2020 DAT BREAKDOWN! (25 AA/24 TS w/ no Bootcamp)

This forum made possible through the generous support of SDN members, donors, and sponsors. Thank you.


New Member
Jun 5, 2019
Reaction score

Members don't see this ad.
Hey all! I have never posted on this forum, but I just took the DAT and I’m pretty pleased with results. I was wondering if anyone was interested in a layout of how I studied over the past 3.5 months. For context I had a 3.2 cGPA and a 2.9 sGPA in undergrad coming into this and just completed an M.S. in Biology.

EDIT: So I guess how I am going to do this is go through each section and explain how I prepared. For background, I graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in Neuroscience in 2018. I started off strong, but during my junior and senior years I was going through a rough spot in my life and didn't preform like I can. So, I ended up with a 2.93 sGPA and a 3.24 cGPA, with an F and two Ds on my transcript. I took a gap year to figure out how to fix this. Eventually settled on a masters program at the University of Buffalo where I was able to TA to cover my tuition. I just received my M.S. in Biology a few weeks ago, and my grad GPA is 4.0. I still knew I needed to kill the DAT to make up for my GPA, so I made sure to take advantage of every service I could while spending the least amount possible. So, here we go.

**GENERAL STUDY STRUCTURE:** I started studying in mid February, and took my test today. So about 3.5 months in total. The first thing i did was pick up the Princeton Review DAT prep book. I bought a physical copy on amazon for $99 dollars because I like physically writing on the book, but I believe? online versions are available. This book was a great starter, and its Biology section is really top notch. The General Chemistry Section is pretty good, but you will need additional O Chem help elsewhere. QR/RC/PAT are decent, for what little information they offer. It took me about a month and a half to read this front to back and take notes, going over my notes periodically. I probably studied about 4 hours a day 6 days a week for this month and a half. After this I bought the $99 Kaplan Question pack, which I believe is what helped me score how I did. I spent the next 1.5 months studying these questions while also doing DAT Mastery questions on my phone throughout the day. During this time, I took a practice test every week to gauge my performance. I did buy a few, but there are tons online available for free if you look for them! DAT Bootcamp, Kaplan, Princeton Review, Mometrix, DAT- gold prep, among others have free single tests available. The DAT gold prep practice tests were WAY too difficult and low yield, whereas the princeton review tests were a bit too simple. For the last two weeks before my exam, I really went in on every subject I was getting wrong when doing practice questions. I watched youtube videos and chemistry libretexts literally all day every day two weeks leading up to my test. Well, except the day before the test where I did a light review and then went to bed early.

**BIOLOGY: 24**

**This section has the broadest range of questions of the exam!** I can not stress that enough, almost every question involved a unique concept. To study for this section, I first read the Princeton Review DAT Prep book, and took notes on every section. I probably spent about one month just on biology, because there is just so much information to learn. The Kaplan Question Bank pack is only $99 and covers everything, I just can't stress how valuable this resource was. After reading the Princeton Review Bio section and re reading my notes over and over again, I started spamming questions nonstop until I was positive I encountered every type of question. Do not focus on what you think will be on the exam i.e photosynthesis, amino acids, respiration, etc. Focus on all topics equally, because there were a few plant/ecology/evolution questions that I know many people brushed over in studying and therefore missed on the exam. Questions, questions, questions, and more questions is how you master this section. And if you don't understand a subject that might be low yield, it could very well still be on the test. There were THREE questions about plant reproduction. THREE. Spend 15 minutes googling the concept and nailing it before moving on, it does WONDERS.


So this section scared me a lot, but it wasn't bad at all. Mostly simple stoichiometry/"is this aromatic"/resonance structures/acid-base naming. I suggest becoming an expert at **Ksp/osmotic pressure/boiling point elevation/ideal gas law/partial pressure law** equations. Just spend some time doing problems online, anywhere, until you are confident you CAN do these every time. These showed up a lot. Know how to identify formal charge, oxidation number, know nomenclature. Again, the Kaplan question pack was SO great for chemistry. The Princeton review prep book also provided me with a good foundation. Same thing with Biology, if you can't do a problem while doing practice questions, don't just skip over it, master it. Eventually, you will know how to do most of the questions they will throw at you with ease. Don't skip over lab techniques/spectroscopy!! Especially since these are simple to learn.


I always loved organic chemistry, so I guess I was excited to get into Ochem again. Just like the other sciences, I started off reading the Princeton review book and taking notes. However.... this just does not cover nearly enough information. It also simplifies reactions to the point of leaving out important details. **Master Organic Chemistry on Youtube is your friend!** Learn about reactions of carboxylic acids and its derivatives, hell, watch as many of their videos as you can. They helped so much in terms of grasping concepts. But again, the Kaplan question bank helped me encounter a wide variety of concepts so when I missed a question, I later mastered the concept through a youtube video. **Know E1/2/SN1/2 of course, oxidizing/reducing agents, naming, reactions of alkenes, spectroscopy, enantiomer/diastereomer identification.** I just did Kaplan questions over and over and over and over until I knew how to do almost any reaction and could identify chiral centers/ stereoisomerism with ease.


Other than taking a few practice tests and reading about RC in the Princeton Review book, I didn't do much to prep for this. If anything, get your timing down pat so you have ample time to answer questions and don't get flustered. Scan the article, and write a word or a few describing each paragraph next to a number marking that paragraph. For example

1. Doctor
2. Anemia prevention
3. Mr. Lin's study
4. Ways to prevent complications

That way you can immediately know where to look when a question asks about something and you don't remember where it was in the article. These articles are super long, and it's difficult to find a specific sentence among 15 paragraphs if you don't remember what each paragraph is about.


I really do not know how I scored this high, as I was getting 24's on my practice tests. There are a few types of questions that come up reliably, and if you can learn how to master those you will have no problem with this section. For example, probability questions always come up. "She does the job in 5 hours he does it in 4 how many hours will it take them to do it together" questions always come up. Questions involving x/y/z exponents and two equations that need added together are common. Know your unit circle. But the MOST MOST important part of this section is learning how to do the questions FAST. They are not trying to gauge if you can do simple math, they want to know how you manage your time. Practice doing the 45 or whatever questions with the actual DAT time limit when you do practice questions. Doing questions with no time limit will not help much, as knowing how to do the questions is not enough for QR. Learn your optimal pace, and crush it.

**PAT: 16**

..... Yeah. Can't help you here. I never did grasp this. I gave up on trying to learn the intricacies of each section and aimed instead for a 17 or 18. I got stumped on the pattern folding question. I studied how to recognize specific shapes in the pattern to match to the folded figure, so you don't have to actually mentally fold the figure. The questions all involved shaded portions of the same folded figure, requiring you mentally fold the figure. I guarantee if I just spent an extra week total studying for this I could have gotten a much better score. I just banked on doing super well in all my other sections to overshadow this one.

To everyone who is overwhelmed and think it's not possible... it is! I am a stoner bartender who is on his second gap year who struggled with science in undergrad. If I can do it through dedication and smart studying yall can.
  • Like
Reactions: 1 users