Dental Admission Test …Take 1

As most pre-dental students know, the Dental Admission Test (DAT) is one of the first big hurdles that needs to be crossed before entering dental school. It’s a daunting test. Just about anything science related that we could have ever learned in our lives is fair game. Some study for several weeks, others study for several months. I ended up joining the latter but it was not by choice.

I decided to forgo classes during J-term of my junior year of college in 2012. J-term wasn’t required for upperclassmen. I didn’t need to work, I had enough money saved up for second semester tuition, so I could hide away in the basement of the campus library and pound the information in my head. Good plan, right?

Nope. Not for me anyway.

Through undergrad, I never really developed a specific studying “style” that I could rely on. I did something different for almost every test that I took, so I didn’t know how to handle the large amount of information covered on the DAT. For this test I decided to become a scribe for a month. I took a Kaplan prep book and basically retyped the entire biology section in the first couple weeks. Since it was such a daunting task, my focus turned from absorbing the information to getting a certain amount typed by the end of the day. It was a big waste of time. The fact that I didn’t like the Kaplan prep book in the slightest didn’t help anything either. It was filled with minutia that was unnecessary to learn and it didn’t give any guidance as to what areas were more important than others. You can’t learn everything and some subjects have historically been given more attention on the DAT than others. There were also several mistakes in the book. Some people liked it as a study tool but I don’t recommend it.

From here I turned to chemistry. I used the Kaplan book for about a day and realized that I needed to find a different way. It had been long enough since my last general chemistry class that I needed a better resource that could hold my attention. I turned to the life saving Student Doctor Network (SDN) for help. I found several references to something called Chad’s Videos on This may very well have been the discovery that saved my future career as a dentist. I would recommend this site to anyone taking the DAT. I will discuss it more in later post.

Through second semester of my junior year, I watched all of Chad’s videos on gen chem, o-chem, and math. I took thorough notes but did not focus as much as I probably should have. I mistakenly stuck with the Kaplan review for biology. I have good reading comprehension and perceptual ability skills so I didn’t study for those sections. During this time, I had a full course load including o-chem 2, comparative vertebrate anatomy, microbology among others so I was kept pretty busy.

I took the test on April 21 and was scared to death for the entire hour long drive to the testing center. I felt ok after finishing the science, perceptual ability, and reading…then I came to math. I have always hated math and, after that test, it seemed as though the feeling was mutual. I completely froze. I was not used to using the on screen calculator you are given and that tripped me up causing me to waste time. It is similar to the normal Microsoft calculator on a computer but I didn’t practice with it. I started freaking out about running out of time. The realization that I was minutes away from seeing my scores didn’t help things. Needless to say, I didn’t feel ok after that section.

In the end, I scored fairly well on the first sections and would have gotten a 19, a respectable score and the average accepted at most dental schools. Then I saw the math score. It was dismal. Lower than the cutoff for most schools. (Many schools have certain scores that you cannot score below in any section or you are automatically out of the running for acceptance)

Obviously, a retake was necessary. Unfortunately, ADA rules say that you have to wait 90 days from your test date before you can retake the exam. I wanted to retake the test as soon as possible. The applications opened in early June and the earlier you get all of your materials in, the better your chances are in the rolling admission. As it turned out, 90 days from my first test date landed on July 20, the day before my wedding. That was a problem. My then fiancée probably wouldn’t have appreciated me studying all day long in the weeks leading up to the wedding and then being out of town during our rehearsal.

As you can probably tell by the fact that I was admitted to dental school, I did retake the test and fortunately redeemed myself. The details on that little adventure which added to the busiest summer of my life will have to wait for my next post.

Thanks for reading.


6 thoughts on “Dental Admission Test …Take 1

  1. Your articles are great and easy to relate to. When you said “Through undergrad, I never really developed a specific studying “style” that I could rely on,” this was me…and trying to study for the DAT now, I really don’t know how to study..please help. I find flashcards are boring, my notes are sloppy..idk what to do!

    • I’m not sure if you read the DAT take 2 post but in it, I talk about I cannot recommend this site enough. The guy’s name is Chad and he is the best teacher I have ever seen. Use these videos for general chemistry and organic. Then I would recommend the AP bio review books I mention in that post for biology. For the reading section, I just read a lot of articles online related to science, not scientific but more like media reports of scientific news which is what that section was like. For QR I used again which is a good place to start. I would not focus on notes from undergrad at all. There are a lot of sources better focused to the DAT than your notes.

      I would recommend reading the DAT take 2 post where I go into more detail and feel free to comment with anymore questions!

      Good luck studying!

      • Yes, thank you. I read the DAT take 1 and take 2 post before I responded. I just wanted to know a reliable way to study for the DAT. I know everyone’s learning style is different but when you mentioned that you did not have a specific studying style that you could rely on, I was wondering what you did to change that or how you found what worked better for you. Sometimes flash cards work, but they are time consuming…so I really don’t know the BEST way to soak up all this information that is needed for the DAT.


      • Flashcards never worked for me either. I would spend a lot of time making them but I didn’t really absorb the material because I was just trying to get them made. But by then I didn’t want to study them! I’m a real visual learner. That is why I loved Chad’s videos on It is just like taking a class but at your own pace. I treated the videos like a college class and took detailed notes and took the quizzes. I went through the videos probably two times. For general chemistry and organic chemistry he is definitely all you need. That was a big help for me because the idea of going through something like the Kaplan book for chemistry sounded absolutely terrible. I also have good reading comprehension so for biology I just read an AP bio review book. I was a biology major so that was all I needed. PAT I was also confident in so I don’t have anymore tips for how to study for that other than what is in my post.

        Hopefully this helps. I cannot recommend enough. I am not affiliated with them in anyway but I would not be in dental school today without Chad’s videos.

        Good luck!

      • Thank you so much! You have been helpful and responded quickly. Congratulations on your wedding as well. Last question, how did you pick up on PAT? I don’t understand it right now and I was thinking about investing in DAT PAT.

      • I have always loved puzzles like the PAT section so I didn’t study much for it. The only advice I can give on that section is just get as much practice as you can. I bought Crack the DAT – PAT. It is a computer program that has something like ten full practice tests of the PAT. That is a lot of practice. I went through two and did well and just moved on in my studying. I think you should go through those and then go back through what you miss and try to understand how they came up with the right answer from their explanation. Other than practice, there isn’t much you can do for that section. Get as much practice in as you can and you will be fine. That section is not as important as the sciences but too low of a score will put off admission committees.

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