So your junior year is going smoothly; you’ve just finished your fall semester. The time is now, prepare to become a hermit for the next few months. Only make time for the most fundamental and rudimentary tasks like eating and sleeping. Yea, I’m exaggerating a little, but this test will require a great deal of preparation.
There is much debate over WHEN to take the test. Some argue to take it the summer before junior year; others profess to take it after junior year. I however believe that taking the test during your spring semester is the best time. I support this mainly because it is the ultimate test in time-managing skills. If you can handle a full course load, get good grades, AND ace the DAT – than you might actually be doing yourself a favor. Dental school is going to be intense; forcing yourself into a difficult semester should better prepare you as well as give you a great ‘plus’ to talk about during interviews.
The DAT is a test composed of four primary batteries. The Natural Science (40 bio, 30 genchem, 30 ochem). The Perceptual Abilities Test (PAT) which consists of 90 questions (15 are experimental and will not count but you will never know which these are). The Reading Comprehension (RC) which consists of 50 questions; and finally, the Quantitative Reasoning (QR) section which consists of 40 questions.
Having taken both the MCAT (practices only) and DAT, I can safely assure you that they are not similar. The MCAT requires critical thinking and less memorization while the DAT is the complete opposite. This is good for some, bad for others. Combining study materials is not recommended. In case you were wondering, I was never pre-med, my school just preps the DAT kids with a few MCATs at first (Not really sure why).
I’m not going to walkthrough how to study every section because every person excels and stumbles differently. Here are the essential keys:
Give yourself a minimum of three months to prepare. This way you won’t have to try cramming 10 hours a day.
Speaking of cramming; don’t. Study in short bursts (40 mins) and take a 20 minute break. Do this over the course of the entire day. Sorry, looks like you will have to skip out on a social life for now.
Take a review course if possible
Study EVERY day, including weekends.
Eat/drink something that will keep you going. I personally used sippin’ whiskey for those long nights of chemistry review. Obviously you don’t want to get buzzed, just a little kick to stay alert.
Prepare to make social sacrifices; you do not want to retake this crap.
The PAT is easiest section to get better at; people only do poorly because they don’t practice enough – not because they can’t “see it.”
Get your hands on practice tests: Kaplan, Topscore, DAT Achiever, DAT destroyer, Barons, ect. I had about 10. Space these tests out over the next three months to help gauge your progress.
REVIEW those tests and see WHY you got problems wrong
Figure out what works best for you as far as study methods go
Here is a link of my own DAT experience that is a bit more detailed than this post: