When Should You Take the DAT Test?

Did you know that the Dental Industry makes up for the ninth most lucrative job in the United States? That is why it only makes sense that getting into a Dental School would be highly competitive. And if you have been dreaming of pursuing dentistry for a minute, you would know how the DAT score affects your overall chances of getting accepted by a Dental School.

The DAT is one of the most crucial steps for all the pre-dents to surpass that demands a lot of time and effort. Yet, some students start preparing as early as the end of Freshman year. Why? Because just like every other standardized admission test, DAT is a comprehensive dental training program designed to evaluate an individual's potential to achieve a dental college degree in the future. And when it comes to exams as such, timing is everything.

dental test

The DAT being as competitive as it is, you want to make sure that you are ticking all the right boxes and sitting for the exam when you feel up for it to avoid any room for errors. So if you are an aspiring dental student looking for the best times to sit for a DAT or Dental Admission Test and how you can prepare for it accordingly, then you have come to the right place.

In this article, we will walk you through the following aspects of DAT,


  • The DAT is a comprehensive examination process regulated by the ADA to determine if you have the required skill set and knowledge to pursue a career in Dentistry.
  • With the competition increasing each year in the Dental Industry, you can start preparing for your DAT as early as your Sophomore year or take a 2-year gap and register by your Senior year based on preparation.
  • Regardless of when you apply, your goal should be to pass the DAT on your first try. So, you can either design your study materials and schedule or rely on online tools to help with your preparation.

What is the DAT, and How Difficult is it?

DAT or Dental Admission Test is an extensive standardized evaluation test administered by the American Dental Association to determine a student's potentiality in achieving a Dental program. This online examination is a year-round test conducted at different Prometric sites comprising four sections designed around the related field.

While DAT itself is a four-and-a-half-hour long exam, it gets rated on a scale of 1 to 30, with the average score being 17-18. And although it might sound simple, according to the ADA, the competition in the Dental Industry is only increasing, with only 2 to 5 percent of all applicants getting accepted at the top Universities.

And you only get to apply thrice for the DAT before needing permission from the ADA. That is why you need to plan ahead of time and complete all your core subjects by deciding to apply for the DAT.


How to Prepare for the DAT?

The preparation for DAT starts with the basics. So whether you belong to a similar background or come from a non-traditional one, you have to start by ticking off all of the core subjects from your list first, such as Biology, Organic Chemistry, Chemistry, etc.

Once you feel comfortable with your current pace, you can move on to more advanced courses such as Micro Biology, Zoology, Bio-Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics, Physiology, Psychology, Cell Biology, Human Anatomy, and much more.

Since this is relatively a vast syllabus to cover, you may want to start planning as soon as possible so that by the time you decide to sit for the DAT, you have all your basic courses completed. So, try to section out your four-year-long undergrad according to your preference.

When to Take the Dental Admission Test or the DAT?

Sitting for the DAT After Your Sophomore Year

With the competition of DAT increasing with each given year, people might suggest you apply as soon as your First year to get a head start compared to everyone else. And while you could always do that, you should allocate your First year to solely focus on all the core courses like General Chemistry, Biology, Organic Chemistry, and as such, needed to get enrolled into a Dentist College.

Why? Because when you take your time to focus on building the basics, you allow yourself enough room to understand the areas you lack and work on them accordingly.

As you enter your Sophomore year, you will have your grades in hand and can now start planning out when to apply for the DAT. Unless you want to delay the process, you may want to consider registering for the test by the end of the semester.

And considering you do decide to sit for the test during this period, the best time to apply would be 60-90 days before your summer break because you will be able to prepare for the DAT, sit for the exam, and receive your DAT score, all within your summer break. So, this gives you ample time to focus on filling out your Dental application for review.

However, if you decide to sit this one out, you could talk to your advisor and look for other opportunities over the summer to expand your horizon. For instance, you could opt for voluntary work over the summer or additional courses to help you with the DAT over the Junior year.

Sitting for the DAT After Junior Year

Alternative to applying in your Sophomore year, another timeline to follow could be to sit for the test during your Junior year or its summer break.

By the end of your Sophomore year, you will have the scores for all your core subjects to select a major. However, remember that you do not need to be a science major to opt for a career in the Dental industry. So, you can still get enrolled into a Dental program regardless of your background.

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If you decide to sit for the DAT before the end of July, you may want to go easy on the courses you select during the first few semesters. For starters, you can go by completing 2/3 of the elective courses to help you perform better on your Dental exam, such as Zoology, Physiology, etc.

Moreover, you need to schedule your DAT a few days after your semester finals. So if you have your finals scheduled 60 days from now, you need to align your DAT so that it does not collide dates with your finals.

However, if you decide to do the latter and sit for your Dental Admission Test by the end of your Junior year, I suggest you utilize the time by completing all the courses of your selected major.

Remember that you need to get the application filled out by mid-July for review purposes. Otherwise, you would have to wait till the end of the year for your application to get reviewed. So, if you do not have your DAT done by then, you can at least include your additional activities in your application and get it checked.

Unless you plan on working during the summer, completing your DAT by the end of July seems like a more feasible option. Instead of focusing on both DAT and your schoolwork, you get to devote your time to crafting your application. And if this is your second time applying for the DAT, you can analyze the areas that you have previously lacked.

Sitting for the DAT After Your Senior Year

The good thing about the DAT is that you do not need to belong to a science background to be able to apply. So you can always make a career change whenever you want and sit for the test whenever you like.

The candidates applying for the DAT after their senior year mainly comprise people making a shift in their career, are reapplying for the DAT, or are non-traditional students. So, if this is the case for you, the best way to schedule your DAT would be to plan your exam 5-6 months from now. Then, you can schedule around the clock and manage work and studies simultaneously.

DAT demands an extensive amount of time and effort. So a larger time frame will allow you ample opportunities to prepare for the examination. You may start by allocating your weekends for your DAT preparation and covering the core subjects first. And as the exam nears, you can amp up your reserved time limit.

Completing Application for Review Purposes

There is a reason why most people would advise you to complete your application by August. Schools start sorting and evaluating applications around that time. So, the sooner you start working on your application, the sooner your application gets reviewed.

So, you need to ensure that you are not just spending all your time after DAT and also partaking in voluntary activities. Even networking with the right people can take you a long way.

And while you can always register for your DAT after handing in your application, delaying your review process will only bring you more stress. Moreover, since application review is an ongoing systematic process, if you apply until after you get your DAT score by the end of your Junior year, you will not get your application reviewed until the authorities finish doing everything else.

Final Takeaway

The trick to outperforming other candidates at DAT is not to rush it and finesse your basics as much as possible before deciding to sit for the exam. Also, remember that you only get three shots with DAT before asking for permits from the ADA. So, rather than following someone else's structure, try to plan out your schedule the way you feel comfortable preparing for DAT because what might work for others may not work for you.

With the average acceptable score for DAT applicants going up each year, it is only natural for candidates to doubt their ability to perform subliminally. That is where different online tools and platforms come in to help you with the entire admission process.

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At DAT Prep, we guide the students that need assistance along their journey to acing their DAT test with the help of more than 1000s of questions, study material, data, and analytics. In addition, we understand the necessities of each student and design structures tailored to help them with their specific needs. So, with DAT Prep, there is no need to feel lost because rest assured that you are in good hands.

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