If I look back at the day of the “big day” aka the dental hygiene national boards, I was surely nervous and did not feel super ready. Everybody has a different experience with the boards, but here is mine.
Waking up: I woke up early. It was painful, but what could I do!
Breakfast: I had a “normal” breakfast with my regular shake that includes everything I can find in the fridge (yogurt, fruits, milk, and some veggies). Coffee of course, because it also helps going to the bathroom (please read in between the lines).
Arriving at the testing site: I arrived before the security let us into the building elevator. At the end, I regretted arriving early, because I was waiting in the cold hallway with other students.
Checking in: You register as you enter the exam center, so depending on how many people there are in the room, this can take shorter or longer. You need 2 pieces of IDs with your name on them (one with a picture).
- For the NBDHE, they take a “scan of your hand” to identify you. And in the exam room, you are with others who are taking a computer exam whether it is a nursing or engineering exam.
- For the NDHCE, you are only with other dental hygiene students.
Your belongings need to go in a cubby that can be locked. So the snack that you packed, you can’t really access it until the official break time.
Start of the exam: You will sit in a cubicle designated by the examiner. You have earplugs or headsets to block noise. For the NBDHE, you are allowed the plastic note board with the Sharpie that the center lends you. On your computer screen, you will see instructions and a disclaimer. The countdown starts!
For me, I have an extremely important routine for every single exam I take. It is a 2-minute silent meditation. I know this sounds super unrealistic and ideal. I don’t even meditate daily. But for an exam, I close my eyes even if the timer is running. In those 2 minutes, I breathe deeply (again, sounds so out of this world). I “wire” my brain, I get it conditioned to access the deeper parts of the memory library that stored all the things that I have learned. I hear others start the exam, but I do not get distracted. I actually imagine activating the front, back and middle part of my brain. Then I open my eyes to start.
During the exam: Even with all this meditation and preparation, going through hundreds of questions was very challenging. Every question need critical thinking. Why is A, B, C, and D not correct? Then is the answer E? We cannot skip a word, we have to read in between the lines, we have to be in the examiners’ brain. Not an easy task. When I got tired, I raised my hand to tell the examiner I needed a pee break. I did that many times, because I wanted to be refreshed. Just walking around made me feel more energized. The examiner may have thought I went to the restroom way too often, but it was my choice.
Lunch (mid) break: I took that whole hour to buy a sandwich at the Au Bon Pain across the street. I packed a bunch of snacks that I did not even touch. Thoughts about the exam were rushing in my head, but I tried to just get some nutrients in my body, digest, and drink fluids.
Second part of the exam: For the NBDHE, it is the case-based session. It is actually really difficult because you have to read all the profiles with the radiographs/photographs to solve each question. If you do not pay attention to all the details, you are bling guessing. This part was draining. At the end, I knew I was going too fast, but I wanted to get it done. Not a good attitude at all. Some regrets there for sure. But that’s how difficult the exam was. Even with all this knowledge I thought I had, my energy and focus level was going down.
End of the exam: I almost used all the time allowed for the exam because I went back and double checked the answer for every single questions. I was trying to minimize the # of mistakes. After all that, exhausted, I submitted my answer. Downstairs was a liquor store (for those who are above the age of drinking). I thought I would have dinner and maybe celebrate, but did not have the energy for that.
Now this is my personal experience about the NBDHE. Some other students have very different experiences. So I decided to create a series that would tell the story of others. Stay tuned! In the meantime, if you are interested in the online dental hygiene boards review course that gives your results, go HERE.
National + Local Anesthesia + CSCE Dental Hygiene Boards Review by StudentRDH
(Disclaimer: StudentRDH is NOT affiliated with the NBDHE, NDHCE, CSCE, CDCA, WREB.)