The Dental Assisting National Board, Inc. (DANB) has developed an examination referred to as the CDA exam, or Certified Dental Assistant exam. This examination has three components: General Chairside Assisting (GC), Radiation Health and Safety (RHS) and Infection Control (ICE). The examination can either be taken on computer or on paper, and if taking it on computer, more than one component of the exam can be taken at once. If taking the exam on paper, only one component of the exam may be taken during any given test administration.
In order to register for any component (or all components) of the CDA exam, an application must be either mailed or faxed to DANB. This application can be found online in the Exam Candidate Guide on the DANB website. All fees must also be paid when the application is submitted, and specific fee schedules are outlined online as well.
When applying for the CDA exam, it is important to note that one of the various eligibility pathways must be followed. There are different eligibility pathways for each component of the CDA exam, and these are outlined on the DANB website.
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The computer-based exam is given year round at various testing centers across the country, and there are no application deadlines for this examination. The written exam is given in February, June, and October, and when applying for the written exam, all specified deadlines must be followed. These deadlines can be found on the DANB website.
After applying for the CDA exam, DANB will mail all successful applicants an admission notice. If one has applied to take the computer-based exam, the admission notice will usually be received by the applicant within 4 weeks from when DANB received the application. If taking the written exam, the admission notice will be received within one to two weeks prior to the exam date.
For people taking the computer-based exam, the admission ticket will contain information on how to schedule an exam time and date. This can be done by calling the phone number given, or by registering online.
There is a 60 day eligibility window, and the exam must be taken during this time, or the application is forfeited. If taking the written exam, the admission ticket will show the test date, time, and location.
The Certified Dental Assistant exam is given in two formats: written or computer-based. The written exam is given at only select times during the year, and the computer-based exam can be taken at any time that is convenient for the test-taker. Both formats of the exam contain multiple choice questions only. There are three components to the CDA exam, and these are: General Chairside, Infection Control, and Radiation Health and Safety.
There are 120 questions in the General Chairside Assisting component of the exam, and they deal with the following topics:
- Patient Preparation and Documentation (17%)
- Patient Management and Administrative Duties (17%)
- Four-Handed Chairside Dentistry (50%)
- Diagnostic/Laboratory Procedures and Dental Materials (16%)
There are 100 questions in the Infection Control component of the exam, and they deal with the following topics:
- Standard Precautions and the Prevention of Disease Transmission (20%)
- Prevention of Cross-contamination during Procedures (34%)
- Instrument/Device Processing (26%)
- Occupational Safety/Administrative Protocols (20%)
Finally, the Radiation Health and Safety component of the CDA exam contains 100 multiple choice questions.
- Expose and Evaluate (26%)
- Quality Assurance and Radiology Regulations (21%)
- Radiation Safety for Patients and Operators (31%)
- Infection Control (22%)
In addition, there are some pretest questions on the exam. These items are not scored, however. There are four hours total to complete all three components of the examination. More than one component may be taken on a given day.
The CDA exam is an adaptive test. This means that the questions you are presented will vary in difficulty depending on how well you are doing. If you answer incorrectly, you will receive an easier question. On the other hand, if you answer correctly, you will be given a harder question. Your exam scored is based on the difficulty of the questions that you answered correctly.
Test-takers are given a preliminary score report upon completion of the exam. Official score reports are mailed out two to three weeks after the exam.
In trying to prepare for the CDA exam, it is important to be familiar with the test structure and its content. Reviewing the content on the test using textbooks and materials from previous studies can prove to be useful. Also, taking practice exams and practice questions can also help indicate areas that may need additional study and review.
On the day of the test, taking the on-screen computer tutorial is useful. This will familiarize the test-taker with the computer system so no problems are encountered during the administration of the test. This computer tutorial can also be found online on the DANB website.
It is also important to pace oneself during the exam, so all questions can be answered. Leaving questions blank can have a negative effect on the overall scaled score. If an answer is not known, a best guess is advised.
- General Chairside Assisting test – 120 test questions
- Radiation Health and Safety (RHS) test – 100 test questions
- Infection Control test – 100 test questions
Students have 4 hours to finish all 320 test questions.
DANB stands for the Dental Assisting National Board.