Test Preparation System for Dental Assisting Exam (page 4)
Taking this exam is no picnic, and neither is getting ready for it. Your future career in dental assisting depends on you getting a high score on the various parts of the test, but there are all sorts of pitfalls that can keep you from doing your best on this all - important exam. Here are some of the obstacles that can stand in the way of your success:
- being unfamiliar with the format of the exam
- being paralyzed by test anxiety
- leaving your preparation to the last minute or not preparing at all
- not knowing vital test-taking skills: how to pace yourself through the exam, how to use the process of elimination, and when to guess
- not being in tip - top mental and physical shape
- messing up on exam day by having to work on an empty stomach or shivering through the exam because the room is cold
What’s the common denominator in all these test-taking pitfalls? One word: control. Who’s in control, you or the exam?
The LearningExpress Test Preparation System puts you in control. In just nine easy - to - follow steps, you will learn everything you need to know to make sure that you are in charge of your preparation and your performance on the exam. Other test takers may let the exam get the better of them; other test takers may be unprepared or out of shape, but not you. After completing this chapter, you will have taken all the steps you need to get a high score on the dental assisting exam.
Here’s how the LearningExpress Test Preparation System works: nine easy steps lead you through everything you need to know and do to get ready for this exam. Each of the steps listed below and on the following pages includes both reading about the step and one or more activities. It’s important that you do the activities along with the reading, or you won’t be getting the full benefit of the system. Each step tells you approximately how much time that step will take you to complete.
- Step 1. Get Information
- Step 2. Conquer Test Anxiety
- Step 3. Make a Plan
- Step 4. Learn to Manage Your Time
- Step 5. Learn to Use the Process of Elimination
- Step 6. Know When to Guess
- Step 7. Reach Your Peak Performance Zone
- Step 8. Get Your Act Together
- Step 9. Do It! (10 minutes) Total time for complete system
We estimate that working through the entire system will take you approximately three hours. It’s perfectly okay if you work at a faster or slower pace. If you can take a whole afternoon or evening, you can work through the whole LearningExpress Test Preparation System in one sitting. Otherwise, you can break it up, and do just one or two steps a day for the next several days. It’s up to you—remember, you are in control.
Step 1: Get Information
Knowledge is power. The first step in the LearningExpress Test Preparation System is finding out everything you can about the types of dental assisting exams offered. For example, the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB)’s Review (Third Edition) outlines all the details about taking the CDA exam. Your local state dental assisting boards will have information for you on the RDA exam requirements, which vary from state to state.
What You Should Find Out
The more details you can find out about the exam, either from the national or state boards’ publications, the more efficiently you will be able to study. Here’s a list of some things you might want to find out about your exam:
- What skills are tested?
- How many sections are on the exam?
- How many questions are in each section?
- Are the questions ordered from easy to hard, or is the sequence random?
- How much time is allotted for each section?
- Are there breaks between sections?
- What is the passing score, and how many questions do you have to answer right in order to get that score?
- Does a higher score give you any advantages, like a better rank on the eligibility list?
- How is the exam scored, and is there a penalty for wrong answers?
- Are you permitted to go back to a prior section or move on to the next section if you finish early?
- Can you write in the exam booklet, or will you be given scratch paper?
- What should you bring with you on exam day?
What’s on Most Dental Assistant Exams (CDA and RDA)
The skills that are tested in the dental assisting written exam vary from state to state. That’s why it’s important to contact the DANB as well as your local state association to find out what skills are covered.
Step 2: Conquer Test Anxiety
Having complete information about the exam is the first step in getting control of it. Next, you have to overcome one of the biggest obstacles to test success: test anxiety. Test anxiety can not only impair your performance on the exam itself, but it can even keep you from preparing properly. In Step 2, you will learn stress management techniques that will help you succeed on your exam. Learn these strategies now, and practice them as you work through the questions in this book, so they’ll be second nature to you by exam day.
Combating Test Anxiety
The first thing you need to know is that a little test anxiety is a good thing. Everyone gets nervous before a big exam—and if that nervousness motivates you to prepare thoroughly, so much the better. It’s said that Sir Laurence Olivier, one of the foremost British actors of the twentieth century, threw up before every performance. His stage fright didn’t impair his performance; in fact, it probably gave him a little extra edge—just the kind of edge you need to do well, whether on a stage or in an examination room.
Stress Management before the Exam
If you feel your level of anxiety is getting the best of you in the weeks before the exam, here is what you need to do to bring the level down again:
- Get prepared. There’s nothing like knowing what to expect and being prepared for it to put you in control of test anxiety. That’s why you’re reading this book. Use it faithfully, and remind yourself that you’re better prepared than most of the people taking the exam.
- Practice self - confidence. A positive attitude is a great way to combat test anxiety. This is no time to be humble or shy. Stand in front of the mirror and say to your reflection, “I’m prepared. I’m full of self - confidence. I’m going to ace this exam. I know I can do it.” Say it into a recorder, and play it back once a day. If you hear it often enough, you will believe it.
- Fight negative messages. Every time someone starts telling you how hard the exam is or how it’s almost impossible to get a high score, start telling them your self - confidence messages above. If the someone with the negative messages is you—telling yourself you don’t do well on exams, that you just can’t do this—don’t listen. Turn on your recorder and listen to your self - confidence messages.
- Visualize. Imagine yourself reporting for duty on your first day of dental assisting. Think of yourself wearing your uniform with pride and learning skills you will use for the rest of your life. Visualizing success can help make it happen—and it reminds you of why you’re doing all this work in preparing for the exam.
- Exercise. Physical activity helps calm down your body and focus your mind. Besides, being in good physical shape can actually help you do well on the exam. Go for a run, lift weights, go swimming—and do it regularly.
Stress Management on Exam Day
There are several ways you can bring down your level of test stress and anxiety on exam day. They’ll work best if you practice them in the weeks before the exam, so you know which ones work best for you.
- Deep breathing. Take a deep breath while you count to five. Hold it for a count of one, and then let it out on a count of five. Repeat several times.
- Move your body. Try rolling your head in a circle. Rotate your shoulders. Shake your hands from the wrist. Many people find these movements very relaxing.
- Visualize again. Think of the place where you are most relaxed: lying on the beach in the sun, walking through the park, or whatever relaxes you. Now, close your eyes and imagine you’re actually there. If you practice in advance, you will find that you need only a few seconds of this exercise to experience a significant increase in your sense of well - being.
When anxiety threatens to overwhelm you during the exam, there are still things you can do to manage your stress level:
- Repeat your self - confidence messages. You should have them memorized by now. Say them quietly to yourself, and believe them!
- Visualize one more time. This time, visualize yourself moving smoothly and quickly through the exam, answering every question correctly and finishing just before time is up. Like most visualization techniques, this one works best if you’ve practiced it ahead of time.
- Find an easy question. Skim over the test until you find an easy question, and answer it. Getting even one circle filled in gets you into the test -taking groove.
- Take a mental break. Everyone loses concentration once in a while during a long exam. It’s normal, so you shouldn’t worry about it. Instead, accept what has happened. Say to yourself, “Hey, I lost it there for a minute. My brain is taking a break.” Put down your pencil, close your eyes, and do some deep breathing for a few seconds. Then, you’re ready to go back to work.
Try these techniques ahead of time, and see if they work for you!
Step 3: Make a Plan
Many people do poorly on exams because they forget to make a study schedule. The most important thing you can do to better prepare yourself for your exam is to create a study plan or schedule. Spending hours the day before the exam poring over sample test questions not only raises your level of anxiety, but it is also not a substitute for careful preparation and practice over time.
Don’t cram. Take control of your time by mapping out a study schedule. There are four examples of study schedules on the following pages, based on the amount of time you have before the exam. If you’re the kind of person who needs deadlines and assignments to motivate you for a project, here they are. If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t like to follow other people’s plans, you can use the suggested schedules to construct your own.
In constructing your plan, you should take into account how much work you need to do. You can also customize your plan according to the information you gathered in Step 1. If the exam you have to take doesn’t include dental office procedures, for instance, you can concentrate on other areas that are covered.
Even more important than making a plan is making a commitment. You can’t review everything you learned in your dental assisting course in one night. You have to set aside some time every day for studying and practice.
Try to set aside at least 20 minutes a day. Twenty minutes daily will do you more good than two hours crammed into a Saturday. If you have months before the exam, you’re lucky. Don’t put off your study until the week before the exam. Start now. Even ten minutes a day, with half an hour or more on weekends, can make a big difference in your score—and in your chances of becoming a dental assistant.
Step 4: Learn to Manage Your Time
First, you will take control of your time on the exam. The first step in achieving this control is to find out the format of the exam you’re going to take. Dental assisting exams have different sections that are each timed separately. If this is true of the exam you will be taking, you will want to practice using your time wisely on the practice exams and trying to avoid mistakes while working quickly. Other types of exams don’t have separately timed sections. If this is the case, just practice pacing yourself on the practice exams so you don’t spend too much time on difficult questions.
- Listen carefully to directions. By the time you get to the exam, you should know how the test works, but listen just in case something has changed.
- Pace yourself. Glance at your watch every few minutes, and compare the time to how far you’ve gotten in the section. Leave some extra time for review, so that when one - quarter of the time has elapsed, you should be more than a quarter of the way through the section, and so on. If you’re falling behind, pick up the pace.
- Keep moving. Don’t spend too much time on one question. If you don’t know the answer, skip the question and move on. Circle the number of the question in your test booklet in case you have time to come back to it later.
- Keep track of your place on the answer sheet. If you skip a question, make sure you skip on the answer sheet, too. Check yourself every five to ten questions to make sure the question number and the answer sheet number match.
- Don’t rush. You should keep moving, rushing won’t help. Try to keep calm and work methodically and quickly.
Step 5: Learn to Use the Process of Elimination
After time management, the next most important tool for taking control of your exam is using the process of elimination wisely. It’s standard test - taking wisdom that you should always read all the answer choices before choosing your answer. This helps you find the right answer by eliminating wrong answer choices. And, sure enough, that standard wisdom applies to this exam, too.
Let’s say you’re facing a question that goes like this:
13. “Biology uses a binomial system of classification.”
In this sentence, the word binomial most nearly means
a. understanding the law.
b. having two names.
c. scientifically sound.
d. having a double meaning.
If you happen to know what binomial means, you don’t need to use the process of elimination, but let’s assume that, like most people, you don’t. So, you look at the answer choices. “Understanding the law” sure doesn’t sound very likely for something having to do with biology. So, you eliminate choice a—and now you only have three answer choices to deal with. Mark an X next to choice a so you never have to read it again.
Move on to the other answer choices. If you know that the prefix bi - means two, as in bicycle, you will flag answer b as a possible answer. Make a check mark beside it, meaning “good answer, I might use this one.”
Choice c, “scientifically sound,” is a possibility. At least it’s about science, not law. It could work here, though, when you think about it, having a “scientifically sound” classification system in a scientific field is kind of redundant. You remember the bi- in binomial, and probably continue to like answer b better. But you’re not sure, so you put a question mark next to c, meaning “well, maybe.”
Now, look at choice d, “having a double meaning.” You’re still keeping in mind that bi - means two, so this one looks possible at first. But then you look again at the sentence the word belongs in, and you think, “Why would biology want a system of classification that has two meanings? That wouldn’t work very well!” If you’re really taken with the idea that bi- means two, you might put a question mark here. But if you’re feeling a little more confident, you will put an X. You’ve already got a better answer picked out.
Now, your question looks like this:
13. “Biology uses a binomial system of classification.”
In this sentence, the word binomial most nearly means
X a. understanding the law.
✓ b. having two names.
? c. scientifically sound.
? d. having a double meaning.
You’ve got just one check mark, for a good answer. If you’re pressed for time, you should simply mark answer b on your answer sheet. If you’ve got the time to be extra careful, you could compare your check mark answer to your question mark answers to make sure that it’s better. (It is: The binomial system in biology is the one that gives a two - part genus and species name like homo sapiens.)
It’s good to have a system for marking good, bad, and maybe answers. We recommend using this one:
X = bad ✓ = good ? = maybe
If you don’t like these marks, devise your own system. Just make sure you do it long before exam day—while you’re working through the practice exams in this book—so you won’t have to worry about it during the exam.
Even when you think you’re absolutely clueless about a question, you can often use the process of elimination to get rid of one answer choice. If so, you’re better prepared to make an educated guess.
More often, the process of elimination allows you to get down to only two possibly right answers. Then you’re in a strong position to guess. And sometimes, even though you don’t know the right answer, you find it simply by getting rid of the wrong ones, as you did in the example above.
The process of elimination is your tool for the next step, which is knowing when to guess.
Step 6: Know When to Guess
Armed with the process of elimination, you’re ready to take control of one of the big questions in test-taking: Should I guess? The first and main answer is yes. Unless the exam has a so - called “guessing penalty,” you have nothing to lose and everything to gain from guessing. The more complicated answer depends both on the exam and on you—your personality and your “guessing intuition.”
Most dental assisting exams don’t use a guessing penalty. The number of questions you answer correctly yields your score, and there’s no penalty for wrong answers. So most of the time, you don’t have to worry— simply go ahead and guess. But if you find that your exam does have a guessing penalty, you should read the section below to find out what that means to you.
How the Guessing Penalty Works
A guessing penalty really only works against random guessing—filling in the little circles to make a nice pattern on your answer sheet. If you can eliminate one or more answer choices, as outlined above, you’re better off taking a guess than leaving the answer blank, even on the sections that have a penalty.
Here’s how a guessing penalty works: Depending on the number of answer choices in a given exam, some proportion of the number of questions you get wrong is subtracted from the total number of questions you got right. For instance, if there are four answer choices, typically the guessing penalty is one - third of your wrong answers. Suppose you took an exam of 100 questions. You answered 88 of them right and 12 wrong.
If there’s no guessing penalty, your score is simply 88. But if there’s a one - third point guessing penalty, the scorers take your 12 wrong answers and divide by three to come up with four. Then they subtract that four from your correct answer score of 88 to leave you with a score of 84. Thus, you would have been better off if you had simply not answered those 12 questions. Then your total score would still be 88 because there wouldn’t be anything to subtract.
What You Should Do About the Guessing Penalty
You now know how a guessing penalty works. The first thing this means for you is that marking your answer sheet at random doesn’t pay. If you’re running out of time on an exam that has a guessing penalty, you should not use your remaining seconds to mark a pretty pattern on your answer sheet. Take those few seconds to try to answer one more question right.
But as soon as you get out of the realm of random guessing, the guessing penalty no longer works against you. If you can use the process of elimination to get rid of even one wrong answer choice, the odds stop being against you and start working in your favor.
Sticking with our example of an exam that has four answer choices, eliminating just one wrong answer makes your odds of choosing the correct answer one in three. That’s the same as the one-out-of-three guessing penalty—even odds. If you eliminate two answer choices, your odds are one in two—better than the guessing penalty. In either case, you should go ahead and choose one of the remaining answer choices.
When There Is No Guessing Penalty
As noted above, most dental assisting exams don’t have a guessing penalty. That means that, all other things being equal, you should always go ahead and guess, even if you have no idea what the question means. Nothing can happen to you if you’re wrong. But all other things aren’t necessarily equal. The other factor in deciding whether or not to guess, besides the guessing penalty, is you. There are two things you need to know about yourself before you go into the exam:
- Are you a risk - taker?
- Are you a good guesser?
Your risk - taking temperament matters most on exams with a guessing penalty. Without a guessing penalty, even if you’re a play - it - safe person, guessing is perfectly safe. Overcome your anxieties, and go ahead and mark an answer.
But what if you’re not much of a risk-taker, and you think of yourself as the world’s worst guesser? Complete the worksheet Your Guessing Ability on the next two pages to get an idea of how good your intuition is.
Add your own comment
Today on Education.com
- Kindergarten Sight Words List
- The Five Warning Signs of Asperger's Syndrome
- What Makes a School Effective?
- Child Development Theories
- Why is Play Important? Social and Emotional Development, Physical Development, Creative Development
- 10 Fun Activities for Children with Autism
- Test Problems: Seven Reasons Why Standardized Tests Are Not Working
- Bullying in Schools
- A Teacher's Guide to Differentiating Instruction
- Should Your Child Be Held Back a Grade? Know Your Rights