DAT Breakdown - Scores, Testing, Advice, and more!

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Hi everybody! I just took my DAT today, so I thought I would post about my experience and share my scores. This post is long, but SDN was really helpful to me while I was preparing for the test, so I want to give back! This was my first attempt at taking the DAT.

I will also talk about:
  1. How I studied and for how long
  2. What materials I used
  3. What test day was like
  4. General advice

My Scores:
PAT - 19
Quantitative Reasoning - 15 (ouch..)
Reading Comprehension - 21
Biology - 16 (also ouch...)
Chemistry - 22
Organic Chemistry - 19
Total Science - 18
Academic Average - 19

I wasn't really sure how to feel about my scores - the average scores of those accepted to dental school is about 19-20 AA, and the average score people get is about a 17 (according to DAT Bootcamp and other online sources). But I also know that some schools weigh certain parts of the DAT more than others, like your total science, reading comprehension, and PAT for example. I've heard that QR is looked at the least, but I'm not sure if that's completely true.

Since my overall GPA is a little lower (3.4) I was hoping to get into the 20 AA range to increase my chances of acceptance.… if I had done better on QR or Bio I probably would have made it into the 20’s! But oh well. I need to talk to my health professions advisor and see what they think about my scores and whether I should retake or not.

1. How I studied, and for how long:
I work for my dentist back home, so I went home for the summer and worked full time while studying. Because of this, I studied nights and weekends for the months of June and July (my test date was July 26th). I didn't really study for the month of May, because I wasn’t really sure where to start and I didn’t know which materials I wanted to use yet. I had family obligations and other things here and there, but for the most part I studied for 2 hours in the evening when I got home from work, and then did more review on the weekends. I didn’t work Fridays, and I also was off work for a few weeks when my dentist went on vacation. Generally, I am the type of person who needs a little more time - I have a hard time staying focused, so for me, I didn’t want to study for 8 hours a day for a month. That would have been too much for me. But if that works for you, and you want to get it over with, go for it! I spent most of the month of June reviewing material and most of July taking practice tests and fine-tuning my review.

2. Materials I used:

DAT Bootcamp:
DAT Bootcamp was the program that I primarily used. It was $137, and I think this gave me really great review all around! It comes with a TON of practice tests. I didn’t even get through them all. You can use one free one for each section too, so you can try it out before buying it! One criticism of DAT bootcamp is that the 5 full length tests you get pull questions from the other practice tests….so if you take every other section practice test then go to take a full one, you are going to see repeated questions. But, some sections, like PAT and QR, have more than 5, so you might not get that many repeats for those ones. But what I really like about bootcamp is that for every single section, they give you an explanation for every question! That was really helpful. Some programs just tell you what the right answer was but don’t say why it was the right answer or why your answer was wrong. The only other downside is that bootcamp is a 90 day subscription, so you don’t get to keep it :/

Crack the DAT (PAT only):
I think this program was the closest to what the actual PAT looked like. I bought the $99 edition that comes with 5 full length PAT exams. Since DAT bootcamp had 10 PAT exams, I had a total of 15 to do! I didn’t finish them all, but I did like the Crack the DAT ones. I like the breakdown that DAT bootcamp gives a little better though, if I’m being honest. With bootcamp, they have an explanation for every single question! Crack the DAT just shows you what the right answer is, whereas bootcamp shows you 3D models and explains why the answer is the right one. You also get to keep this program! You can install it on your computer and it's yours forever.

Chad’s Videos
This was the main source I used for gen chem. At the time, it was free, but now you might have to pay :/ It was really good review for me, because like bio, I hadn’t had it since my freshman year of college. I ended up doing very well on this section, so it was worth going through! Do the quizzes - all of them!

Kahn Academy
I watched a lot of Kahn videos for the math. Even though I did not do very well on that section, it was helpful. I wish I would have purchased Math Destroyer or something for this section. I definitely needed extra practice

The CrashCourse Biology playlist on YouTube is a great overview of biology! I highly recommend you watch those. Hank is hilarious. You’ll love him. I also used Cliff’s AP Bio 3rd Edition, but didn’t use it as much as I could have. (I have the PDF for free.. tried posting it below but it's too big). The Feralis Biology notes PDF is also very useful! I downloaded that for free from the DAT Bootcamp website.

How I felt about each section during the test:
Biology: This was the section I was dreading - I took biology my freshman year of college (2 years ago), so I had to relearn a lot of it. In general, I seem to fly through the bio questions pretty quickly - doesn't necessarily mean I am getting them right, but if I don't know the answer, I guess as best I can and move on. Going through bio quickly gives me more time on gen chem, which I always seem to need! This worked good for me though, because I got a 22 on gen chem. In terms of the bio questions themselves, some were very easy, and others were complete guesses. I think this section honestly just depends on what questions you get! Some biology topics I know better than others, so if I don't get questions on those topics, then naturally, my score might be a little lower.

Gen Chem: I felt really good about this section, Chad’s Videos prepared me well. I put a lot of effort into studying this section, but neglected bio a bit, hence the low bio score. My best advice for this section is to focus more on concepts! I think about 20 of the questions are conceptual and 10 are calculations of some kind. So it’s more beneficial to make sure you know the periodic trends, molecular theory, thermodynamics… stuff like that. Don’t neglect the formulas though - you don’t get a formula sheet or a calculator! But most of the answers will be in equation form, as opposed to a single number. So for a lot of them you don’t actually need to calculate anything, just know the equation and which numbers go where. Some questions are fairly simple calculations and can do by hand.

Organic: My school (Hope College) prepared me very well for this section! I actually did not purchase any extra programs or anything for this. I just reviewed my own notes and used the bootcamp practice tests. In my practice, I was consistently getting over a 20, so when I got a 19 on the real test I was surprised. I guess I spent more time in other areas since I was doing pretty solid in orgo. I probably could have reviewed my materials more for this section to ensure a better score. But overall, I was fairly pleased with this section.

PAT: This is the section that, to me, felt exactly like my practice. No surprises here. Best advice I can give on this section is PRACTICE your heart out. Get your hands on as many practice tests as you can. Bootcamp has separate PAT generators, with additional practice for each of the 6 subsections, which I found to be really helpful! You could do them timed or untimed, and you could focus on the sections that you are weaker in. Ironically, TFE and pattern folding were my best, and those are considered to be some of the harder ones. Angle ranking is a complete shot in the dark for me - basically pure guessing. Again, bootcamp’s generators can help with being able to distinguish the angles better. Be consistent with your PAT practice, do a little bit every day! It takes some getting used to, but you’ll get it!

Reading Comp: I felt really good about this section. I had one easy passage and two medium difficulty passages. My strategy for going about the reading is to dedicate 20 minutes to each passage (you’ll always get 3). I read the first 2-3 paragraphs in detail, then skip to the end and read the last 2. Then, I start going after the questions. By the time I’ve answered a few questions, I’ve pretty much read the whole thing. This strategy is one that bootcamp suggests, and I highly recommend it! But, as always, do what works for you!

QR: This was a nightmare for me. My old high school math came back to haunt me. I would recommend getting a program or something for this if it has been a while since you’ve had any math. It’s your standard algebra, geometry, trig (there are like only 3 questions though), probability, and various word problems. Although this might be one of the sections dental schools look at the least, don’t neglect it like I did! It still contributes to your AA.

3. Test Day:
Test day is actually not stressful at all. Just make sure you have two forms of ID: one with a photo of yourself (like a driver’s license or a passport) and another one with just your signature on it (I used a debit card). Prometric has all that information on their website. When you get there, they give you a key to a locker where you put all your stuff in. Then, you walk in and sit down at a desk and a person checks you in. They check your ID’s, take your picture, and you “sign in” on a sheet. They use a metal detector and make sure your pockets are empty. Then they give you two laminated sheets of paper (front and back with gridlines) and two skinny permanent markers. Then they take you into the testing room, show you to one of the computers, and you can start whenever! They have these earphones that block out noise, that was pretty nice. After the PAT portion there is an optional break. My break was 30 minutes long! Every practice exam I ever took gave me a 15 minute break… so I’m not sure why the discrepancy. So when it’s time for your break, you just get up, go back to the same person at the desk “sign out”, and then you can leave and do literally whatever you want… you could hop in your car and go to the drive-thru if you wanted! Just make sure you keep track of time. I just used the restroom and drank some water, and I was good to go. Then the same thing, go back to the desk “sign in”, and resume your testing. When you’re done with QR, there is an optional 15 question survey, after which your scores pop up on the screen. They will give you an unofficial printout of them though, no worries. :)
During the test, two things surprised me — one, if you right click on any multiple choice answer, it strikes it out! I really liked that, because I could eliminate answers I knew were wrong. It was a good visual, especially if I was coming back to a question, I could see that I eliminated that choice for a reason. On the reading, you could also highlight sections of the text! That was really nice too.

In general, most of the scores I have seen on SDN are amazing.. I just wanted to show people that hey, a 19 is pretty good! Tons of people apply with a 19. Personally, I know I can do better, and it might be a good idea to retake. But if you are getting similar scores to me, just keep your chin up! You’re doing great. And if you are weary about a 19, then just keep going! You can do it :)

Wishing everyone all the best, hope this was helpful!

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Interesting perspective. I'm retaking my DAT tomorrow and I'm a bit nervous. Kinda creeping around the forums here in an attempt to calm myself. Lol funny thing is I'm mad I got a 20 last time because my bio was also kinda on the lower side (18). My math was 22 (ehhh I WANT THAT 30) so kinda opposite ends of my strengths/weaknesses... Funny thing is I'm a bio major with an upwards trend of 3.8 for my junior year lol. I also have a 3.4 ogpa and am not the happiest with my stats either. Feel free to ask me for any help in math if you want to retake the test!!
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