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Written Exam Overview - The American Dental Board of Anesthesiology

Overview of the Written Examination

The ADBA Written Examination is usually taken immediately following graduation from residency or within 6 months prior to residency completion for qualified applicants. The examination is given the day before the Annual Scientific Session of the American Society of Dentist Anesthesiologists. Link to Examination Dates for more specific information.

Applications for Written Examination must be postmarked 60 days prior to the date of examination.

The intent of the written examination is to assess the knowledge base of candidates for ADBA Diplomate status. The ADBA Content Outline details the specific areas that are covered in the examination. The following general areas are included on the examination:


Radiological Anatomy


Clinical Medicine


Anesthesia Equipment


Clinical Anesthesia
Legal Considerations


Conduct of the Exam
The written examination consists of 220 questions and 4 hours is allowed for completion. Questions range from direct factual information to questions on clinical technique and range from basic to complex. A general breakdown of questions is as follows but varies from year to year:

Basic Sciences 15%
Pathophysiology and Clinical Medicine 20%
Anesthesia Delivery Systems and Monitoring 15%
Clinical Anesthesiology (incl. Pharmacology) 50%

No questions from candidates regarding specific examination items are allowed during the examination. All questions are standard multiple choice.  For example:

Multiple Choice

1. Which of the following potent inhalation agents affects cardiac contractility the most?

A. Halothane
B. Enflurane
C. Isoflurane
D. Desflurane

Grading and Reporting
Grading is done electronically by the Board and reviewed by a statistician. A cutoff point for passing is then determined to ensure consistency from one year to the next. Scores are reported as Pass/Fail only. The candidate may not request their raw score or number correct. The candidate will be notified within 60 days of their examination result.

Points to Consider by the Candidate
A solid base of factual knowledge is necessary for successful completion of the written examination. There are many excellent anesthesiology texts whose study will aid the candidate in successful completion. Some of the texts that candidates have reported useful for study in the past, and which the Board recommends but does not limit their reference material from, include the most recent editions of:

Barash, Clinical Anesthesiology
Stoelting, Anesthesia and Co-existing Disease
Faust, Anesthesiology Review
Gregory, Pediatric Anesthesia

Certainly, many other standard textbooks that cover these topics would be quite acceptable and it is not the intent of the Board to limit the texts which should be reviewed.

Familiarization with the Examination

The candidate may familiarize themselves with the style of the written examination by taking the ADBA Dental Anesthesiology In-Training Examination conducted each February at the Training Programs.