Hello everyone! So, I'm new to this whole posting threads thing, but I wrote this DAT Breakdown on my blog earlier this month and a lot of people have found it really helpful, so I thought I would post here to offer more help to everyone! Also, if you find this post interesting and want to learn more about me - check out my blog at www.labcoatandpearls.blogspot.com (shameless plug) Also if you have an upcoming interview and are wondering how to prepare, make sure you check out my interview guide found here: http://labcoatandpearls.blogspot.com/2014/12/an-interview-guide-for-busy-pre-dental.html First off - here is my score breakdown: PAT - 20 QR - 19 RC - 28 Bio - 22 GC - 22 OC - 29 TS - 23 AA - 24 And here's my guide (with complimentary life advice thrown in!): I just got done taking my DAT in early January of this year and I decided that I would write a How-To Guide of sorts for taking the DAT. I don't know about any of you pre-dentals reading this right now, but I read a lot of online DAT guides before my exam that terrified me. I kept reading things like, "I studied for 12 hours a day for 6 months before the exam," "I completed the DAT Destroyer 15 times and memorized it forward and backward," and "I sold my soul and gave up my first-born child for a 20 or better." (Okay, maybe the last one is a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the point.) I knew that I would never be able to live up to these expectations and I figured that I would also fall short in my score because of this. I was extremely busy in the months leading up to my DAT, and I know many of you will be too. We're pre-dentals! Between our shadowing, volunteering, leadership experiences, and research positions, we're constantly studying to achieve grades that are competitive enough to apply to dental school. So now, on top of all of this, we have to fit in a study schedule that will get us prepared to take the most important test of our educational career thus far. Sounds overwhelming, right? And I know I was when the reality of the situation set in for me. But I'm here to tell you that it is doable and that you can do it. You can do it. Just like the Little Engine that Could, you're going to repeat "I think I can, I think I can" until you get over the hill and move on with your life. And you're going to be so proud of yourself when you're done, and I promise you, it's all going to be worth it. So let's get down to business. I started studying early, but not too early. There's a learning and forgetting curve that exists when preparing for a major exam. I feel that if you start too far in advance, you're going to forget things that you learned at the beginning of your preparation. This is why it's so important to have an integrative approach. Do not compartmentalize. The worse thing you can do is spend X amount of weeks studying chemistry, and then X amount of weeks studying biology, etc. This is not a realistic approach because if you're not exposing yourself to all of these subjects continuously throughout your study period, you're going to forget them. (At least for me, anyway.) Integration is key! I scheduled my DAT for early January so that I could have three and a half weeks before my exam to intensely study, without having to balance classes at the same time. You could also do this during the summer if you so please, but you will also be applying to dental school at the same time; which is something to think about. (If you've finished General Chemistry I and II, Organic Chemistry I and II and Biology I and II before the beginning of your Junior year, then I suggest taking it the summer between your Sophomore and Junior year. Or, you could post-pone your DAT one more semester, like I did, and take part of a summer program, like SMDEP- link here: http://smdep.org/) I familiarized myself with the logistics of the DAT during the summer before my Junior year at SMDEP. I learned a few strategies for the PAT section that I knew I could practice and remember for a while. I also researched and bought some study materials during this time period. I bought the 13th edition of Cliff Notes AP Bio (available on Amazon for ~ $10), the Kaplan Blue Book (also available on Amazon for ~ $40), and a dry erase board and marker to practice with (I got mine at the dollar store), during this time. Then my fall semester started. I had a full schedule with 16 credits including Biochem and Physiology. I was a TA for Microbiology lab twice a week, I was Vice President of the Pre-Dental Club and Sisterhood Chair for my sorority. I knew I was going to start studying for the DAT, so I had to make some sacrifices to my schedule and chose not to tutor chemistry, or do research during the fall semester. My free time was used to study, and study I did. I loosely followed DAT Bootcamp's 10 week guide (found here: http://datbootcamp.com/Ari'sStudySchedule.pdf), although I found that I wasn't able to keep up with it with my course load, so I would modify it to fit my own schedule. I began with Chad's Videos. I bought a one month subscription for the General Chemistry (~ $40) and Quantitative Reasoning (~ $40) videos. (Also, make sure you Google coupon codes before you buy anything.) Throughout the semester I would watch around three chemistry videos and two or three math videos a day. I took down intense notes and did the quizzes at the end of each video. I would also do the DAT Bootcamp Angle Generator (found here: http://datbootcamp.com/classroom/perceptual-ability/angle-ranking-generator/) at least once a day. I found that doing it once a day allowed me to gradually improve up until the day I took the DAT without any pressure. I would only do 15 of the 50 questions of the generator a day because there's only 15 on the actual PAT, but do as many as you feel comfortable with. I also tried to read my AP Bio book, but I would often find that I didn't have any time in the day left to do so. (If you do have the time, I suggest reading a chapter or two a week- at least to familiarize yourself with the material.) When I finished all of the Chad's General Chemistry and QR videos, I then bought a one-month subscription for the Organic Chemistry videos (~ $40) and began watching three of those a day. I also bought Crack the DAT: PAT, the Ace Edition ($130), and began working on the individual sections. (While still doing the angle generator.) Beware of the angle section on the Crack the DAT program. They are nothing like the actual DAT. The angle generator is a much more accurate representation of it. I also watched some Youtube videos on the PAT. Some of my favorite ones were: Hole Punching: Keyhole: Top Front End: Angle Ranking: Cube Counting: Pattern Folding: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U7LYbh_uHbc During the week leading up to my finals, I had no time to study for the DAT. I got extremely worried that focusing on my finals was going to mess up my study schedule for the DAT and that I was going to get more behind than I already was. After my finals were done, however, I knew I was going to be able to devote all of my to the DAT, so I kept this in mind and focused solely on acing my finals. After I finished my fall semester in the beginning of December, I had no time to relax. I knew that I was sacrificing my winter break, but I also knew that doing the test well and finishing it would allow me to focus solely on my application this summer, instead of having to balance taking the DAT and doing my application. I immediately went home and started DAT Destroyer. I ordered the Basic edition, ($150.00.) If you can only afford one DAT resource to use, this is the one. DAT Destroyer was single handedly the best resource for the DAT, by far. (And I'm not even being payed to say that, even though I should be.) I literally saw questions on the actual DAT that mirrored those in DAT Destroyer. When I first got home, I divided the number of pages in the DAT destroyer by the number of days I had left before the test, which totaled about 21 pages a day. At first, I would do 7 pages of General Chemistry, 7 pages of Organic Chemistry and 7 pages of Biology a day. I would mark which ones I got wrong (which was about 50-60% of them) and then I would thoroughly read the explanation in the back and understand why I got it wrong. I finished General Chemistry and Organic Chemistry first, and then I moved on to the QR section, while I finished up the Biology. I would use the notes I took on Chad's videos to explain certain problems that I still didn't get with the explanation, as well as to review entire concepts that were only touched on by some questions. Then, when I finished all of the problems in DAT Destroyer, I went back through and re-did the ones I got wrong. At this time, I was also intensely doing Crack the DAT: PAT problems, and would even do entire tests once in a while to keep track of my progress. I haven't really touched on the Reading Comprehension section, because I sporadically prepared for this section. I started by reading a scientific article about once a day, which is a good idea if you can continue this throughout your schedule. I found that taking practice Reading Comprehension tests helped me the most in this section, however, and did lots of different ones from a lot of different sources. I did one from my Kaplan Blue Book, I did one from predds.net, and I did one from DAT Bootcamp. I found that the practice tests allowed me to discover how to ration my time during this test. My method was scanning the passage first, and then reading the questions and going back to find the answers. This worked best for me, and honestly, you should figure out what works best for you. This brings us to the week before the test. Four days before the test, I took the full-length practice DAT in my Kaplan Blue Book. I did the online version because I wanted it to simulate the real test as much as possible. I finished it, and I did horrible. Absolutely awful. I hit a total low point. I couldn't understand why I had done so bad, and I felt like I had completely wasted my entire winter break. I was upset because I didn't realize that Kaplan wasn't going to give me an actual predicted score, and that it only reported the percentiles. So I looked up the 2007 DAT conversion chart of answers correct to raw score, and cried over my score. But after multiple pep-talks from my boyfriend and family, I pulled myself together. I decided that I was going to take another practice test, the real one from the ADA, and see what I got on that, and then decide if I should reschedule or not. And thank goodness I did. I had ordered the official ADA 2009 DAT (paper form, not online), in early December. The test can be ordered here: http://www.ada.org/dat.aspx, and is around $45 with shipping and handling. I locked myself in my room, timed myself, and used only a four-function calculator on the QR section. I finished and used the same score conversion chart I had used the day before and got a substantially higher predicted score. Substantially. I was thrilled. I decided that I wasn't going to reschedule, and that I was going to take the test. (When you take the full-length practice DAT from the ADA, make sure it is the last thing you do before your test. It is going to most accurately reflect what you will get on your actual DAT. I scored a 22 on my practice test and a 24 on my actual test. Also, the quantitative reasoning in the practice DAT was way harder than on the actual DAT, so don't let that discourage you.) Here's a note on practice test scores. Practice tests are made to be harder than the actual DAT. I learned this the hard way. I took multiple practice tests that kept on giving me average scores that I was not happy with. I got discouraged very easily, and sometimes practice test scores would ruin my entire day. Don't listen to the scores. A.) Practice tests are made to be harder so that the actual test is easier for you, and you do better. B.) Practice tests are also made to ensure that you buy more practice tests. Of course they're going to tell you that you're doing worse than you actually are, because then you buy more to prove that you're better than what they're telling you! The only practice test that I would trust is the official ADA 2007 DAT. I almost didn't take the DAT because of my score on the Kaplan practice test. I'm so happy my family and my boyfriend told me to keep trucking and to not give up because now I am free to move on to other academic ventures. I know it can be hard to keep things in perspective when you're preparing to take the DAT, but it's important to know that it is just a test. If your sole worry in life is getting a good grade on a standardized exam, that says a lot about how privileged you are. The DAT can seem like a lost cause at times. It can seem like it's asking too much of you, and that there's no way you could possibly know everything you need to to take the test. And guess what? You're not going to. You're never going to feel ready. Even when you're walking into the testing center the day of, you're not going to feel 100% confident. (At least I didn't, but if you do, then kudos!) And that's okay! Preparing for the DAT does come with a lot of memorization, but more importantly, it comes with identifying certain problem styles and figuring out what concept is being tested on. So hang in there, pre-dental, it's all going to be okay. When my score popped up on my screen and I cried tears of joy, I knew that giving up my winter break had been completely worth it. Believe in yourself, believe in your capabilities and most importantly: trust yourself. If you studied hard, and you did all that you were capable of doing, then you're going to get the best possible score you can and that is all that matters. Hope this helps! If you have any questions about anything; test materials, time-rationing, strategies, etc, feel free to ask!