As many of us are finishing our fifth or sixth weeks of social distancing, the question becomes: what to do now? After getting into a more consistent at-home study schedule, I’ve realized that the key to a more productive mindset is thinking more along the lines of “what can I do with this time,” rather than “what am I missing out on with this time.” What better way to use our new abundance of time than to get ahead with studying for the Dental Admission Test?
I took the DAT in the spring of my last semester of undergrad and applied to dental school that summer. I was initially supposed to take it that winter, but I postponed when I knew I simply wasn’t ready to put my best foot forward – trust your gut! Some viewed this as risky – what if my score wasn’t what I wanted it to be? – but by the time my test date rolled around I was confident in the work I put in. You don’t have to be a genius to ace an exam like the DAT; you simply have to put consistent, undistracted effort into studying every day. Besides that, I’ll go over some more of my DAT tips below:
Experiment with different study schedules to find one that works for you.
It is so easy to get distracted while studying at home, so try to turn studying into a game. One option is to set a timer so that you have a 10 minute break for every 50 minute study block, or a 5 minute break for every 25 minute study block. After 2-4 blocks with this setup, depending on what works for you, reward yourself with an extra-long break or a treat of some kind. This way you will feel a sense of accomplishment in knocking those blocks out of your day.
Commit to using several study materials, but don’t be distracted by resource overload.
I used DAT Bootcamp and DAT Destroyer as my primary study materials, and this was more than enough. Early on in my study schedule, I was also using a set of Kaplan MCAT prep books that a friend of mine gave me, and I quickly realized this was way too overwhelming. The more resources the better, right? Wrong! I found myself getting burned out by studying and dreading that part of my day. When I decided to just focus on using DAT Bootcamp and DAT Destroyer, I noticed both my mood and practice scores improving. I felt like these two resources were more than enough to get me the scores I wanted, and I highly recommend them to any dental students studying for the DAT.
Review what you get wrong or don’t understand. Again. And again. Anddddddddd again.
When I was studying for the DAT, I would make flashcards with the practice questions I would get wrong and review them whenever I had breaks during the day – while on the bus or waiting for class to start, for example. These cards didn’t just have the right answer, but also a detailed explanation for why it was correct. I chose to use physical cards, but I highly recommend using Quizlet or Anki if you prefer a digital version. Anki is a free spaced-repetition flashcard software that many medical and dental students use to study for their board exams because it is designed with long-term retention in mind. It has a bit of a learning curve to master, so be prepared to devote a little time to learn how to use it – or alternatively, reach out to me to schedule a time to go over how it works and how to make the most efficient cards!
Use your support networks.
Studying for such a grueling exam is stressful, so make sure you schedule time to do whatever allows you to recharge! Whether this is hanging with friends and family, exercising, or just binging Netflix, you want to come out of this process without feeling drained.
And finally, listen to your intuition.
As I mentioned above, I had to postpone my exam date by about a month before I felt ready to take it. At the time I was balancing a full-time course load with a research job and several volunteer commitments. If you feel like something isn’t working out for you or you need more time, listen to your gut! There is nothing wrong with pivoting study strategies, postponing the exam, or perhaps postponing some extracurricular activities until after the exam.