Exam Development Process

The NDHCB uses various staff, committees and working groups formed by dental hygiene subject matter experts (SMEs) who have current knowledge of curricula in Canadian dental hygiene education, various clinical settings, community health, and administrative settings from all regions across Canada. They perform the following Exam development functions:

  • Item Writing: The NDHCB owns a large bank of examination items that has to be refreshed constantly. NDHCB Item writers are responsible to develop new items for the NDHCB Item Bank. This is done through face-to-face item-writing training sessions facilitated by a representative from the NDHCB Testing Agency and a staff normally in the Ottawa area. Participants learn how to develop multiple-choice items using secure online item writing software. The items thus produced will then undergo a series of review steps before they appear on an examination.

  • Group Reviews: All items newly written undergo a group review before they can be sent for item appraisal. These group reviews are also facilitated by a representative from the Testing Agency and they are either done face-to-face or through the use of Web conferencing.

  • Examination Committee: This senior NDHCB operational committee is responsible for the final review of all examination items. Through the help of a representative from the Testing Agency, the committee is responsible for DH competency-based blueprint development, exam monitoring and standard setting for the exam.

  • French Translation Validation Group: This group of bilingual SMEs is responsible to review and validate the translation from English to French of the examination; this translation having first been conducted by the NDHCB official translator.


What Competencies Do We Evaluate?

The examination is developed to measure an explicitly defined content area, which consists of the competencies in dental hygiene practice (Dental Hygiene Process (DHP): Assessment & Diagnosis, DHP: Planning, DHP: Implementation, DHP: Evaluation). These competencies, and the guidelines and specifications that outline the way they should be measured on the examination, are presented in the NDHCB Blueprint (see "Quick Links").

These examinations pass through several steps to ensure they reflect current dental hygiene practice, and are professionally and psychometrically sound. Dental hygienists working in the different dental hygiene environments provide the content expertise. Professional consultants facilitate the development process and provide measurement expertise.


Examination Blueprint 

The NDHCB publishes a Blueprint (see "Quick Links") for all its examinations. The Blueprint lists all of the competencies (knowledge, abilities, skills, attitudes and judgment) that are tested on the examination. Although the Blueprint was not developed specifically for study purposes, it does provide valuable information about the examination content, the examination format, types of questions, and those competencies which are tested most frequently.

Approximately every 5 years, a competency review is conducted to develop the Examination Blueprint. The competencies identified in the Blueprint are the fundamental components of a criterion-referenced approach to testing; the comprehensive description of the content domain being measured, in this case, competent entry-level practicing dental hygienists. The competencies form the basis of the examination.

The competencies in the Blueprint are developed by dental hygiene SMEs who have current knowledge of curricula in Canadian dental hygiene education, various clinical settings, community health, and administrative settings from all regions across Canada, using National practice standards, and categorized according to the Dental Hygiene Model of Care. These SMEs also determine the relative importance and the frequency attached to each competency, based on their own experience, the results of a survey administered to dental hygienists across Canada and the input of Canadian regulating agencies as well as other stakeholders in the process.


The Examination Blueprint is updated approximately every 5 years. 


How can I get involved?

In September of every year, we communicate directly with all dental hygiene programs in Canada, to ensure smooth implementation of the activities related to the development and administration of the NDHCE. At that time we ask for their projection of program start and completion dates and the number of candidates they are expecting to graduate. We also ask if any of their dental hygiene educators are interested in participating in activities related to the development of the NDHCE.


However, anyone interested can submit their name and expression of interest to the NDHCB providing they meet the following criteria:

  • Registered/licensed in good standing with a Canadian dental hygiene regulatory authority

  • Already holding the NDHCB Certificate

  • A minimum of 5 years current experience

  • Current knowledge of the curriculum in dental hygiene education is an asset