DAT Breakdown (26AA/25TS/21PAT)

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Anna Ziemba

New Member
Feb 22, 2024
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DAT Breakdown: 26 AA, 25 TS, 21 PAT

I took the DAT a few days ago and scored a 26 AA, so I thought I would share some of my experience studying and preparing for the DAT while also working a full time job.

For a little background, I graduated with an undergraduate degree in Biology in May of 2023. I decided later on in my 4 years that I wanted to go to dental school, so I decided that I would take a gap year and work while preparing for the DAT/application cycle for the next year. I got a job working at a dental office where I work 40-50 hours a week. I scheduled my DAT for mid-February 2024 and started studying in early November 2023. I tried my hardest to follow Ari’s 2.5 month study schedule. I spent roughly 2-3 hours on weekdays and 5-8 hours on weekends studying on average, but I started studying early so I knew I could take days off if I needed to.


I was a biology major in college, so I initially thought that the biology section would be a breeze for me. When I did a baseline practice test early on, I realized that the biology section would take a bit more dedication than I had originally thought. In my 3-ish month span of studying, I followed Ari’s suggestions to watch the biology chapter videos and do the Bio Bites and Question Bank questions the next day. I made sure to watch every video, even if it was a topic that I felt comfortable with. While watching, I would take detailed notes as if I was in a college class learning these topics for the first time. The most daunting thing about the biology section for me was the wide breadth of topics and small details on the exam. In the week leading up to my actual DAT, I went over all of my biology notes one time and rewrote only the most important points from each topic (1-2 things). I felt very prepared and ultimately got a 30 on this section.


I had not taken a general chem class since my freshman year of college, so initially I was a little nervous about chemistry. In my later undergrad years, I had the chance to privately tutor a student in general chemistry, so I was grateful for that more recent refresher. Similarly to biology, I just followed Ari’s timeline for chem videos and questions. Dr. Mike’s videos truly are very helpful, I watched every single one and took detailed notes. Dr. Mike does a great job of explaining what you need/don’t need to know, so paying attention to that is very helpful. As with many of the other sections, you begin to see patterns in the types of questions asked. More and more practice with questions is very helpful. I made an effort to make sure I knew why I got every question wrong while I was studying. Even if I got a question right, I made sure I knew WHY I got it right. The video explanations after you answer a question are very helpful with this.


Organic chem was one section that I was very worried about. I took organic chem my sophomore year of college and did decently well in the class, but I never really felt like I understood completely and once it was over I seemingly forgot everything I learned. Again, I followed Ari’s schedule and watched Dr Mike’s videos while taking detailed notes. Organic chemistry covers a lot of reactions and can seem overwhelming, but I made sure to get through all the videos and take good notes so that I started to get more comfortable with questions. I printed out the reactions sheet from the Bootcamp website, but this seemed a bit overwhelming for me. When it came to the week of the exam, I just looked over all of my notes and continued to do practice questions and exams. Like gen chem, you start to see patterns in the types of questions asked, so I got more and more comfortable with more practice.

PAT: 21

The PAT section was also quite daunting for me since it was something I was completely unfamiliar with. I made sure to watch all of the PAT academy videos, again taking detailed notes. Since I worked full time the entire time I was studying, I dedicated my lunch break to PAT practice every day. As I ate my lunch, I would focus the entire hour on several questions from one section of the PAT. I found this to be very helpful in the long run, since practice is really the best way to improve this section. Once I started to do timed practice tests, I realized that I was taking way too long on the Keyhole section, which also happens to be the first section. Not only was I slow at these questions, I wasn’t even doing well on them. I started to switch up the order of the sections when I took practice tests, and this was very helpful. I started out with the sections I was most confident/fast with, Angle Ranking, Cube Counting, and Hole Punching. I would then do Pattern Folding and then circle back to TFE and Keyholes. This tactic was very helpful and gave me so much extra time on Keyholes and TFE at the end since I felt very confident with my other sections first.


RC was one section that I felt fairly confident in from the beginning. I have always liked reading and have done well with similar types of tests in the past. I watched all of the RC Academy videos and found that I really liked the question mapping technique. I tried this on my first few practice passages and stuck with it through it all. Each time I did a passage, I would try and do my question mapping in 5 minutes or less and then read through the passage and actually answer the questions in 15 minutes. For my question mapping, I would read the entire question and write out a few words to summarize the question. Once I was reading through the passage, if I came across something that I knew would answer a question I had seen already, I would highlight it and also write either the answer or the paragraph where the answer was next to the appropriate number on my question map. I did well on RC in all of my practice tests so I was confident on the actual test day that I was using the tactic I liked best.


I only took two math classes in college, but I was fortunate enough to be a tutor in my school’s math tutoring center for the last 2 years. That was extremely helpful in making me feel prepared for the DAT math section. Because I had a strong foundation in math, I jumped right into practice questions and did not watch the QR videos until I encountered a subject that I was less familiar or confident with. Because I did not watch the videos, I made sure to really understand when I got questions wrong or was unsure of how to answer a question. I would always watch or read the answer explanation under questions I was not 100% sure of and this was very helpful. The QR section became very predictable for me and I knew exactly what types of questions would show up. The practice tests are SO SIMILAR to the actual thing! Once you start to get more comfortable with similar questions, it is really just the numbers that are changing and I know my confidence continued to grow leading up to the test.


I was in utter shock when I received my scores in all honesty. In my practice tests, I was averaging a 20 on Biology (30 on DAT), 21 on Gen Chem (27 on DAT), 18 on OChem (22 on DAT), 20 on PAT (21 on DAT), 23 on RC (23 on DAT), and 22 on QR (28 on DAT). As you can see, I greatly improved on most of my sections from my practices to the actual DAT. I ended up only taking two full-length tests due to time constraints, but I made sure to do all of the individual section practice tests. In the week leading up to my exam, I just read over my detailed notes and continued to do practice questions. My goal for the exam was a 21-22ish and I ended up with a 26 AA. I hope that I can serve as an example that hard work truly can pay off, and confidence is key. I went into my exam knowing that I had worked hard for 3 months and I tried my best not to stress the things I did not know or feel as confident in. I loved Bootcamp and would recommend it to everyone. I would also stress that you do not need to compare yourself to others in their study journey. I was working 40-50 hours a week during my entire preparation, so I did not have 5-8 hours a day to dedicate to studying. I made the most of the hours I had while still leaving time to myself for proper eating, sleeping, and exercising. If you read any or all of this, I wish you the best of luck on your study journey and encourage you to believe in yourself. It sounds cliche, but it is so true. I’d be happy to answer any questions you might have as well!
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