DAT vs MCAT: Everything You Need to Know

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Written by John Reed
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Suppose you are not sure whether you should take the DAT or the MACT, this comparison will make things a little clearer for you.

By highlighting the key similarities and differences between the two tests, you can better decide whether you are best suited for medical or dental school.

As you will come to find out, though the two tests are very similar to each other, the DAT and MCAT have a few logistical differences.

DAT vs MCAT: Comparison

PurposeAdmission into Dental schoolAdmission into Medical school
Main Skill TestedFact recallCritical thinking
Duration7hrs and 30 min.5hrs and 15 min. 
Cost $415$325
Maximum Score30528
Exam AvailabilityAll year roundAround 25 times annually.

Between January and September

Attempt Restrictions3 Times7 times
PAT Section?YesNo
Voidable Scores?NoYes

Similarities Between DAT & MCAT

Graduate School Admission: The DAT and the MCAT are common standardized tests required from pre-health students for admission into graduate school.

Cost: Both tests are pretty expensive. As of 2022, the DAT currently costs $325, whereas you are required to pay $415 to sit for the MCAT.

Length: Both DAT and MCAT exams are rather lengthy, requiring a great deal of mental stamina. The DAT is 5 hours and 15 minutes long, while the MCAT is 7 and a half hours long.

Method: Both are computer-based tests, so no pen and paper are involved.

Format: The two tests both feature multiple-choice questions.

Content: You will typically find similar questions in the General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, and Biology sections of both tests.

Reading Comprehension: The MCAT and DAT exams both have a reading comprehension section.

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Differences Between DAT & MCAT


The DAT is a requirement for pre-dental students, whereas the MCAT is a requirement for pre-medical students.

The Medical College Admission Test is administered by the Association of American Medical Colleges and is required for pre-medical students.

The MCAT is actually the most common standardized test for any student who wishes to be admitted into medical schools in the United States and Canada.

On the other hand, the Dental Admission Test is administered by the American Dental Association and is a requirement for pre-dental students.

This test is required by all dental schools in the United States, so all aspiring dental school students will need to take it.

Availability Of The Exam

The DAT is available all year round, on any day of the year, whenever you may wish to sit for the exam.

The MCAT has a more regulated schedule and isn’t as readily available as the DAT. To begin with, the MCAT is only available about 20 to 25 times every year, and you can only take it between January and September.

Releasing Of The Results

MCAT results are released about 30 days after test takers have sat for their exam.

As for the DAT, you get an unofficial score report immediately after completing the exam.

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Exam Content & Outline

  • Physics

MCAT exams test a student’s knowledge of Physics. On the other hand, although dental students take physics classes, there are no Physics questions in the DAT exam.

  • Mathematics

In the DAT, you are bound to encounter many questions that analyze your knowledge and understanding of mathematics. On the other hand, the MCAT primarily contains science-related questions, and there are no math topics tested.

For this reason, pre-dental students sitting for the DAT need a calculator and are allowed to have one. Pre-med students sitting for the MCAT aren’t allowed to have or use calculators.

  • Passages

Every single section in the MCAT exam contains lengthy passages that the test takers are required to read and analyze. On the other hand, in the DAT, you only find passages in the Reading Comprehension section.

The PAT section in the DAT exam tests the student’s visual or spatial perception skills, which can be pretty challenging to master because it is not something you can learn. Instead, it is based on whether or not you can see the two or three-dimensional visuospatial perceptions.

On the other hand, perceptual abilities are not tested in the MCAT, and similarly, there is no PAT section.

Main Skill Tested

Passing the MCAT requires critical thinking, whereas passing the DAT requires fact recall.

The DAT specifically tests a student’s academic ability, perceptual ability, and comprehension of scientific information. Passing the DAT exams means that students need to show their scientific knowledge through fact recall and raw memorization.

The MCAT exam tests students’ knowledge of scientific concepts and principles. Passing the MCAT exam would require students to show their problem-solving and analytical abilities through critical thinking.

Attempt Restrictions

The DAT is capped at 3 attempts, while the MCAT is capped at 7 attempts.

You can only take the DAT exam once every 90 days, and you only have 3 attempts at taking the test in your lifetime.

You can take the MCAT exam up to 3 times in one year and a total of 4 times across two calendar years. You only have 7 attempts at sitting for the MCAT in your lifetime.

Should you wish to exceed the lifetime limits for both the MCAT and DAT, you need to appeal for special permission from the respective bodies.

Voiding Scores

At the end of your MCAT exam, the test taker has the option of voiding the score.

Voiding your test means that the test will not be scored, and your participation in that exam won’t be reported to any schools.

Although voided scores will never appear in your MCAT testing history, these voided tests still count as an attempt towards your lifetime limit.

On the other hand, DAT scores can never be voided. Once you begin the exam, the resulting score will forever be part of your permanent record.

Is DAT Harder than MCAT?

Is DAT harder than MCAT
No, the MCAT is arguably harder than the DAT.

To begin with, the MCAT has lengthy passages which are lacking in the DAT exam. Additionally, while pre-medical students have to deal with Physics and Biochemistry, pre-dental students don’t.

The one truly challenging portion for DAT students is the PAT section, which, to be fair, can be pretty tough to master.

The DAT involves more fact recall, meaning you can easily memorize your way to a great score. However, the MCAT tests prospective medical students’ ability to think critically, so you need to understand the basic principles and concepts to pass this exam.

Lastly, both the MCAT and DAT are long tests that virtually take half a day. However, the MCAT is considerably longer, lasting 7.5 hours, while the DAT lasts for 5 hours and 15 minutes.

So, owing to the reasons above, the DAT is not harder than the MCAT.

That being said, which test is harder shouldn’t matter when doing an MCAT Vs. DAT comparison. Your decision between a medical school or dental school should be based on other factors, including which path best suits you and your capabilities.


DAT Vs. MCAT: Which Test Should You Take?

The DAT and MCAT are both standardized exams used to select students for admission into medical-related degree programs.

Admission into medical school will require the potential student to take the MCAT, whereas dental school requires the DAT.

So ideally, the biggest difference between the two tests is which career you would like to get into. While the DAT specifically applies to aspiring dentists, the MCAT would allow you to pursue a variety of medical disciplines.

Can MCAT Be Used For Dental School?

No, the MCAT cannot be used for dental school.

To get into dental school, you would be required to submit DAT scores and not MCAT scores.

How Is Studying For The DAT Different From The MCAT?

Studying for the DAT is different from studying for the MCAT in that there is a lot more math on the DAT than there is on the MCAT, thereby requiring more quantitative reasoning.

Additionally, the perceptual ability section in the DAT will require you to take plenty of PAT practice tests.

Natural sciences are covered in both tests. However, the DAT has more organic chemistry than the MCAT. At the same time, Biochemistry isn’t tested on the DAT, but it is on the MCAT.

Generally, the DAT requires test takers to have visual acuity and a good understanding of scientific knowledge. On the other hand, the MCAT focuses on critical analysis, whereby test-takers need to analyze written passages quickly.


Most test-takers will agree that neither the DAT nor the MCAT is an easy feat to undertake.

Passing either test will require an incredible amount of dedication, mental stamina, and preparation through practice tests and DAT prep books or MCAT materials.

Regardless, as long as you put your mind to it, you are bound to ace either test, so don’t get too intimidated.

Best of luck!

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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