The Assessment of Fundamental Knowledge (AFK exam) is a written exam designed to test your knowledge of biomedical science and applied clinical science. It is also really important because it is the admission requirement for many Canadian Degree Completion Programs and the gateway to the rest of the NDEB equivalency process.
To put it simply, you must cram four years of instructional learning into a single exam before moving through the next stages of your dental equivalency process. Considering this test covers everything from Anatomy to Pharmacology and a slew of other dental subjects, it can often feel like an overwhelming task.
We need analytical thinking as human beings. This mindset allows us to find unique solutions to problems, plan to overcome the situation, and then take action to reach our goals. Taking the AFK exam is no different.
To become a dentist in Canada, focusing on your analytical skills will boost your ability to breeze through any exam setting.
So, how do we boost our ability to relax our minds, start detecting patterns, and solve complex problems? It comes down to hacking the test in a way that elevates your capabilities.
That might not sound very easy, but with consistency and our five hacks to improve your analytical thinking, you’ll feel fully prepared to study for the AFK exam.
Hack #1: Know the Test Format
You need to become so comfortable with the AFK test format that fear is completely removed from your success equation. Anytime you let fear of failure creep into your mind, you stunt the creation of long-term memories.
This short circuits your ability to retain all the practice and studying you have completed along the way.
A great way to do this is to join an AFK study group and complete sample questions. You want to familiarize yourself with what the AFK will feel, look, and actually be like on exam day. It should be like greeting an old friend at your home instead of a stranger.
This way, you are hacking your brain to rely on the information you have gathered and not some irrational fear of the unknown.
But hang on! DO NOT spend all your study time in study groups — your AFK course will provide you with ample test and format preparation. Use groups as a hack to solidify your memory. And if a group isn’t focused or taking up too much time, simply drop it!
Hack #2: Kill the Distractions
One of the most common barriers to analytical thinking is distractions. So, you need to adopt the mindset to kill your distractions. That means anything that prevents you from engaging in analytical thoughts, like digital screens, social activities, ringing phones, or even the faucet down the hall, that will not stop dripping.
Obviously, you want a healthy life full of balance, so you must dedicate some established time and space to studying each day.
A “safe study zone” free from anything that distracts your focus away from the task at hand. Friends and family should know that when you enter this space, you are on a mission to study for the AFK exam.
This is not a time to answer questions about where the phone charger is from your roommate.
This is the critical time you need to stay consistent with every topic so there are no surprises when it comes to taking the test.
Hack #3: Go Beyond Memorization
Want to pass the AFK exam? Go beyond memorizing data and then regurgitating it on a piece of paper or a screen. Analytical thinking is all about problem-solving.
When you apply yourself to each practice quiz in your AFK course, try to think of it differently. Give each question the weight of a real-world scenario.
Develop a hunger for a deeper understanding of why this question is crucial for you to know in the first place, and you’ll get to the answer a bit easier.
A good dentist never stops asking questions about why things are happening and how they can be improved.
More than 93% of business and non-profit leaders believe those who demonstrate analytical thinking are better at communication and complex problem-solving.
This is because you are willing to identify problems, select information when evaluating the issue, and draw a conclusion based on your collected evidence.
So, to apply this skill to improve your AFK results, go beyond memorization and:
- • Read each question carefully so you fully understand the problem.
- • Rely on your memory to give you the criteria for formulating an answer.
- • Ask your instructor to clarify if something just doesn’t make sense to you.
- • Present a solution based on the best-fit information you have collected and compare it to any hints on the exam, like multiple choice or key phrases that stand out to your mind.
Hack #4: Visualize Your Goal
No matter how you might feel about visualization, it works. Formal, structured goal setting leads to higher levels of engagement and achievement in individual performance. In other words, make a plan to study and pass your AFK exam.
Give yourself a definitive timeline and set a date for taking your exam. Break studying into smaller chunks for how much you’ll study each day and where you hope to be in 1, 4, 8, or 12 weeks.
Put that schedule on sticky notes all over your study space and keep the idea that you will be successful in the front of your mind. You’ll feed your analytical mind with motivation to work harder.
Hack #5: This is a Marathon
This last hack is a reminder. It’s just that simple: this is a marathon. You are not going to pass the AFK exam with only a day of review. Instead, this is a long-term study plan requiring dedication and commitment. So, find all the resources you can, build a study plan, join a study group, designate a space, and get to work.
Consistency breeds confidence, and you need to endure the negative thoughts of failure to move on to the next stage of your successful dental career.
The AFK exam is only a stepping stone along your professional dental journey but a critical one to take. Use these mental hacks to switch up the way your analytical mind works, and you will see fantastic returns when examination day comes.
You can do this! Don’t forget Prep Doctors is here to help.
Head over to our AFK Course page to learn more about our AFK Full Course, Crash Course, or Review Package options and when you can begin studying for your first NDEB exam.
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 website where she writes a slew of articles to empower internationally trained dentists to integrate into Canadian dentistry.
Read more of her blogs here.