The Dental Admissions Test (DAT) is a standardized examination required for admission into dental school comprised of four sections: survey of the natural sciences, perceptual ability, reading comprehension and quantitative reasoning. Although it can be a daunting test to master, choosing the appropriate resources to maximize efficiency and comprehension while studying can greatly alleviate the stress that naturally comes with standardized test taking. Some programs such as Kaplan and Princeton Review offer an online course with live review and feedback sessions from certified instructors. If you prefer to self-study like me, however, there are multiple other resources out there to cover the material necessary to ace the DAT. In this blog post, I will be detailing my personal study resources for the DAT and how I used a combination of resources to emphasize their respective strengths.
Where to start
Before starting practice questions, I first focused on reviewing the content of the exam: there is a large breadth of material included on the DAT and to start chipping away at the basics of the natural sciences section, I used the Kaplan DAT study guide. This book includes a comprehensive summary of all DAT sections but I used it specifically for the basic biology, inorganic and organic chemistry subjects. It had been at least two years since I was actively learning these subjects, so Kaplan’s book was a much needed refresher. The biology section of the DAT relies heavily on memorization as opposed to synthesis and integration, so Kaplan did a great job at detailing the information we needed to know in a concise manner.
Feralis' DAT biology notes
In addition to the Kaplan book, I also used Feralis’ DAT biology notes. This is a free online summary of the Cliffs AP Biology review book made by a student who has already taken the DAT and thus understands the material to highlight in his review guide.
Chad's DAT Exam videos
To supplement my chemistry review, I also turned to Chad’s DAT Exam videos. The chemistry section of the exam requires more analytical thinking than rote memorization so I wanted a more detailed study aid. In Chad’s videos, he writes out his step-by-step thought process for tackling each type of test question that you are likely to encounter on the exam.
Math & Reading Comprehension
Return to Kaplan
The math and reading comprehension sections of the DAT were more straightforward to review. Repetition and exposure know the types of questions they ask, you will be able to identify them and know immediately how to proceed on the day of the exam. Prior to starting practice questions, I used the Kaplan DAT book to memorize the relevant equations for the math section. Finally, the perceptual ability section of the exam was the most challenging to study because it relies on an acquired skill that many students are not familiar with prior to studying. This section consists of six different games, each with fifteen questions, that test various aspects of spatial reasoning. As opposed to reading about the tips and tricks that review books mention, I found that jumping straight into practice questions was the best way for me to learn. Simply reading about how to solve these games becomes abstract and frustrating because it is hard to understand without directly working through examples. After spending a little less than one month developing a working knowledge of the material, I began review problems. I found that distinctly dividing my studying into review and practice was useful for me because I did not want to begin practice problems without feeling confident in my abilities, especially because there is a limited number of practice problems at my disposal.
The DAT Destroyer
The DAT Destroyer, along with its counterpart the Math Destroyer, were the most useful resources in my studying and I truly believe it is the must-have resource to succeed at the DAT! It contains over 800 questions highlighting the science and quantitative reasoning sections and provides detailed answers to each. I found that the explanations were extremely thorough and helpful in my learning process because they described theprocess of thinking that should go into each question.
Aside from the DAT Destroyer, I used DAT Bootcamp to strengthen the natural science and math sections but also to cover the perceptual ability and reading comprehension. DAT Bootcamp was created by a dental student from Columbia who scored exceptionally well on his DAT and has thus structured the practice tests to greatly resemble the actual exam in terms of difficulty and wording. These two resources provided the bulk of my practice questions and I found them sufficient to prepare me for the actual day of the exam. There are also at least two free full-length practice tests available online from previous years that can further gauge your performance on the actual exam.
Although all of this material and preparation sounds daunting, it is important to take this journey one step at a time- studying for any standardized exam is a marathon, and certainly not a sprint, but with time, you will undoubtedly see your knowledge increase and your confidence will follow!
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