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Board review courses for dental hygiene: Are they worth it?

Oct. 24, 2018
If you don't pass your national dental hygiene board exams, you can't take them again for 90 days. That could mean lost wages of $18,516. Does that amount justify the cost of a review course? Uh, yeah! Get this and more practicle board advice in this article by Heather O. Mapp, MEd, RDH.

According to the Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations, failure rates for first-time test takers of the dental hygiene national board exame have risen drastically from 2010 to 2017—increasing from 3.8% to 6.2%. (1) These numbers have made students seriously consider taking a national board review course to prepare for the exam.

When determining whether to invest in a Board Review, weigh the pros and cons.

Do I really need to take a board review?

Consider the following when seeing if you're a good candidate for a board review course:

• Students who are disciplined in their organization of studying, who can manage their time wisely and who have no test anxiety, probably don’t need to take a review course.

• Students who are at a loss about what to study, how much time to devote to studying, and who have anxiety about taking tests would benefit from taking a review course.

• Students who have done well in school but feel overwhelmed in preparing for a test of this magnitude would do well to attend a review.

How do I choose the review that is best for me?

Determine what the various review courses have to offer:

• Do they have a valid history of presenting board reviews?

• Do they have a pass rate for past attendees? How is it determined?

• How many instructors are there? Are they well-qualified? Do you learn best from multiple instructors, or do you do better with a single instructor in a small group setting?

• Is the emphasis of the seminar to provide you with material you need to study for the board, or does it focus on nonacademic "extras"?

• Will you be able to have questions answered at the review?

What will I learn at a board review that I can’t learn on my own?

Students often learn things when they hear them presented differently than when they were in a school setting. Consider the following:

• Will you be given new hints and tips for studying and retaining information?

• Will you have contact with the speakers during and after the seminar?

• Will you receive information on the board itself and strategies for overcoming test anxiety?

Is attending a board review worth the money and time?

Determine how many hours of actual study you will receive during the review. Would you study for that amount of time on your own in that same period of time?

Realize that if you don’t pass the board the first time, you will have to wait 90 days before you can take it again. Based on research by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median average wage of a dental hygienist for 3 months is $18,516. (2) Does that amount of lost wages justify the cost of a review course?

Final thoughts

Investing in a quality, comprehensive national board review course may be one of the most worthwhile decisions you've made since entering the wonderful world of dental hygiene. Good luck in your future, and I welcome you to the profession!


1. 2016 Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations. https:/ March 2018 NBDE Update.pdf? la=en.

2. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Heather O. Mapp, RDH, MEd, is the president of Dental Hygiene Seminars. Ms. Mapp has been a dental hygiene program director for more than 20 years. Her company has more than 25 years’ experience as a provider of national board reviews with more than 40,000 dental hygiene students who have taken and passed the National Board.

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