Mention the Dental Admissions Test, or DAT to junior year me and I would’ve busted out laughing, then tearing up shortly thereafter. Studying for the DAT was the bane of my junior year, taking up more time than it should’ve simply because I couldn’t scrape together enough motivation to clothe myself in to study. I feel similarly about the NBDE Part I, though my maturity and approach has noticeably changed for the better.

Traditional students (four year graduation track from college looking to matriculate fall of the year they graduate) should aim to take their DAT sometime during their junior year, well before the AADSAS application opens on June 1st. This gives plenty of time for your DAT scores to be sent to AADSAS and associated with your application. Though you self-report your DAT scores (and date you took the exam) on the AADSAS, the official score report from ADA must be accepted by the AADSAS. What does this mean for you? It takes time for your DAT scores to be processed. From the time the AADSAS receives your DAT scores, it may take up to six weeks or more for them to be added and associated with your specific AADSAS application. This further underscores the importance of applying as early as possible. But, you do not need to wait until everything is processed prior to eSubmitting. For more information on the AADSAS, click here.

All dental schools require that you take the five-hour DAT exam, which is administered through Prometric, a testing agency that also administers the NBDE Parts I and II. You will apply to take the DAT here and obtain a DENTPIN, which is an identification number that follows you for the remainder of your dental career. DO NOT LOSE IT. Make sure it is connected to an email you will have forever-ever (forever-ever?).

When you first register for your DAT, the server will produce a list of all American dental schools and ask you to select which ones you would like your scores to be sent to (remember, each school you apply to must receive your official score report from the ADA). Do yourself a favor, SELECT THEM ALL. Why? It costs extra money later on if you end up wanting to add schools to your list – the real trick is to pick ’em all and sort them out later when you actually submit your AADSAS application. The DAT costs $415 per sitting and you may only sit for the exam three times prior to petitioning for special permission to repeat it. Believe me, you won’t want to take it more than once, so study hard the first time around.

Here’s the 2017 DAT guide and a FAQ, but again, below is a comprehensive breakdown of the Anatomy of the DAT – I went through the books so you didn’t have to!

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Survey of Natural Sciences is 100 questions in 90 minutes, broken into biology (about 40 questions) general chemistry (about 30), and organic chemistry (about 30). With 90 questions to answer these, you have about 54 sec/question. You will receive a subscore for each section.

With the Perceptual Ability Test, you have 60 minutes to answer 90 questions, breaking down to 40 sec/question. Within the PAT, sections include Keyhole (15 questions), Top/Front/End (15), Angle Ranking (15), Hole Punches (15), Cube Counting (15), and Pattern Folding (15). You do NOT receive a subscore for each PAT section.

For Reading Comprehension, you will have 50 questions to answer in 60 minutes, arriving at the rate of 72 sec/question. There will be three reading passages with approximately 16 questions apiece.

Finally, for Quantitative Reasoning* (there MAY be changes coming), you have 45 minutes to complete 40 questions, yielding a rate of 67 sec/question. Approximately 10 of these questions will be applied mathematics questions aka everyone’s favorite – word problems.

The cool thing about the DAT as opposed to the MCAT (there are many things, a lack of physics being only the first!), is that you don’t need to sit on your hands for a month post-exam. The DAT composite and subscores are instant. Therefore, once you complete the optional, 15-min post-test survey (survey asks you to rate the quality of Prometric testing center you were at), your score flashes itself on the screen and you are rendered to 1.) happy peeing or 2.) a puddle of tears vowing to never take another standardized exam. I have high hopes for the former.

Quick Facts about dat DAT:
1. Considered to be just as important as your GPA
The DAT, or more generally, all standardized tests are considered equalizers amongst student populations, accounting for grade inflation and deflation at certain universities. However, each dental school considers the value of the DAT differently and it is up to your research to decide its relative importance.
2. DAT scores range from 1-30
3. National average of all students is 17
4. National average of all accepted students is 18
5. To be safe, 20+ is considered a competitive score for matriculation in a dental program

Note, the earlier you begin taking practice tests and evaluating where you stand, the better. Be sure to carve out time in your schedule to actually annotate said practice tests as well – know why you got some questions wrong/right versus others. Retain the information! Kaplan offers a free, diagnostic DAT (more on that in a later post) so you can get your bearings. After that, create a study schedule that works best for you and stick to it!

Finally, upon reviewing Kyle L.’s DAT advice (a former ASDA Pre-Dental Committee Chair), he also adds to avoid Student Doctor Network’s forums. He notes that admission committees do in fact monitor posts and that anonymity is questionable. Further, SDN is the internet and you can post ANYTHING you want on the internet, regardless of its veracity or accuracy (question me, perhaps?) – often, it is secondary source information and full of groupthink, limiting for you. However, Kyle does recommend SDN for interview feedback, but we’ll write on that later.

DAT-specific study tips will be included in a later blog post.

*This post is sponsored by Colorado ASDA

~ Colleen

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Contact Colleen

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