Like it or not, intense studying is a crucial part of being prepared for the Assessment of Clinical Judgement (ACJ) exam. Whether you decide to cram a few months before, practice trial and error, or take an exam prep course to dive deeper into the topics of periodontics, endodontics, and restorative dentistry, finding the right approach to passing is key.
As you navigate which study habit is the most effective for you, follow our five tips from Prep Doctors’ instructor, Dr. Khalid Khalid, for how you can study for the ACJ exam to feel most comfortable and confident come exam day.
1. Practice, Practice, Practice.
The ACJ exam is a 5.5-hour test consisting of 120 to 150 single-answer and multi-answer multiple-choice questions that offer a case-based assessment to evaluate an examinee’s clinical knowledge and clinical decision-making skills. The exam is divided into two booklets. The first hones in on a candidate’s know-how to formulate a diagnosis and draw clinical conclusions from dental charts, case histories, and photographs. The second booklet looks to test a candidate’s knowledge in oral radiology and their ability to make a radiographic interpretation and diagnosis through radiographic images.
We have found the best path to succeeding in these assessments is to practice… a lot. As ACJ instructor, Dr. Khalid Khalid, who has personally helped many dentists pass the exam, says, “Each x-ray looks different. When we look at x-rays in clinic, that’s in conjunction with what we see in the patient’s mouth, so that’s helpful, for example, for diagnosing caries or diagnosing bone loss or periodontal disease or an infection. It’s not that there is individuality between people. There is individuality between x-rays.”
“With radiology, you can get any x-ray in the exam. We’ve tried to include as much practice as possible in the (ACJ) course for x-rays so when someone is in the exam attempting those questions on their own, they will have that same exact approach of examining the x-rays,” says Dr. Khalid. Looking at x-rays top to bottom, left to right and building on each tooth’s visible structure can allow candidates to comprehensively analyze multiple x-rays as a practice method for “the more you look at x-rays, the more you are able to get from them, in general,” suggests Dr. Khalid.
2. The right approach is balance
Passing the ACJ exam is all about having the tools needed to approach it with certainty. At Prep Doctors, we are constantly asked what approach candidates should take when they are up against an x-ray that accompanies a question allowing several options to the correct answer. Figuring out how conservative or aggressive you want to be on the exam is not the hurdle you should focus on. As Dr. Khalid says, the answer is neither. Instead, candidates should examine every x-ray singularly and weigh each selection they are given against one another to see which options are clear and worth choosing and which they should leave aside based on uncertainty.
3. Don’t think of the ACJ exam as an open battlefield.
When taking the ACJ exam, there’s typically a debate about the number of correct answers to choose for a single question. As Dr. Khalid mentions, this is “a challenging aspect of the exam to get a grasp on,” as it is relatively subjective.
However, the ACJ is designed to cover basic radiology for a general practitioner. On that account, there is a specific structure to the two main components (patient cases and x-rays) of the exam.
Put simply, try not to worry about the stress of choosing a certain number of answers; alternatively, “Think of it as a finite number of questions that you might get,” advises Dr. Khalid.
4. Understand the basics and focus on what’s important.
Coming out of the AFK exam, candidates have an immense amount of knowledge. However, with the ACJ, it’s not always about how much you know, but rather, about focussing on the basic concepts being examined.
“Try to approach different diseases, medical conditions, and aspects of patient care from as many viewpoints as possible and build on it,” says Dr. Khalid. Bring in as many cases as you can of similar diseases with different presentations and cases of different diseases with similar presentations.
At Prep Doctors, we look at the NDEB’s references for specific topics; including but not limited to, pathology, periodontology, endodontics, radiology, and anesthesia, and cover these evidence-based concepts in our lectures and course material formulating questions, answers, practice sessions, quizzes, and mock exams from them to fully understand and solidify their weight to increase a candidate’s retention of learning.
5. Take an exam preparation course with us.
Prep Doctors follows a practice-heavy, cover-all-bases approach with more than 100 in-class hours and a problem-based learning method specially tailored to equip you with strategies you can’t find anywhere else. With four computer-based ACJ mock exams and multiple practice sessions for individual cases and radiographs, taking the Prep Doctors ACJ course ensures your success above all else.
To find out the winning ACJ approach and more tips like these from your instructors, Dr. Marwan Al Rayes and Dr. Khalid Khalid, enroll here. You can also learn more about our ACJ course and what you can expect, watch our ACJ Course Breakdown below or on our YouTube channel here.
Have a question about the ACJ exam that you need personally answered? Our team is always available to answer any questions about the NDEB process and dental equivalency. So, please reach out to us through our Facebook page or email us at [email protected]. We are more than happy to help!
For all other essential details and some ACJ study materials from the NDEB’s ACJ Protocol, click here.