The Perceptual Ability Test: Ace The PAT in 2022

When it comes to the Dental Admission Test or DAT for short, there are several different parts to be aware of. The Perceptual Ability Test, or simply PAT, is one of them. This is one of the four different tests within the DAT. It's scored separately from the other parts of the test and is very important to do well in this section. Remember that the DAT will also consider the survey of natural sciences, reading comprehension and quantitative reasoning along with the PAT to give you an academic average score.

The good news is that the Perceptual Ability Test isn’t as hard as other parts of the DAT. In fact, most students have an easier time handling this section than others. For your application, the average score and the PAT score are the firsts to be looked at. Doing good in this section will only boost your chances of getting into the dental school of your choice, not to mention being fundamental to pass the DAT.

General guidelines for the Perceptual Ability Test.

The general guidelines to follow for the PAT are the following.

  • 1. Elimination: Look at all the possible answers for each question and eliminate the ones that are definitely not possible. After all, once you remove the impossible whatever remains must be the truth, or so the saying goes. This tactic is actually very helpful and can save you a lot of time in the Perceptual Ability Test.
  • 2. Time Management: Do make sure that you’re completing all the subtests without taking too long. At the same time be aware of your answers and don’t skip any questions unless you absolutely have to. On average, you have about 40 seconds per question, which means there are a lot of questions so don’t waste time unnecessarily.
  • 3. Practice: Make sure to do lots and lots of practice problems. These will help you get more accustomed to the kind of problems you’ll face, not to mention that your timing for each question will improve this way. On that note, if you’re looking for great sources of problems and help for the Perceptual Ability Test, and likely you are, we can recommend PATCrusher as one of the best services to help you prepare for the PAT.


The Perceptual Ability Test consists of 6 subtests with 15 questions each, making up a total of 90 questions. Every subtest is slightly different and has different objectives.

  1. Apertures (Keyholes): You will be shown a 3D object with the outline of 5 apertures of openings. The objective is to determine which aperture the 3D object can pass through. There will only be one correct answer. The object may be turned in any direction and it may start through the aperture on a side that is not shown. After that point, the object cannot be twisted or turned and it has to completely go through the aperture. For this subtest you will be given a proper representation of the object and the apertures, all will be drawn in scale.
  2. View recognition (Top/Front/End): You will be given pictures of the top, front and end views of different solid objects. You will not count with a perspective for any of these pictures. The images will give you two views of the object and four different alternatives as answers. You must complete the missing view.
  3. Angle Discrimination (Angle Ranking): You will be presented with images of four angles. The objective is to rank them from the smallest to largest.
  4. Paper folding (Hole Punches): For this subtest, a flat square of paper will be folded one or more times, after that, a hole will be punched in. You must mentally unfold the square and determine the position of the hole.
  5. Cube counting: For this part, you must examine different figures and determine the painted sides of a figure.
  6. 3D form development (Pattern Folding): You must choose the right figure based on a flat pattern. There will only be one choice.

Tips and tricks for the Perceptual Ability Test.

Allow us to explain some great tips and tricks to ace every single part of the PAT. These are a collection of useful tips that have worked for people taking the DAT and using them to ace the Perceptual Ability Test. You can try them all, or simply try whichever one serves you the best. Fair warning, if you’re planning on using them make sure to get a lot of practice before the actual DAT.

Apertures (Keyholes).

apertures (keyholes)
  • The top/front/end method. This part of the PAT is considered by some to be the hardest part of the whole Perceptual Ability Test. Luckily you can breeze through this section using this tip. You must visualize each object from the top, front and end views. This whole trick is consistent with you being able to properly visualize the different views of the object. In order to succeed at this, you must practice with lots of different figures.

View Recognition (Top/Front/End).

  • Line counting method. This trick consists of looking at the object from the three different views available, top, front and end. You must count how many lines are in each view. After that, you must visualize every single answer and count how many lines each has, this way you can discriminate which answers are correct and which are incorrect.
Line counting method
  • Top/Front/End method. For this trick, you must visualize every single choice as a 3D object. This is done by examining the top, front and end views for a particular object. You have to compare this 3D visualization to every answer available to get the right answer. Also, don’t settle for using just one trick, you should try different tricks and master them all.

Angle Discrimination (Angle Ranking).

  • Laptop method. You must imagine every angle as a laptop viewed from the side. After that, you simply choose the “laptop” that it would be the easiest to close as the smallest angle and the hardest one to close as the largest angle.
  • Laser method. This method can be implemented when you have similar vertical or horizontal lines, for comparison purposes. Then choose a vertical or horizontal line as a base for a laser. After that mentally project the laser from that line, and all the others as well. Projecting these lines makes it much easier to see the angle ranking.
  • Circle method. This method actually pretty straight forward. You pick a height for all figures, then you draw a horizontal circle around that height for all images. The largest circle indicates the largest angle, while the smallest circle indicates a smaller angle.
  • From a distance. This one consists of simply laying back on your chair and looking at the different angles from a larger distance than you usually would. Again, this is supposed to make it easier to discriminate against the angles. The problem comes when you can’t see the lines properly which leads to mistakes. This is a trick used by some, however, it is not one that we can confidently recommend.
angle discrimination

Paper folding (Hole Punches).

  • Tic-Tac-Toe method. You must draw a 4x4 square and put a mark where the hole is punched in the paper. After that, you must place the same mark for each square that will have a hole as you unfold the paper. Regardless of this tip, this section is by far one of the easiest in the Perceptual Ability Test. Most people simply visualize the different positions in which the hole might be.
hole punches

Cube counting.

  • Cube counting method. When it comes to cube counting, we do have a neat trick to ace this subtest. However, be aware that this is by far the easiest subtest in the Perceptual Ability Test. Cube counting is all about being organized and paying attention. What you want to do first is build a table to count the number of sides painted in the cubes. You will be counting cubes in a figure much like the following.
cube counting

Start filling the table with the number of sides painted for each different cube. After that, it all comes down to actually choosing the right answer based on your table. You do have to pay attention when counting the painted sides and when reading the actual question.

You will be handling problems much like the following.

DAT questions

3D form development (Pattern Folding).

  • Side counting method. This method is similar to the counting cubes method. You want to pay extra attention to the largest shape within the pattern and then count the number of sides in the figure. After that, you want to compare that number to the number of sides that appear on the answer in order to get the right choice. Be aware that this method will not work for all problems, you will have to try different methods eventually.
3D form development
  • Shape matching method. Shape mechanics work by finding the largest shape in the patter and then comparing it to the shape of the answers available. This method will also not work for all problems, however, at the very least it will help you eliminate some incorrect answers.
  • Color matching method. This is a neat and easy method to help you solve any problem, provided you use it alongside other methods that are. What you want to do is compare the shaded part of the flat pattern to the corresponding part on the folded figure for the answer. You do have to pay attention to where the shaded part is on the corresponding answer. This is very useful to determine the correct shape and pattern in the answer. Again, it doesn’t work for every problem so practice other methods as well.


Above we have presented different tips and tricks for all subtests in the PAT, yet at the same time, we have also presented different problems that you can use to see whether or not the methods presented work and your ability to successfully solve the problem.

Now we will give you the answers to the different problems presented here for each subtest of the Perceptual Ability Test.

Apertures (Keyholes).

  • 1. C
  • 2. A
  • 3. B
  • 4. A

View Recognition (Top/Front/End).

  • 16. B
  • 17. D
  • 18. C

Angle Discrimination (Angle Ranking).

  • 31. D
  • 32. C

Paper Folding (Hole Punches).

  • 46. A
  • 47. C
  • 48. C

Cube Counting.

  • 61. B
  • 62. C
  • 63. C
  • 64. D

3D Form Development (Pattern Folding).

  • 76. B
  • 77. C
  • 78. A
  • 79. D
  • 80. C


You will have a certain amount of time available to solve each part of the Perceptual Ability Test. You must either complete all the questions or simply the ones you’re able to. The total amount of time available is of 60 minutes which means that you will have roughly 10 minutes per subtest.

We do say roughly 10 minutes per subtest given that the Angle Discrimination, Paper Folding and Cube Counting, are really easy to solve. These parts of the PAT are really easy to figure out in less than 10 minutes each. Use this to get some extra time for the other more difficult parts of the PAT.

Review Material.

You will need to prepare for the PAT using a lot more examples than the ones given here. You may be wondering where do you get some practice and preparation needed to successfully ace the Perceptual Ability Test. Luckily, we do have some great sources that we can recommend to help you with this.

The courses and services offered by Kaplan, The Princeton Review and PATCrusher are great ones to prepare for the PAT. However, we do have to strongly recommend PATCrusher as it is one of the few sources of preparation that focuses solely on the Perceptual Ability Test. It will offer a similar experience to what you will face in the actual test. A side from that you will be much more likely to get a competitive score in the PAT by using this service.

Other sources are great and they can serve as a way to get more practice. Yet the problem is content quality, cost and success. Based on those standards alone we are confident to recommend the previously mentioned services to help you with your preparation for the Perceptual Ability Test.

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