DAT Scores – What is a Good DAT Score?

While there are not a ton of people that look forward to going to the dentist, landing a career in the dental field is not a bad thing at all. Plus, it is a growing field.

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts there will be a seven percent growth in the number of jobs for dentists between the years of 2018 and 2028. Find out what everything you need to know about DAT scores with our guide.

According to the American Dentist Association (ADA), there is fierce competition in getting accepted into a top dental school. Only two to five percent of all applicants are accepted to these schools. In fact, from 2000 to 2014, dental schools were receiving  more applicants than medical schools and law schools.

Being in the dental industry can provide a pretty good living. According to Indeed, the average base salary for a dentist in the United States is about $206,000 per year. If you choose to work in certain states, you can expect to make up to 25 percent more. If you ever decide to open up your own practice, you should not have any trouble acquiring new clients.

What is a Good DAT Score?

Each section of the DAT is scored on a 1 to 30 scale and then they are averaged together to form one score in total. This means the very best you can achieve would be a perfect score of 30. Think of this as a winning lottery ticket – it is very rare that someone gets a perfect score. A perfect score would guarantee you acceptance into the dental school of your choice.

Achieving a score of 17-18  would place you right in the middle of all test takers for the DAT. This would mean you roughly scored better than 50 percent of everyone who has taken the test and 50 percent worse than everyone who has taken the test. Not exactly a strong case for getting accepted into dental school though.

The further you can climb upward from the 50th percentile, the better chance you will have to gain acceptance into your dental school of choice. As you can see on the table below, a DAT score of 20 will place you right around the 75th percentile. This is great news as it will allow you to have options when deciding which dental school you would like to attend.

DAT ScorePercentile

Keep in mind that these percentiles can vary from year to year. 

Even though a 30 is a perfect score, if you achieve a 25, it will largely place you at the 100th percentile since very few realize this score on the exam. And anything higher than a 25 is generally unheard of. 

DAT Scores by Section

When breaking down the four sections even greater, you can calculate what kind of scores you will need in each section to get your desired DAT score.

DAT Scores
90th Percentile Score

Composite DAT Score21+
Quantitative Reasoning19+
Reading Comprehension23+
Perceptual Ability22+
Survey of Natural Sciences21+
General Chemistry22+
Organic Chemistry22+

75th Percentile Score

Composite DAT Score19-20
Quantitative Reasoning18
Reading Comprehension21-22
Perceptual Ability21
Survey of Natural Sciences19-20
General Chemistry19-21
Organic Chemistry19-20

50th Percentile Score

Composite DAT Score17-18
Quantitative Reasoning16
Reading Comprehension19-20
Perceptual Ability18-19
Survey of Natural Sciences17-18
General Chemistry17-18
Organic Chemistry17-18

DAT Breakdown

The DAT exam was created by the American Dentist Association (ADA) as a way to ensure dental students are going to be ready for what lies ahead of them in dental school. Passing the DAT with a quality score is an accepted part of the admissions process. 

It is a very wise move to take the DAT well before graduating with a bachelor’s degree so you have everything lined up to get into dental school. Make sure you are ready to get a top DAT score the first time around – you may only take the exam three times and each time must be spaced out by 90 days. 

The DAT consists of four sections. In order to get a top DAT score, you will need to do well on all four sections. For an in-depth breakdown of the DAT exam and study resources, check out our guide to the DAT exam. The four sections of the DAT exam are:

  • Natural Sciences
  • Perceptual Ability
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Quantitative Reasoning

Natural Sciences consists of three subsections:

  • Biology
  • General Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry

Natural Sciences has a total of 100 multiple-choice questions. Biology has 40 questions, General Chemistry has 30 questions, and Organic Chemistry has 30 questions.

Perceptual Ability has 90 questions about apertures, view recognition, angle discrimination, paper folding, cube counting, and 3D form development. It is easy to see how all of these could be important in the dentistry field. 

Reading Comprehension contains 60 questions on various scientific topics. This is not your ordinary “read a fiction passage and answer the questions below”. You must have a strong science background to do well in this section. 

Lastly, Quantitative Reasoning will test out your math skills with 40 questions. There will be a calculator available on-screen during this part of the DAT. 

The DAT is a computer-based multiple-choice exam that allows the student four hours and fifteen minutes to complete. The current price of taking the exam is $475, so there should be an urgency to achieve your best score the first time around. 

How to Get a Top DAT Score

Rather than risk losing almost $500 every time you take the DAT, you should put your best foot forward and make certain you earn a good DAT score the first time around. Eight years of schooling is expensive and if funded mostly through student loans, you could be looking at paying back a fortune. 

The Health Policy Institute worked with the ADA and produced a survey that determined the first-year price of public dental school in 2017-2018 was nearly $40,000 on average. A private dental school was almost $30,000 more on top of that. And remember, this was during the 2017-2018 school year. Prices don’t go down for schooling. They only go up. 

DAT Prep Courses

There are top of the line DAT prep courses that may provide you the best chance at receiving a top DAT score the first time around. They contain practice questions and whole practice tests. 

These prep courses are offered online and will allow you to move at your own pace with a huge number of videos available to assist you. The subscription varies in length, so be sure you have the time to put your full focus on your chosen prep course. Prep courses can be expensive so shop wisely and figure out what works best for your budget. 

For More Help

See our review of the best DAT prep courses.

DAT Prep Badge

Practice Tests

There are plenty of practice DAT exams that can be found online and don’t cost a dime. Check out some of those DAT practice tests. Put these practice tests to good use. Once the practice test is scored, go back and look at which sections you did the poorest in.

Take this information and try to make these sections one of your strengths instead of a weakness. Once you realize which sections you need to focus on more, you can change up your studying habits to reflect this information.

Find a Mentor

If you know of a dentist that has recently been in the exact spot you are at this moment, ask the person to become your mentor. They may be flattered and agree or they may be flattered and inform you they do not have the time. But if they do agree, they can clue you in on how studying for the DAT exam can be managed accordingly. Plus, their assistance in the long run will be more than just DAT related and could turn invaluable down the road.

Plan to Succeed

As long as you take the DAT seriously, you should be well prepared. Dental schools will also be examining your grades in your college courses, so try your best to get a 4.0 across the board. Every little thing will help on your dental school application.

Follow the Plan

Before you start writing “Doctor” in front of your name and begin printing out business cards, there are certain steps you need to take first. 

  • Receive a bachelor’s degree (preferably relating to science or the medical field).
  • Earn top grades in the related courses.
  • Pass the Dental Admission Test (DAT) with a solid score. 
  • Get accepted into dental school.
  • Complete four years of study and obtain either a Doctor of Dental Surgery or a Doctor of Dental Medicine.

There are a few dental programs available where the bachelor’s program is combined with the dental program which allows the student to only have to spend six years to complete the curriculum instead of eight. If you want to minimize your time completing the schooling, and limiting the student loans needed, this should be something to further look into. 

In any case, usually two years are spent in dental school learning dental science and then the following two years are supervised hands-on learning opportunities through practicums and dental clinics. But none of this can happen until the DAT is conquered accordingly. 

Dave Evangelisti
Dave is our founder and CEO. He has 20+ years of experience in the testing and test prep industry.