How to Ace the Dental Admission Test (DAT): 5 Tips for Success

Five tips for acing the standardized test required to get into dental school, from an expert admissions coach with years of experience in the field.

Cristina  P.

By Cristina P.

Posted November 29, 2023

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Any big exam can feel like a daunting task to study for, and the Dental Admission Test (DAT) is no different. I can remember the fear of the exam and the nightmares that continued even throughout dental school. The journey will be filled with highs and lows with a few moments of uncertainty and doubt mixed in. These are the five tips to ace the DAT that I tell every client they must do.

1. Create a realistic study plan

Having a study plan makes studying for the test more manageable but also helps keep you accountable. There is no one-size-fits-all in how to make a study plan - it will be unique to you. I highly suggest having a test date or at least an idea of when you will be taking the exam as this will inform the study plan.

For example, if you have about ten weeks to study for the exam, I would advise that you dedicate the first five weeks to reviewing the material for each section of the exam. The remaining five weeks should be set aside for taking full-length, timed practice tests and filling in your knowledge gaps with additional studying.

Understand that your study plan is a recommendation and best-case scenario, and may need to be altered. If circumstances change and you need to rearrange things, that's okay!

2. Practice the PAT everyday

I tell every client to spend at least 30 minutes a day on PAT practice questions. Ideally, I would split it into two 15-minute sessions, each focusing on a different subsection. I know this doesn’t sound like a lot, but the consistency of these sessions is what has helped my clients improve and significantly increase their scores.

Every dental school puts a lot of weight on your score. I didn't fully understand the real applications of the PAT until actually working full-time in the dental field. You learn to more greatly appreciate this section of the exam.

3. Active studying is key

Active studying is the key to what? Being able to retain and recall the necessary information during the exam. Watching videos and reading notes is great, but passive. Active studying is quizzing yourself or taking topic-related practice tests on the material to asses whether you genuinely understand the material or need further review. Incorporating a mixture of both methods is ideal and will allow for the most growth.

4. Leave time for friends and hobbies

Wanting to ace the DAT is often the sole focus of many applicants. Overstudying and burnout are real, and spending too much time solely concentrated on the test will expedite both. It's important to find downtime to rest and recharge, and this will look different for everyone!

For some, it may be a two-hour break to go to the gym, watch your favorite show, or spend the night with friends. It's important to tangibly schedule this time into your study plan. Also, I always suggest clients take 10-15-minute study breaks after an hour or two of studying, and at meals, to do something other than the DAT. This will actually lead to more productive and efficient studying.

5. Manage your Mindset

Having the right outlook or frame of mind throughout the exam process will help minimize the emotional rollercoaster you will no doubt go through. This exam is only one step of the application process and general process to becoming a dentist. A positive, but realistic, mindset will help you get through both. With consistent practice, anyone can achieve results.

During the test itself, it helps to maintain a level head and not be overstressed. There will always be questions that throw you off. Just pause, take a deep breath (or two!), and remind yourself that you are more prepared than you think.

No matter where you are on your DAT journey, I hope these strategies and advice make you feel more prepared to ace the exam! If you want to learn more about how to become a successful pre-dental candidate, I’m available for coaching and would love to help you get into your dream program. Book a FREE intro call on my profile here!

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