How To Study For The DAT Biology In 2024

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Written by John Reed
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Biology is not a hard subject per se. However, DAT Bio is challenging in that it is very broad, covering a wide range of topics. 

The content is very dense, which makes it hard to know what to pay close attention to while preparing for the exam. Anything can simply show up on the Biology test.

So how do you best study DAT Biology without losing your mind or neglecting the other sections of the DAT?

Well, it’s actually not as hard as you’d think.

Quick Summary

  • Biology accounts for 40% of the Survey of Natural Sciences section, and there are 40 questions on this subject.
  • The key to acing DAT Bio is to memorize a wide range of Biology facts and details while still understanding how diverse biological components work together. 
  • Rather than learning information in isolation, train yourself to make connections on the interactions within and amongst biological systems. 
  • DAT Bio is all about exposure and repetition. Read and review the material consistently and regularly.
  • Be prepared to dedicate plenty of study time to this section. You simply need to put in the hard work and study diligently. 

What Is DAT Biology?

Biology is a vast and diverse field that studies living things and their vital processes. Ideally, Biology involves everything regarding the structure, function, growth, evolution and distribution of living organisms. 

What Kind Of Biology Is On The DAT?

The DAT tests basic Biology, otherwise known as Biology 101.

This is essentially introductory-level molecular and cellular biology, providing an understanding of biological principles and basic characteristics of life. It is the general Biology you typically cover in your pre-dental undergraduate course curriculum. 

As per the American Dental Association, the following topics are tested on the DAT Biology test:

  • Cell and Molecular Biology.
  • Diversity of Life – Biological organization and relationship of major taxa comprising the six-kingdom three-domain system.
  • Structure and Function of Systems.
  • Genetics.
  • Evolution and Ecology.

Developmental Biology used to be one of the topics tested on DAT Biology. It is worth noting that contrary to what many students may believe, this topic has not been scraped off the DAT. Instead, the questions have simply been redistributed amongst the other topics. 

For instance, Developmental mechanisms, a subtopic formerly under Developmental Biology, now falls under Genetics. 

Plenty of students find the Biology section of the DAT exam to be incredibly hard and intimidating. The point isn’t so much about the content tested but rather the sheer volume of topics that you can be tested on.

DAT Biology comprises a vast breadth and depth of material which can appear overwhelming if you aren’t clear on the scope of the exam. 

How Is DAT Biology Structured?


The Dental Admission Test comprises 4 sections, and Biology appears under the Survey of the Natural Sciences as the first subtest in this section.

The Survey of the Natural Sciences section of the DAT comprises 100 questions. Out of these, the first 40 questions, Qn 1-40, focus on Biology.

These are multiple-choice questions, each comprising five answer choices from which you need to pick the correct one. 

The way DAT Biology questions are asked on the exam requires you, at the very least, to have a basic understanding of biological content. 

In addition to possessing substantial knowledge of the molecular basis of life, you should also be able to connect different aspects of it because everything is interlinked when it comes to biological systems.

Time Limit

You are given 90 minutes to complete the 100 questions in the Survey of the Natural Sciences section, and ideally, you should aim to spend about 20 minutes on the Biology section. 

With 40 questions to work on, that means you should spend about 30 seconds or less on each Biology question.

This way, you can spend about 38 minutes on General Chemistry and 30 minutes on organic chemistry, leaving you with 2 minutes to review any marked questions in the SNS section. 

No. And Types Of Questions

The entire DAT Biology subtest has 40 questions, which comprises questions 1 to 40 on the Survey of the Natural Sciences section. 

Having a good science background will prove highly advantageous. Instead of simply learning biological facts in isolation, it will help to understand how different parts work together as a unit in the human body. 

Of course, you will still encounter questions on the test that directly relate to discrete biological concepts.

However, you will also encounter questions that require you to make inferences or conclusions based on connections between various concepts and biological systems.

How To Study For DAT Biology

The scope of material covered in DAT Biology is randomly vast, so it can be quite hard to predict what to expect on the exam.

Because you cannot narrow down what to study, students often feel overwhelmed and clueless about the best way to study for Biology on the DAT.

How do you comprehensively cover this incredibly broad subject, ensuring you are adequately prepared for the real exam? 

1. Understand The Fundamentals Until It Becomes Intuitive

Studying Biology is mostly about memorization, and there is simply no shortcut to this. You will have to read your notes and textbooks to nail down the content and have a better understanding of the basics.

Review as many notes and books as you can find, and make a genuine attempt at grasping the content.

Some good sources for DAT Bio notes include:

  1. Cliffs AP Biology Book – Very comprehensive.
  2. Feralis Biology Notes – A condensed, very detailed compilation summary of Cliffs AP Bio.
  3. DAT Bootcamp Bio Notes – Concise and high-yield.
  4. The Kaplan DAT Book

Of course, the depth of your studying will depend on your Biology background and how well you remember what was covered in your prerequisite courses.

Students with a strong background and fairly good content retention may get by just fine, purely relying on the Bootcamp notes. However, students who lack a good foundation may have to start with the in-depth Cliffsnotes AP Bio book. 

Whichever route you take, the first step to mastering DAT Biology is to understand all the fundamentals so everything at least seems familiar.

2. Expose Yourself To A Variety Of Biology Study Resources

Biology is an incredibly time-consuming subject to study, and having to scour through different study materials can seem like an even bigger waste of time.

Well, on the contrary, this is actually the best study method.

Exposing yourself to material from various resources will help you see how the same topic has been covered from different perspectives. 

DAT Biology Study Resources

This, for one, will help you get a better grasp of topics that you’ve been particularly struggling with. Having the same concept explained in different ways tends to make the information easier to understand. 

Secondly, gaining different perspectives on material coverage will help you narrow in on what’s most important.

For instance, let’s say you are covering Genetics using CliffsNotes, DAT Destroyer, and CrashCourse YouTube videos. If all 3 sources mention certain facts, then that means that those facts are, of course, essential to know. 

So rather than choosing one study resource and sticking with just that, go out of your way to gather different study tools in your arsenal. Many students use Cliffs AP Bio and Feralis notes in their studies rather than picking one over the other. 

3. Watch Video Lessons

Visual learning is an incredibly powerful study approach for any student. If you are not using this in your Bio prep, then you are missing out big time.

A good approach is actually to start by watching a video lesson on a particular topic and then reading a book or notes on that topic afterwards. This way, you use the videos as a supplement to your textbooks. 

Visuals are a huge learning tool in Biology, especially when it comes to topics such as cell division, the respiratory system, the excretory system, etc. 

There are various sources for quality DAT Biology video lessons:

  1. DAT test prep courses – e.g., DAT Booster.
  2. Khan Academy
  3. Youtube channels – e.g., Professor Dave Explains.

4. Apply Active Learning

DAT Biology Notes

To ace the Biology subject, you need to study actively, not passively. Which means that you have to critically engage with the material you are studying.

Regardless of whether you are reading a book or watching a content video, attempt to investigate the information you are consuming.

Why is this a certain way? What would happen if it wasn’t this way? How may evolution have caused this? How does this relate to other concepts? What is the etymology of this term? 

Basically, instead of rote memorization, you are training your mind to think about what you are learning. This will help you develop the habit of making connections. 

Even beyond that, though, this will help a great deal with understanding the basics much better, thereby leading to long-term content retention.

In a nutshell, here’s how you can apply active learning to your Biology DAT prep:

  1. Investigate the information you are studying by asking thought-provoking questions.
  2. Take short but detailed notes as you study.
  3. Make detailed study sheets for every single topic.
  4. Draw diagrams for physiology and anatomy.
  5. Make note cards on any noteworthy concepts – e.g. concepts where you lack knowledge.
  6. Generate sample DAT questions yourself.

5. Repetition Is Key

Acing the DAT Biology section requires you to internalize the content and concepts until it becomes second nature for you.

This requires constant repetition in your studies. When it comes to Biology materials, the more exposure and repetition, the better off you will be. 

Rather than covering something once and moving on, you will need to keep interacting with the provided information until you are sure you understand it perfectly well.

Here’s how you can go about applying effective repetition in your studies:

  1. Use flashcards and cheat sheets.
  2. Keep adding and reviewing notecards as you study.
  3. Consistently look through your Biology notes as a refresher.
  4. Take numerous Biology tests on the topics you have read.

6. Review Practice Questions Efficiently

To effectively and efficiently prepare for the DAT, you will need to take plenty of practice tests, tackling thousands of practice questions before test day.

We’ve all heard this before, and plenty of students use this approach for their test prep.

Even beyond taking the practice material, though, the more important aspect here is how you review the DAT practice tests and questions.

Here’s a brief outline of the best practices when it comes to reviewing your DAT Biology practice questions.  

  1. Interrogate why you couldn’t answer a question or why you landed on the wrong answer choice. 
  • Were you unfamiliar with the terms and concepts used in the question or answer choices?
  • Did you confuse two different concepts with each other?
  1. Familiarize yourself with all the terms in the question, including those used in the wrong answer choices.
  2. Think about the topic relating to each question, parsing through your knowledge bank in both the questions and the answer choices.
  3. Make notecards on any term or concept that seems foreign to you. This is where your content gaps lie.
  4. Whether you have gotten the question right or wrong, look over the question and answer choices keenly to see whether you are 100% sure of every word or concept presented. 

Ultimately, no matter how much effort you put in, it is important to remember that there will be many questions that you do not know. Don’t stress too much about it because this is true for every DAT student.

Just keep practising and studying regularly and with time, more things will start looking familiar. 

Strategies To Ace The DAT Biology Section

If you are feeling overwhelmed by the DAT Bio section, here are a few strategies that can earn you a good score.

  • Breadth Over Depth

Your goal should be to cover as much ground as you possibly can by familiarizing yourself with as many Biology questions and topics as you can, without getting bogged down on all the details.

You couldn’t possibly learn all the information that exists in the details on every single topic, so don’t bother attempting to memorize everything.

  • Master The Terminology

Look up and learn all the terminology you come across.

This will allow you to have more educated guesses when you encounter a question you do not know the answer to.

  • Understand The Big Picture

Understanding why something happens will make it easier for you to predict the correct answer when you are dealing with more detailed questions.

This is why it’s important to ask yourself thought-provoking questions while studying. It will make it much easier for you to make the different connections, and trust me – it is all connected. 

  • Use Diverse Practice Materials

You will end up seeing something new from each great resource, hence diversifying your content review and knowledge grasp. 

At the same time also, different practice materials will offer different explanations for answers, allowing you to understand different perspectives for better comprehension of different concepts.

Exposure is everything when it comes to the time-sensitive process that is preparing for DAT Bio.  

FAQs About How To Study DAT Biology

How Many Questions Are On The DAT Biology Section?

There are 40 questions in the DAT Biology section.

These are questions 1 to 40, forming the first part of the Survey of the Natural Sciences DAT section. 

Is The DAT Biology Section Hard?

Yes, DAT Biology is a hard section to study for, considering the broad nature of the subject, which makes it impossible for students to predict what to expect on the real exam.

At the same time, getting a good Biology score relies heavily on memorization and comprehensively understanding the various topics and concepts. There is simply no shortcut to it. 

Is There BioChemistry On The DAT?

No, there is no BioChemistry on the DAT.

The Dental Admission test covers Biology 101, or rather, fundamental Biology, which typically involves the basics. 

How Can I Improve My DAT Bio Score?

To improve your DAT Bio score, you, first of all, have to give yourself an ample amount of study time.

Acing DAT Bio is heavily dependent on memorization and understanding, so you simply need to put in the hard work. Study hard and start prepping well in advance so you have plenty of time to focus towards your studies. 

  1. Work through as many practice questions as possible.
  2. While reading, take detailed notes and review them regularly until exam day. 
  3. For Biology, repetition is key, so interact with study material over and over again throughout the course of your DAT prep.
  4. Tempting as it may be, do not skip any hard areas hoping that they won’t show up on test day. Cover everything.
  5. Focus on breadth and depth.
  6. Develop an ability to make connections between the complex interactions between different biological systems.
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John Reed
The chief editor of I am an alumni of the university of Pennsylvania and my goal with the website is to help future graduates with their tests.

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