Back To Top

Vision 2022: The Future of the Equivalency Process

Summarize the three changes to the Equivalency Process

Vision 2022

In 2019, the National Dental Examining Board of Canada (NDEB), as part of its five-year strategic plan, committed to undertake an evaluation of the existing Equivalency Process for graduates of non-accredited dental programs. This review was intended to identify strengths and potential areas for modifications in the evaluation of international dental graduates who are seeking licensure in Canada.

The NDEB previously examined the blueprint for the Equivalency Process in 2016 after completing a national study to identify and measure the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) required for entry to dental practice in Canada. Using the results of this analysis, NDEB examiners reviewed the blueprints for each of the examinations in the Equivalency Process; the Assessment of Fundamental Knowledge (AFK), the Assessment of Clinical Skills (ACS), and the Assessment of Clinical Judgment (ACJ) and recommended a series of changes the Board.

Over the last year, the NDEB has considered these recommendations, the 2019 evaluation for the Equivalency Process, and consulted with many of its stakeholders. The result is a multi-stage plan to modify the Equivalency Process while preserving the fairness, validity and reliability of its examinations.

Step 1

The first step relates to the total number of questions on the AFK. The AFK is currently a 300 question multiple-choice examination. After thorough investigation, independent psychometric consultants have recommended that the number of questions on the examination could be reduced while still maintaining strong validity and reliability. Therefore, beginning in 2021 the AFK will be comprised of 200 questions. The examination will continue to be administered electronically.

Step 2

The second step is an update to eligibility for the examinations in the Equivalency Process. Currently, examinees who are successful in the AFK are then eligible to take both the ACJ and the ACS at the same time or in the order of their choosing. Beginning in 2022, the eligibility will become sequential. Participants who successfully complete the AFK will first be eligible to take the ACJ. Once successful in the ACJ, examinees will be eligible to sit the ACS. This change is being made to align the testing with the principle that individuals must demonstrate that they have clinical judgement prior to performing technical skills on patients, especially irreversible dental procedures.

Step 3

The third step involves the ACS. Currently, the ACS can be taken a maximum of three times. Examinees can fail one of 12 requirements and still pass the examination. In the updated Equivalency Process model, an examinee will be able to take the new ACS an unlimited number of times. However, they will not be permitted to fail any requirements. This is a significant change from the existing structure. The new ACS will introduce new requirements that will test skills required for general practitioner dentists. The NDEB expects this new ACS to be in place in 2022.

Finally, the NDEB is excited to announce that it is beginning the construction of an in-house ACS testing facility in Ottawa, Ontario. The development of the NDEB ACS facility will have many benefits. Primarily it will allow the NDEB to administer the new ACS in a controlled purpose-built testing environment on a regular basis throughout the year, reducing scheduling bottlenecks while increasing capacity for this examination. For examinees, it provides greater scheduling flexibility, a consistent testing experience, and an overall lower stress environment. The NDEB is projecting to open the facility in time to offer the new ACS in 2022.

The NDEB has garnered significant support for the Equivalency Process changes from its stakeholders and is confident these changes will continue its ability to conduct fair, valid, and reliable assessments of competence for beginning dental practitioners in Canada.

Quick Facts

  • Eligibility for the ACS will require that you have successfully completed the AFK and ACJ. If you previously became ineligible for the Equivalency Process due to failure of the ACS three times, as of January 2022 you will have the ability to restart the Equivalency Process.
  • If an individual has already passed the ACS but not the ACJ when the eligibility requirements change in January 2022, they will only be required to complete the ACJ. They will not be required to retake the ACS.
  • Only the ACS will move to unlimited attempts. Individuals will be able to take the ACS an unlimited number of attempts in a 60 month period. If they are unsuccessful, they will need to requalify for the ACS by repeating the AFK and ACJ. This is in place to ensure currency of knowledge and judgement.
  • A person can go through the Equivalency Process in the new system a maximum of two times. If they are unsuccessful, they will need to complete a Degree Completion Program or DDS/DMD/BDS program in order to qualify for the Certification examinations.
  • The modified ACS blueprint is currently in development. The blueprint will be approved by the Board at the Annual Meeting in October 2021 and then made available to examinees.
  • The development of an in-house testing facility for the ACS will allow the examination to be run regularly throughout the year. The facility will be designed to test smaller groups of examinees more frequently. This has many advantages for both the examinees and the NDEB including a lower stress environment, increased access to the exam, flexible test dates, and more.

Frequently Asked Questions

Individuals who are ineligible for the Equivalency Process because they failed the ACS three times, can reapply to the Equivalency Process by completing an online application form that will be available through the NDEB website in January 2022. Only those that failed the ACS three times are eligible to reapply. When an application is received, NDEB staff will confirm the individual is eligible to restart the Equivalency Process and the individuals existing NDEB online profile will be updated accordingly.
Individuals who were previously approved to participate in the Equivalency Process will not have to resubmit their educational credentials. They will however, be required to submit a notarized copy of current government issued photo identification, upload a recent photograph, and a provide a name change request form if required.
Yes, there will be a small administrative fee for reapplication to the Equivalency Process. When your application is received and it is confirmed you are eligible, the application fee will be added to your online profile, and you will be notified to make the payment.
It is expected that a reapplication to the Equivalency Process will take between 8-10 weeks. This timeframe may change based on the volume of applications received.
If you reapply to the Equivalency Process, your previous examination scores will be voided and you will no longer have access to them. When you order a transcript, these scores will not be reported and the NDEB will be unable to confirm previous exam scores with third-parties.
The ACS team is working hard on the development of the modified ACS blueprint. The blueprint will be available for examinees well in advance of the first ACS so that examinees can prepare.
We cannot confirm the date of the first ACS to be offered in the NDEB clinic; however, we do not expect to be able to offer the ACS in our facility before June 2022. The clinic construction is underway, but we are aware that construction delays are not uncommon. When we are confident that the ACS can be run, we will provide examinees with the dates of exam sessions and registration instructions.
When the new eligibility requirements come into effect on January 1, 2022, you will no longer be able to register for the ACS unless you have received a passing grade on the ACJ. If you have already passed the ACS but have not passed the ACJ this will not affect your ACS result.
For anyone currently eligible to take the ACS the five-year time period to successfully complete the ACS will begin on January 1, 2022. After January 1, 2022 eligibility for the ACS will require successful completion of the ACJ. When a participant passes the ACJ, the five year time period will start.