The entire Board was surveyed to find out what the most common errors were that they found when grading the Case History and Oral Examinations. It is one thing to list all the “do’s” on constructing a portfolio and in answering questions at the Oral Exam, but what about the little things that could be done better when constructing a passing portfolio and negotiating your way through your three 30-minute sessions?
Click on the items below to see the list of "Common Errors" to avoid for each of these exams.
- Poor quality radiographs. Films that are too dark, too light, not clear, digitals that are too small are just a few deficiencies.
- Insufficient radiographs (no angled views, working length measurements, cone fits, etc.).
- Radiographs that don’t show: 1) the entire periradicular lesion, 2) what is described in the narrative, or 3) all of the canals and their apical terminations.
- Incorrect diagnostic terminology. You should use only the terms found in the AAE glossary.
- Too much unnecessary information. The board is not interested in what clamp you used to retain the rubber dam (just that a dam was used) or what bur was used to open an access.
- Not enough necessary information; follow-ups, medication dosages and uses, how calcium hydroxide (if used) is prepared, just to name a few.
- In the medical history, vital signs, pulse pressure, pulse respiration (and temperature if a patient has an infection) are required.
- Pages and pages of introductory material. Keep the introduction short. Keep technique description short. List important abbreviations. Do not write War and Peace!
- Spelling errors: Please proof read your report for content and then reproof your report strictly for spelling errors.
- Failing to include in the narrative that a follow-up was done that night or the next day on your emergency patient or the patient that had pain on their initial visit.
- Several complaints about the case category called “OTHER”: 1) make sure the case in this category is specialist caliber and 2) explain what the “other” is, i.e. “OTHER-APEXOGENESIS,” or “OTHER-PERF REPAIR.” Reviewers don’t like to guess what the case is all about.
- Radiographs placed in the wrong order.
- Reading extensive pulp testing and diagnostic narrative when a simple chart would do.
- Post treatment evaluation appointments that fall on a Sunday or holiday. Check those dates!
The Directors spend considerable time evaluating each portfolio. The candidates put in a great deal of time putting them together. Rushing to meet a deadline will often lead to technical errors, such as failure to date radiographs or using the incorrect tooth number for a case. These technical errors reduce the score of the portfolio and are easy to avoid simply by using the Candidate Review check list that is supplied in the guidelines.
- References! Use references when indicated or asked for. References are to be used to justify your comments. Unlike the written exam, during the orals there are almost no instances where we ask for a specific author. Failure to use any literature citations to support an answer or uses too many references from the 60’s and 70’s when more relevant and current literature is available. A candidate should be able to quote the classic literature from our specialty, at a minimum, to support a position. Don’t quote “sponsored” speakers as a justification on clinical issues and treatment procedures. Especially if those issues are controversial and not backed up by the literature.
- A Candidate that tries to control the pace of the questions. Keep in mind that the Directors must complete all ten sections of their scripted scenario. A candidate that can’t completely answer a question should say so and move on. It is not good for a candidate to dwell on the question and then try and answer the question later on. Let it go. On the other hand, do not filibuster. Be concise with your answers. Brevity is a virtue.
- Radiographs: When asked to describe what is seen on the radiograph, leave nothing out! Do not fall prey to tunnel vision and describe only the tooth involved.
- Candidates which have a limited or outdated knowledge of pharmacology. Be prepared to discuss current pharmacology as it relates to patient care.
- The candidate who uses outdated or wrong diagnostic terminology. Use the current diagnostic terminology when asked to make a diagnosis.
- A candidate who fails to ask for the medical history.
- Overall, not having a biologic basis for what they purport to do with a similar case in their office.
A few Directors felt compelled to throw in a few words of advice: don’t be nervous, the Board is there to test your knowledge and help you through the examination process. Have a positive attitude. Demonstrate confidence that you are well prepared for the exam.