2024 DAT Breakdown (26AA/26TS/22PAT)

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ashleysantaniello

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2024 DAT Breakdown (26AA/26TS/22PAT)

Hey everyone!!! It’s been a LONG past 3.5 months studying for the DAT, but it’s finally over. One of my favorite and most calming activities to engage in when I felt stressed about my upcoming exam was reading score breakdown posts on reddit, official DAT study facebook group, etc. It was really nice to know that someone else had been through the same thing and to hear about what they used to prepare. So I figured I would contribute by sharing my experience!

Scores:
QR - 26
RC - 27
Bio - 26
GC - 27
OC - 25
TS - 26
AA - 26


Background/Study Situation:
Graduated from UPenn with a 3.87 GPA in May 2023, working full-time as a clinical research coordinator while studying

Materials Used (in order of helpfulness):

  1. DAT Booster - Although I don’t have the best ability to compare between this and other study tools out there (bootcamp, kaplan, etc.), I believe this program is VERY representative of the exam. Booster has study schedules that you can follow, which are very helpful. They have wonderful videos for (almost) every chapter of every section on the exam. They have constant updates to their site, which made the program better and better over the course of the 3.5 months I used it. They have notes for every chapter of every section on the exam. And, hands down, my most used item on Booster is the cheat sheets they have for biology (and other subjects for equations etc.). Booster practice exams are definitely harder than the actual exam, which I felt prepared me very well. My test scores were all higher than what I got on the practice tests there. However, in every section, I felt that there were 1-3 questions that I just didn’t know the answer to. It almost felt like it was the test-makers goal. 90% of material in almost all sections was a lot easier than Booster practice exams, but then they threw in 1-3 questions so that someone would be like “HUH.”

  1. DAT Bootcamp - My study partner, that I found through the DAT official study facebook, who I will talk about later, owned a Bootcamp account which is how I used this resource. We did bio, orgo, and gen chem practice tests every so often, which I definitely found to be a helpful supplement. I also used the Bootcamp orgo reaction sheet - this was very helpful. For those of you deciding between bootcamp and booster or a combination of both, I’d say you can DEFINITELY ace the exam with just Booster, so don’t go crazy with resources if you don’t have the money to spend (which I did not)!

  1. YouTube (Professor Dave/Hank Green) - Toward the end of my studying I watched some videos on Ecology, Evolution, and the adaptive immune system on YouTube. I personally learn better through videos/someone talking and explaining it to me rather than study notes and booster does not yet have videos for those three topics ^. I used Hank Green for the immune stuff and Professor Dave for the ecology and evolution.

  1. ANKI - I used this very rarely. I intended to use it way more than I did, but I didn’t love the way ANKI is set up. I might not have put in enough time to properly understand the program and its features, but I didn’t enjoy the program a ton, and thus, didn’t use it a ton. I mainly just used the bio bits on booster, which were helpful enough.

Study Timeline:
I started studying a couple of days after new years - I wanna say it was Jan 3. I started by using the Booster 10 week schedule, and followed it RELIGIOUSLY for almost the entirety of Phase I. I am not going to lie, it was incredibly exhausting and challenging to finish the to-do list for each day, especially while working, but I just kept telling myself it would be worth it in the end. One advantage (if you can call it that) of my studying timeline was that I didn’t have an exam scheduled until about 3-4 weeks before my test. I had submitted a fee waiver request to the ADA and was waiting to hear back for a while. Scheduling my test this late, allowed me to easily push my exam date back by about 1.5 weeks before I had even scheduled it. This flexibility allowed me to completely take a few days off in the middle of Phase I when I was feeling especially burnt out and allowed me to schedule my test for a bit later than I had originally anticipated so that I could have an extra week or so to feel very confident going in.

As you begin to study, please do not get discouraged and, if you’re using Booster’s schedule, please do not have a mental breakdown (like I did) after taking your first practice exam. Even though they tell you in the study materials that taking an exam this early on is merely so you can get a sense of the exam, I took it very seriously, and felt incredibly defeated when I barely knew anything on the exam. So, please don’t be like me!! For reference, I got a 13 on bio, 13 on gc, and then gave up on the rest of the sections and stopped studying for the day. Please trust the process and know that towards the end of your studying you will feel incredibly prepared and confident!

When I was about 3/4ths of the way through Booster’s Phase I, I knew that I needed accountability and partnership. I thrive best while studying with someone else for a variety of different reasons. As I already mentioned, it’s great to have the accountability. I also like that I can reason through questions out loud with another person, explain questions they have (to test my own knowledge of a subject) and ask them questions about topics I’m unsure of. I posted on the DAT Official Study Facebook group looking for someone in the same phase as me on Booster. I was incredibly lucky to find someone basically at the same spot as me and we connected the same day I made the post and began studying together. We finished up Phase I and studied EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. from there on out until my exam (on April 11th). I can honestly say that this is one of the biggest reasons for my success on this exam (shoutout Niraj). It was so nice to have someone to study with and over time I truly felt very accountable. When I wanted to go out with friends or bail on studying, I knew that my study partner was waiting for me on Zoom and that I should get back to studying.

After Phase I ended, me and my study partner started by using Booster’s Phase II (which includes reviewing all the material as well as taking a few practice exams intermittently). After about a week, we decided to forget the Booster schedule and make our own. We set up a schedule that would allow us to go back through all the notes, question banks for every subject and every chapter over the course of the next few weeks. We set it up in a way that would allow us to have about a week before our exam to simply just take exams and review weak spots. We would go through about 2 sections of bio (via using Booster’s cheat sheets, sometimes supplemented with the bio bits), orgo, and gen chem. I’d also try to do a bit of PAT every day, but I was not great about sticking to this schedule. I think that I could have done better on PAT had I focused some time on it every day. I really ignored PAT on many days so that I could get through everything else.

After my study partner and I had finished going back through everything for a second time, I started going back through everything for a third time. Spaced repetition is truly the way to go. When you see something for a second or third time, it is significantly easier to understand and retain the information. I also redid every single bio, orgo, and ochem practice test a second time, which I think helped tremendously. I looked at the tests a third and final time the night before my exam, specifically going through my ‘marked’ and incorrect questions.

I contemplated pushing my exam back when I was about 2.5 weeks out from the exam, but I am so happy that I didn’t. The night before the exam I felt very prepared and could not have imagined having to study for another week after that. There’s really a sharp increase in the rate of learning and level of preparedness toward the end of studying, and you have to trust in yourself that you’ll get there. If you truly don’t feel ready by the time your exam rolls around, then, by all means, please push your test back. But what I’m trying to say is that you shouldn’t preemptively push it back because you may feel very ready when the time rolls around!

Day of Exam
  • Bio (26): It was very straightforward with 1-3 questions I wasn't too sure of. It was much easier than the Booster practice tests. I truly attribute my success on this section to booster’s cheat sheets and me and my study partner’s ‘bio rapid fire’ sessions where we’d each pick 4-6 cheat sheets and just rapid fire ask each other questions from the cheat sheets. We’d do about 2 hours of this each day.
  • GC (27): The calculations were ridiculously easy compared to Booster lol. There were a lot of conceptual questions - focus on periodic trends and knowing how to set up calculations. I think I only had a couple actual calculations and they were very easy numbers (e.g. the mass of the compound was identical to the molar mass so the moles were just 1). Honestly, if you just use everything Booster has, you will be very prepared.
  • OC (25): Drill down acid rankings and carbocation/radical stability. There's so much more emphasis on stability than actual reactions.
  • PAT (22): I felt that the practice tests for this section are what prepared me most for the exam. There is a big difference between the level of difficulty of booster’s question banks/generators vs the practice tests (the practice tests being harder). On the actual exam, the TFE, hole-punching, cube-counting and pattern folding were all easier than booster’s practice tests. For me personally, the keyholes felt wonky on the exam and the angles felt quite hard. But who knows if everyone else would agree.
  • RC (27): First passage had 22 paragraphs, but the next two passages were about 12 paragraphs. Even though I had taken every practice test by reading the entire passage and then answering questions, on the actual exam I ended up reading about half to ⅔ of the passage and then using search and destroy for the rest. Most of the questions were basically stuff you could find word for word in the passages, but some questions were not directly in the passage and you had to use context clues or recognize that they were paraphrasing lines. I highly recommend highlighting as little as possible, while still highlighting the important bits. If you have too much highlighted, important words are not going to catch your eye when you go looking for an answer.
  • QR (26): Most of the problems were probability, algebra, rate. 90% of the questions were easier than booster but there were a few I specifically remember being the same concepts as booster but a little harder. There were 2-3 questions that had not been covered on any of the resources I used and I just had to try my best to reason it out or guess.
Ending Advice:
Don’t get discouraged early on. Know that you will get better with time (IF you put in the work). Find a study/accountability partner (if you are someone that thrives studying with other). It will truly change the game. Give yourself some grace. This is a challenging feat and it is okay to have bad days or need a break. Recognize that you may have to put your social life on hold for a few months. Maybe it was only because I was also working full time, but I truly have not had much of a life the past 3.5 months. I gave up concert tickets, turned down almost all invites from friends, and just toughed it out, telling myself I was doing the right thing. However, it is definitely important to take small breaks every now and then. Otherwise, you will burn out. Go on walks, see friends occasionally, and do something you enjoy every now and then. It definitely paid off for me and it will for you, if you stick with it. You got this!

Feel free to reach out with any questions - I’d be very happy to help.


Along with my score report, I've attached my Booster practice test breakdown (take test #1 with a grain of salt because, as I mentioned, I didn’t actually take all the sections the day I was supposed to).

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