Dental Admission Test (DAT): Tips to Prepare

By: Dr. Bri Torgerson

Hi friends! My name is Dr. Bri Torgerson and I am a General Dentist currently working in St.  Louis, Missouri.

I have written some advice on applying to dental school, what to do when you graduate, and finding an associate position right for you, but I wanted to dive into something that I found to be difficult and that is the Dental Admission Test, better known as, the DAT

When I was in college, I knew I wanted to be a dentist but I had absolutely no idea what to do or where to start.

I’m not sure why I thought I had it all figured out but before graduation, a friend of mine who was going to dental school asked me what I had gotten on my DAT and the expression on my face must’ve matched the pure confusion I felt in that moment.

I don’t even remember what we spoke about after that all I remember is going back to my apartment and searching “DAT dentist test” and sure enough, in all its glory, the DAT was found out.  

What is the DAT?

For those who are like me and maybe this is the first time you’re hearing about this, the DAT is an admissions test for dental school that is comprised of four parts including:

  1. Natural Sciences
  2. Reading Comprehension
  3. Quantitative Reasoning
  4. Perceptual Ability Test (PAT)

Each school holds weight for different parts of the exam which is why doing your research for each school’s data on the previous years’ admissions is pertinent.

Both United States and Canadian schools require a DAT score for admission.

Tips When Preparing for The DAT

Take Your Time

The exam is timed, and they allow you to take up to 4 hours. In the three times I ended up taking the exam, I did not use the entire time for any of my attempts.

I’m also someone who doesn’t change my answers unless I can logically reason why the answer needs to change. I’ve found that my gut intuition is usually correct.

If You Have to Guess – Here’s a Tip

Some standard test-taking logic also says that if you don’t know an answer, choose the same letter every time.

Your chances of randomly guessing an answer correctly jump up if you are consistently picking the same letter. Just a little fun fact for you.

Schedule Your Exam Early

You do need to take the exam at a Prometric exam site and it needs to be scheduled. From my experience, they book out quite a ways in advance so make sure, if you have a deadline you are trying to meet, that you book early.

You’ll need to create a DENTPIN for this and this will be your DENTPIN for the remainder of your career.

For some reason I still find myself needing my DENTPIN so keep this number saved in your notes on your phone for quick access.

Prepare & Know It’s OK To Test More Than Once

After my initial scare of not knowing, I decided I would take the DAT without studying. My thought process behind this was so that I could see where I stood without any studying so I  knew where to focus on when I would inevitably retake.

I think this logic worked for me because I had it in my mind that no matter what, I was going to be taking this exam twice.

I took the ACT, and the SAT twice, so this exam would be no different for me.

Prepare for the Cost

The cost of the exam is $525. From my recollection, this hasn’t changed in the almost 10 years from when I originally took the DAT which is a good thing, but also this is something that may sway you from blindly taking the DAT just to see where you need to improve, like I did. Completely understandable!

Study Material

For study material, I used Chad’s Videos. This is a virtual course that allows you to start and stop a multitude of videos covering each and every topic and subtopic encapsulated in the  DAT.

He carefully dives into each subject and has live students in his videos that ask real questions that I found helpful and very similar to questions I had, as well.

There is a free option that limits the amounts of videos and a paid option. When I took his courses, they were $50 which I found to be the most affordable option at the time.

He not only covers the materials themselves but also reviews strategies specific to the DAT, as well.

I don’t remember a lot of PAT help or strategy which showed when I took the test for the second time.

With Chads Videos, I was able to increase my score by five points. That was with the free option.

I ended up purchasing the entire course and was able to get my hands on a Kaplan DAT study book and reviewed PAT strategies which helped immensely with my PAT.

I only got two points higher the third time but I had increased the PAT score and Overall Sciences to where I wanted them to be, to feel confident applying. The score I ended up with allowed me to be competitive, although I will admit, was still low compared to others. This should just prove that you don’t need to be getting a perfect score to get in!  

Some other study options that I have heard work well are:

These plus Chad’s Videos will give you plenty of options for studying. Most of these are booklets or virtual tutoring but there may be local DAT prep courses in your area if you prefer something in person.

In my experience, I liked being able to take my time to pause the videos, rewind, go back to previously covered materials, etc.

I’m not sure you would get that in an in-person prep course! No matter what you do, take advantage of the practice tests! I found that the test and the prep courses have the same material covered, but they don’t look the same if that makes sense. Especially the organic chemistry sections. Making sure you know and understand the material in that case is crucial because memorizing shapes and figures may backfire when you don’t recognize the figure during test time.  

The second time I took the DAT I studied for about a month. The third time I took the test, I  studied for about the same, however, I do think this is because I had already touched base on a lot of the materials at that point. I was also studying full-time.

As far as the time needed to study, if you’re studying full-time, I would say a month to six weeks will suffice. Everyone is different but I found this to be plenty of time.  

Survey at the End of the Test

Also, just a heads up, they make you take a survey at the end of the exam and then they immediately tell you your score on the screen so don’t be shocked when it pops up! 

Don’t Be Nervous to Take the DAT

Overall, don’t be nervous (easy to say, hard to live out)!

Remember, what is yours will always be yours. If you’re destined to be a dentist, it won’t matter if you have a low (or high!) score.

All you can do is study hard, do your research on acceptance stats, and trust that if it’s meant to be it’ll be!

Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. You don’t want to burn out before you even get started. Remember, you can always take it again! 

Good luck and study hard, future colleagues!

Dr. Bri Torgerson

Dr. Bri Torgerson

Hi! I’m Dr. Bri Torgerson. I’m a General Dentist and I’ve had a long journey to dental school, through dental school, and life after dental school. I graduated from undergrad at Minnesota State University, Mankato in 2014 and dental school at The Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC in 2020. I love my Faith, traveling, baking, cooking, volunteering, coffee, and being with my family including my basset hound, Wilbur. My favorite teams are the Minnesota Vikings, the St. Louis Blues, and the St. Louis Cardinals. A career goal I have is to do a mission trip once and year. One of my life goals, outside of my career, is to visit every National Park in the United States.