DAT Breakdown (23AA, 23TS)

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Aug 19, 2023
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Background: I am a rising senior majoring in Biomedical Sciences and minoring in Spanish, with a 4.0 GPA. This was my first time taking the DAT. The relevant courses I have taken prior to the exam are Organic Chemistry I & II, Medical Biochemistry, Genetics, and Molecular Biology I. I took General Chemistry I & II and Biology I & II as a dual enrollment student in high school so I had forgotten much of this material. However, I have been serving as a Learning Assistant (LA) for Biology II since Fall 2022 and I became a Teaching Assistant (TA) and LA for Biology I over the summer (which I believe helped tremendously).

  1. To prepare for my exam, I went with DATBooster’s 90-day Premium option because of the numerous positive reviews and, ultimately, because of its affordability. I used the 12-week Study Schedule, specifically – I’ll dive a little deeper on my thoughts about this schedule in the last section. I stuck to the schedule religiously for the majority of Phase 1, but I ended up giving myself a lot of leeway towards the end and rearranging the content on most days.
  2. I also used the free study materials that DATBootcamp had to offer. I would complete the Question of the Days, Daily Warmups, and Quick Study questions. After I finished Booster’s practice tests, I completed the free practice tests that Bootcamp had to offer.
  3. I would also watch several YouTube videos on topics that I did not fully understand. Shoutout to The Organic Chemistry Tutor, Chad’s Prep, and Amoeba Sisters!
Biology (27): I was extremely surprised by my score because I did not score higher than a 22 on any of my practice tests. As I mentioned before, I have been a Biology II LA for almost a year now, so I was able to constantly “review” even outside of active studying.
  • Phase I: I would read and take notes on all of the Feralis-Booster pages that they suggested we read for the day. I tried my best to filter out what I thought was too “in depth” or unnecessary. I prioritized diagrams, images, and charts so I did not have to write AS much. This part is extremely time consuming, but I do think rewriting notes is how I learn best. During this phase, you won’t feel like you are retaining much of the information but Phase II and III do a great job reinforcing the important information.
  • Phase II: I essentially did the same thing but with the cheat sheets (don’t worry, it’s a lot less writing). Since these were the high yield sections, I went ahead and created a Quizlet for the information that I did not know by heart. I would go over the entire Quizlet every time I added new information.
  • Phase III: I tried to go over the Quizlet every day, but it eventually got to 300+ flashcards. I ended up dividing the entire deck into 3 days, and continuously cycling through them. 2 days before the exam, I went through the entire deck.
** I did attempt the Anki flashcards that DATBooster provides, but I felt myself just trying to get done with all of the flashcards instead of trying to memorize the material. I also noticed several mistakes, so I just decided to make my own.

Gen Chem (21): I was averaging 22’s on my practice tests and I really felt as though I knew the material, so I thought I was going to score a little higher. No complaints though! I learned too late into studying (a week before the DAT) that the real DAT tests more conceptual questions than it does quantitative questions. Please be aware that the practice tests on Booster have significantly more questions that require calculation than you will see on the real test! If numbers are involved, they are either easy to manipulate or plugged into a formula. Instead, focus on concepts like Le Châtelier's principle, Solubility, etc.
  • Phase I: To study, I used the same technique as I did for biology. I took notes on the videos and study sheets they provided, and I starred any types of questions I had difficulty with.
  • Phase II: I retook notes but made them much more condensed than in the first phase. After each lesson, I would search the corresponding Chad’s Prep video to solidify my my understanding.
  • Phase III: I created a Quizlet to memorize the equations, soluble ions, periodic table trends, etc. This deck was not as lengthy so I was able to go over them every day.
Organic Chemistry (22): I basically did the same thing I mentioned in the previous sections. During Phase II, I created a Quizlet for the reactions and the different orgo tests (Tollens, Jones, etc.). During Phase III, I went over the reaction bank questions, and I would highly recommend that you at least go over it once. I would also advise that you know intermediates for some of the more basic reactions, along with EAS reactions.

PAT (22): I honestly struggled studying for this section. I usually love puzzles, but these were no Sudoku or Jigsaw puzzles. Along with Booster’s schedule, I began doing 15 questions of Angle Ranking Keyhole using the generator. I was able to improve on Angle Ranking but Keyhole was hit or miss. Towards the end of Phase I, I practiced Pattern Folding and Top-Front-End by using the Extra Questions section. My advice for Pattern Folding is to identify the shape that stands out and see if you can find it on one of the choices in the correct orientation. If more than one of the options have it, look at surrounding shapes and compare the sizes of it because some choices can be eliminated because of incorrect sizing. As for Top-Front-End, I only began to do well during Phase III. It is very abstract but this article (Top Front End (TFE) Intro Tutorial | DAT Bootcamp) helped so much. I would also recommend using the free extra questions that Bootcamp has to offer to compare.

I would say the Pattern Folding and Keyhole sections on the real PAT are significantly easier. Everything else seemed on par with what Booster had to offer.

RC (22): Although I am an active reader and I had been averaging 26’s on my practice tests, I became sleepy before starting, which I think contributed to not scoring as high as I did on practice tests. My strategy was reading the first half just to get a feel of the author’s tone/message (in case I got a question about it) and then using search and destroy. I would recommend at least reading the first and last paragraphs because I was asked the tone on at least two of the passages.
Booster’s practice exams were overall representative of the real exam in terms of how straightforward the questions are. I got passages that were 14-15 paragraphs long but some of the paragraphs consisted of 2-3 sentences. On the harder passages, they asked easier questions. Unfortunately, my passages were not as interesting as Booster’s.

QR (22): Math has always been my favorite subject, so I enjoyed studying for it after not having taken a math course in three years. My QR section on the real DAT was significantly easier than any of the practice tests Booster provided. Time was still an issue for me, so I recommend utilizing any shortcuts and having the formulas memorized so that you do not waste too much time thinking about how to solve something.
  • Phase I: I watched all of the videos and took notes on them. After the videos, I would complete the practice questions corresponding to the lessons. It is crucial that you flag any of the ones giving you do not fully understand.
  • Phase II: I went back to the topics that gave me the most trouble and retried them. On the days I did not have a practice test, I would reattempt an old practice test but untimed just to see if I could figure out the solutions.
  • Phase III: I created a Quizlet for the conversions and the equations found on the formula sheet. I went over these every day.
What I would do differently
  1. I would have done the 10-week Study Schedule. Towards the end of the 12-week Study Schedule, I was just so ready to get the exam over with that I found myself cutting my study days short because I swore I “knew everything” there was to know about the exam.
  2. I would have taken melatonin the night before because I woke up at 3am that day TERRIFIED and could not go back to sleep.
Last comments/advice
  1. Please prioritize your mental health during this process. I cannot emphasize enough how draining studying for this exam is but make sure that you are taking reenergizing, productive breaks.
  2. Have a good support system. Having someone to talk to about this process helps significantly (I cannot tell you the countless hours I spent complaining to my family and friends about everything I had to study for the day). It may also help to talk to other people studying for the DAT (or a similar exam) because it helps you feel less alone, and they may provide you with better study tips!
  3. Bring something sugary for your break!

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