Dave Evangelisti By: Dave Evangelisti
DAT Test

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The Dental Admission Test (DAT) is a test created by the American Dentist Association (ADA) to standardize admission into U.S. dental schools — which is why it’s so important to do well.

There is a lot of study material available for the DAT that you can pay for, but there’s no need to do that when there’s also so much good information out there free of charge!

Below are some of the best resources available to help you prepare for the DAT at no cost to you.

Summary: Check out some of our favorite study resources for the DAT exam below.

Our Picks for Best DAT Prep Courses

Below are are top 2 picks. For more information on these two providers and others, check out the best DAT prep courses.

Resource Notes Provider
Official DAT Guide General overview of the entire DAT process. Official guide from the ADA. American Dental Association
DAT Scoring FAQS Frequently asked questions about the scoring process. Official PDF from the ADA. American Dental Association
Free DAT Practice Test Try out a free practice test from Princeton Review. Princeton Review
Free DAT Practice Test Try out a free practice test from Kaplan. Kaplan
DAT Flashcards Review 1000s of DAT flashcards Brainscape
DAT Flashcards Review 1000s of DAT flashcards Quizlet

The DAT will test your general academic ability, understanding of various sciences, and your ability of perception. To do this, the DAT is comprised of four subtests: Survey of Natural Sciences, Perceptual Ability Test, Reading Comprehension Test, and Quantitative Reasoning Test. The test is composed of 200 multiple-choice questions, broken down as follows.

Survey of Natural Sciences - 100 Questions

This test includes questions from three sciences — Biology, General Chemistry, and Organic Chemistry at the first-year collegiate level. The questions are broken down as follows:

  • Biology - questions 1-40
  • General Chemistry - questions 41-70
  • Organic Chemistry - questions 71-100

Within each subset of questions, you will be given a separate score for each, so when you are taking the DAT, be sure that you manage your time so that you can work through each of the three sciences!

Perceptual Ability Test - 90 Questions

The Perceptual Ability portion of the DAT is designed to test your visual acuity rather than any sort of scientific, reading, or verbal skills. This portion of the examination is comprised of six of its own smaller subtests, each of which consists of 15 questions.

One of the six sections will deal with two-dimensional questions, and the other five will all deal with three dimensions. Just like with the Survey of Natural Sciences, this portion of the test has separate scores for each subtest, so be sure to pace yourself so that you can complete all six sections.

Reading Comprehension Test - 50 Questions

The Reading Comprehension portion of the DAT will have you read three science-related passages. Each of the passages will have 16 or 17 questions that follow, adding up to 50 questions total for this portion. The purpose behind this portion of the examination is to test your ability to read, comprehend, and analyze scientific information quickly.

Quantitative Reasoning - 40 Questions

The Quantitative Reasoning aspect of the DAT has the purpose of testing your ability to understand and manipulate numbers, numerical relationships (conversions), and other quantitative materials. During this portion of the test a basic four-function calculator will be provided for use. The general topics that you can expect to find questions about in this portion of the test include:

  • Algebra
  • Calculations
  • Conversions
  • Statistics
  • Geometry
  • Trigonometry
  • Word Problems

Unlike the other sections, the Quantitative Reasoning portion is not scored separately for each of the topics listed above.

How to Register for the DAT

To be able to take the exam, you need to get approval from the ADA’s Department of Testing Services. To do this, go to the ADA’s website and obtain your DENTPIN (Dental Personal Identification Number), and then you will able to apply. After you receive approval, you'll need to take the test within the next 6 months.

The DAT is administered year-round at test centers across the country as well as in Canada. Once you have been approved to take the test, you'll receive an email to get in contact with the administrators of the tests, Prometric to schedule a test date.

The current cost of the DAT is $415 and is non-refundable. This fee includes the cost to take the exam as well as for your score to be reported to the schools that you list. Additional score reporting is $34 per institution that you want to have your score sent to.

How is the DAT Administered?

The exam is administered in testing centers across the country and is a timed, multiple-choice exam that is taken on approved computers at Prometric’s testing centers. You have 4 hours and 15 minutes to complete the test.

Breaking this down further, you are allotted specific amounts of time for each section of the test as follows:

Section Time
Optional Tutorial 15 minutes
Survey of Natural Sciences 90 minutes
Perceptual Ability 60 minutes
Scheduled Break 15 minutes
Reading Comprehension 60 minutes
Quantitative Reasoning 45 minutes
Post Test Survey 15 minutes

Once you complete a subtest, you will not be able to return to it at the end and finish it up. So keep that in mind when you’re working through each section and be sure to finish within the allotted time for each!

Requirements Needed to Take the DAT

Per the ADA, there are no strict requirements on age, education, previous knowledge, or anything. They do, however, have a few suggestions on what will give you the best chances to succeed on the examination:

  • One or more years of college education, especially with coursework in the following:
    • Biology
    • General Chemistry
    • Organic Chemistry
  • Dental school applicants should take the exam in advance of the dental school admission cycle so that they don’t miss the opening and have to wait until the next cycle.

How the DAT Scores are Calculated

The scoring of the DAT is not calculated in raw numbers (i.e. how many questions were right and wrong), or percentiles. Scoring is instead calculated as scaling scores so that all scores can be compared to one another effectively.

Meaning of The DAT Score

Possible scores on the DAT range from 1 to 30. There is no cut and dry score that is indicative of a pass or fail, but institutions around the country have agreed upon the score that is deemed average nationwide: 19. This doesn't mean that an 18 is a “fail” or a 20 is a “pass”, it just means that a score of 19 indicates average performance on the exam.

How long does it take to get my DAT score?

You will be provided an unofficial score report at the test center upon completion of the test.

Scores will typically take 3-4 weeks to be reported to the institutions that were requested on the application.

Can I retake the Dental Admission Test if I don’t like my score?

The short answer is yes. You have to pay the fee each time you test as well as wait 90 days between testing attempts.

If you wish to take the test more than three times, you have to submit a request in writing to the ADA to get approval.

Are all questions on the Dental Admission Test scored?

No, some questions are only on the test for experimental purposes and will not affect your score.

You will not be aware of which questions are scored and which are not, so do your best on every question.

Will institutions still get my DAT score even if I do poorly on it or can I void my scores?

Once you take the test, the scores become part of your permanent record — they will be available to institutions to see and cannot be voided or removed from your record.

What do I need to bring with me to the DAT test center?

All you need is two forms of identification. Do not bring any writing utensils, calculators, or electronic devices. Everything else that you need will be provided to you at the testing center.