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How to Prepare For Dat

If you are a prospective dentist then chances are that you already know about the DAT. As a refresher, the DAT is the test taken by those applicants who seek admission into a dental school. It is conducted by the American Dental Association (ADA) and has been a requirement since 1950. The ADAs official website states: “While all dental schools require applicants to participate in the DAT Program, test results are only one factor considered in evaluating applicant admission potential.”

Other factors that are weighed in heavily during the admission process are letters of recommendation and grade point average. So what is the DAT for? The test is designed to measure an applicant’s perceptual ability, comprehension of scientific information and general academic ability. The DAT, in short, measures an applicant’s suitability for the dental profession.  

Test format

The test is computer-based, multi-choice and an applicant scores on a range of 1 to 30. There is no passing or failing in the DAT and the applicants are not penalized for guessing. The DAT lasts for 5 hours. Applicants have the option of taking 15 minutes break. Applicants, in theory, can take the test as many times as they want, with two main exceptions:

  • They must wait for at least 90 days from their last attempt, before retaking the test
  • Applicants with 3 or more attempts must first seek permission for retake

What is the format of DAT?

The test consists of 4 sections:

  • Quantitative Reasoning – Consists of 40 questions that must be answered in 40 minutes. Questions cover simple trigonometry, geometry, basic math, word problems and algebra. Computer will have the facility to use basic calculator.
  • Reading Comprehension – Consists of 50 questions (in 3 passages) that must be answered in 60 minutes. The content could be taken from a wide variety of academic fields such as economics, science, etc.
  • Perceptual Ability – Consists of 90 questions that must be completed in 60 minutes. Questions are on paper folding, 3D form development, aperture, view recognition, cube counting and angle discrimination.
  • Survey of the Natural Sciences – Consists of a total of 100 questions with 30 questions on organic chemistry, 30 on chemistry and 40 questions on biology. This section must be completed in 90 minutes.

How to prepare for DAT – Slay the “Dragon”

Scoring well on the test is critical for those interested in more prestigious dental schools. Irrespectively, getting into a dental school is competitive, and therefore those applicants with a high DAT score will be looked upon favorably. There are two main ways of preparing for the DAT:

  • Making use of ADA resources
  • Making use of private resources

There are many test prep courses available in the market, offering courses in the preparation of the test. The ADA does not endorse them, however, applicants may find them useful in a variety of ways.

Non-ADA test prep centers offer live instruction, online instruction with recorded videos, and even personalized one-on-one tutorials. The prep centers typically make their students take a diagnostic test from where their strengths and weaknesses are assessed. The emphasis is on familiarizing students with the test questions through practice. For practicing, previous DAT questions that appeared on the actual test may be used.

Students can also make use of ADAs official website for test preparation. The DAT program offers practice test on both paper and computer. Retired actual test questions are used for preparation. Students opting for the computer-based prep test will have the advantage of getting their performance report after completing the test, indicating the number of correctly answered questions. This test is also timed just like the real DAT and therefore gives students a real feel of the test. The ADA sells this and the paper-based prep test on its website.

Students preparing for the DAT can also take the tutorial on ADAs website that familiarizes them with the DATs administration procedures. The tutorial also includes sample DAT questions. “Test Drive” is another option available to the students on ADAs website where they can become familiar with the DAT experience. It is a 30-minute test drive, in which students will know what to expect on the test day. The students will learn about:

  • Full preparation for the real test
  • 15-minute sample test (not DAT but generic test, which familiarizes the students with DATs testing process)
  • Introduction to test center’s surroundings and its staff
  • The complete check-in process
  • The scheduling and registration process

The secret to scoring BIG on the DAT

There is no secret! An applicant will either know the answer or he/she won’t; it is not an analytical test. And perhaps this is why, guessing an answer is not penalized in this test.

Quick tips to preparing for the DAT

  • Take simulated tests
  • Make flash cards
  • Practice recalling information quickly with the help of flash cards
  • Use prep textbooks
  • Focus on items that always show up on the test
  • Do not waste time on studying concepts you already know
  • Focus on your weaknesses

In conclusion, it is PRACTICE which makes an applicant stands out amongst a large pool of prospective dentists.

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