7 Tips for Taking the DAT

By Christine Ascher on November 19, 2017

Taking the Dental Admissions Test (DAT) is a big step, and it might seem like a daunting prospect to consider at first. If you want to go to dental school, your admissions test will make up a big portion of your application so it’s important to put in the time and effort to boost your score.

Fortunately, by preparing and studying hard, you’ll be well prepared for the day of the test. To avoid psyching yourself out, keep these tips in mind when you decide to take the test.

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1. Study early and make a schedule

The most important thing to keep in mind when you decide to take the DAT is to start preparing early. Admissions tests are never exams that you would want to cram for, so the earlier you start, the better. According to Kaplan Test Prep, you should spend approximately 200 to 250 hours total studying for the DAT. It’s a good idea to create a study schedule for yourself to help you determine how best to divide up that time.

It will help you stay on track if you have a plan for how many hours to study each day, so creating a plan is the best place to start. It will also make the studying process seem more manageable, so it should hopefully calm some of those pre-test nerves.

2. Take plenty of practice tests

For any admissions test, you’ll need to know exactly what you’re going into before test day actually comes around. For this reason, it’s important to take some practice tests on your own while you’re studying. Make sure you time yourself to practice completing each section in the time allotted, and try to mimic test conditions by giving yourself only the breaks that you’ll be allowed on test day.

You may even want to give yourself a diagnostic test before you start your studying, as this will allow you to assess your strengths and weaknesses to determine what you most need to focus on.

3. Focus on your weaknesses

Once you’ve taken a practice test and have seen where your strengths and weaknesses lay, determine how much time you’re going to devote to each section. The DAT contains four sections in total, which are divided into a Survey of Natural Sciences, Perceptual Ability, Reading Comprehension, and Quantitative Reasoning.

It’s likely that one of those sections will be your best and one will be your worst; while you don’t want to entirely neglect your best section, you should make sure that when you divide up your practice time, you devote some extra attention to your weakest areas. While it may be tempting to focus too much on your best section — after all, it feels good to get all of those answers right — you won’t be helping yourself nearly as much as if you spend extra time on your trouble areas.

4. Find a good study space

The ideal study space is different for everyone, so you should take some time to find the best situation for you. Avoid studying at home, as you’ll probably be more likely to lose focus when you’re in close proximity to your TV and other distractions.

Instead, find a spot outside the house where you feel productive and where distractions are minimal. This might mean heading to the quiet floor of the library or grabbing a table at your favorite coffee shop, depending on the level of noise you’re comfortable with while studying.

Once you find a good spot, try to make a routine of studying there — it’s good to stick with what works for you.

5. Space it out

Depending on when you start preparing for the DAT, you’ll need to determine how to space out your preparations. It’s best to space out your study schedule as much as possible, as you’ll retain much more by studying in smaller increments than by cramming.

A couple of hours per day is ideal, but if you need to do more than that to accomplish your goal for study hours by test day, make sure that you take short breaks every so often. This will help prevent your brain from being overloaded and will give you a chance to process what you’ve just been over before you move on.

6. Get used to taking tests on the computer

The Dental Admissions Test is offered only on computer, meaning that you should be comfortable taking a test on the computer rather than just on paper by the time you walk into the testing room. Take some practice tests on your computer so that you’re accustomed to this medium, and do as much preparation as you can using the computer and scratch paper, as these are the items you’ll have available to you on test day.

7. Block websites to minimize distractions

For most students today, the most intrusive distraction during study sessions tends to come in the form of social media. To avoid wasting time, you may want to consider temporarily deleting your social media accounts or installing an app that will restrict your access to certain websites while you’re studying.

That way, you won’t even have the option of getting distracted by Twitter or Instagram. Without your phone to distract you, you’ll be more motivated to stay focused and study during your allotted time.

By Christine Ascher

Uloop Writer
Hi! I'm Christine and I'm currently a senior at the University of Southern California, where I study English Literature, Economics, and French.

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