DAT Survival Guide
Get ready. If you’re reading this, it’s about to get real.
Written By: Caylen B.
Whew. The Dental Admissions Test. With long hours of studying and months of preparation, this is arguably the most difficult part of the admissions process. Or maybe I’m just speaking from personal experience.
However, for a lot of pre-dental students, preparing to take the DAT is very an intimidating task. This is a considerable portion of your dental school application, so the pressure is on. With the DAT being mentally, physically, and emotionally draining as well, it’s not uncommon for students to experience burn out while studying.
But, never to fear, Just Flossy is here. And we are bringing you the full break down on the DAT. Keep reading to find out what it covers, how to prepare, and the best studying resources so you can crush this test.
What is the dAT?
The Dental Admission Test, or the DAT, is a timed exam conducted by the American Dental Association (ADA). The DAT measures general academic ability, scientific understanding, and perceptual ability.
General DAT Information
Here are some quick facts about the DAT that you should be aware of before signing up:
- The DAT is required by all U.S. Dental Schools
- Testing is given year round on most days
- Testing is administered at test centers operated by Prometric Inc.
- It costs approximately $475 each time you take it (note that this is subject to change)
- Computer based
- Question format is multiple choice
- Testing length is around 4.5 hours
When Should I Take The DAT?
Just Flossy recommends taking the DAT after all prerequiste courses are completed for biology, general chemistry, and organic chemistry. If you can complete anatomy/physiology and genetics coursework also, this can be valuable as well. What you learn in these classes will be covered in the Natural Sciences section.
It is also advised to take the DAT by April the year you plan to apply. This is because the dental school application (officially called the ADEA AADSAS application) opens in May and the earlier you apply, the better — we will get into this more in our AADSAS Application article. However, if you can complete your test earlier than this, that’s more ideal. DAT scores are good for three years so get it out of the way so you’re not stressed about studying while apply to school.
Author’s Note: You do not have to delay submitting your ADEA AADSAS application until you have taken the DAT. This means that you can submit your application in May and take your test in July, and the scores will be added to your application once they are processed in around 3-4 weeks. However, most dental schools will not consider your application complete until they have received your DAT scores. That is why I suggest having your DAT taken by April so there is plenty of time for processing and your application can still be considered early.
How Do I Apply to take the DAT?
To sign up for the DAT, you have to receive approval from the Department of Testing Services at the ADA. Firstly, you’ll need to create a DENTPIN and then submit an application. Here are step to do this below (adapted from ADEA):
Visit the ADA website to submit an application.
Create a DENTPIN, or your Dental Personal Identifier Number. You must do this before you can complete the application to register for the DAT. Remember this number! It will be used throughout the dental school application process.
Complete and submit your application (the non-refundable ~$475 fee will be applied at this time).
Receive eligibility letter from the ADA via email.
Once you receive the eligibility letter, you can schedule an exam date with Prometric testing. You should schedule the test around 60 to 90 days in advance of the day you would like to test!
If you require special testing accommodations, visit the Special Accommodations section of the Prometric website.
Is There Financial Assistance For The DAT?
The answer is yes! The ADA offers a limited number partial fee waivers for students that have received financial aid at his/her educational institution. The waiver covers 50% of the fee, but does not cover any additional charges such as rescheduling fees. Examinees that have previously received a fee waiver or who have already taken the DAT are not eligible for the waiver. To find out more information about this, head over to the ADA’s fee waiver page.
Can I Reschedule My Test?
Yes, however, there are some limitations to this. Firstly, if you decide you want to reschedule, you’ll be required to pay a fee. Here are the prices for rescheduling:
31+ days before test: $25
6-30 days before test: $60
1-5 days before test: $100
Secondly, upon approval to take the DAT, you will only have 6 months to take it! You will not be able to extend that time or receive a refund for your payment. This is why it’s a good idea to pick a date and stick to it. So make sure you are locked in and ready to go!
Can I Take DAT More Than Once?
Yes, the DAT can be taken more than once! However, please know that there are rules and regulations behind this as well:
You can only take the test once every 90 days.
You will have to reapply and pay the ~$475 application fee again
You can only take the test three times, no more unless you get special permission from the ADA.
With this information in mind, Just Flossy strongly encourages the following: Take the DAT ONCE and take it SERIOUSLY. It will benefit you more to study and do well the first time rather than reapply and retake. Also consider that some dental schools only view the newest scores. So if you retake your
Section Breakdown Of The DAT
(Refer to the DAT Guide to see what all is covered in each section).
Tutorial – 15 minutes
Survey of Natural Sciences – 90 minutes for 100 questions
Biology- 40 questions
General Chemistry- 30 questions
Organic Chemistry- 30 questions
Perceptual Ability – 60 minutes for 90 questions
Keyholes- 15 questions
Top-Front-End- 15 questions
Angle Ranking- 15 questions
Hole Punching- 15 questions
Cube Counting- 15 questions
Pattern Folding- 15 questions
Optional Break – 30 minutes
Reading Comprehension – 60 minutes for 50 questions
3 reading passages
Quantitative Reasoning – 45 minutes for 40 questions
Optional Survey – 15 minutes (mostly about your experience)
How To Study
So now the part you’ve probably been waiting for: How to get ready for the DAT!
When it comes to the Natural Sciences section, what will really help you in the long run is having a strong foundation from your prerequisites. Your undergraduate classes should do a great job of preparing you for the biology and chemistry questions, so if you did well in those classes you are already ahead of the game. However, the other three sections are unique to the DAT and will require a bit more work outside of school. Listed below are my favorite DAT resources that I personally used and highly recommend.
Ari's DAT Bootcamp
I personally really loved DAT Bootcamp and this is what I primarily used while studying. It comes with a very detailed study schedule so you can stay on top of your work, and this is the only resource I found that covers all six sections on the DAT. Something noteworthy about this resources is that the chemistry sections have quizzes after each lesson plan so you can test you knowledge. Bootcamp also provides note pages for you to fill in as you go as well as pages of condensed yet detailed chapter summaries. I also loved how each lesson in both general and organic chemistry has very well thought-out videos that teach each of the learning objectives. If you are a student that needs to “re-learn” any material, you cannot go wrong with Bootcamp. I personally need to brush up on general chemistry and this source is what allowed me to score as well as I did. DAT Bootcamp also has accessible Student Hero’s and Expert Educators available onsite for students to reach out and inquire about matters relating to DAT content, studying advice, emotional support, and more!
If you decide to use this resource, make sure you adjust the provided schedule to whatever fits your lifestyle and stick to it. Also, make sure you read every answer explanation so you understand why an answer is correct. There is a lot of useful information here that you don’t want to miss.
- Computer/web based
- Bootcamp “Pro” is $497 for a 90 day subscription and Bootcamp “Plus” is $897 for a 180 day subscription.
- There are 10 full-length tests, (Mike’s) videos, and PAT generators, etc.
- Sections covered (ALL): biology, general chem., organic chem., PAT, reading comp., and quant. reasoning
- USE JUST FLOSSY’S $50 OFF COUPON CODE: cbjf20
DAT Destroyer + Math Destroyer (by Orgoman)
While I did not use DAT Destroyer as much as I used Bootcamp, it was still a great resource. It has a lot of practice questions with great explanations behind every answer. Also, the questions for Destroyer are harder than the actual DAT, so if you can score well on these questions, you will be more than prepared for the actual DAT. If you do decide to use Destroyer, go through this book multiple times and make sure you understand every concept! If you do that, you should be good to go and I’ve seen great results from this resource as well.
- $149.95 for DAT book, $99.95 for math book (can be bought as a combo for $199.95)
- DAT Destroyer: tons of practice problems with their solutions
- Math Destroyer: 13 practice tests with their solutions
- Sections covered (4/6): biology, general chem., organic chem., quant. reasoning
CourseSaver (Chad's Videos)
I know Bootcamp includes Mike’s videos for their chemistry sections, but I also really liked how Chad explained the concepts as well. For my particular learning style, Chad’s videos were very well organized and detailed, and I really enjoyed the way he teaches. I highly recommend checking out Chad’s videos on CourseSaver, as well!
- Computer/web based
- $50 for a 30 day subscription
- Very informative videos and quizzes specific for the DAT
- Sections covered (3/6): biology, general chem., and organic chem.
Towards the end of my study, I found out about PATBooster, which many people absolutely swear by. It really helped in giving me additional practice for the PAT section of the DAT and I have seen some amazing results from other students. The PAT section is often the most challenging for pre-dentals, so having a good resource makes a HUGE difference.
- Computer/web based
- $99.99 for a 120 day subscription
- Contains many practice tests, videos, generators, and strategies
- Sections covered (1/6): PAT
Other Study Tips
Everyone studies differently, but I wanted to share some additional tips that worked for me.
One of the best things you can do is to start by taking a full length DAT practice test before you start studying. Yes, I said before! Not only will this give you a feel for that testing will be like, it will allow you to find out what your weakest sections are. Once you do this, you should focus your studying on these areas first. Then move on to the sections you are stronger in.
Another great tip is staying consistent. I know we’ve discussed making a schedule a few times already, but this will really help you organize your studying so you are ready by your testing date. Customize it to your daily routine and keep it up!
How Does Scoring Work?
So you just finished your last question on the DAT and then… BOOM. Your scores are on the screen. Yes, you will actually get your scores as soon as you finish. However, this is only your unofficial score report. After these are processed and reviewed, your official scores will be available three to four weeks after completing your test and will be sent electronically to the schools that you selected on your DAT application and added to your ADEA AADSAS application.
Your scores are based on the number of correct answers, therefore, you are not penalized for guessing on a question. Don’t leave any questions blank! Also, the scores for the DAT range from 1-30. There are no passing or failing scores and a scale score of 17 typically signifies average performance nationally.
The Big Picture
Hopefully this information helps you prepare for the next steps in your dental journey! The DAT can seem very daunting at first, but it’s not as bad as it seems. Remember, performing well on the DAT is a crucial step in the process of entering dental school and becoming a dentist. No one can want this more than you do! Be prepared and give it your all and you’ll soon be realizing your goals!