You want to pass NBDE Part 1? Read this DETAILED post.

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Mar 21, 2015
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If you want to get straight to the details of what I used to study for the NBDE Part 1, then scroll all the way down. However, to get the most out of this post, you need to read it all.

First of all, I know that the exam is changing because Part 1 and Part 2 are going to be combined now. But I still feel like there is valuable information here for you to read.

As a student, how do I stack up against my peers? Well to give you a direct idea, my class rank is 91 out of 129. I have to try very hard to keep up with all the material that is thrown at us. A lot of my friends study 2-3 days for an exam and they’ll get an A, whereas I’ll study for the whole week and get a B. It definitely gets frustrating, I won’t lie. But as the school quarters have gone by, I’ve made my peace with it. We’re all made differently and we all have different capabilities. At the end of the day, I always remember that classic dental joke that we’ve all heard:

“What do you call a dental student who graduates with the lowest GPA? A dentist”.

We’re all trying to reach the same end goal and we’ll all take different paths to get there.

Why did I share the above? To illustrate that I’m very self-aware. I know how much effort I need to put in to be successful. And compared to the average dental student, it takes more of a time commitment from me. When a lot of my classmates are partying on Friday nights, I’m at home studying lectures. I also shared the above to be a kind of gauge, if you feel like you’re similar to me, this post is going to help you the most.

So as boards were approaching, I was worried that even doing my very best wouldn’t be good enough. That I would spend all this time and effort and I would fail while my peers would study ¼ of the amount I would and effortlessly pass. I did my best to push that apprehension aside and focus on doing the best I could.

I’ll be honest with you, I was an absolute wreck in the weeks leading up to the NBDE Part 1 exam. I was so worried that I would be the only one who fails. Studying for it was rather depressing as you might imagine. Especially since we had Pharmacology going on at the same time, it was really difficult to prepare for boards. I studied on and off during the months of January and February and took my exam on March 10th. When the school quarter finally ended and I had two weeks till my exam, I studied 12-16hrs a day, everyday.

Ok enough about me. Now let’s get to you.

Bottom line: if you got into dental school, you are FULLY CAPABLE of passing this exam on the first attempt. In fact, you will in all likelihood pass the exam on the first attempt. The key is you can’t take it lightly. Study for it harder than you have studied for any exam at your school. Give it the appropriate amount of time and you will pass.

So what should you use to study?

Reminder: A cleaned up, organized answer is at the bottom of this post.

For content/information: The truth is, all the sources you have probably been reading about are all sufficient in terms of information. (First Aid, Dentin, Dental Decks, B&B dental etc). They all provide you with the information you need. It all depends on how you learn best. If you’re someone who benefits from using a textbook, FIRST AID is the way to go. The DENTIN book is also sufficient but it doesn’t have that many pictures so it may be harder to absorb the material. If you prefer the flashcard method, DENTAL DECKS is the way to go. If you learn better from videos, B&B Dental is the way to go. Passthedentalboards videos on youtube are also really good for certain subjects (primarily Microbiology and some Dent concepts).

For practice questions, the MASTERYAPP is really good. It provides around 1300 problems. I would recommend it. People say that it’s much easier than the actual exam but in my opinion, the difficulty is about the same. A lot of the NBDE Part 1 exam are actually simple questions. Either you know it or you don’t. Masteryapp gives you good practice for those types of questions. For more challenging questions, I would recommend the First Aid Q&A book.

What did I use to study?

B&B videos
(not the textbook, just the additional book with all the practice questions)

When I was asking people for advice on what to use to study, the majority of people said dental decks was the way to go. Let me tell you, this could not have been MORE WRONG. Dental decks definitely has everything you need, but it is WAY. TOO. DETAILED. I went over the anatomy and biochem sections of decks and it took me so long. After I was done, I realized that I didn’t absorb anything. And when I tried to go over it again, I realized that there simply wasn’t enough time. I needed something that would teach me what was most important……

This is where B&B dental came in. Guys, I can’t recommend this program enough. It is 100% worth the money. And It was the main reason I passed the exam. The membership without the textbook is $100 and the version with the textbook is $289. My friend got the $100 version and was gracious enough to let me use it as well.
B&B is a series of videos that teaches you HIGH YIELD material from every subject. It really helps you focus on important things. I’m sure getting the $289 version and skimming the textbook would be very helpful but I was running short on time and I felt like the $100 version was good enough. If I felt the need to clarify a concept, I would look it up in decks or dentin or simply google it.
After finishing the videos, I did the flashcards on B&B and that really helped reinforce the concepts the videos explained.

While I think the B&B videos were sufficient, in addition, I would recommend watching PassTheDentalBoards videos for Microbiology specifically. It goes into a fair amount of detail but it covers everything you need to know for that section.

For dent, “300 facts” is excellent because covers about 60-70% of the dent questions on the exam I would say. Definitely study dental concepts from any of the main sources as well though to make sure you have the other 30-40% covered (first aid, dentin, etc). Lucky for me, at our school, our professor made a booklet for us and that’s what I used.

Speaking of dent, make sure to learn the TMJ and all of it’s ligaments and anatomy and also know occlusion really well. PassTheDental Boards has two videos entitled “Picket Fence” and “Learn Occlusion in 5 minutes”, both of these videos are really good in helping you answer some of the occlusion questions.
After I went over all the information, I did the MasteryApp questions. Don’t worry about what your total percentage of correct answers ends up being (I believe mine was 60% or something), just learn from the questions and if you have time, do masteryapp again. Practice questions never hurt.

Like I said earlier, people would always tell me that MasteryApp is way easier than the actual exam. I’m not sure that’s true. I feel like the questions on the actual exam were about the same in terms of difficulty. Regardless, those people managed to scare me so I bought the First Aid Question and Answer book and did about half the questions. I feel like it had some challenging questions and it really helped me by giving me more practice.

Another piece of advice I can give you is to talk to upper classmen. They tend to have documents and sometimes they even have released exams/questions that are also really good practice.

The exam itself:

The exam breaks down like this:

400 questions total
3.5 hours to answer the first 200 questions
30 minutes lunch (optional)
3.5 hours to answer the last 200 questions

After every 100 questions it gives you an option to take a 15 minute break (and after 200 questions it gives you the 30 minute option).

All in all, it’s an 8 hour exam.
It is rather grueling, but you’ll be so focused that you wont notice the time fly by. I highly recommend using all your breaks. You’re allowed to even leave the testing center if you want which is nice because you can get some fresh air. I drank a red bull during lunch which prevented fatigue during the latter portion of the exam.

Regarding time, you will have more than enough time to answer the questions. I managed to look over all my questions twice.

Most of the questions are short and simple, either you know it or you don’t. And then right smack dab in the middle of the exam you’ll have 10 testlets. The testlets are case based questions. For each testlet, you’ll have to answer 4-5 questions. The first 5 testlets on my exam were just ridiculous. No matter how hard I would have studied, I would never be able to answer those questions. I was clueless. The other 5 were more fair and doable. There’s not much you can do to prepare for the testlets, all you can do is keep studying the material that you’ve been studying and hopefully there will be some overlap.

When you walk out of the testing center, chances are you’re not going to feel great about it. That’s a normal feeling. Most people feel like they’ve failed but they usually end up passing. I’ve heard that you need to get 60-65% correct to pass the exam. I’m not sure that’s true. I feel like I must have gotten 55-58% correct and I passed. So don’t focus too much on how much you need right, just get as many right as possible.
You are absolutely capable of passing this exam. DO NOT let it intimidate you. Study hard, study consistently and you will be just fine. Nothing would make me happier than to learn that this post helped you. Good luck!
What to use:

  • Anatomy: B&B videos and flashcards
  • Biochem: B&B videos and flashcards
  • Microbiology: PassTheDentalBoards Videos + flashcards
  • Pathology: B&B videos + flashcards
  • Dental: 300 Dental Facts + Booklet provided by my professor

Practice questions:
  • MasteryApp
  • First Aid Q and A Book

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Thanks for the detailed information. Are you basically saying that for Anatomy & Biochem, we can skip the dental decks entirely and go solely based on the B&B videos and B&B flashcards?

No problem!

Yup, that's what I'm saying.

When I was studying for this exam, I felt that B&B wasn't going to be enough so I went over the Anatomy and Biochem sections on dental decks and I seriously felt like I absorbed nothing. There was far too much information and when I tried going over it again, it was just taking too long. I shifted my focus solely on the B&B videos and flashcards and that ended up being sufficient.

I would advise going through a few dental decks flashcards to see if maybe it's the study material for you. It seems like a lot of people say it works for them. I just knew there was no way I was going to retain all of that information so I needed a truncated source to use. B&B is really good because it teaches you high yield information.
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How long did it take you to go through all the B&B videos and flashcards? You're making me want to buy the package, you don't by chance work for them, do you?

When I do a Google search for "B and B dental", on the righthand side a dental office from the Bronx shows up and it has horrible reviews:View attachment 263969

Do you know if that office is associated with the B&B course? Is it the same owner? The reviews are very unflattering and they say the office doesn't care about the patients and is only concerned about making money.

hahah I definitely do not work for them. If they paid me for this advertising, it would be amazing lol. I just felt the need to offer this resource to people because when I was studying for the NBDE part 1, I found that the internet was an intimidating place and it didn't offer the help I was looking for. I want to give people the help that I was not getting. Not many people talked about B&B (and I'm not sure why), but I'm here to tell you that it's an excellent resource.

It took me 2-3 weeks to go through all the videos and flashcards. But it depends on how fast you want to go. I'd usually watch one major video a day but you can do more than that if you feel so inclined.

Yeah I'm pretty sure the BandB dental office from the Bronx has nothing to do with the resource I used. is the website you want to go to.
Thanks for the insight on the NBDE prep materials, OP! I'm looking for more recent reviews about the BandB prep material, so if anyone who had a good experience using this material can chip in with their thoughts, that would be great! I recently purchased and have started to use BandB, but the authors of this material seem to hit hard only on the high-yield points and literally skim through everything else. Given this fact and also that the textbook+lecture videos have errors here and there, I'm getting slightly skeptical if this is the way to go :( So yea, if there is anyone else who can give an in-depth review of the BandB prep material, I'd appreciate it a lot!
Thanks for the insight on the NBDE prep materials, OP! I'm looking for more recent reviews about the BandB prep material, so if anyone who had a good experience using this material can chip in with their thoughts, that would be great! I recently purchased and have started to use BandB, but the authors of this material seem to hit hard only on the high-yield points and literally skim through everything else. Given this fact and also that the textbook+lecture videos have errors here and there, I'm getting slightly skeptical if this is the way to go :( So yea, if there is anyone else who can give an in-depth review of the BandB prep material, I'd appreciate it a lot!

Hello! I also used BandB for my studying, and I had the textbook as well. If you are looking for a more comprehensive review of everything- then the textbook is the way to go. The videos do really cover the main points and high yield information, but if you have the time, you can read through the book they give you- although sidenote: whenever I heard from anyone that you can just "read through" information, that didn't help me because for me, I, either, study in a detailed way with notes and flashcards and everything or I don't retain anything. But everyone learns differently so you have to find what works for you. But, I wouldn't get too bogged down with the details they don't cover in the videos. There's a reason they focus on certain things and kind of gloss over others. If you focus on how to learn every single thing about every topic, it is going to be very overwhelming. Your goal is to get the most questions right. And though there will be random questions on the exam about something obscure and detailed, you just take your best guess and move on. I used BandB in conjunction with the masteryApp and the First Aid QandA book (what was talked about in the original post). I went through BandB to learn the material and then I went through the masteryApp and and first aid and did questions and learned from the explanations given. Hope this helps, and best of luck in your studies! You got this!!
I had just registered for the BandB course two days ago. Now when I search for it, it says the website is unavailable. Pls help.
Regarding B&B, I mentioned this in another thread but I'll mention it again here. I like the idea of watching videos to learn but for anyone who is considering to get B&B consider that the co-founder, Kyle Cheatham, who is also the person doing almost all of the videos, is not a dentist (he's an optometrist). That means he never went to dental school and thus has never taken an actual NBDE exam before. Yet in the videos he talks about what to expect on the exam and what topics are usually covered, etc. He says stuff like "they really like to ask about this on the exam" or "you're going to be asked about this for sure." How could he know what to expect on the exam if he's never taken it before? A friend of mine asked them this directly and they replied that he's going by the ASDA released exams. The issue I have with that is that the latest ASDA released exam was over 10 years ago. So my concern with B&B is whether the information they're teaching might be outdated.

I, along with many other dental students, can confirm that the lessons in B&B are not outdated. The NBDE exam itself hasn't changed much over the last 10+ years. So when he tells us to focus on certain topics and emphasize certain points, he bases it off a lot of old exams that he has meticulously gone through. Not to mention, many people who have used his program report back to him and tell him how helpful the program was. And I'm sure he got advice from dentists and dental students on what to focus on in his videos.
I had just registered for the BandB course two days ago. Now when I search for it, it says the website is unavailable. Pls help.

Admittedly I hadn't visited the website in a long time. I just checked right now and it seems like the website is still up. So I'm not sure if you're still having issues with it. Contact their help department, they should get back to you as soon as possible.
Hope the NBDE Part 1 studying is going well. I just wrote a post about how to pass Part 2. Here is the link:

Hope it helps!