4 important details to know about DANB exams

three people taking an exam

Taking a DANB exam is a significant step in your dental assisting career. It can help you expand your knowledge, become even more valuable to your practice, and take on new job responsibilities or roles. But there are significant time and financial commitments, including studying for the exam and paying the exam fee. Given the high level of commitment, it’s important to be prepared when your test day arrives. Beyond learning the material and taking practice tests, it’s helpful to understand how the exam you’re taking will be structured. That way, you’ll know what to expect and avoid any surprises.

Here are a few important things to know about DANB exams.

Most exams are adaptive

Most DANB exams are administered using computer adaptive testing (CAT). This means that the test adjusts as you go, and if you answer one question correctly, the next one will be more difficult — and vice versa. This method more accurately pinpoints your ability level. It also means you can’t skip a question and come back to it later, so make your best choice before submitting an answer.

Exam results are reported as a “scaled” score rather than a “number correct” or a “percent correct” score. In other words, whether you pass or fail depends on the difficulty of the questions you answer correctly, and not a specific percentage or number. You must achieve at least a score of 400 to pass the exam, and scores can range from 100 to 900. Because exams are administered using CAT, the average DANB exam-taker answers around 50% of the questions correctly.

Each exam is based on a weighted outline

Everyone who takes a particular DANB exam receives the same percentage of questions from each domain. As an example, let’s look at how the questions on the Radiation Health and Safety (RHS) exam are weighted:

  • Purpose and techniques (50%)
  • Radiation protection (25%)
  • Infection prevention and control (25%)

For another example, here’s the Infection Control (ICE) exam weights by domain:

  • Prevention of disease transmission (20%)
  • Prevention of cross-contamination (34%)
  • Processing instruments and devices (26%)
  • Occupational safety and administration protocols (20%)

You can see the breakdown of your particular test by viewing the exam outline. Reviewing this information — as well as the suggested references — can help you create an effective study plan, know which areas to focus on, and feel prepared for the content you’ll see on the test.

Exams are timed

You are allotted a specific amount of time to complete your exam, depending on the test you take. Typically, people finish their exams with plenty of time remaining. It’s still important to note how much time you have and how many questions are on your exam, as it will give you a sense of the pace at which you need to move through the questions.

Once the exam time starts, it does not stop. If you’re taking your exam in person, you may take breaks with the proctor’s approval; however, your exam time cannot be paused. For online proctored exams, no breaks are allowed. To ensure you have enough time to complete the test, it’s recommended to use the restroom beforehand.

Questions aren’t designed to trick you

While DANB exams are challenging, they’re designed to test your level of knowledge on the subject — not to trick you. Read each question carefully and completely, and try not to overthink what’s being asked. When you’re not sure about an answer, one helpful strategy is to eliminate the answers you know are not correct. If you’re stuck between two answers, think about the best practice or approach for the particular question.

DANB exams are made up of multiple-choice questions three or four answer options. There is one best correct answer for each question. Exam questions are formatted either as an incomplete statement or a question. Let’s look at an example of each format: 

Incomplete Statement

The color of the sky is:

A. Blue.

B. Red.

C. Orange.

D. Yellow.


What color is the sky?

A. Blue

B. Red

C. Orange

D. Yellow

Read more: 4 effective study tips for your DANB exam