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How To Prepare For The DAT In 2023

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The Dental Admission Test, DAT in short, is a mandatory requirement for anyone aspiring to get into dental school.

Entry into good dental schools is highly competitive, making it very important to get a great score on the DAT.

For that to happen, though, you need to prepare adequately for this critical test, and this article will guide you in doing just that. 

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Quick Summary

  • The DAT measures a candidate’s academic ability, scientific understanding, and perceptual ability. 
  • It is recommended that you start preparing for the DAT around the end of your junior year in undergrad.
  • On average, pre-dental students take about 3 or 4 months to adequately study for the DAT.
  • To take the exam, you’ll be required to pay a non-refundable and non-transferable fee of $495.

How To Prepare For The DAT: A Step By Step Guide

What Are The Requirements For Taking The DAT?

  • Complete at least one year of college

Successful DAT applicants need to have completed at least one year of college education, whereby they undertake courses that cover Biology, General Chemistry, and Organic Chemistry.

That being said, most participants don’t take the DAT exam until after they have completed two or more years of college.

  • Examination fees

The DAT charges a non-refundable and non-transferable fee of $495.

  • Apply to take the DAT

You first visit the American Dental Association website and submit an application to take the DAT, after which you’ll receive a DENTPIN®. 

The DENTPIN® is a unique identifier that you will use throughout your dental school application process, including sitting for the Dental Admission Test.

Once your application has been processed, you will receive an eligibility letter from the ADA, allowing you to schedule your testing appointment.

When Do I Take The DAT Test? And How Do I Choose A Date?

It is advisable to take the DAT test well in advance before the dental school admission cycle. So perhaps, take the exam at least a year before you want to go to dental school.

Typically, prospective dental students will take the exam during the summer of their sophomore year or the summer between junior year and senior year. 

Just make sure that you have completed the required subjects by the time you are taking the exam. These subjects are Biology, General Chemistry, and Organic Chemistry. 

How To Apply For DAT Test?

How To Apply For DAT Test?

Step 1: Obtain a Dental Personal Identification Number, also known as DENTPIN®, from the ADA Website.

Note: If you have previously applied to take the exam, just use your existing DENTPIN®.

Step 2: Once you have obtained your DENTPIN®, submit an application through the Examination Program Website

Note: Each testing attempt requires you to submit a new application.

Step 3: You will be required to pay the examination fees when you submit your application. 

Note: Keep in mind that this fee is non-refundable and non-transferable. Even if your application is rejected and you are required to submit a new application, you will still have to forfeit your previous fee.

Step 4: Confirm your eligibility before committing to a particular test date. You should receive an eligibility confirmation via email from the Department of Testing Services.

Step 5: Once your application has been successfully processed, you are now free to take the exam at any time during the 6-month testing window. Unless you are retesting, in which case, different time frames apply.

Note: Failing to schedule a testing appointment during this 6-month time frame will require you to submit a new application and a new examination fee. 

There are times when your paid exam application could get rejected, thereby denying you permission to test. This can happen under the following conditions:

  • Providing inaccurate information.
  • Not using your legal name exactly as it appears on your official government-issued identification.

What Are The Costs Associated With The DAT?

The DAT charges a non-refundable and non-transferable fee of $495.

This exam fee covers:

  • Administration.
  • Official score reporting to all dental schools you selected at the time of application.
  • An unofficial score report that’s issued at the test centers.
  • Score reporting to your pre-dental advisor, but only if you selected one at the time of application.

However, in case of severe financial hardship, pre-dental students may be eligible for a partial fee waiver, covering 50% of the DAT fee. Eligibility for this fee waiver requires you to meet the following requirements:

  • U.S. citizen or resident alien.
  • First time taking the DAT.
  • Demonstrated financial hardship.
  • Received financial aid at your educational institution.

How To Study For The DAT In 2023

What To Study For The DAT?

The DAT measures a candidate’s academic ability, scientific understanding, and perceptual ability. 

These skills and abilities are measured through 4 sections in the exam: Survey of the Natural Sciences, Perceptual Ability, Reading Comprehension, and Quantitative Reasoning.

a) Survey of the Natural Sciences

Comprises Biology, General Chemistry, and Organic Chemistry.

b) Perceptual Ability

Involves two-dimensional and three-dimensional problem-solving.

c) Reading Comprehension

Covers both dental and basic sciences.

d) Quantitative Reasoning.

Includes numerical calculations, mathematical problems in algebra, conversions, etc. 

What’s The Best Way To Study For The DAT?

What’s The Best Way To Study For The DAT?

Practice Tests

Aim to take at least three or so practice tests that are real-time simulated to give you an accurate view of what to expect on test day. 

Not only is the idea to replicate the conditions you are set to experience on exam day, but taking a practice test that’s representative will help give you a more focused idea of precisely what is tested on the DAT.

DAT Prep Courses

There are plenty of prep programs in the market, and if you are skeptical about their efficiency, let me assure you that DAT prep courses do work in getting you perfectly prepared for the actual test.

The competent test prep courses are often a one-stop shop for any study materials you may need. From practice tests, practice questions, content review sections, and flashcards, all the way to perceptual ability test kits, you can find everything in a single DAT program.

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Study Schedule

Formulating a study plan with well-thought-out timelines will help keep you on track, allowing you to study more efficiently and effectively. 

How Long Does It Take To Prepare For The DAT?

The best plan is to allow for 3 hours a day, five days a week, for 3 months of DAT study time. 

The average pre-dental student requires about 3 or 4 months to prepare for the DAT adequately, so you should schedule your test with this in mind, and your DAT study schedule should be structured accordingly.

Where To Find DAT Practice Tests?

Most practice tests come as a paid-for package when you sign up for a DAT prep program such as DAT Bootcamp or DAT Kaplan.

However, it is still possible to find some free full-length practice tests that are just as good.

What To Do The Day Before The DAT Test?

Everyone is different, and whatever method works for one person will not necessarily work for the other. So always keep that in mind, even as you take advice from different pre-dental students.

On the day before the exam, some prefer doing some intense reading until late into the night. On the other hand, others will simply relax on this day, opting to either sit back with a good movie or take a leisurely walk and play some sports.

It is all entirely up to you. Ultimately, what you do on the day before the DAT test should be whatever makes you feel the most confident on test day.

What To Do The Day Before The DAT Test?

Light Reading

It is okay to review a few sections just to make sure you are well prepared for the test. However, this should be done with caution to avoid test anxiety.

Don’t attempt to cover every bit of information you may have missed in your study efforts over the past couple of months. It is pretty pointless at this point, and going into a panic will only make you forget what you’ve learned so far.

Fitting in one or two short study sessions on this day will be sufficient. Don’t allow yourself to get tunnel vision.

Enjoyable Activities

It is essential to feel well-rested before the exam, and fitting in a few enjoyable activities in your day will help relieve stress and anxiety.

Do some light workouts, catch up on your favorite show on TV, have a nice long conversation with a friend, take a walk in the park, play a board game with family, etc. 

Eat Healthy

This is an essential part of self-care, allowing you to feel well-rested and energized before you sit for the long exam. Have a nice balanced meal.

Prepare For The Morning

The last thing you want is to frantically move about the morning of your exam, trying to get some last-minute things in order. Instead, do all your prep the day before so you can have a leisurely morning on test day.

Prepare your breakfast in advance, lay out your outfit for the following day, and even map your route to the testing center. Feeling well prepared in the morning will considerably ease your tension. 

Tips On How To Prepare For The DAT

1. Competition for top dental schools is incredibly tough. So, if you want a fair chance, start preparing for the DAT around the end of your junior year in undergrad.

2. Getting a good mentor will prove invaluable. From providing tips on studying for the DAT to helping you prep for interviews, a mentor can give incredible insight regarding every step of the application process.

3. Rather than rushing to get done with it, only take the DAT when you are really ready . Not only is the exam pretty expensive, but failing it can be pretty disheartening, so try as much as possible to make sure your first time will be your only time taking the DAT.

4. Submit your DAT application early, say about 60 – 90 days before the time you intend to sit for the exam.

5. Taking the DAT the summer after your sophomore year is a great idea because this leaves you with plenty of time to attend to other steps in your dental school application, such as the personal statement, for instance.

How Students Have Prepared For The DAT

Studying for the DAT can feel intimidating and overwhelming, but it really doesn’t have to be. As long as you study efficiently and effectively, it is pretty easy to ace this exam. 

Here’s what some past pre-dental students have to say about preparing for the DAT:

DAT Student Testimonial 1
DAT Student Testimonial 2
DAT Student Testimonial 3

FAQs About How to Prepare for the DAT

How Many Hours A Day Should I Study For DAT?

Ideally, you should study 3 hours a day for the DAT. 

Of course, this depends on how much time you have to prepare for the DAT. However, the best plan is to allow for 3 months of DAT study time, whereby you study for 3 hours a day, five days a week.

How To Study For DAT During Semester?

Deciding to study for the DAT during semester isn’t advisable as it will leave you stressed, frustrated, and stretched a bit too thin.

Nevertheless, should you choose to go down this route, the first thing is to have a clear-cut schedule where you set aside about 3 – 4 hours every day to get in some DAT studying.

You can take this time to start reviewing PAT, practice some Reading Comprehension, and brush up on some math for Quantitative reasoning

A lot of time goes into taking notes and making your own flashcards and outlines, so you could get started with this right now, covering a little ground each week. If you have all your notes and outlines made and partly memorized by summer, you will be primed for success.

Ultimately though, do not force the DAT on yourself prematurely. 

How To Study For The DAT While Working Full Time?

Similar to when studying for DAT during semester, deciding to study for the DAT while working full time will require a lot of focus and dedication.

Stick to a strict schedule whereby you set aside about 2 hours of studying every day and maybe 5 hours on the weekend. 

Aside from that, take full advantage of any free time you get, squeezing in a chapter of Biology or any other subject as you go about your day. 

This will mean maximizing each second in your day, even when commuting, walking, having lunch, etc. It is going to be tough, but it is very doable. 

Are DAT Prep Courses Worth It In Preparing For The DAT?

Yes, DAT prep courses are very much worth it in preparing for the DAT.

These programs offer comprehensive study material presented in a concise yet detailed manner that helps you quickly grasp the main concepts in different subjects.  

How To Prepare For The Canadian DAT?

To prepare for the Canadian DAT, you first need to understand that right from the sections covered to how the test is administered, this is a very different exam from the American DAT. 

You will need to use different techniques and strategies on the Canadian DAT compared to what’s required in the American DAT

Use the appropriate resources specifically designed for the Canadian DAT. 


As hectic as it feels to prepare for the DAT, just keep in mind that this is merely a tiny step in a long journey.

It may feel like a mammoth of a task right now, but dental school will be even more challenging. So simply breathe and try not to feel so overwhelmed by it.

Be dedicated, stay focused, and prepare adequately, and you are guaranteed to perform well, earning you a spot in your dental school of choice.

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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