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What Is The DAT? Everything You Need To Know

October 18, 2022
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What Is The DAT?What Is On The DAT? Sections BreakdownHow Is The DAT Scored?How Long Is The DAT?How Much Does The DAT Cost?How To Register For The DATFAQs: DAT Exam


Reviewed by:

Rohan Jotwani

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

Reviewed: 5/13/22

If you’re an aspiring dentist, you’ve likely already heard of the DAT, or will soon. To learn more about what the DAT is, what’s on it, and how to register for it, read on. 

One of the most important parts of your dental school application is the DAT exam. All dental schools require the DAT and often weigh DAT scores heavily in their admission decisions.

This guide will go into further detail about everything there is to know about this critical dental school exam to make sure you’re prepared!

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What Is The DAT?

To begin with the basics, what is the DAT?

The Dental Admission Test (DAT) is a multiple-choice standardized exam required by all Canadian and U.S. dental school applicants. It is used to assess a candidate’s potential to succeed in dental school and the field of dentistry in general.

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What Is On The DAT? Sections Breakdown

You’ll want to score high on your DAT in order to be considered a competitive candidate. To increase your chances of scoring high, it’s essential you understand what is on the DAT, so you can create the best study schedule. There are four main sections you’ll see on the DAT:

Survey Of The Natural Sciences

There will be 100 questions in this section divided into several subsections:


Out of these 100 questions, 40 will be focused the following biology topics:

General Chemistry

Each DAT exam has 30 general chemistry questions on the following content:

Organic Chemistry

This final subsection has 30 questions and is often regarded as the most difficult content to study. It covers the following:

Perceptual Ability

The perceptual ability section of the DAT contains 90 questions. Unlike the other parts of this exam, your knowledge is not tested in this section. Instead, your spatial visualization skills are.

You’ll be expected to be able to look at 2D representations of 3D items and interpret them correctly. These questions tend to be the most challenging for students. You’ll see the following types of questions in this section:


Also known as keyhole questions, these scenarios require you to look at a 3D object and choose which 2D shape choice would allow the perfect passage of this object. So, you must determine which answer choice the 3D object could be pushed through without any difficulty. 

View Recognition

For these questions, you’ll be expected to figure out one of the missing viewpoints of a 3D object. You’ll be given two out of three views of a 3D object; the front, end, and/or top views will be provided. You’ll be asked to figure out what the missing view would look like accordingly. 

Angle Discrimination

You’ll be shown four angles and asked to order them from the smallest to largest interior angle. The angles will be shown in different directions with different side lengths to make these questions tricky. 

Paper Folding

You’ll be given a 2D representation of the paper and instructions on how it’s folded. In the final instruction, a hole punch will be shown on part of the paper. You must figure out where the hole punches would be if you unfolded the paper to its original form. 

Cube Counting

These DAT questions will give you a 3D representation of several cubes stuck together. You will then be asked to count how many cubes would have a specific number of exposed sides painted. 

In these questions, the bottom of the cubes and the sides touching other cubes cannot be painted because they are not exposed.

3D Form Development

The 3D form development questions will give you a 2D representation of a flat piece of paper with markings indicating where it would be folded to create a 3D object. You will have to choose the correct object that would be formed if you folded this paper. 

Reading Comprehension

The reading comprehension DAT section consists of 50 questions divided over three reading passages on scientific topics. However, students don’t need prior knowledge on these topics to complete these questions. You are meant to focus more on the arguments and evidence used to analyze the text.

Quantitative Reasoning

We hope you like math because you’ll be expected to answer 40 math questions on the DAT! These questions will cover:

Students will be given a basic four-function calculator on their computer screen to complete these questions.

How Is The DAT Scored?

The DAT is scored using a scale score, meaning you aren’t given the number of questions you answered correctly or your percentile ranking. Instead, you will be given a score in the range of 1 to 30 to reflect your overall performance.

How Long Is The DAT?

The actual DAT test is four hours and twenty-five minutes in total. However, the total administration time is five hours and fifteen minutes and is broken down as follows:

DAT time sections

This test schedule is important to keep in mind as you begin completing practice tests. You can recreate the test conditions you’ll be in on test day to reduce your test anxiety and feel comfortable with these time restraints!

How Much Does The DAT Cost?

To register and write the DAT, it’ll cost $510. This fee is non-refundable, so it’s essential you pick the perfect test date!

How To Register For The DAT

Now that you know what the DAT is and what’s on it, you might be wondering how to actually register for the exam. Registration is simple and can be done in a few easy steps:

Step 1: Request Your DENTPIN

The first step is to visit the American Dental Association (ADA) and create your DENTPIN. Your DENTPIN is a unique identifier that will be used throughout the application process.

Step 2: Sign Into Your ADA Account

Once you have created your DENTPIN, you can sign into your AMA account and begin the registration process. You will have to pay the $510 fee at this point.

Step 3: Wait For Eligibility Confirmation

Once you’ve paid your registration fee, you will get an email confirmation that you are actually eligible to write the DAT. You will receive an eligibility number that you will need for the next step.

Step 4: Pick Your Test Time And Location

Using Prometric, you will then pick your test location and time. Ensure you select “American Dental Association.”

Prometric figure 1
Source: Prometric

Once you’ve selected your state, you’ll have to specify that you want to apply for the Dental Admission Test, enter a city, postal code, or address closest to you, and pick your test centre and time. 

Prometric figure 2
Source: Prometric

You’ll then be asked to enter your eligibility number to complete your registration. After you confirm your details, you will be officially registered to write your DAT!

FAQs: DAT Exam

To recap, we’ve answered the general question “what is the DAT?” and provided additional details on everything you need to know to begin preparing for this exam. However, if you have any remaining questions, you can find your answers below!

1. How Hard Is The DAT Exam?

The DAT exam is often compared to the MCAT and is thus reasonably challenging. It covers a large amount of subject matter and tests a variety of skills.

2. What Is A Good Score On The DAT?

Since the average DAT score is 19, a good DAT score would be 20.

3. What Topics Are On The DAT?

You can expect to see biology, general chemistry, and organic chemistry content on the DAT.

4. How Many Times Can You Take The DAT?

You may take up to four tests per year, but must wait at least 60 days between each test. After the fifth attempt, you may only take the DAT once a year.

5. What Is The Hardest Part Of The DAT?

Most students find the perceptual ability test to be the hardest part of the DAT.

6. When Should I Take The DAT?

It’s recommended to take the DAT during your junior year of your pre-dental undergrad or the summer after it.

Final Thoughts

The successful completion of your DAT puts you one step closer to actualizing your dream of becoming a dentist. Regardless of how far you are from writing the exam, ensuring you have a good grasp of the exam format, material, and registration process will make your DAT experience as hassle-free as possible!

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