How Do I Prep for the DAT?

Welcome to September!

I am dedicating a post to the Dental Admissions Test, known as the DAT, since it is an essential step in the application process for U.S. schools. The DAT has also been on my mind because I’ve been receiving quite a few e-mails with the subject, “Selling my DAT prep books!!!” from our pre-dental listserv. If you’re looking for my schedule and tips, scroll to the bottom of this post!

General DAT information: The standardized exam is scored from from 1-30, 30 being the top score. According to the American Dental Association’s (ADA) 2016 DAT Guide, the average DAT score is 18. The exam can be broken into two broad categories — the Perceptual Ability Test (PAT) and general knowledge. The PAT is meant to assess your 3-D spatial reasoning skills, and the general knowledge section is meant to assess your knowledge in the following subjects: biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, reading comprehension, and math.

Every dental student I know studied for the DAT at one point or another. The modes of preparation are wide-ranging. To give you an idea of what exists, here is a list of resources that students often look into when preparing for the DAT*:

  • Kaplan (classes, books, online)
  • Princeton Review (classes, books, online)
  • Orgoman’s DAT Destroyer (books)
  • Crack DAT PAT (computer software)
  • TopScore (online)
  • Chad’s Videos (online)
  • DAT Bootcamp (online)
  • Orgo as a 2nd language (books)
  • DAT flashcards
  • Any relevant Barron’s, CliffsNotes, or ‘XYZ’ for Dummies
  • Any relevant college textbook, lecture, or PowerPoint
  • …and more!!! *this list is by no means comprehensive

I enrolled in a Kaplan DAT course over the summer after my sophomore year, and I took the exam that August. I also used DAT Destroyer and Crack DAT PAT, resources given to me by upperclassmen and my brother who took the DAT four years prior. Definitely reach out to other older pre-dental students if you want to save money on prep materials! My timeline may be considered to be early, but I think it’s important to consider whether or not you want to take the DAT on top of your regular classes (if you’re in undergrad or a post-bacc program), and how confident you feel in the relevant pre-dental classes.

If I have one piece of advice, it is that you should try to be as diligent as possible with your preparation. Make a study schedule, and stick by it. When taking practice tests, try to schedule them in the early AM (or whenever you wake up, and then inch earlier) so that you get into the routine of waking up early and getting your morning juices flowing.

Everyone’s study schedule is different, but this was my typical schedule:

Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 12.20.41 PM

Free time was important to veg out, work out, and go out with friends.

Several days before the DAT, I finished my internship and traveled home. I took two or three practice exams and reviewed concepts in which I was weak. The day before, I lounged around, exercised, and tried my hand at the free, random DAT prep questions (looking at you, TopScore). I went to sleep early to wake up refreshed the next morning! Since Prometric and the DAT have SOPs for test-day prep, below are tips from my experience:

  1. HYDRATE — In the morning, I drank water and my daily cup of joe. I brought Propel with me to the test center because I heard that a more isotonic drink (as opposed to water) would decrease my probability of needing to use the restroom during the exam. I have no idea if this worked, but I did only use the restroom once (during my break), and it was a mainly preventative measure.
  2. DO THE TUTORIAL — Unless your mind is buzzing to get started, take the tutorial to acquaint yourself with the monitor and the navigation system for the exam. For example, I remember the simple on-screen calculator was a little tedious to use. If your computer has problems, kindly ask to change computers.
  3. BREAK — You should use your 15-minute break wisely. I knew that I would feel restless after I used the restroom, so I ended my break early to resume the exam. I have other friends who walked around the testing center for a few minutes before resuming the exam. Do what feels right during the break.

Remember: you have prepared academically, emotionally, and mentally for the DAT. You’re ready for it! Good luck.



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