Dental Admission Test [Know How to Improve your DAT scores]

Many things can be said in order to provide advice on your Dental admission test (DAT). Nevertheless, what you should always aim for is to be properly prepared for it, this means acquiring the knowledge necessary to actually get it done without too much fuss. Knowing how to improve your DAT scores starts by understanding as much as you can from the actual dental admission test.

So, let’s begin by covering the basics and then moving on to what you can actually expect from a DAT. This all starts from knowing exactly what you’ll be getting yourself into.

DAT scores

What is the DAT?

The dental admission test, known in shot as DAT, is a timed multiple-choice exam issued and conducted by the American Dental Association. This test aims to measure the general academic ability, comprehension of scientific information and perceptual ability of anyone taking it.

All dental school applicants are required to undergo this test before acceptance into any U.S. dental school. While your DAT scores aren’t the only thing that will decide if you get accepted or not, it is a requirement for acceptance and it carries the most weight.

Every dental school has particular minimal requirements that include minimal DAT scores that every applicant must meet in order to be considered. Other factors that are treated as requirements, such as a minimal GPA, are issued by each school individually as well.

Basically, if you want to become a dentist you need to prepare and make sure to get high DAT scores. Before I begin explaining the actual test, what it entails and each part it has. Let’s explain how to apply to it first.

What you need to know before addressing your DAT scores.

How do I apply to take the DAT?

Before you can take the DAT, you need to receive approval from the Department of Testing Services at the ADA. You will obtain a DENTPIN as a first step, then you’ll have to submit an application. That last bit can be done from this page.

After you’re approved you need to be ready and prepared. You will only have 6 months after approval to take the DAT. In addition to this, you won’t be able to receive a refund for your payment. This is why you need to be committed and ready to take the test before 6 months.

How much does the DAT cost?

Currently the fee to take the test is of 415$, this payment is not refundable and non-transferable. The payment covers the official reporting to all of the schools that you have listed on your DAT application. Also, an unofficial score report issued at the testing center and official score reporting to your pre-dental advisor.

You can submit updates to the schools you selected on your DAT application as long as you submit them to the ADA’s DTS at any point before the test. If this is not the case and those are not received before the test then you’ll have to pay a fee of 34$ per each report sent.

Is there financial assistance available for the DAT?

The American Dental Association (ADA) offers some help with the cost of the test. This is for students that are U.S. citizens or residents that have received financial aid from or for their educational institution. This financial help for the test covers 50% of the fee but it does not entail for any additional charges. A person taking the test that has previously received a fee waiver or that has taken the test before is not eligible for this financial help.

This fee waivers are limited and granted based on a first-come, first-served basis. If you’re interested in receiving a fee waiver yourself then you must submit a form with your financial information, your completed paper DAT application and your educational institution financial aid award letter. The necessary form can be requested from [email protected]. You need to request the fee waiver writing in. This means that if you submit an electronic DAT application you are ineligible for a fee waiver.

When can I take the DAT?

Some good news here, the DAT is a test administered on a year-round basis. It’s taken at centers operated by Prometric Incorporated. After your application for the DAT has been approved, you will receive an email notification to visit Prometric, or to contact them to schedule a test appointment.

How many times can I take the test?

You do have to wait 90 days after you take the DAT in order to retake the test. You will be required to submit a new application and pay all the pertinent fees again for each retake. However, if you have three or more test attempts you will have to apply for permission to retest.

To request addition testing you must submit a letter to the ADA’S Department of Testing Services and you have to provide evidence that you have intended to apply to a dental school with the last 18 months. You can include the following along with the evidence provided.

  • A copy of a completed and submitted ADEA AADSAS application.
  • A letter of rejection from a dental school that you’ve applied to.
  • A letter on school letterhead from a dental school admission officer encouraging you to take the test again.
  • A letter on school letterhead from a college/university health profession advisor/instructor that verifies you’re applying to a dental school.

Can I reschedule my test date?

Yes, you can. You will be required to pay an extra fee however; this is due to administrative efforts to accommodate this. You best option will always be to prepare for the date that you’ve decided on, but if for any reason at all you need to change this, it is something possible. The fee varies based on the remaining amount of day until the appointed date.

  • If you reschedule the test before 1 to 5 days of it the fee will be of 100$.
  • If you reschedule the test before 6 to 30 days of it the fee will be of 60$.
  • If you reschedule with 31 or more days of anticipation then the fee will be of 25$.

How long is the DAT?

The dental admission test is a timed exam and you will have a maximum of 4 hours and 15 minutes to complete it. There’s also a 45-minute session used for a tutorial at the beginning of the test, this is optional. You will have a break at the halfway point and a survey after the test is done.

The recommended course of action is to make use od the break at the halfway point to give yourself a brief rest and recuperate. The DAT takes the approach of an endurance test and should be treated as such. You will have to prepare mentally and physically for it. Preparation and study are necessary as well. Make sure to get enough sleep before the test and be absolutely prepared for a 4 to 5 hour long test.

Here’s a schematic breakdown of the actual test.

dental admission test answer paper
  • Tutorial: 15 minutes.
  • Survey of natural sciences: 90 minutes.
  • Perceptual ability test: 60 minutes.
  • Optional break: 15 minutes.
  • Reading comprehension test: 60 minutes.
  • Quantitative reasoning test: 45 minutes.
  • Post test survey: 15 minutes.

Breaking down each section of the material covered on the DAT.

The DAT is comprised of four tests about natural sciences, perceptual ability, reading comprehension and qualitative reasoning. You will most likely need a DAT prep course if you want to master all four components of this test. You can use DATPrep and PATCrusher to prepare for your DAT, these sites are great services to that will surely improve your DAT scores. Let’s further break down each section and its components.

Survey of natural sciences (A total of 100 questions).


This section comprises 40 questions about the following topics.

  • Cell and molecular biology: Origin of life, cell metabolism (including photosynthesis/enzymology), cellular processes, thermodynamics, organelle structure and function, mitosis/meiosis, cell structure and experimental cell biology
  • Diversity of life: Biological Organization and Relationship of Major Taxa (Six-Kingdom, Three-Domain System) plantae, animalia, Protista, fungi, eubacteria (bacteria), archaea, etc.
  • Structure and function of systems: Integumentary, skeletal, muscular, circulatory, immunological, digestive, respiratory, urinary, nervous/senses, endocrine, reproductive, etc.
  • Developmental biology: Fertilization, descriptive embryology, developmental mechanisms, and experimental embryology.
  • Genetics: Molecular genetics, human genetics, classical genetics, chromosomal genetics, and genetic technology.
  • Evolution, Ecology and Behavior: Natural selection, population genetics/speciation, cladistics, population and community ecology, ecosystems, and animal behavior (including social behavior).

General Chemistry.

This section handles 30 questions about the following topics.

  • Stoichiometry and General Concepts: Percent composition, empirical formulae, balancing equations, moles and molecular formulas, molar mass, density, and calculations from balanced equations.
  • Gases: Kinetic molecular theory of gases, Dalton’s, Boyle’s, Charles’s, and ideal gas law.
  • Liquids and Solids: Intermolecular forces, phase changes, vapor pressure, structures, polarity, and properties.
  • Solutions: Polarity, properties (colligative, non-colligative), forces, and concentration calculations.
  • Acids and Bases: pH, strength, Bronsted-Lowry reactions, and calculations.
  • Chemical Equilibria: Molecular, acid/base, precipitation, calculations, and Le Chatelier’s principle.
  • Thermodynamics and Thermochemistry: Laws of thermodynamics, Hess’s Law, spontaneity, enthalpies and entropies, and heat transfer.
  • Chemical Kinetics: Rate laws, activation energy, and half-life.
  • Oxidation-Reduction Reactions: Balancing equations, determination of oxidation numbers, electrochemical calculations, and electrochemical concepts along with its terminology.
  • Atomic and Molecular Structure: Electron configuration, orbital types, Lewis-Dot diagrams, atomic theory, quantum theory, molecular geometry, bond types, and sub-atomic particles.
  • Periodic Properties: Representative elements, transition elements, periodic trends, and descriptive chemistry.
  • Nuclear Reactions: Balancing equations, binding energy, decay processes, particles, and terminology.
  • Laboratory: Basic techniques, equipment, error analysis, safety, and data analysis.

Organic chemistry.

This section is 30 question long and it’s about the following topics.

  • Mechanisms: Energetics, and Structure elimination, addition, free radical, substitution mechanisms.
  • Chemical and Physical Properties of Molecules: Spectroscopy (1H NMR, 13C NMR, infrared, and multi-spectra), structure (polarity, intermolecular forces (solubility, melting/boiling point), and laboratory theory and techniques (i.e. TLC, separations).
  • Stereochemistry (structure evaluation): Chirality, isomer relationships, and conformations
  • Nomenclature: IUPAC rules and functional groups in molecules.
  • Individual Reactions of the Major Functional Groups and Combinations of Reactions to Synthesize Compounds: Alkene/alkyne, aromatic, substitution/elimination, aldehyde/ketone, carboxylic acids and derivatives, and other.
  • Acid-Base Chemistry: Ranking acidity/basicity (structure analysis and pH/Pak data analysis), and prediction of products and equilibria.
  • Aromatics and Bonding: Concept of aromaticity, resonance, atomic/molecular orbitals, hybridization, and bond angles/lengths.

Perceptual ability test (A total of 90 questions).

This perceptual ability test comprises six smaller tests which include.

  1. Apertures.
  2. View Recognition.
  3. Angle Discrimination.
  4. Paper Folding.
  5. Cube Counting.
  6. 3D Form Development.

Reading Comprehension test (A total of 60 questions).

This part of the DAT contains three reading passages based on various scientific topic. You don’t need any prior knowledge about the topics per se. The whole purpose of this section is to assess if you’re capable of understanding, comprehending and analyzing scientific information. You can, of course, prepare for this section by actually reading some scientific papers as a part of your preparation for the test.

Quantitative reasoning (A total of 40 questions).

This part of the test will cover the following topics.

Mathematical Problems.

  • Algebra: Equations and expressions, inequalities, exponential notation, absolute value, ratios and proportions, and graphical analysis.
  • Numeric calculations: fractions and decimals, percentages, approximations, and scientific notation.
  • Conversions: For temperature, time, weigh and distance.
  • Probability and Statistics.
  • Geometry.
  • Trigonometry.

Applied Mathematics, also known as word problems. You will have the possibility to use a four-function calculator available on a computer screen, operated using a mouse.

Frequently asked questions about DAT.

Can I use note paper or anything else during the test?

You will have the opportunity to use two note boards and two fine-tip erasable markers for the test. However, you will not be allowed to bend or damage them in anyway.

In addition, you will not be allowed to touch the monitor screen of the issued computed while taking the test. You will only be able to use the four-function calculator during the quantitative reasoning test, this is when the computer will be made available to you.

When will I find out my DAT scores?

Immediately after completing the DAT you will receive an unofficial score report from the testing center. In this report you will get your scale scores and this is the only report received personally.

The official scores will be available three or four weeks after the test, these will be sent electronically to the schools that you picked on your DAT application. In addition to this, your pre-dental advisor will also receive them.

Remember that all dental schools in the United States require an official score from your DAT. Your four most recent test attempts are reported to each school as well.

How is the DAT Scored?

Your DAT scores are based on the number of correct responses. This also means that you won’t be penalized for guessing on a question, so don’t leave any question unanswered. The scores are reported in a scale score. This makes it possible to compare the scores of all participants. The actual DAT scores range from 1 to 30, there are no passing or falling scores. The average result is typically 17.

Every part of the test includes questions that the ADA will pay particular attention to and will help them determine the value of each candidate. Other questions are considered experimental and thus are not scored. All the data collected from these questions will be used for future test building.

The DTS will conduct a quality review of all results before the official score report. This is done to confirm the accuracy of the scores. The DTS will also review each test center for reports of irregularities and violations of the rules. You can audit your results during the following 30 days after the test. To opt-in to an audit you will have to pay the ADA a fee of 65$.

A brief conclusion about the DAT and how to prepare for better DAT scores .

Having read trough all this, you now should know exactly what to expect from a DAT. Knowing what it is, how it’s taken and what it comprises is fundamental preparation to get a decent DAT score.

However this is not all, people often need further preparation. Feel free to visit the sources given about services that can help you prepare to improve your DAT scores. You can also check the 2015 program guide for the DAT made available by the American Dental Association.

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