How Hard Is The DAT Exam? Preparation Tips & Guidelines

If becoming a dentist is your goal, you’ve probably heard of the Dental Admission Test or DAT. You may wonder what the DAT is if you’re a foreign student. The DAT is an entrance exam made up of multiple-choice questions necessary for enrollment in dentistry schools in the United States.

A candidate’s knowledge of biology, general chemistry, and organic chemistry as they relate to the study of dentistry is mainly assessed on the DAT college admissions exam.

How Tough Is The Dat Exam?

Due to the importance of dentistry in the US, admissions to dental schools for graduates are competitive. Your capacity to pass the examination will depend on your scientific understanding and, as with all graduate school exams, how well you understand the English language, mainly if you are an international graduate student. For better study, DAT exam prep books are available everywhere including online sites.

DAT Exam Structure


Knowing what to plan before the DAT can help you prepare for the significant work that goes into any exam. You must pay $510 in non-refundable exam fees each time you take the DAT. Before special permission is required to retake the test, it can be taken three times without issue. There is a 90-day waiting period before you can retake an exam after taking it. Scores will all be recorded; none will be removed. The year prior, many graduates who want to apply to dentistry graduate programs have accepted the DAT. Results from the DAT are still valid after two years.

The Dat Has How Many Sections? The Dat Consists Of How Many Questions?

The DAT is divided into four components:

  1. A 90-minute natural sciences examination with 40 questions on biology, 30 on general chemistry, and 30 on organic chemistry.
  1. A 60-minute perceptual ability (PAT) test consisted of six sets of problems involving the manipulation of three dimensions and spatial reasoning.
  1. A 60-minute reading comprehension test included inquiries about the topics covered in three academic articles. (If international students are worried about their ability to comprehend English, they may need to devote more study time to this subject.)
  1. A 45-minute part on quantitative reasoning includes SAT-style math problems in algebra, fractions, roots, and trigonometry.

How Long Is The DAT Exam? When Can we Expect to See Results?

The DAT lasts for four hours and thirty minutes in total. Results for the DAT are immediately available because it is a computer-based admission examination.

How Is The Score Calculated?


Eight standard scores, ranging from 1 to 30, are given to DAT test takers:

Perceptual ability, reading comprehension, quantitative reasoning, biology, general chemistry, and organic chemistry test results are used to determine the first six scores.

The final two scores provide a summary of the first six. Your Academic Average (the average of your reading comprehension, biology, general chemistry, and organic chemistry scores) and your Total Science score is represented by those two figures (based on the biology, general chemistry, and organic chemistry questions).

On the DAT, each correctly answered question yields one point, adding up to a total score that will be scaled. Since there is no punishment for giving an incorrect response, it is wise never to leave any questions unanswered (even if time is running out). A perfect score is 22 or higher. 17 is the typical DAT score.

How Can You Prepare For The DAT?

Exam preparation can be challenging, especially for a computer-based controlled exam like the DAT. Numerous test takers are subjected to last-minute memorization, but that isn’t a great strategy for longer, more difficult exams (and also rarely results in long-term learning, meaning that you’ll have to start over for the next test while in dental school) because it rarely leads to long-term knowledge.

Understanding the vast amount of material necessary to pass the DAT can be challenging. Still, with careful preparation and systematic study, you can tackle each part one at a time and finally review what you need to know for Test Day.

Time Management


You may spend more or less time studying each week depending on your schedule and the test date, but most sources suggest devoting 200–250 hours before taking the actual DAT. Try searching for at least three hours per day, five days per week, for three months to make this easier (13 weeks). This is but one approach, though. Although you should avoid studying every day because you need breaks, you could learn for longer than three hours or six days a week. Less weekly learning time may help you retain information longer. Or you might find that you need more or fewer hours based on your performance and goal scores.

Study Durations

Schedule brief, frequent sessions throughout the week to maximize your productivity. Studying for an hour every day for six days a week is significantly more beneficial for learning than looking for six hours at once on one day a week. Spreading out your study time gives your brain time to absorb new information. Reviewing the material more than once over a more extended period makes it easier and faster to recall it on test day.

Three hours is the perfect amount of time to study since it gives you enough time to prepare for the five-hour test day without overloading you with the material. A 10-minute break should also be scheduled every hour during those three blocks of time. Take advantage of these breaks to get up from your seat, stretch briefly, get a snack and a drink, and relax. Although 10 minutes of break for every 50 minutes of studying may seem excessive, these breaks will help you deal with distractions and give your brain a rest so that you can concentrate fully for the entire 50 minutes. More frequent breaks, however, can be harmful because, according to research, someone typically takes 10 minutes to engage in a mentally taxing activity completely. If you take a break from studying every ten minutes to check your email or social media, chat with your roommates, or grab another snack, you will never be absorbed and will not be making the most of your time.

Space out your studying and take a long break in the middle if you want to study for longer than three hours on a single day. For instance, you might spend three hours studying in the morning, two hours eating lunch with friends, and then two more hours studying in the afternoon.

Shorter periods can also be adequate if you cannot learn for the whole three hours at once, but you’ll profit from your study most if you devote at least one hour to it uninterrupted. Use flashcards or other fast references in place of short practice sessions when you have a few minutes to spare.

One Full Day Break


But remember that occasionally relaxing can be just as essential as learning. Take breaks throughout the week just as you should during study sessions. Take at least one full day off each week, preferably from all your professional responsibilities but, at the very least, from DAT preparation. By taking this time, you may refresh your mind, and whatever enjoyable or peaceful activities you schedule for those days will give you something to look forward to the rest of the week.


DAT exam is challenging, but with correct preparation and dedication, nothing is impossible. Whatever your strategy, ensure you practice enough to feel entirely comfortable with the DAT and its subject matter. When you consistently achieve your target score during practice, that’s a solid indication that you’re prepared for test day.