PRE-DENTAL STUDENTS: HOW TO CONQUER THE DAT
Every graduate school for professional health careers require that you take an exam to prove that you belong at their school. While these exams are not reflective of your worth, your talents, your abilities, or your efforts, they are a necessary evil. Thus, it is your duty as a pre-dental student to learn how to perform on this exam, and get yourself into the dental school of your dreams. As a pre-dental student who has taken the horrifying Dental Admissions Exam (DAT) and scored in the 99th percentile. I have given you my full, and detailed experience of studying and conquering this exam. Please take this breakdown with a grain of salt, as not all study programs or study methods do not work with everybody. However, this is what worked for me, and has worked for a lot of students that I reviewed before studying for my exam. ENJOY!
The DAT includes 6 sections: Biology, General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Perceptual Ability Test (PAT), Reading Comprehension, and Quantitative Reasoning. Each section receives a score from 1-30. The five subjects (biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, reading comprehension, and quantitative reasoning) are averaged to determine the Academic Average (AA). The AA is the main statistic used by dental admissions committees. The PAT score is on its own. The DAT is a 4.5 hour long exam. Thus, it is a marathon, not a sprint and you must study and practice to conquer it.
Time Spent Studying:
~70 days for ~8-10 hours per day
The first four weeks were simultaneous Kaplan In-Course Class and DAT BootCamp 10 week schedule studying. Once my Kaplan classes ended, it was strictly DAT BootCamp for the next six weeks. Here is a universal last week of studying that could apply to any study schedule:
Day 1, 2, & 3 study/review ALL AND EVERY note you take, Day 4 2007 ADA DAT, Day 5 2009 ADA DAT, Day 6 casual review and mental preparation day to GET YOURSELF PUMPED, Day 7 TEST DAY.
I went through two of the most popular programs for DAT Prep: Kaplan DAT Prep Course and DAT BootCamp Ari’s study schedule. Some may not have the financial luxury to afford both. I had that flexibility, and I told myself I would do EVERYTHING I could to take this test ONCE.
-Specific study materials in no particular order:
1. DAT BootCamp – Ari’s 10-week study schedule & Tests
2. DAT Destroyer
3. DAT Math Destroyer
4. Kaplan In-Class Course
5. Kaplan DAT Review Book
6. Kaplan DAT Lesson Book
7. Kaplan DAT Notecards (Biology, Chemistry, Organic Chemistry)
8. Cliff’s AP Biology Pdf (Made available by DAT Bootcamp)
9. Chad’s Videos (Ochem, Gchem, QR)
10. Ferali’s Notes
Review of study materials:
DAT BootCamp – Ari’s 10-week study schedule
- I genuinely think that this is the best DAT prep schedule available. I LOVED that it told me exactly what to do – what to read, how many problems to practice, which tests to take, etc. - every single day for 10-weeks. The schedule requires you to buy and practice with what I believe are the best DAT practice materials available as well (which will be further explained below). This 10-week schedule if followed religiously, will almost ensure an above average score. Also, if the way the schedule is structured is not possible for your circumstances (i.e. work schedule, you don’t learn this way, etc), you have the flexibility to move slower, faster, and in incorporate different materials/move in a different direction if needed. DO YOURSELF A FAVOR AND USE THIS.
- The tests for all sections (Biology, General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Reading Comprehension, Quantitative Reasoning ,PAT) are HIGHLY representative of what you will see on the REAL DAT. Of course, it cannot cover everything the DAT could throw at you, but the format in which the questions are presented and the depth of material included in DAT BootCamp tests is so close to the real DAT, that you will feel like it is just another Bootcamp test on test day.
- The PAT practice on DAT BootCamp is likely the best prep material for this section. It mirrors the real DAT in difficulty – (could be slightly easier on the real DAT but I doubt any harder). This is a skill based section, and the only way to master a skill is through constant practice and repetition. Practice at least a little bit EVERYDAY (I did not, hence my average score), but you do have all the tools to be successful.
- SO HARD. SO DISCOURAGING. BUT SO WORTH IT.
- Whenever I read about someone who says that DAT destroyer is overkill, I think “so? you will never regret studying too much, as much as you will regret studying too little.” This is a test for your DREAM CAREER, why wouldn’t you want to overkill?
- Speaking on behalf of the General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, and Biology Problems: Do every problem in the book TWICE as directed in Ari’s study schedule. When you’re getting so many problems wrong, you will learn so much and you won’t even know it, trust me.
DAT Math Destroyer
- I’ll say it again. SO HARD. SO DISCOURAGING. BUT SO WORTH IT.
- This book presents nearly every TYPE of QR problem that you will encounter on the real DAT. If you know how to do each TYPE of problem in this book, you will do fine on the QR section.
- HOWEVER, each individual practice test in this book is likely, harder than a set of QR questions you would see on the real DAT. For example, each DAT destroyer practice test includes maybe 15-20 “hard” questions and the other 20 are average difficulty (easy-medium). In my opinion, on the real DAT you might get 5-10 “hard” questions and the other 30 are in the easy-medium (mostly medium) range, but the content is the same.
- Math destroyer will for sure, help you with timing and efficiency which is INCREDIBLY important ESPECIALLY for QR.
Kaplan In-Class Course
- I took this course concurrently while following the DAT BootCamp schedule. And after hearing all of the negative/neutral reviews for Kaplan, I made DAT BootCamp my first priority. Therefore, I never did any of the pre-class, post-class work assigned from Kaplan. Simply did not have time.
- However, when attending class, I recognized that nearly all of the points that were taught in the classroom setting, matched with what I had watched or read in Chad’s or Cliff’s AP Bio book. Therefore, I was almost getting a double reinforcement of the material. This may have contributed to my long-term memory and comprehension of the material simply because of the exposure. But it is hard to tell.
- I believe the full-length tests of this course were overly difficult. I would have still taken them, because practice is practice, but I just did not have time. I took 3/5 full-lengths
- Overall, I think there were few mnemonics, tricks, and tips that I would not have gotten somewhere else, but I do not explicitly remember anything from Kaplan that directly helped on a question on the real DAT.
Kaplan DAT Review Book
- I could have used this book much more, but I do not think it was necessary.
- The Anatomy and Physiology sections (The hardest topics of the bio section) in this book, are superior to Cliff’s AP Bio Anatomy and Physiology sections.
- I did read all of Cliff’s, but I also read the Anatomy and Physiology (i.e. Circulatory system, excretory system, etc.) in this book as a better reinforcement of the material.
- Did not touch anything else
Kaplan DAT Lesson Book
- This is the book that is used in class, and it is basically a workbook during class lecture.
- I did not touch this book outside of the classroom.
- It definitely hits the highest yield questions of each section for the sciences, but too basic of material to get you an above average score.
- There was reading comprehension practice that was done in class from this book. I think this was helpful for early exposure to the Reading comprehension section because in DAT BootCamp you do not touch Reading comprehension until the very end.
Kaplan DAT Notecards (Bio, Gchem, Ochem)
- I only took advantage of the Biology notecards, and did not touch the Gchem, and Ochem notecards.
- I think these notecards were very useful for mobile reviewing. I brought these in the car, to restaurants, etc.
- Rather than just killing time, every chance I had I at least read a couple notecards. Review is review. simple as that.
- However, I would also recommend making your own notecard set which I talk about in my TIPS/REGRETS/THINGS I WOULD DO DIFFERENTLY section of this breakdown.
Cliff’s AP Bio Book
- This is the biology book used in Ari’s study schedule and I think it is great in exposing you to all of the topics/information that could be asked on the real DAT.
- Very general and concise, which is exactly what you want when reviewing for biology.
- However, I would not rely on this book beyond what is prescribed on the DAT Bootcamp schedule. You want to keep exposing yourself to new/unknown bio material after understanding the concepts in this book. Read my TIPS/REGRETS/THINGS I WOULD DO DIFFERENTLY section to see what to do after Cliff’s.
Chad’s Videos (Organic Chemistry, General Chemistry, Quantitative Reasoning)
- The only source of CONTENT review that you need for organic chemistry, general chemistry, and quantitative reasoning. You need better PRACTICE in these sections than what chad’s provides, and you get that with DAT Destroyer.
- Organic Chemistry Videos: GREAT. His reaction packet and all of the lessons included in his o-chem videos cover all of the CONTENT that you should learn for the o-chem section of the DAT. DAT Destroyer Organic Chemistry is a MUST in order to be proficient in answering questions.
- General Chemistry Videos: GREAT. All of the lessons and material included in his general chemistry videos cover all of the CONTENT that you should learn for the general chemistry section of the DAT. DAT Destroyer General Chemistry is a MUST in order to be proficient in answering questions
- Quantitative Reasoning Videos: OK. Nothing exceptional, but worth a run through at least once to cover all your bases. Practice with Math Destroyer.
- BIGGEST REGRET. I DID NOT TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THIS EARLY ENOUGH IN THE STUDY PROCESS.
- Biology is the hardest section to prepare for simply because of the depth/amount of questions that could be asked.
- Ferali’s notes is so comprehensive, and while it may be an excruciating experience to read, you won’t regret it when you remember a tiny detail that helps you get a bio question right.
TIPS/REGRETS/THINGS I WOULD DO DIFFERENTLY:
1. MY MOST IMPORTANT TIP:
**DO NOT FREAK OUT ABOUT PRACTICE SCORES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!** Trust me, I was so stressed that I could never reach my goal on my practice exams, and especially on the 2007 and 2009 DAT, which are supposed to highly resemble your score. People say that you should be scoring above and below your goal in order to expect that score – not necessarily. From my experience, once you are getting 22 and above in a section, there is no way to accurately predict your score. The scoring curve is so drastic at this point that one question could bring you from a 30 to a 25, 25 to 24, 24 to 23, and so on. As unfair as it sounds, I believe once you are averaging 22+, it really comes down to luck on the day of the test – you can get a version of the test that hits of your strengths and luckily score a 25 like I did, or you can get a version of the test that hits a bit too many of your weaknesses and score lower than what you have been getting on practice tests.
2. While Ari’s is a 10-week schedule, give yourself more like 11 weeks. Incorporate maybe a 5-8 days extra to compensate for falling behind and unexpected interruptions. This also gives you extra days after finishing BootCamp to exhaust ALL your resources. For me, I went over EVERY SINGLE ONE of my notes, took more practice tests that I got from Kaplan, friends, etc., and after all of that, I could ask myself “is there even anything more I could do?” This is good for your confidence, and it will let you know if you’re ready to take the test.
3. Adjustments to Ari’s Schedule that I wish I did/would suggest:
Go through all of Chad’s videos, and don’t worry too much about reviewing the notes you took. This is just for exposure, and practice is more important. If you finish one day of Chad’s videos and have extra time, start on a couple more. Don’t end the day until you are just too tired.
Try to get to DAT Destroyer practice as soon as possible. As you get problems wrong in DAT Destroyer, you will eventually be looking back on your notes to understand why and thus be reviewing (more effectively) that way. Also, the extra days I suggest give you time to review these once more right before the test.
BE CAREFUL with rest days. I started taking complete rest days every Sunday just like BootCamp has scheduled. I regretted not reviewing my notes on these days. They don’t have to be intense review/study days, but at least some light review. Some days you really just need a total break and that’s ok. I took some, but keep pushing as hard as you can otherwise!
**DON’T WORRY ABOUT HOW MANY YOU’RE GETTING WRONG ON DAT DESTROYER, SERIOUSLY. I was getting <45% correct on my first run through the book, and MAYBE 65% on the second run through. USE DAT AS A LEARNING TOOL, NOT A SCORE PREDICTOR, AND YOU WILL GET THE MOST OUT OF IT.
On the second run through of DAT Destroyer, make a notecard for EVERY single problem you got wrong again, or luckily guessed right. This includes new formulas for gen-chem, new reactions for o-chem, new facts for bio, that you have never seen before. This way, you wont have to go through the entire DAT Destroyer a third time, which may not be worth it, but you can review the hardest problems for a third time. (Go through it a third time if you have time)
Do DAT Biology destroyer twice. Ari’s schedule incorporates it only once, but do 50 problems per day instead of the suggested amount on the schedule. The second time should be pretty quick. On the second attempt, only review what you get wrong, and make notecards.
Once you finish reading through Cliff’s AP Bio book, Ari doesn’t have much biology review explicitly labeled in the schedule. Don’t leave off biology like I did. READ AT LEAST A LITTLE BIT OF FERALI’S NOTES EVERYDAY. I would say you should have read through Ferali’s fully 2-3 times by the end of studying.
DAT DESTROYER ORGANIC CHEMISTRY REACTION ROAD MAPS: this is a GREAT way of reviewing a few days before the test to see if you can recognize the o-chem reactions. Reviewing Chad’s reaction packet is good too.
If you were able to incorporate the extra 5-8 days into the schedule, do a HARD biology review these days. Short term memory will be your best friend for the biology section and there’s not much more to it.
4. GENUINELY GIVE IT YOUR ALL WHEN STUDYING. Don’t just go through the motions or just skim through the readings. ACTIVELY read and review the material. UNDERSTAND what you’re reading and why you are getting problems wrong. TEST yourself afterwards.
5. BE CONFIDENT!!!!! (Ok this might be my most important tip) Attitude is absolutely vital on the day of the test. A lack of confidence can mess with your mind, and interfere with your ability to get questions right. You’ll be thinking about how bad you’re going to do instead of recalling the information that you just spent 11 weeks learning. It can REALLY mess you up, and you only have one chance at this (ok, you COULD re-take it in 90 days, but approach it with the mindset as if this is your only shot) After almost three months of studying, have the faith and confidence in yourself to say “I gave it my all these past 11 weeks, and all I can do now is give it my all one more time.” If you’ve genuinely given it your VERY BEST, despite what the score says, what more could you ask of yourself?
This exam is a simple matter of putting the work in. Now go put your whole heart and soul into studying for this test, and you will not have any regrets once it’s over!