Dental Admission Test (DAT) Guide
The Dental Admission Test (DAT) is one of the main requirements for admission in dental schools. Sixty-six dental schools in the United States and ten in Canada accept scores of the DAT. Even though there is a separate Canadian version of the test, both the American and Canadian versions are accepted in each other’s dental schools. The aim of the Dental Admission Test is to provide dental schools with information about the level of skills that prospective dental students have. The DAT is used to not only test your knowledge of science but your critical thinking as well.
Administration of the Dental Admission Test
The DAT falls under the American Dental Association (ADA) administration, and Council on Dental Education and Licensure (CDEL). The development of the test began in 1945 with the aim of measuring students’ ability to memorize verbal and visual material, to express themselves orally, to read and comprehend, to reason and to visualize patterns. Another aim of the committee was to look if measuring students’ personality, determination, social instincts and interests was possible.
Looking into the manner in which the test was initiated, it can be seen that the types of the DAT test have remained constant throughout the years with only some exceptions made. The responsibility of implementing the test falls under the Department of Testing Services (DTS) which is a shared service of the American Dental Association. Examinations of the Dental Admission Test are administered by Pearson VUE or Administration Vendor. All the above-mentioned parties form or are referred to as the DAT Program or the Examination Program.
How to Register for the Dental Admission Test?
To take the test and register for the DAT, you should obtain a DENTPIN first. DENTPIN stands for Dental Personal Identifier Number. It is a unique identifier for students and professionals that are closely connected with the dental standardized testing programs and the education system in the United States. Programs that use the DENTPIN to identify individuals are the DAT and ADAT, ADEA PASS or The American Dental Education Association Postdoctoral Application Support Service, the ADEA Centralized Application for Advanced Placement for International Dentists or ADEA CAAPID.
If you already have been assigned a DENTPIN you can retrieve it from the official website of the American Dental Association. You can register for a DENTPIN on the same website if you are testing for the first time. Note that the name in your DENTPIN must match exactly with the name that is written on your government-issued documentation otherwise you will be denied admission to the test.
If you are to make any changes or corrections to your application you must do so at least two weeks prior to the testing day. You are expected to notify the testing office at [email protected] for any omissions or changes to your application.
Scope of the Dental Admission Test
Becoming familiar with the structure of the test before you start studying is crucial for successful completion. The Dental Admission Test contains four individual tests. The first test is the Survey of the Natural Sciences (SNS).
The four tests of the Dental Admission Test are described in more details below:
Survey of the Natural Sciences Test
This section of the test contains a total of 100 items on three subjects:
|Biology (40 items)|
|I. Cell and Molecular Biology|
|Origin of Life||Mitosis/Meiosis|
|Cell Metabolism (e.g. photosynthesis/enzymology)||Cell Structure and Function|
|Cellular Processes (e.g. membrane transport, signal transduction)||Experimental Cell Biology|
|Organelle Structure and Function||Integrated Relationships|
|II. Diversity of Life|
|Biological Organization and Relationship of Major Taxa (Six-Kingdom, Three-Domain System)|
|III. Structure and Function of Systems|
|IV. Developmental Biology|
|Descriptive embryology||Integrated Relationships|
|Molecular Genetics||Chromosomal Genetics|
|Human Genetics||Genetic Technology|
|Classical Genetics||Integrated Relationships|
|VI. Evolution, Ecology, and Behavior|
|Population Genetics/Speciation||Animal Behavior (including social behavior)|
|Population and Community Ecology||Integrated Relationships|
|Chemistry (30 items)|
|I. Stoichiometry and General Concepts|
|Percent Composition||Molar Mass|
|Balancing Equations||Calculations from Balanced Equations|
|Moles and Molecular Formulas|
|Kinetic Molecular Theory of Gases||Charles’s|
|Dalton’s||Ideal Gas Law|
|III. Acids and Bases|
|pH||Laws of Thermodynamics|
|Calculations||Enthalpies and Entropies|
|IV. Thermodynamics and Thermochemistry||Enthalpies and Entropies||Laws of Thermodynamics||Hess’s Law||Spontaneity||Heat Transfer|
|V. Chemical Kinetics|
|VI. Oxidation-Reduction Reactions|
|Balancing Equations||Electrochemical Calculations|
|Determination of Oxidation Numbers||Electrochemical Concepts and Terminology|
|VII. Atomic and Molecular Structure|
|Electron Configuration||Transition Elements|
|Orbital Types||Periodic Trends|
|Lewis-Dot Diagrams||Descriptive Chemistry|
|VIII. Periodic Properties||Representative Elements||Transition Elements||Periodic Trends||Descriptive Chemistry|
|IX. Nuclear Reactions||Balancing Equations||Binding Energy||Decay Processes||Particles||Terminology|
|XI. Liquids and Solids|
|Properties (colligative, non colligative)||Concentration Calculations|
|XIII. Chemical Equilibria|
|Acid / base||Le Chatelier’s Principle|
|Organic Chemistry (30 items)|
|Addition||Other Mechanisms and Reactions|
|II. Chemical and Physical Properties of Molecules|
|Spectroscopy (1H NMR, 12C NMR, infrared and multi-spectra)
Structure (polarity, intermolecular forces (solubility, melting/boiling point, etc.)
|Laboratory Theory and Techniques (TLC, separations, etc.)|
|III. Stereochemistry (structure evaluation)|
|IUPAC rules||Functional Groups in Molecules|
|V. Individual Reactions of the Major Functional Groups and Combinations of Reactions to Synthesize Compounds|
|Aromatic||Carboxylic Acids and Derivatives|
|VI. Acid Base Chemistry|
|Ranking Acidity/ Basicity (structure analysis and ph/pKa data analysis)||Prediction of Products and Equilibria|
|VII. Aromatics and Bonding|
|Concept of Aromaticity||Hybridization|
Perceptual Ability Test
The Perceptual Ability Test or PAT is the second test you will take and it consists of 90 two- and three-dimensional problems. Questions in this section will test your manual dexterity and will evaluate angle discrimination, block counting, paper folding, and object visualization - factors that are commonly seen in studies of perceptual or spatial ability.
This section consists of six subtests:
- view recognition,
- angle discrimination,
- paper folding,
- cube counting, and
- 3D form development.
Reading Comprehension Test
The Reading Comprehension Test or RCT consists of three reading passages. When you reach this section, remember that what is being tested here is your ability to read, understand and analyze the basic scientific information presented to you. Therefore, having prior knowledge of the topics is not a prerequisite for answering the questions in this test.
Quantitative Reasoning Test
The Quantitative Reasoning section used to consist of 50 items but its length was reduced to 40 items in 1990. The current test consists of 40 items in total, 30 of which are Mathematical Problems and 10 are Applied Mathematics (Word) Problems. During this section, you will have a basic four-function calculator available on the screen of your computer.
The mathematical problems in this section require basic knowledge of:
- Algebra (graphical analysis, equations and expressions, exponential notation, absolute value, ratios and proportions, equations and expressions)
- Probability and Statics
- Quantitative Comparison
- Data Analysis, Interpretation, and Sufficiency.
Where Can I Take the Dental Admission Test?
Prometric test centers are in charge of administering the DAT. Apart from taking the test in the United States and Canada, you can also take the test in the USA's territories including Puerto Rico, Guam, Virgin Islands.
How is the Dental Admission Test Scored?
The Dental Admission Test results are reported as scale scores. These scores are not raw scores, and they are not given in percentiles either. You will receive scores based on how many questions you answer correctly and you will not be penalized for guessing questions. Scores of the Dental Admission Test range from 1 to 30, whereas the national average score for many DAT scales corresponds to the scale score of 19.
There are questions on the test that are not scored. These questions are experimental and they will first be tested if they are appropriate to be incorporated in later tests. Note that they will be presented as scored questions, so you should treat each question with the same importance.
Note that you will not be able to request that your scores be voided after completing certain parts of the examination.
How Do I Report My Scores?
When you apply to take the DAT you are required to select schools or programs to whom you would like to send your official results. After you complete the test, your official scores will be sent electronically to these schools by the Department of Testing Services. You can view your scores by logging into your DAT account. Your scores will be reported within three to four weeks of the testing date. If you have taken the test more than once your selected schools will receive a history of all your testing attempts.
How Many Times Can I Take the Dental Admission Test?
The number of times you can enter the Dental Admission Test is limited. You can take the test every 90 days, but it is advisable that you always plan to take the test once. Note that you will have to pay a fee for each time you plan to take the test.
If you take the test three or more times, you must apply for permission in order to test again. After that, you may only take the test once a year.
Duration of the DAT
The Dental Admission Test is 5 hours and 15 minutes long. The first section Survey of Natural Sciences takes 90 minutes. The Perceptual Ability Test takes 60 minutes. After the first two sections, you have a 30-minute break and continue with the Reading Comprehension Test which will take you another 60 minutes to complete. The last section of the DAT test is Quantitative Reasoning, and it is the shortest section of all four sections taking 45 minutes to complete.
Note that the first break is the only scheduled break, and it is optional. If you decide to take a break at any other time it will be considered an unscheduled break and your testing session will resume regardless. You will also not be allowed access to your personal belongings or leave the test center.
Additionally, you have the opportunity of taking an optional tutorial of 15 minutes before the test begins. And, you can also take a Post Test Survey which also takes 15 minutes.
Test Examination Fees
Test Examination Fees will vary depending on the service you need. Fees that you will and might have to pay when registering for the DAT can be seen on the table below:
The DAT Fee includes administration and the reporting of official scores to the schools you have selected. It also includes an unofficial score report issued at the center you get tested. If, at the time of application, you chose a pre-dental advisor, a score report will be sent to that person as well.
Eligibility Extension Fee
You can extend the eligibility for a period of 45 days within the indicated testing window. This can be done once per application only, and the fee you pay is non-refundable and non transferable.
Score Audit Fee (Optional)
You can audit your DAT results within 30 days after your testing appointment.
Score Report Fee (Optional)
The Score Report fee includes report requests you make after the time of application. You will have to pay the same amount for each report.
Note that if you wish to extend the eligibility you must not have a test appointment scheduled at the time because if you do, your request for extension will be denied. Therefore, make sure you cancel any scheduled appointment before proceeding with your request.
Fees you pay for taking the DAT are non-refundable and non-transferable.
Does the DAT Program offer Fee Assistance?
The DAT Program offers a limited number of partial fee waivers to test takers that are in a severe financial hardship. This fee waiver covers 50% of the DAT fee ($495) and it is granted on a first-come, first-served basis each January 1st. Qualifications that you must meet in order to be eligible for a partial fee waiver are:
- Be a U.S. citizen or resident alien
- Taking the DAT for the first time
- Have already received financial aid at your educational institution
- Demonstrate that you are not financially stable
The documents you must provide the DAT Program when you apply for a fee waiver are:
- An award letter that proves you have received financial aid from your educational institution
- Completed DAT application
- Fee waiver financial information form that you can retrieve at the official website.
Can I Reschedule or Cancel a Testing Appointment?
Test takers have the opportunity to reschedule or cancel their testing appointment. This is done through the Administration Vendor prior to the test day. In case you want to reschedule your test date, there will be fees you have to pay and they depend on how many days prior to the test you reschedule.
- If you reschedule 30 days or more prior to the test date you will have to pay $25.
- If you reschedule 5 to 29 days prior to the test date you will have to pay $60.
- If you reschedule 1 to 4 days prior to the test date you will have to pay $150.
If you decide to cancel your testing appointment you should do so at least 24 hours prior to the test date. Remember that you should reschedule or cancel your testing appointment on a business day.
Note that if you are more than 30 minutes late, or if you fail to appear on the test date your testing fee will be forfeited.
Emergencies on Test Day
If you are to experience any emergencies that might prevent you from sitting for the test you must submit a written request for relief to DTS. You will have to submit your request within five business days of the test date to [email protected] Some emergency examples include but are not limited to:
- Becoming ill on test day. In these cases you can submit proof that you were treated by a doctor or in a hospital on the day of the test. Examples of proof in these cases could be a doctor’s note or hospital records that confirm your claims.
- Death of a family member on test day. In cases of death in the family you can procide a copy of the death certificate, funeral service program, prayer card or an obituary that confirms your claims.
Testing Accommodations for Test-Takers with Disabilities or Health-related Needs
The DAT Program offers proper testing accommodations to those with a medical condition or a qualified disability. However, prospective test-takers that have a documented disability recognized by the Americans with Disabilities Act must submit the following documents before the test date. Some of the documents that you must NOT be sent are included as well:
|SEND||DO NOT SEND|
Note that you will NOT be able to add testing accommodations to a testing appointment you have already scheduled. In case you plan to request testing accommodation but already have a scheduled appointment you will need to cancel your test appointment and pay a rescheduling fee.
Preparing for DAT
Each person has their own way of studying and timelines they set for themselves. When preparing for the DAT students are advised to take 2-3 months to study and prepare for the test. It is up to you to choose what type of study works best for you.
The American Dental Association advises prospective test-takers to use textbooks and lecture notes as their main study source. The DAT program offers students the opportunity of purchasing practice tests. Prospective test-takers can choose if they want to practice with individual modules which cost $20 each or they can choose to practice with a full practice test and pay $100 which is the discounted price.
Individual Modules ($20 each)
- Biology - 40 Items
- Organic Chemistry 101 - 30 Items
- General Chemistry 101 - 30 Items
- Reading Comprehension 101 - 25 Items
- Perceptual Ability 101 - 30 Items
- Perceptual Ability 102 - 30 Items
- Perceptual Ability 103 - 30 Items
- Quantitative Reasoning 101 - 25 Items
Full Practice Test ($100 all)
Includes all six modules:
- Biology 101
- Organic Chemistry 101
- General Chemistry 101
- Reading Comprehension 101
- Perceptual Ability 101
- Quantitative Reasoning 101
Examples of test questions for the Survey of the Natural Sciences section:
1. Organisms that obtain their energy from light can be termed
A. produces pyruvic acid as an end product.
B. yields less energy per mole of glucose than aerobic respiration.
C. occurs only in the presence of oxygen.
D. prevents glycolysis from occurring.
E. converts ethanol to glucose.
3. In respiration, oxygen
A. combines with lactic acid to form pyruvic acid.
B. acts as a cofactor for glycolytic enzymes.
C. yields energy in the form of ATP as it is passed down the respiratory chain.
D. acts as an acceptor for electrons (and protons), forming water.
E. combines directly with carbon, forming CO2.
4. An enzyme is added to an aqueous solution of ATP, DNA, albumen, fat and glycogen; the reaction mixture is incubated for 10 minutes. If an analysis of the mixture reveals the presence of all of the above compounds plus glucose, it can be concluded that the enzyme hydrolyzed some of the :
Examples of test questions for the Perceptual Ability section:
In the section of Perceptual Ability you will be shown a two- or three- dimensional object. Your task will be to imagine how the object will look not only from a single direction as it will be shown to you in the test, but from all directions.
Other questions may require that you examine four interior angles and rank each one from the smallest to largest degrees.
In other sections of the test you will be asked to fold a flat pattern into a three dimensional figure. For this question you will be presented with four answer choices one of which will be the correct one.
You will also be asked to look at a figure and figure out how many cubes have only one or more of their sides painted.
Examples of test questions for the Reading Comprehension section:
The reading comprehension will have three passages with around 17 questions to be answered for 15 minutes. You will have 15 minutes to complete each passage, that means 45 minutes in total for this part of the DAT.
Reading passages in this section will be about different scientific topics. You do not need to have previous knowledge in order to answer these questions correctly, just make sure you do not waste time reading the passage or get stuck in a question you are not sure about. Remember that time is of the essence here and you must be careful in how you spend those 15 minutes.
Examples of test questions for the of the Quantitative Reasoning section:
1. Evaluate the expression 5 x 10-3 x 3 x 107.
A. 1.5 x 10-10
B. 1.5 x 10-4
C. 1.5 x 104
D. 1.5 x 105
E. 1.5 x 1010
2. Which is the smallest?
3. At a certain convention the ratio of men to women was 3 to 8. If there were 352 people there, how many were men?
4. A rectangular room is 3 meters wide, 4 meters long and 2 meters high. How far is it from the northeast corner at the floor to the southwest corner at the ceiling?
A. √29 meters
B. √11 meters
C. √9 meters
D. 9 meters
E. 5 meters
DAT 8 Week Study Plan
As self-learning can often be challenging, students turn to study plans to enhance their learning experience. Study plans lead to effective time management and increase students’ chances of scoring high on tests.
Normally, to be as prepared as possible for the DAT, students need to dedicate a lot of their time to studying before they enter the exam. With this in mind we have prepared an 8-week study plan that you can use while preparing for the DAT. During these 8 weeks you will study from Monday to Saturday with three optional study-time schedules you can choose from.
Below you will find an 8-week study plan which will help you navigate your DAT studying process:
|Days I will study are:||What I will focus on:||Tips to follow on Week 1:|
Do some research
Decide what study materials to use
Take a practice test in Perceptual Ability and Reading Comprehension
Take a practice test in the Survey of Natural Sciences
Take a practice test in Quantitative Reasoning
Make sure you do a bit of research about the content of the test.
Use the first week to go through all the sections and decide what you want to prioritize.
Identify which study materials you are going to use.
Prepare to have a variety of study materials. So, be ready to organize them!
Remember that even though taking practice tests in your first week may seem a bit rushed, it is a must step since it enables you to see where you stand. Some students may overestimate their knowledge on a particular subject and not pay enough attention to it which can highly impact their test score. Also, you should NOT worry if you do not do well on these tests. You have plenty of time to prepare and ace them all!
Before you start studying, it is quite important that you study at a set time. There are three study schedules you can choose from:
- 09:00 a.m. - 12:30 a.m.
- 13:00 p.m. - 16:30 p.m.
- 17:00 p.m - 20:30 p.m
|Days I will study are:||What I will focus on:||Tips to follow on Week 2:|
Begin with the Survey of Natural Sciences Test
Divide it into three sections
Start with Biology
Take notes. A lot of notes
Do not stress out if all seems too much. You have plenty of time to sort everything out.
Study at a set time.
Establish a habit of studying.
Make sure that by the second week you have decided the most appropriate time for you to study. We have presented you with three choices, and you can choose which one suits you best.
It is important that you stay consistent and that you establish a habit of studying since this will keep you motivated to study.
|Days I will study are:||Section:||Tips to follow on Week 3:|
Review the notes you took the week before.
Take more notes.
When you study for the Biology test remember that questions in this section are fact-based and you do not have to spend much time in calculations.
If you feel like mixing two sections per one day feel free to do so.
Remember that you do not have to stick to one section at a time. If you feel like studying for two sections in one day you can do so. The most important thing is to not get stuck and keep on studying. So, whatever works best for you that is what you should follow.
|Days I will study are:||Section:||Tips to follow on Week 4:|
Review, review, review!.
Set specific and not generalized goals (i.e. take a practice test on Perceptual Ability).
Make sure you have divided your studying in bite-sized chunks.
Take notes of what you find difficult to learn.
There is one reason why we advise you to take notes all the time. This process helps you focus better and understand the main concepts of what it is that you are studying. It is also quite helpful for when you look back to what you have learned during the previous weeks.
So, pay close attention to this and keep track of your progress. Remember to not get discouraged if you do not understand everything at the beginning, since you have plenty of time to study.
|Days I will study are:||Section:||Tips to follow on Week 5:|
Use this week to reflect on your progress.
Take separate practice tests.
See if there is a particular section you would like to dedicate more time to.
If the answer to the above statement is yes, use more days to study on that subject.
Stay calm and do not get stressed.
When preparing for an exam it is always advisable to dedicate more study time to areas you feel less confident in. During the time you study you are highly advised to keep track of your progress, so you know for sure how much time you need to be fully prepared to take the exam.
Be honest with yourself about the time and effort you are putting to this study period so you can take the most out of this period.
|Days I will study are:||Section:||Tips to follow on Week 6:|
Use this week to take a full test, and evaluate your progress.
Make sure that you are finishing all your sections on time since this will be crucial on test day.
Keep taking notes of everything you learn, this will help you find information more easily later on.
Keep on challenging yourself.
But also remember to take some time to relax.
Taking a full test is important since you get to experience the whole experience of the test day and see how prepared you are. By this time you have had quite a bit of time to study, so you should not have huge problems when it comes to answering the questions.
If you still feel like you are not prepared enough you can always use more time out of your day to study. However, the goal is to not get stressed so much that you spend a lot of time in front of books, but are stressed and distracted enough that you cannot focus on your studying.
|Days I will study are:||Section:||Tips to follow on Week 7:|
Use the penultimate week of the study plan to practice some more.
Take practice tests everyday.
Take notes of which subject you find the most difficult.
Study more in those areas.
If you notice that you are doing better in one section, and not so good in another, dedicate more study time to that particular section you feel less prepared for.
You have come a long way and you are almost done with your study plan. If you have just a few days or weeks left till the exam you may feel more stressed. However, be confident that you have dedicated plenty of time to your studies that you will surely do great on the exam.
|Days I will study are:||Section:||Tips to follow on Week 8:|
Take a practice test and witness your progress!.
Get ready to ace your final exam!.
Note that we have created an 8-week study plan which we think will help you in preparing for the DAT Exam. However, if you believe you need more time to study, you can freely follow the same schedule for as long as you deem it necessary.
DAT Study Materials
There are several different materials that you could use while studying for the DAT. You may find helpful some materials that are recommended by ADA and they list as follows:
For the Biology Test:
- Raven, Johnson et al., Biology, McGraw Hill.
- Campbell and Reece, Biology, Benjamin Cummings.
For the Chemistry Test (General and Organic)
- McMurry and Fay, Chemistry, Prentice Hall.
- McMurry, Organic Chemistry, Brooks Cole.
- Ege, Organic Chemistry: Structure and Reactivity, Houghton Mifflin.
- Brown, LeMay et al., Chemistry: The Central Science, Prentice Hall.
- Masterton and Hurley, Chemistry: Principles and Reactions, Brooks Cole.
- Silberberg, Chemistry: The Molecular Nature of Matter and Change; McGraw Hill.
- Pavia, Lampman, and Kriz, Introduction to Spectroscopy, Brooks Cole.
- Coghill and Garson, Eds., The ACS Style Guide: Effective Communication of Scientific Information, Oxford University Press.
For the Quantitative Reasoning Test:
- Stewart, Calculus: Early Transcendentals, Brooks Cole.
- Swokowski and Cole, Precalculus: Functions and Graphs, Brooks Cole.
- Bluman, Elementary Statistics: A Step By Step Approach, McGraw Hill.
Note that this should not limit your literature scope, and can use other materials to study for the test as well.
Article Updated: June 19, 2021
About the author
Lara E. Hopkins has a degree in Orthodontics from the Medical University of South Carolina. Apart from the obvious way she can use her knowledge and experience, i.e., by practicing orthodontics, she also wishes to help pre-dental students achieve their dream careers.
Putting her expertise to use as a dental school graduate and former dental assistant, Lara contributes to Erudera by providing well-rounded and thoroughly-researched information. As an editor and writer here at Erudera, we benefit from her excellence in the field, and prospective dental students benefit from the comprehensive information she is able to provide.
As a dental graduate, Lara also has the advantage of experience, which makes the guidance she provides all the more reliable.