limited distractions is the way to go. Quiet spots may include a private office in your home, a library, a coffee shop, or a park. Some people may focus best in complete silence, while others prefer the background noise of music, birds chirping, or customers chatting in a coffee shop. Try a few environments out to see what works best for you.

Minimizing interruptions can be tricky, but you can start by identifying what distracts you and avoiding or eliminating it. For example, studying at home may not be ideal if there are other people around or you’ll be tempted to do chores or turn on your favorite TV show instead. If texting a friend or browsing social media is derailing your study session, try putting your phone in “do not disturb” mode or leave it in another room for a while.

Keep in mind that factors outside of your immediate environment can also affect your ability to focus, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Those include getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, staying hydrated, and exercising.

Take practice tests

You’ve surely heard many times that “practice makes perfect.” The phrase is often repeated because it’s true in many situations — especially when it comes to learning. A 2017 study by researchers at Washington State University and Simon Fraser University found that taking practice tests is “more beneficial for learning than restudying and all other comparison conditions.”

A DANB practice test provides a benchmark of how well you understand the material. It can help you determine what subjects you’ve mastered and in which areas you need to improve. You can then adjust your study schedule accordingly, spending more time on your weak areas instead of your strong ones.

A practice test also gets you familiar with the way questions are phrased and the pace of the exam. When you have a better idea of what to expect on exam day, it can ease your stress and boost your confidence.

DANB practice tests are available through the DALE Foundation.