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DAT Scoring: The Ultimate Guide

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Most pre-dental students wonder how they can achieve a good DAT score because, ultimately, your DAT scores can make or break your dental career before it even starts.

Overall, the Dental Admission Test score preferences vary amongst dental schools, but knowing the average DAT score of your dental school of choice can prove quite beneficial.

Learning about the DAT scoring system will give you a feel of what to expect in the exam and how to handle the various questions.

However, before we get into that, I just want to mention that there is an ongoing sale exclusive to TestPrepPal readers where you get up to $90 discount on the best DAT prep course in the market today. Make sure to use the promo code TESTPREPPAL10 in checkout.

Quick Summary

  • The DAT is scored out of 30, so students can get any score between 1 and 30.
  • The scaled score is what’s reported to Dental schools as your DAT score.
  • The Academic Average is also included in the score report That’s submitted to Dental Schools.
  • As of 2018, the Academic Average for students accepted into dental school was 20.5.
  • 18 is considered to be the average DAT score. 

How Is The DAT Scored?

The DAT is scored out of 30, so students can get any score between 1 and 30. Of course, it is nearly impossible for a pre-dental student to score 1, just as unlikely as it is for one to get the full 30 marks.

Although performances vary from year to year, here’s how students scored according to data from the 2021 DAT exam:

Composite Score

Assessment

18

50th Percentile

20 - 21

75th Percentile

25

98th Percentile

How Does DAT Scoring Work?

a) Raw Scores

This is the number of questions the candidate managed to answer correctly, per section, in the whole exam. 

Each multiple-choice question in the DAT carries the same value, which is equivalent to one raw point. 

In this exam, there is no penalty for incorrect answers or unanswered questions. So a student is encouraged to answer all questions even if they will have to guess some answers.

Your raw score doesn’t appear on your score report. 

b) Scaled Score / Standard Score

This is the score you get after your raw score has been converted into a score on a scale from 1 to 30.

The scaling process is done to take into account the minor differences that may occur in exam difficulty between different editions of the test. This ensures fairness for all students across the years.

The scaled score is what’s reported to Dental schools as your DAT score.

18 is considered to be the average DAT score. 

If you have just taken a practice test and would like to know how your performance measures up as a scaled score, you can use this free DAT score calculator

Working with a scaled score gives you a realistic idea of how your DAT prep is going and where exactly you stand if you were to take the exam this very minute. 

c) Composite Score / Academic Average

This is the rounded arithmetic mean of the standard scores obtained in Biology, General Chemistry, Organic chemistry, Quantitative Reasoning, and Reading Comprehension sections.

Academic Average does not include the PAT section standard score.

However, the Composite Score is also included in the score report. 

d) Total Science Score

This score is based on how many questions you get correct overall in the entire science section comprising Biology, General Chemistry, and Organic Chemistry. 

Keep in mind that the total science score is not the rounded average of your results in the Survey of Natural Sciences section. 

DAT Scores By Section

The DAT exam is designed to assess a student’s skill and prowess in critical thinking, quantitative reasoning, and general scientific knowledge. 

The main exam essentially contains 4 individual tests: the Survey of Natural Sciences, Perceptual Ability Test, Reading Comprehension Test, and Quantitative Reasoning Test.

• DAT EXAM OVERVIEW •

DAT Section

Duration

No. of Questions

Survey of Natural Sciences


• Biology
• General Chemistry
• Organic Chemistry

90 Minutes





100 Qns. 

40

30

30

Perceptual Ability


• Keyhole
• Top-Front-End
• Angle Ranking
• Hole Punching
• Cube Counting
• Pattern Folding

60 Minutes








90 Qns.

15

15

15

15

15

15

Reading Comprehension

60 Minutes

50 Qns.

Quantitative Reasoning

45 Minutes 

40 Qns.

TOTAL DAT EXAM

280 Total Qns.

One thing you need to know about the DAT is that the exam contains some unscored questions. These are pretest questions, which are experimental, helping to develop future versions of the exam.

Because all questions on the DAT are presented in the exact same manner, it is impossible to distinguish these pretest questions from the other questions on the exam.

However, the good news is that the unscored questions constitute just a few questions on the test, so it doesn’t really matter much anyway. 

Here are the DAT scores by section, based on the 2021 exam results:

• DAT SCORES BY SECTION •

50th Percentile

75th Percentile

90th Percentile

Survey of Natural Sciences

17 - 18

19 - 20

21+

Biology

17 - 18

19 - 20

22+

General Chemistry

17 - 18

20 - 21

23+

Organic Chemistry

17 - 18

20 - 21

23+

Perceptual Ability

18 - 19

20 - 21

22+

Reading Comprehension

19 - 20

22 - 23

24+

Quantitative Reasoning

17 - 18

20

22+

Academic Average

18

20 - 21

22+

What’s A Good DAT Score?

As per the 2021 DAT exam, 18 is regarded as the average DAT score on a national scale. However, this is not considered a competitive score.

Scores of 19 – 20 in each DAT section are what’s considered competitive. A score above 21 is what many consider to be a good composite DAT score.

As of 2018, the Academic Average for students accepted into dental school was 20.5.

Schools often have different cutoffs for minimum DAT scores, whereas other schools don’t have any particular score preferences. 

As such, it is important that you learn about the cutoffs your desired school might have. You can find this information in the ADEA Guide to dental schools.

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DAT Scores Percentiles

DAT Scores Percentiles

Below Average DAT Scores

Below average scores are in the 25th percentile.

These scores are good enough to get you into a wide variety of dental schools. However, they will be below average compared to how the rest of the test-takers performed in the exam.

Average DAT Scores

Average scores are in the 50th percentile. 

These scores are good enough in the sense that they place your performance at about 50% compared to the results obtained by other test-takers. However, they will not give you that competitive edge required when applying to highly coveted dental schools.

Good DAT Scores

Good scores are in the 75th percentile.

These scores place you in the top 25% of all test-takers. As such, this kind of score would give you a highly competitive advantage during admissions. 

High DAT Scores

High scores are in the 90th percentile.

These scores place you in the top 10% of all test-takers. As such, you are pretty much guaranteed to get admission into whichever dental school you desire. 

Below Average DAT Scores

Average DAT Scores

Good DAT Scores

High DAT Scores

Survey of the Natural Sciences

15.5

17.5

19.5

22+

Biology

15.5

17.5

19.5

22+

General Chemistry

15.5

18

20.5

23+

Organic Chemistry

15

17.5

20.5

23+

Perceptual Ability

16.5

18.5

20.5

22.5+

Reading Comprehension

17.5

19.5

22

24.5+

Quantitative Reasoning

15

17

20

23+

Academic Average

16

18

20.5

22+

FAQs About DAT Scoring

When Are The DAT Scores Released?

The official DAT scores are released 3 to 4 weeks after the student completes the exam. These scores are electronically sent to all the schools the students selected during their application for the DAT exam. 

Besides the official score report, the candidate receives an unofficial score report at the testing center immediately after completing the computerized exam. 

What Is The Average DAT Score In 2021?

The average DAT score in 2021 was 18.

As students prepare better for the exam across the years, it is expected that the average score will keep going up, hence making it more competitive to get into a good dental school. 

What DAT Score Do I Need To Get Into Dental School?

The DAT score you need to get into dental school will depend on your school or choice. Commonly, the academic average score for admissions is 19.

That being said, some schools have higher cutoffs, while other schools pay attention to the composite score and not just your academic average. 

What Percentile Is A 23 On The DAT?

As of the 2021 DAT exam results, a 23 on the DAT falls in the 93rd percentile.

Therefore scoring 23 on the DAT counts as a high score destined to secure your admission into the more competitive dental schools. 

Is 24 A Good DAT Score?

Yes, 24 is a good DAT score. 

As a matter of fact, this is an excellent score because it falls in the 96th percentile.

Conclusion

The DAT is an important exam, and it is easy to see why many pre-dental students stress out about getting a good score on this exam.

Keeping DAT scoring in mind while undertaking your practice tests will help keep you grounded and focused, allowing you to better visualize how to attain your desired score in the actual exam.

A good DAT score is very much attainable. You just need to put in the work and keep your eyes on the prize. 

Best of luck!

Categories DAT
John Reed
The chief editor of TestPrepPal.com. 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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