2023 DAT Retake Breakdown (9 point increase in Organic Chemistry, 19→23AA, 17→22TS, 14→23OC, 24 PAT)

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Jan 25, 2023
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2023 DAT Retake Breakdown (9 point increase in Organic Chemistry, 19→23AA, 17→22TS, 14→23OC, 24 PAT)

Hi everyone!! I just finished taking the DAT for the second time and am finally satisfied with my scores! Reading breakdowns, especially for retakers, was super helpful and inspiring to me before my second attempt, so I figured I would write one to help show retakers IT IS POSSIBLE!

Scores (second attempt):
PAT - 24
QR - 22
RC - 26
Bio - 21
GC - 23
OC - 23
TS - 22
AA - 23

I’m a senior chemistry student with a 3.90 GPA.

First Attempt:
For my first attempt, I strictly used DAT Bootcamp. I followed Ari’s 62 day study schedule to a T, spending two months studying during the summer of 2022. I was also working part time (~24 hours a week) during the first study period. In retrospect, I would not recommend working if you have the option not to. When I was studying for my first attempt, I found Ari’s schedule to be a little too fast paced for me, especially since I didn't have full days every day of the week to be studying. I also found myself completing the tasks on the schedule just for the satisfaction of checking it off my list, instead of really learning the material. For my practice exams on Bootcamp, I was averaging a 20 PAT, 16 Bio, 20 GC, 17 OC, 23 RC, 20 QR, and 20 AA. I was so beat up from staying inside every day in the summer studying that I had hoped that I would somehow do much better on my exam than I was doing on my practice tests, and I just wanted to get it over with. In retrospect, I would not advise taking the exam unless you are scoring on the practice tests what you are hoping to get on the real exam. Of course you can retake, but taking the DAT again is a stressful and expensive experience. As well as that, the stress of you taking it a second time, with a possibility of having to take it a third time is so much more stressful than taking it a first time. Anyway, here were my scores from the first exam:
PAT - 25
QR - 23
RC - 22
Bio - 17
GC - 20
OC - 14
TS - 17
AA - 19

Although I was scoring a higher average on my Bootcamp practice exams for organic chemistry, I felt like I guessed my way through them, and was lucky by getting an 18 on practice tests. It was the same way with biology. I felt like I guessed my way through the practice and the real exam, and honestly I was surprised that I even got a 17 (I was expecting lower) the first time around. Now let’s get to the second exam breakdown!

Second Attempt:
Materials used:
  1. DAT Booster: I primarily used DAT Booster for my second attempt. I purchased the 3 month subscription exactly 3 months before my exam. I don’t have anything against using Bootcamp, but I had already taken the majority of the Bootcamp practice tests and wanted to have a fresh start for practice exams for my second try. I followed Booster’s 8 week study guide and condensed it a little bit to fit my schedule. I followed the Phase 1: Content Learning schedule pretty exactly, and I found it manageable to sometimes complete ~2 days of the schedule in 1 day. I also didn’t do any of the learning for reading, PAT, or QR as I felt confident in those areas. I would however recommend practicing your PAT everyday, especially the sections that you are struggling with (for me that was keyhole and TFE). I found the practice exams on Booster to be very representative of the material I saw on the real exam. I definitely saw many questions on the real exam, especially in biology, that were nearly word for word from the Booster exams. I would say that the Bootcamp practice test interface was almost exactly like the real exam, while Booster’s was a little different, but it wasn’t a big deal at all. Booster is also like half of the price of Bootcamp which was super influential for me as well.
  2. ANKI: Anki was truly my saving grace for my second attempt. I used the pre-made Bootcamp anki deck, which you don’t even need a Bootcamp subscription to use. I liked the way that the decks were separated by subject so I could focus more on specific subjects that I was struggling with. I also made my own anki decks for questions I got wrong on practice tests for biology, organic chemistry, and general chemistry. I highly recommend making your own decks for the stuff you’re really struggling with. I used anki everyday for the 44 days before my exam, and also sporadically before that. It was time consuming, some days I would spend 2 hours just doing anki, but IT IS WORTH IT. If I could give you one piece of advice for biology it would be to use anki. Booster also has anki decks with the updated 2022 biology material, which you could check out as well. There’s also an organic chemistry anki deck that really helped me learn the required reactions. Here’s the link to download the bootcamp bio and organic chem anki decks: DAT Bootcamp Biology Anki Decks | Bootcamp.com
DAT Bootcamp Organic Chemistry Anki Deck | Bootcamp.com

  1. DAT Bootcamp: Although I didn’t purchase another subscription for DAT Bootcamp this time around, I still had access to the results of my previous practice exams. This was particularly helpful for the organic chemistry section. I reviewed all of the practice tests in OC that I had taken and really took my time going over each question and answer, and understanding why each answer was correct or incorrect. The explanations for the exam answers, both correct and incorrect, are really helpful on Bootcamp as well. I also attended a free 30 for 30 class offered by bootcamp and a 3 hour crash course ($97) as well. The crash course went over biology 1 which I had a few struggles with and it did help me clarify a few things and learn some helpful mnemonics.

Study Schedule:
I began studying for my second exam ~3 months before I took the exam on January 21, 2023. I was also taking a full load of classes in the fall so I wasn’t able to totally focus on studying, but I did a little bit here and there. I was using anki as well as it’s easy to do anywhere. I recommend starting anki right when you start studying, even if you haven’t learned the bio topics yet. I truly think I learned the majority of the bio that I knew primarily from anki. Once my semester finished around mid December, I studied pretty much everyday until my exam. I did take a break on Christmas to spend time with family, and had some shorter studying days during the weekend, but I always made time to do my anki. I didn’t finish every deck everyday, but I did the most I could do. During the week, I would go to my town library ~10am-8pm Monday through Thursday, 10am-5pm Friday, and then study at home or at my boyfriend’s apartment during the weekend. My boyfriend was studying for the MCAT over the same period that I was studying, so we were able to sit down and have full days of studying every time we saw each other. I found it super helpful to have a study buddy that could hold me accountable for staying focused, as I can tend to get distracted easily. I would highly consider finding a study buddy (someone that is very focused and won’t distract you) if that would help you focus!
Like I said I followed the Phase 1: Content Learning section of the Booster 8 week schedule to a T, then I organized the remainder of my studying by how often I could take practice tests. I ended up taking 3 full lengths (1 from Bootcamp and 2 from Booster) and 4 full tests by section on Booster as well. I would take an exam, and then for the next day and a half completely review every science section. I would write down each question from the exam, even if I got it right, and write down the right and wrong answers and why each answer was right or wrong. I also made anki decks for the questions I got wrong. This is very time consuming, but I really believe this is what caused my increase in scores. Reviewing really helped me see which subjects I was struggling with (Booster also shows you which questions you got wrong and from which chapter they are from). I wish I spent more time taking practice exams, and I HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend you make the time to take all of the exams, as they are so so so helpful in your learning.
For my practice tests this time around, I was averaging 22 PAT, 19 Bio, 20 GC, 21 OC, 23 RC, 25 QR, and 22 AA.

Taking the Exam:

Biology (21): I was super nervous for the biology section. I was scoring pretty well on the practice exams but I was still scared that my test would somehow be so hard and my score would crash. Thankfully, the real exam was very straightforward in the bio section. I had a few questions that I had to guess on, but for the most part, the questions were very similar, if not exact, to the practice tests on both Booster and Bootcamp. Trust your gut on your answers, most of the time your first instinct is correct.

General Chemistry (23): The calculations on this section were very simple and straightforward. Make sure you know colligative properties, as that was something I struggled with the first time around. I felt like the topics were also very representative of the practice exams on both platforms, so if you are feeling confident in those sections and understanding every question, you’ll do really well on the real exam!

Organic Chemistry (23): I really almost cried when I saw this score. I got a 14 on my first test and this 9 point increase was more than I could imagine. I feel like something clicked for me when I was studying for this section the second time around. When studying the reactions, I would look up the mechanisms and do practice with them until I could do it on my own. I would write out the mechanism, if I could, to each anki card for each reaction. This was super, super helpful. Also, make sure you know the stereochemistry and regiospecificity for each reaction. Acidity and basicity were also super prevalent, so make sure you know how to find the most acidic proton on molecules and how to figure out which is the strongest base. I would also recommend memorizing the equation for degrees of unsaturation, and also knowing how to assess carbon and proton NMRs. Also know lab methods of purification and separation and when you’ll use each one!

PAT (24): I was really happy with this score. I kind of neglected studying PAT for the second time around, as I felt confident in it already. However, towards the end of my studying I realized I was having a much harder time with keyhole and TFE, so I made it a high priority to practice 15 questions from each of those sections everyday. Practice really is key here!!! Also, keyhole and TFE are much easier on the exam in my experience than in the practice. I would aim for getting most of each section on the PAT correct in order to guarantee a high score here. I did get a 25 on my first attempt, so I went down 1 point, but I’m still satisfied with my 24.

Reading Comprehension (26): I was again also really surprised by this score. I got a 22 on my first exam and thought that the passages were much more simple than my second time around, so I was nervous about seeing the results. I highly recommend using Booster for reading, as I found the passages to be a little more challenging than Bootcamp, so it’ll really help you practice for the real thing. I used the search-and-destroy method for my second time around, where I would just skim the paragraphs until I found the answer. I would mark questions I wasn’t 100% positive about and then go back to them at the very end to find/confirm the answer. You have to really pay attention to the wording on these questions, as they can be very tricky and sometimes misleading.

Quantitative Reasoning (22): I really enjoy math so this section came pretty easily to me. I was scoring a lot higher on my practice exams, but I was really happy with the 22 nonetheless. I did however see some questions on this section that I hadn’t seen on Bootcamp or Booster, but they were doable. I tended to almost run out of time in this section so I didn’t have a lot of time to go over the questions I was unsure about at the end, which I wish I could’ve. I would recommend you know combinations and permutations and probability, and just really go over each practice exam and know how to do every type of question. If you can do that, you are golden!

Final Pieces of Advice:
Make sure you take care of your physical and mental health during the time that you are studying. Stay active and take time to yourself to practice self care when you can. This whole experience can be very discouraging, but keep your head up. This test does NOT define you at all. After I did poorly in organic chemistry and biology my first time around and knew I had to retake, I was so discouraged and it really sent me into a funk. Finding a study method that works for you and keeping to your schedule is KEY. Don’t take the test until you feel completely ready and you are scoring your goal scores on your practice exams. There is no shame in pushing your test out until you’re ready. It’s the smartest thing you can do. You guys have this in the bag and you guys are gonna CRUSH this exam!! Keep your head up and stay confident! You got this!!

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You should be satisfied! You killed it! The hard work paid off. Congratulations and best of luck applying!