Top tips for case presentation in exams

case presentationCase presentation is a genuine artform. Get it right and the rewards can be immense. Iqra Rashid offers top tips for those undergraduates and postgraduates.

By fifth year, every dental student would have become accustomed to different examinations and how to prepare for them. However, the case presentation assessment is probably one of the most daunting aspects for a final year student.

For many of us, this is our first case presentation and also the last assessment we have to complete before we can graduate as dentists. The thought of standing up and presenting your case and then getting asked questions, can be extremely nerve-racking.

However, if you prepare well then there is no need to panic and worry. Here are my top tips on how to prepare for the finals case presentation. 

Start early

Start looking for potential patients in your fourth year. This will give you ample time to complete their treatment and also take some of the pressure off your final year if you have one case in the bag.

Even if you find better cases in fifth year, you would have at least gained the knowledge and experience in completing a case presentation. So use it as a trial run – it may even be the case you end up presenting for your finals exam as I did!

Select multiple patients

Every patient you initially see in final year should be treated as a potential finals case. There is no way to know which patient is motivated or will attend regularly until you have seen them a few times.

The worst situation is when you later realise one of your patients could have been a good finals case but you have already started their treatment and have no photos to show for it!

Plan your appointments

Initially you may think you have a lot of clinic time in final year. However, you would be surprised at how many students feel there is not enough time to complete everything.

In most student experiences, things don’t go to plan and labwork often takes a lot longer than you think.

Booking extra appointments to account for any setbacks should they occur and knowing what you want to complete at each appointment, will ensure you get the most out of your clinical time and complete the planned treatment.

Keep it simple and safe

A lot of us like to impress when it comes to exams and want to showcase our complex work and the unique techniques we have learnt.

However, do not lose sight of the fact that this case presentation is to check that you are safe to practise independently.

Stick to the basics and what you’re comfortable with – this will stop you from stressing out and also help avoid any raised eyebrows on techniques you may have picked up from online.

Make a case presentation template and update it regularly

This is a great technique to ensure you do not miss out anything in your patient’s care plan. Typically, a case presentation would include:

  • The patient histories (medical, social, dental)
  • Extra-oral and intraoral examination
  • Any special investigations and what they show eg radiographs, vitality tests
  • The prognosis of teeth and patient risk factors at the initial assessment
  • A diagnoses list
  • A treatment plan with different dental disciplines
  • Maintenance and continuity of care plans
  • A reflection on what went well, what didn’t go well and what you would do differently.

Ask for advice

Seek help from your tutors and previous dental students. They will all have experience in planning case presentations. They can give advice on what the assessors look for and the types of questions you could get asked.

Prepare, prepare, prepare

The finals case assessment is very time pressurised. It is a good idea to time yourself and practise presenting to your colleagues or friends and family. That way you can get used to presenting to others and can get feedback on your case.

An online forum set up by young dentists called ‘Deciduous’ offers to carry out mock assessments in the run up to the finals case presentations and a lot of students found this very useful. The more feedback you can obtain, the better!

Research your case thoroughly

To demonstrate that you are safe, you need to be able to justify your treatment. Any decision we make should always involve a combination of our patient’s preference, our own clinical judgement and the best available evidence. Therefore, it is a good idea to get a few studies to back up your case and the treatment choices you have made, for example, why you chose to use composite instead of amalgam.

Your assessors can only ask you questions related to your case. Therefore you need to know your case inside and out. So, if you’ve mentioned ‘a high smile line’ then know what it means – these are easy marks to pick up.

Remember, the assessors are looking for safe beginners. If you can demonstrate a logical approach, justify your decisions. Also, reflect and learn from things that did not go to plan. Then, there is no reason why you shouldn’t do well.  


This article was first commissioned for Dentistry Scotland magazine. Read the latest issue of Dentistry Scotland here.

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