Question banks may be a better indicator of board readiness than mock exams

The Integrated National Board Dental Exam (INBDE) is a comprehensive board exam which was developed to assess a dental student’s readiness to practice dentistry – at least in theory. The problem with that theory is that there’s too much information that the INBDE pulls from to ever be covered by any one test date exam.

Each time a student registers to take the INBDE on any given test date, the exam given is a random sampling of case-based and standalone questions from all content areas, but it may favor one subject matter or another. There’s no guarantee that all or even most of the content areas will be covered, which makes the reporting that dental schools receive… well.. somewhat unreliable.

Why is this important? Well, many dental schools use these reports as a way to “tweak” their curriculum or their board review process to ensure that those areas of weakness indicated by the data received from the previous class is addressed for future dental classes.

The flaw in this type of thinking is based upon the assumption that the previous year’s INBDE was a complete assessment of the students’ required knowledge for their boards, which of course, is not the case.

Mock exams are subject to the same flaw and often fail because they are predicated on the same assumptions we just discussed. The INBDE has only 300 standalone questions and 200 case-based questions for a grand total of 500 total assessment items. This doesn’t cover nearly enough of the required content to give an accurate assessment of a dental student’s knowledge base. It’s not even close to being enough.

Most question banks have thousands of questions. The Digital Dental Notes (DDNs) has 1000 case-based questions and 2000+ standalone questions.

Why does this matter? It matters because a question bank of this size will likely have a much larger coverage of the required content areas than just a simple mock exam. It also has the added benefit to track competency by asking questions within the same subject and topic, or the same foundation and clinical content areas, that ensure that the student just didn’t guess well.

For question banks, such as the DDNs, eliminating or accounting for guesses in board readiness is an important benefit. This one function can reduce the margin of error in assessing board readiness considerably.

The benefits of a good question bank can go well beyond tracking board readiness. In our future discussions, we’ll pursue other applications of a question bank and its potential benefit to curriculum and didactics.

Would you like to learn more about our question bank, the Digital Dental Notes? Please fill out the form below for more information or to request a faculty audit.