Saturday, January 22, 2011

How to Study for the DAT

I’m finally done with the DAT after 28 days of the grind (well, technically 25 days because I was out with the flu for 3 days). I spent my winter vacation studying from 9am – midnight with a few intermittent breaks. I’m relatively happy with my score although I feel like I could have done better in a few categories. I’ll give a breakdown of my DAT here.


The amount of time it takes to study for the DAT varies drastically. It's a culmination of various different factors including dedication, perseverance, focus, how much of the basic sciences one actually remembers, how quickly one can grasp the nuances of the PAT, and personal preference. Many of the dental students I talked to prior to my DAT studied for three months or so. I decided to give myself three weeks to prepare.

When I tell people that I studied for the DAT in 28 days, most people give me a look that's a mixture of shock/awe/disbelief/WTH. It's not that I'm a super genius when it comes to standardized testing. Far from it. It's just that the 28 days that constituted my winter vacation was the only time that I had to study for the DAT. I didn't heed my own advice. Instead of taking the DAT the summer after my sophomore year, I traveled to Arizona, San Francisco, New York, Toronto, and Ottawa. I don't regret frolicking across North America from June to August (it was tres fun!) but I still stand by my belief that the summer after sophomore year is the best time to study for and take the DAT.

The DAT is a particularly grisly test. No matter how much you study, you'll never feel completely prepared. There's always some obscure biological fact that you could have memorized, right? My philosophy was to put in my best effort, cover my bases on all the important materials, be approximately 85% prepared, and pray for the best. Rather than stressing out before the test, remember - GIVE DAT STUDYING AN HONEST EFFORT and if that score is a bust, you can always try again!

To Kaplan or Not to Kaplan

Many people swear by the Kaplan DAT course. I swear that it's a big waste of money.

I took one look at the blue book they used with Kaplan and saw that the science sections lacked detail, the PAT sections were much too easy, the practice tests were a lot simpler than the actual DAT, and that the course costs over $1,000. The only good that comes out of Kaplan is that it forces the unmotivated to adhere to a study schedule.

But to shell out $1,000 for a study schedule? No, thank you!

If I can find my study schedule (which Mediafire so nicely deleted), I shall post it here.

*** EDIT: I have finally located a copy of my DAT Study Schedule, saved as a PDF document ***

Otherwise, here is my review of each section of the DAT and my recommended study materials:

Biology ( 1.DAT Destroyer, 2.Cliffnotes AP Biology, 3.Campbell Biology textbook, 4.ExamKracker Biology)

The biology section, like I’ve been warned many times in the past, is random. This is one of the sections that I studied the least for because I figured there will never be enough time to learn everything that could possibly be on the biology section. My lack of preparation was quite evident in my score. Thinking back on the biology section, there seemed to be less of a focus on human biology and more of a focus on other random stuff (i.e. evolution, plants, phylogeny, Punnet squares, ecology). If I could redo the biology section, I still wouldn't know how to properly study for this section.

Chemistry (1.Chad's Video, 2. DAT Destroyer, 3.ExamKracker Chemistry)

The chemistry section is relatively basic – a lot of conceptual questions and some simple calculations. It's a lot easier than any practice test that you will take leading up to the DAT. The best part about the calculations in this section is that you didn’t actually have to work out the math. DAT Destroyer is very good preparation for chemistry – I simply wished that I had an extra week or two to go over the problems in destroyer a second time. Even though the section was basic, I didn’t feel like I did extremely well so I was pleasantly surprised by my score.

Organic Chemistry (1.Chad's Video, 2.DAT Destroyer, 3.ExamKracker Organic Chemistry)

DAT Destroyer Organic Chemistry Road Map
This section was nothing like I expected. There were very few synthesis questions (to think I spent so much time memorizing the DAT Destroyer road map), no question on carbohydrates, a few questions about stereocenters and isomers, a simple Diels-Alder, a question on Crossed-Aldol (damn I got this one wrong…), questions about SN1/SN2/E1/E2, a question on proton NMR, a question on carbon NMR, and a really really random IR spectroscopy that did not involve a carbonyl group or a -OH group. Definitely could have gone over DAT Destroyer a few more times.

PAT (1.Crack DAT PAT 2.Kaplan PAT Questions if you need a confidence booster)

  • Keyholes: the keyholes section definitely easier than Crack DAT PAT – I felt like the correct answer choices were pretty obvious.

  • Top-Front-End: this section was harder than Crack DAT PAT – it was so hard and taking me so much time that I had to mark the last 5 questions and move on to Angle Ranking for fear of running out of time.

  • Angle Ranking: as difficult as Crack DAT PAT – I think angle ranking is going to be the death of me. I have no good strategy for this section and I never seem to do well at it. Despite attempting to utilize the hill/laptop method, my score in this section is still based on luck.

  • Hole-Punching: really straight-forward/easy folds and hole punches. However, hole-punching also happens to be my absolute favorite section on the PAT.

  • Cube Counting: much easier than Crack DAT PAT – plus, there are no illusions.

  • Pattern Folding: this section was not impossible but it took a long time – it’s also one of the sections that I dislike. I would say that it is on par with the difficulty of Crack DAT PAT.

Reading Comprehension (1.Student Doctor Network, 2.Crack DAT Reading)

First off, I would NOT suggest Crack DAT Reading. The passages in the program are way too short and are not scientific in nature. The passages on the actual DAT are long and generally science based. Instead, I spent a week on Student Doctor Network researching potential reading comprehension passages. I stumbled upon posts about the infamous “Piano” passage - which seemed to be the bane of most test taker's existence - and I thought, “easy, I’ll just research how a piano works before my DAT in case I get the piano passage”.

Lo and behold, I got the piano passage on the DAT. The passage wasn’t that bad since I had already researched how a piano works prior to the test. I finished the reading comprehension section with 15 minutes to spare and I truly thought I did very well on the section. I was surprised that I only ended up with a 21. Oh well…

Quantitative Reasoning (1.Math Destroyer, 2.DAT Destroyer)

This section was an utter nightmare. I had 45 seconds left of the test and 7 unanswered questions. I basically put down “C” for the last 7 questions of the test. I honestly believed I would fail the math section (i.e. get a 13 or something) and I was trying to calm myself down by saying “it’s okay, just take it again next time and you’ll be more prepared”. I was so relieved when I saw that I got a “19″ on the section – it’s not a good score but it’s not failing either. If I had to do it over again, I would give myself enough time to finish Math Destroyer. I only had time to finish 5 of the 11 tests in Math Destroyer when I took my DAT.

This section still irks me because I knew that if I had timed myself better, I could have done a lot better. I mean, I was scoring 22′s on the math section in DAT Achiever.

Practice Tests

  • 22/21/20/22/23/25/22/23/22/25
Crack DAT Reading
  • 18/20/20/-/-/-/-/-/-/23/19
  • Exam: [AA/TS/Bio/GC/OC/PAT/QR/RC]
  • (1):      [20/18/18 /18 /18 / 21  / 22 /22]
  • (2):      [21/19/19 /18 /20 / 22 / 23 /23 ]
  • (3):      [21/19/18/19 /20 / 21 / 26 / 22 ]


I wrote this post to summarize my thoughts about the DAT, which a lot of pre-dents have been asking me about. Hopefully someone out there will find this post useful in their DAT preparations. And I wish those taking their DATs the best of luck!


  1. Thanks for the advices Stephanie! I'm planning to take the DAT soon; this post really help me! - Matt

  2. Ah! Just found this! I'm taking the DAT tomorrow. I hope I get scores like yours because our practice tests scores seem so similar. Although, I know it is a lot about the luck of the draw. I'm just hoping to go into it confident! Thanks for the uplifting post!

  3. Hi Stephanie,
    Great DAT Breakdown and great work on the DAT!! With your consent I would love to include your breakdown on the blog I maintain about studying for the DAT at :


  4. Great schedule! I think I'll use it as an outline for my own schedule. I have some questions though. Basically, I bought the DAT Destroyer and Math Destroyer, I have the blue Kaplan DAT Review Notes, and I bought all the Crack DAT programs (I know, the sciences are probably useless). I'm taking it in October, so I don't know if I should buy more materials. Can I have some input please!

    1. Hey Eric!
      Those are all of the materials that I used to prep for the DAT and I felt that it was sufficient. Instead of buying a lot of extra books, you should focus on making sure you understand all the material in the books that you already have. DAT Destroyer is a very dense book - make sure you go through it at least twice before your DAT (go over it three times if you have extra time!).

    2. Thanks Stephanie! I'll be sure to go through all of DAT Destroyer multiple times. I also want to know if there is an easier way to learn GenChem, OChem, and biology. The blue Kaplan book is a bit dry. Are Chad's Videos really best way to get through the chemistry and biology?

  5. Would you recommend taking a math course prior to taking the DAT? I am trying to find out what the math section is like (I hear there is no need for a calculator) so that I can refresh my memory.

  6. How did you make your schedule? Was it through excel?

  7. Was all this preparation done after you received your bachelors degree?

  8. How many of your science classes did you have completed after your sophomore year?

  9. Was all this preparation done after you received your bachelors degree?

  10. Could you share what you scored on a pre-studying diagnostic DAT practice test?

  11. Where can I locate your study outline?