We wanted to create a series dedicated to how to pass the NDEB exam when moving your dental practice to Canada.
This is designed to help ITDs as they make the transition through Canadian immigration and begin to work, practice, or build a dental career in one of the most beautiful and welcoming countries in the world.
This is part one of our series, where we will get into the details of the AFK Exam in the NDEB process. We will provide some excellent insights and preparation guides as well as insights from one of the top scorers, Dr. Zeina Naous. She is an ITD from Lebanon who is working her way through the NDEB Dental Equivalency process.
We hope this series will result in many more ITDs experiencing the rapid growth potential and lucrative careers available in Canada.
For foreign-trained dentists, the NDEB Dental Exam in Canada is a requirement for certification. The NDEB Dental Exam is offered consists of two parts: the written exam and the clinical exam.
The written exam is a multiple-choice format that tests your understanding of dental and medical knowledge. The clinical section will test your skills with simulated patients.
While studying for both exams, it's important to keep in mind that there's no right or wrong way to prepare. For example, some students prefer using flashcards while others enjoy reading textbooks or taking online courses.
NDEB stands for the National Dental Examining Board, which is the body that oversees the competence level of those ITDs wishing to become or practice as Canadian dentists.
The NDEB equivalency process is designed to establish the credentials of those who have not gone through an accredited dental program.
The first thing you will need to do in this process is getting your account and profile approved after registering at the NDEB website.
That can take anywhere from 4-6 months.
We suggest registering, then immediately beginning to prepare for your AFK exam so you can take it as soon as you are cleared.
What is the AFK Exam in Canada?
The Assessment of Fundamental Knowledge (AFK) is a written exam that students can take when they are studying for the NDEB certification.
The purpose of this exam is to test your basic knowledge of the subjects required by the NDEB equivalency process, which includes anatomy, physiology, dental subjects, etc.
You should know that passing the AFK does not guarantee that you will be able to pass all other exams required.
It's just one step along your journey toward becoming a Canadian dentist.
The test comprises 200 multiple-choice questions designed to evaluate your knowledge and clinical application capabilities.
The AFK is held twice per academic year [currently February and August], but that could change in the future as more and more students are using the online version over in-person proctored exams.
There is a 100-question multiple-choice self-assessment you can try out on the AFK website.
The AFK has a dual purpose. Not only is it required for the NDEB equivalency process, but it is also a fundamental step in attending dental school in Canada.
Where Do You Take the AFK Exam?
You can sit for the AFK by joining a number of different NDEB prep schools throughout Canada or by directly interacting with the NDEB. This will require 300 questions in two parts, each taking roughly 2 hours to complete.
The AFK is offered in two available formats. The first is electronic delivery via a Prometric test center.
The other is through a booklet offered at preselected exam sites that are listed when you register.
In order to pass the AFK exam in Canada, you will need a test-equated re-scaled score of 75 or greater. Anything less is considered a fail.
You can register for the AFK in the same portal you used for setting up an account with the NDEB system.
AFK Exam Insights from Dr. Zeina Naous
Okay, let’s get to the detailed information from an ITD that not only successfully passed the AFK and ACJ exam, but received one of the highest scores in ACJ history.
Dr. Naous is originally from Lebanon and currently lives in Canada while completing her NDEB equivalency process. She is 26 years old, a content creator, and a social media influencer.
Her degree was completed in 2018, and she moved directly after graduation without any dental experience in Lebanon.
How Long to Practice for the AFK Exam?
According to Dr. Naous, the AFK is all about discipline. You should start preparing for your exam about 3-4 months before sitting for the test.
You want to soak in as much of the practice information as much as possible. She strongly recommends prep programs and courses as part of your studying regimen.
The reason for this long preparation is because you will be competing against others in your “cycle.”
The more people that join prep courses, the more experience and exposure they will get with mock exams and practice materials compared to you.
The AFK covers a great deal of information that requires reference materials. While you can do it all on your own, it is easier when you have a curriculum or outline provided by people that have passed the exam and have been researching the material for a long time.
The exams are not very hard, but they are very detailed, so it may take some time in order to understand everything thoroughly enough so that you know exactly what information is necessary when answering questions correctly on the exam day!
Should I Join a Preparation Program or course for the AFK Exam?
Yes, if you can afford to join a prep course or school, you should do it. There are many options out there, but few provide the level of support that is needed to pass the AFK exam.
The first thing to look at when choosing a program is whether or not they offer personalized coaching and guidance from experienced instructors.
They should offer you resources to prepare like personal study sessions, group workshops, and one-on-one tutoring sessions all designed around your needs as an individual student.
You also get access to regular updates on how other students are performing on their exams so that you can see how well-prepared everyone else is.
This is a confidence booster because everyone knows what's going on with each other instead of just wondering about things behind closed doors.
Part of the reason I agreed to be interviewed for this article was that I believe in the personal stories of success as a catalyst for your own completion of the AFK exam.
Seeing testimonials from former students who were able to pass their exams after using our methods provides you with tips and tricks needed to overcome hurdles.
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Attending Lectures for AFK Topics
When you study for the AFK exam, attendance at lectures is just as important as preparing for the exam.
The best way to prepare for an exam is by learning all you can about the subject matter. You can do this by attending lectures and reading textbooks and articles about it.
AFK has its own set of topics that must be covered in order to pass its exams. The subjects covered include local lectures covering Anatomy and Physiology, Dental Practices, and anything else related to the profession of dentistry will only help bolster your experience and workable knowledge.
Other AFK Topics;
⋅ Medical Management
⋅ Basic Science
Practicing for the AFK Exam
Unlike most tests, you don’t want to cram for the NDEB exams. Instead, you should create a study plan that has enough time to allow for memorizing information and understanding the content.
This way, you can avoid mistakes in the exam and feel confident about answering questions correctly.
Assemble a study group of fellow students who are also preparing for the exam.
Having others help you revise material will make it easier for everyone because they will be able to share their notes with one another and compare notes after each practice session.
A Monthly Guide to Training for the AFK Exam
Let me share with you how I prepared myself for the AFK and maybe that can help you decide on a structure for studying and adapting your lifestyle.
♦ Plan out a specific study time and place that I will use every day
♦ Find and attend lectures either online or in-person to help grow my knowledge
♦ Do as much reading as possible, and then go over that material 1, 2, or even 3 times
♦ Develop a solid understanding of problem-solving in general
♦ Dive early into Pharmacology because that is a heavy topic and requires a lot of memorization
♦ Focus more on precise learning going subject by subject
♦ Start to divide your time between studying and taking practice exams for each topic
♦ This is a good time to build a network of fellow students by preparing and having study groups where you test each other
♦ Troubleshooting - time to see where your mistakes are happening the most and focus on those areas
♦ You do not want to just correct a bad answer but understand what led you to that incorrect answer so you can retrain your thought process to avoid the mistake in the future
♦ Start to ease back on stress so you can relax more by introducing breaks so your brain will focus more when it is time to study and begin to internalize information
♦ It is all about practice testing and honing in on those topics that you are still having trouble understanding
♦ The rest is just a refresher to ensure it is still present in your mind
♦ If you are attending a course, it is a good idea to participate in mock exams with them too. This will let you see what your scoring level is in general and in comparison to other students in that cycle.
General Tips for the AFK Exam
Start practicing as soon as you can. The sooner you start, the better your chances of success. Practice at least 5 days a week.
You need to be able to dedicate some time each day to studying and preparing for the tests, especially if you want to get them done in a shorter period of time.
Study at least 3 topics a week.
This will help ensure that you stay consistent with your studies, which is one of the most important factors when it comes to passing any kind of exam.
Stay consistent with reviewing all topics covered during each section/topic within an exam so that when it comes time for the actual testing, there won't be any surprises.
It really helps to have a plan in place from the beginning.
The NDEB equivalency process is a marathon, not a sprint.
There are many resources online and off that provide you with a solid outline to study from, so spend those first few days of studying just developing your overall plan.
The goal is to pass your exam on the first try.
The current fee for the AFK is $800 if you register and take it through the NDEB.
Failing not only means you miss out on that money, but now you have set back the rest of your NDEB equivalency process by probably 6 months. Not to mention that if you took a prep course, that probably set you back an additional $3,000-$4,000 as well.
The more you delay, the longer it will take to either get into a dental school in Canada or move on to the next step of the NDEB equivalency process.
What Comes After the AFK Exam?
After you have successfully completed the AFK exam, you will move on to the ACJ - Assessment of Clinical Judgment.
This exam has a $1,350 fee, but the preparation courses tend to be slightly more affordable at around $2,000-$2,500, depending on where you go.
This will be what is considered one of the hardest parts of the NDEB equivalency process because it tests your ability to bring the correct tools to the problem.
You are expressing your ability to function through problem-based learning and how well you design and implement strategies to overcome clinical issues.
This is more than theoretical knowledge. It is how you express your clinical experience.
Wrapping it Up
This was only the first part in our series on the NDEB Examination Process in Canada for ITDs wanting a career in dentistry
We want to thank Dr. Zeina Naous for her valuable insights into the exam, including her personal experience in receiving one o dentistry.
We hope this article answers many of the questions you may have about the AFK exam and how best to prepare yourself for your upcoming testing date.
Please be sure to come back to our site as we tackle other topics in this series and walk you through the process of transitioning from ITD to a certified dentist in the beautiful country of Canada.
If you have any questions about this article or the ITD process, be sure to send us a note through our contact page. Thank you for reading and stay tuned for more helpful ITD articles!
Dr. Zeina Naous' achievements are inspiring.
Follow her on Instagram @zeina_dentist and on Tiktok
About the Author
Karen Nunez was born in Valenzuela, Philippines. She received her Doctor of Dental Medicine degree from Centro Escolar University in Manila.
Karen currently is a practicing oral health care professional based in Alberta, Canada; and runs a Blog where she writes a slew of articles to empower internationally trained dentists to integrate into Canadian dentistry.
Read more of her blogs here.