How To Study For the DAT: Tips To Help You Better Prepare

November 21, 2023
5 min read


Reviewed by:

Rohan Jotwani

Former Chief Resident in Anesthesiology, Weill Cornell Medicine, & Admissions Officer, Columbia University

Reviewed: 11/15/23

Are you an aspiring dental student and wondering to yourself how to study for the DAT? Continue reading as we go over helpful tips for studying for the DAT, including how long to study for the DAT and when you should take the test. 

One major step in becoming a dentist is getting into a credible dental school. To get into a good dental school, you will have to take the DAT.  

The Dental Admissions Test, often referred to as DAT, is a test that dental school admissions officers use to determine whether you have the potential to be successful in dental school and the field of dentistry. Your DAT score, along with other factors like your GPA, is an important piece of information on your college application.

To aid in your DAT studies, we have made a list of helpful tips and answered some other frequently asked questions about how to best study for this critical exam!

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Tips for Studying for the DAT

Like the dreaded LSAT, the DAT can be daunting to think about for any student. There is a lot at stake, like getting into your dream college, and you’ll want to do your best on the test. 

Even getting started to study for the DAT can be intimidating and overwhelming. It’s hard to know where to even begin. That’s why we have put together a DAT study guide comprised of our top tips to ace the exam.

1. Do Research On What the DAT Tests You On

Female student studying on laptop

Before you start building a study plan, familiarize yourself with topics that will appear on the DAT. 

To have a study plan that will actually help you prepare, you’ll need to know what to focus on. This will provide a good foundation for you to begin creating your DAT study schedule. 

2. Pay Attention In Your Classes 

Professor showing papers to male students

Pay attention in your undergraduate courses, as the DAT will cover topics and information that you will have learned in your classes. 

Specifically, pay close attention to Chemistry, Biology, and Organic Chemistry as they are major topics that appear on the DAT. 

3. Review Notes and Assignments 

Student reviewing notes

While you pay attention in class, take detailed and organized notes. You will thank yourself later for doing this. 

Class notes are some of the best resources to use when studying. They are accurate, reliable, and accessible study materials. Keeping your notes organized will also save you so much time on sourcing other study materials. 

4. Build an Effective Study Plan

Student looking at calendar on tablet

This is one of the most important tips on this list. Don’t overcomplicate your study plan, but make sure you are dedicating enough time to subjects that are weighted heavily on the test. 

Keep your plan simple and manageable, so you can follow it. 

5. Identify and Tackle Your Weaknesses

Female student looking stressed while reading book

While it can be tempting to skip over questions or subjects you don’t understand, you unfortunately cannot pick and choose which sections you answer on the test. Subjects you may struggle with could be weighted heavily on the test as well. 

Maximize your potential score earnings by tackling areas of weakness, so you are prepared and equipped to do as well as you possibly can on the test. 

6. Take Practice Tests 

There are tons of practice tests available online. Utilize these resources to time yourself and identify areas on the test you may potentially struggle with. 

The American Dental Association offers individual modules or a full practice DAT test online. Don’t go into the test thinking, “well, it doesn’t matter how I do because I can just retake the test.” 

While it is true that you can retake the DAT, this should be a last resort. Preparing and taking the test multiple times is time-consuming and stressful. Not to mention, it costs money too! 

With thorough DAT preparation, you can go in ready with the mindset of passing on your first try.  Try your hand at our free mini-practice DAT test to see if you can answer five sample questions correctly!

7. Practice Time Management

hourglass with red sand

Along with practicing DAT questions, you’ll need to practice your time management to ensure you answer as many questions as possible within the limited exam period. Take as many timed tests as you can to enhance your DAT timing skills. 

8. Simulate Test Conditions

notebook with grid lines

Aside from completing practice tests under the same time restraints you’ll be in on exam day, you should simulate all test conditions and the environment. Do your practice tests in a private, quiet place. 

Take the same breaks you’d be allowed to on test day, leave your phone elsewhere, and only use the materials you’ll be given the day of the test (at least 2 double-sided sheets of grid paper and a permanent marker). This will ensure you feel comfortable under the test conditions and your nerves don’t get the best of you on the big day.

9. Seek Guidance 

Female tutor smiling

If you still feel unprepared or simply want expert guidance to streamline your studies, seek the guidance of 99th percentile DAT tutors who know how to improve your score with maximum success and minimal stress!

How Long Should You Study for the DAT?

So, how long should you study for the DAT? Overall, aim to study for at least 300 hours for the test. 

Two months should be a sufficient amount of time to study for the DAT if you spend enough time per week studying. To reach about 300 hours of prep in two months, you would need to dedicate around 35 to 40 hours a week. 

If you have a busy schedule, consider beginning to study about three months before your test.

When Should You Take the DAT?

The American Dental Association recommends that students schedule their DAT exam during the summer between their junior and senior year.

The ADA also suggests submitting your application 60 to 90 days before you are planning to take the exam. 

FAQs: How To Study for the DAT

We answer some of your frequently asked questions about studying for the DAT below. 

1. How Do I Study Effectively for the DAT?

Follow our list of tips to make the most of your study time!

There are many ways to study. Some people may find studying independently at their own pace more effective, some may find one-on-one tutoring sessions most helpful, while others may find studying with a friend keeps them focused. 

2. Is One Month Enough Time To Study for the DAT?

It is generally recommended that you study for at least three months in preparation for the DAT, so a month's study time is not recommended. 

The DAT is a pretty tough test and requires a lot of studying and prep. You should not give yourself any less than two months to study. 

However, you can technically study for the DAT in a month. However, the time crunch will mean you will have to dedicate a lot of hours daily to study time. 

The best way to best prepare yourself for the test is to begin preparing earlier. 

3. Is the DAT Exam Hard?

The short answer is, yes, the DAT is known for being a difficult test. 

However, if you follow a study plan and give yourself enough preparation time, you have nothing to worry about. 

4. When Should I Start Preparing for the DAT?

You should start preparing for the DAT at least two months before you intend to write the test. However, you should begin to prepare for the test just over a year before you want to start dental school. This prep includes registering for the test, which you should do as early as possible. 

Keep college application timelines in mind as well as you plan and prepare for the DAT. 

5. How to Find People to Study With for the DAT?

To find study partners for the DAT, consider the following avenues:

  • Your college: Colleges often have pre-dental associations, Facebook groups, or other forums where aspiring dentists can connect.
  • Online forums: Do a quick Google search to find online DAT study groups you can join through social media or Reddit.
  • Your prep courses: If you’re completing a DAT prep course, there may be a virtual space to converse with other course-takers. You can suggest creating a study group or see if any of your peers are already in one!

6. Are There Any Tips For Maintaining Focus And Reducing Stress During The Exam?

The biggest tip to maintain focus is to establish a DAT study schedule that aligns with your commitments. Knowing what you should be doing each day and what you’re aiming toward can keep you on the right track. 

Additionally, keeping a record of all of your scores to see just how much you’re progressing can be a major source of motivation. 

Furthermore, you should complete as many practice tests under test conditions as you can to reduce your stress. This way, being in this type of environment will not feel unfamiliar to you on test day.

7. What Should I Do If I Encounter Challenges With Specific Subjects, Such As Biology or Chemistry?

If you find you’re struggling with a particular section or subject of the DAT, dedicate more time to addressing these weaknesses. Look into prep books that focus on these subjects and prioritize practice in them. 

Create your own practice tests that consist of questions from these subjects and rigorously review your performance to identify and rectify mistakes. Additionally, consider seeking guidance from experts well-versed in mastering every facet of the DAT!

Final Thoughts

Studying for the DAT can be stressful. But remember, you are not starting from scratch. Your undergraduate courses and assignments have been preparing you with the knowledge and skills you need to be successful. 

You also have tried and true tips on how to study for the DAT that you can rely on now! By creating a productive study schedule, beginning your prep early, making sure to practice self-care, and getting proper sleep, you will be able to tackle the DAT. 

Good luck!

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