The DAT, designed and operated by the American Dental Association (ADA), is used by all dental schools as part of their admissions process. It is meant to evaluate your academic knowledge, skills, and abilities in comparison to those required for a successful dental school experience. Your scores on this exam alone do not decide your acceptance into any dental school but go a long way in proving your potential.
Who is Eligible?
The only real eligibility requirement that the ADA enforces is that you obtain a Dental Personal Identification Number or DENTPIN and that you submit a DAT application and fee.
However, it is important to note the typical successful DAT candidate has completed at least one year of college education that includes courses in biology and organic and general chemistry. Most have taken two or more years of college before taking the exam.
It is recommended that you take the DAT well before you have applied for admission to any dental school to allow for proper processing and sending of your exam scores.
There is a fee of $460 to take this exam which is due at the time of application.
Once your application has been approved, you will be sent an email with an invitation to schedule your exam and instructions to do so.
When and Where Can I Take it?
The DAT is computer-administered by Prometric Testing Centers year-round at one of their many locations scattered throughout the U. S., its territories, and Canada. A complete list of available dates, times, and locations will be provided to you during the scheduling process. While you may choose a testing session that is most convenient for you, it is recommended that you schedule as soon as possible as space is limited and is filled on a first come, first served basis.
If you need to reschedule or cancel your exam appointment, you may do by contacting Prometric at least 24 hours or on the business day before your original session. If you want any longer, your changes will not be made, and you will be counted as a no-show on test day forfeiting all fees. There is a fee for this service based on the amount of notice given.
If you are disabled and/or unable to test under normal conditions, special accommodations are available upon request. This request must be made during the application process and supporting documentation will be required.
What Should I Bring?
You will need to arrive at the testing center at least 30 minutes early to allow you to complete the proper check-in process. If you are late, you will not be allowed to test and will forfeit all fees paid up to that point.
You will need to bring at least two current and valid forms of identification with you, one primary and one secondary. Both forms must contain your signature and full name as it appears on your application. Your primary ID must be government-issued and have a photo.
No personal items are allowed in the testing center. This includes:
- Cell phones
- Pencils, paper, or study materials
- Watches, jewelry, and outerwear
- Food and/or drinks
- Bags or purses
These will be kept in a locker during the exam. Note boards, markers, and an on-screen calculator will be provided for you.
What is Covered?
The DAT is made up of 280 multiple-choice questions divided into four main sections. Your exam will also include a small percentage of pretest questions. These are unidentified as such and are not counted towards your score.
Below is a brief summary of each main section including the number of scored questions involved.
Survey of Natural Sciences (100 questions/90 minutes)
Biology (40 questions)
Developmental biology, genetics, cell and molecular biology, structure and function of body systems, diversity of life, evolution and ecology
General Chemistry (30 questions)
States of matter, chemical kinetics, stoichiometry and general concepts, atomic and molecular structure, lab basics, periodic reactions, nuclear properties
Organic Chemistry (30 questions)
Mechanisms, aromatics and bonding, nomenclature, stereochemistry, acid-base chemistry
Perceptual Ability (90 questions/60 minutes)
Angle discrimination, paper folding, cube counting, apertures, view recognition, 3D form development
Reading Comprehension (50 questions/60 minutes)
Here you will be given three passages to read about various scientific subjects. You will be asked to then answer questions measuring your ability to comprehend and analyze the basic scientific information included in those passages.
Quantitative Reasoning (40 questions/45 minutes)
Algebraic expressions and equations, data analysis, interpretation, probability and statistics, quantitative comparison, sufficiency, mathematical word problems
You will be given four hours and 15 minutes to complete the exam with additional time given for a short tutorial, survey, and an optional 30-minute scheduled break after the second section. Any other break will be considered unscheduled and count as part of your testing time.
How is it Scored?
Your exam scores are calculated by taking your raw score (number of correctly answered questions) and converting that to a scaled score based on the difficulty of those questions. Your scaled score can range from 1 to 30, with an average score being around 18.
You will receive your unofficial score report at the testing center at the completion of your exam. This will indicate your scaled score only. Official score reports will become available through your ADA account within three to four weeks of your exam and will also be sent to any dental schools that you indicated on your DAT application.
Each school sets its own standards of what is considered to be passing or acceptable admission scores. It would be wise to know what those scores are before you test.
If you do not perform well and would like to retake the exam, you may do by submitting a new application and fee after a 90-day waiting period. After your third unsuccessful attempt, you must apply for permission to retest and may only take the exam once per 12-month period.
How Can I Prepare for the DAT Test?
That’s a great question. We’ve broken down the answer into three parts.
- Do yourself a favor and study. Do not walk in unprepared. We have recommended prep materials below, but that only helps if you actually try. Plus, studying is actually proven to be the best antidote to test anxiety.
- Take care of yourself. Make sure you’re eating well, exercising, and sleeping. All of these things are scientifically linked to brain performance. If you take care of your body, you’ll be helping your grades.
- Get a study guide or set of flashcards. Some people study better a certain way. Find your study strengths and make the most of them. We’ve tried to make it easy for you by tracking down the best study guide and flashcard set for your exam. Below you’ll see links to both!