All U.S. licensing jurisdictions require evidence that a candidate for licensure has passed Parts I and II of the National Board Dental Examinations. The tests, which evaluate students’ preparedness for the study and practice of dentistry, are required for licensure in the United States and are often required when applying for postgraduate studies in dental specialties.

Exams are generally taken during the second half of the four-year DMD or DDS degree program, with Part I of the exam occurring as early as the second year. Part I covers topics in basic sciences that are often learned in the first year of dental school, such as anatomy and physiology.

To pass the board exam it is essential to be able to recall and demonstrate mastery of fundamental concepts such as muscles of mastication and their attachments, the spatial relationship of structures in the oral cavity and their blood supply and innervation.

How could an NYU Dental Professor prepare 350 students for the boards?

Prepping 350 students for the boards

Basic science isn’t so basic. Materials for a single anatomy class span thousands of pages, which contain hundreds of learning objectives. Furthermore, beyond the sheer volume of content there is a tremendous amount of pressure to pass the test. Unlike other tests, the board exam tests overall knowledge, not just the ability to recite facts and figures. Students must learn the content as well as learn strategies and techniques needed to pass the exam.

A common strategy in beating any standardized test is to answer questions where you are practiced, confident, or considered an expert, so it is essential that students know the material well. With a large class of approximately 350 students, and 32 groups, Dr. Elena Cunningham, a professor at the NYU College of Dentistry, knew she needed an effective and efficient test prep solution to support each and every student during their review process. The solution needed to scale and it needed to work. Cerego was the perfect way to help students refresh their memory of first-year course material, and ensure mastery.


A personalized learning tool to crystalize foundational knowledge

Dr. Cunningham selected the Cerego personalized learning platform to bring foundational knowledge to the forefront. Cerego’s learning engine applied a powerful combination of two of the most robust findings in Learning Science—Distributed Learning and Retrieval Practice— and kept track of each student’s interactions with the material, adapting the review schedule and learning experience to each individual user. This enabled more efficient, effective learning.



“You don’t have to test the students — in a very non-stressful way, you can know whether they know that material.”

- Elena P. Cunningham, MA, PHD, NYU Dental Professor



A solution that is easy to implement and use

The adaptive learning platform made it easy for Dr. Cunningham and team to add course material to Cerego and to monitor student progress throughout the review period. Cerego features, such as levels and goals, easily mapped to course curriculum and questions on the board exam. Cerego Insights and analytics tools shed light on previously unknown information about student progress. With Cerego's education software, faculty could see where an individual student stood against the rest of the class, as well as how they were doing with the material.



“Cerego is easier than powerpoint!

- Elena P. Cunningham, MA, PHD, NYU Dental Professor


Improved outcomes for students and instructors

Cerego proved very effective in helping NYU Dental students demonstrate knowledge and mastery of anatomy. 


time.pngInstructors saved time
Cerego reduced small-group learning hours by 50%
The platform replaced 96 faculty hours, freeing up valuable time over the summer months

results.pngStudents achievement soared
The class obtained a 100% pass rate with anatomy scores that were 2.6 standard deviations above the national average of dental schools (beating their previous average)

value.pngDemonstrated value for the university
The successful pilot program, focusing on the review of gross anatomy of the head and neck to prepare for board exams, indicated a clear path to learning. 


Year two saw similar results for NYU College of Dentistry students, and today the school is exploring ways to make personalized learning accessible all NYU students, globally.



Cerego might be the most innovative educational technology tool I have worked with in the last decade.

- Cristián Opazo, Ph.D., M.Sc., Director of Educational Technology, NYU College of Dentistry


In 2017 Dr. Cunningham was presented with a Distinguished Teaching Award, an annual award given to outstanding full-time faculty members in recognition that one of NYU's primary institutional priorities, along with research, is exceptional teaching inside and outside of the classroom setting. It highlights New York University's commitment to teaching excellence and is given annually to selected outstanding members of the faculty. 


About the NYU College of Dentistry 

The NYU College of Dentistry (NYUCD) is the third oldest and the largest dental school in the United States, educating nearly eight percent of United States dentists annually. NYUCD has nearly 1,900 students in its various pre- and postdoctoral programs from all over the United States and 40 foreign countries. NYUCD offers specialty training in the dental specialty areas of: Endodontics, oral and maxillofacial surgery, orthodontics, pediatric dentistry, periodontics, and prosthodontics, as well as in implant dentistry; conducts an extensive continuing education program; and is home to the only dental school-affiliated dental hygiene program in New York State.