DAT Reading Comprehension Strategies for ESL Learners

Studying for exams is daunting no matter who you are, but especially for anyone who speaks English as a second language. You shouldn’t let being an ESL learner stop you from reaching your goal of becoming a dentist. However, you'll need to pass a Dental Admission Test first.

The test includes a reading section, which is a further challenge for ESL learners. However, there are a few useful ways to make this section much easier

Here are seven tips to help you do your very best in the DAT reading comprehension section as an ESL learner.

1. Practice Good Note Taking as You Read

Note taking is important for every exam, but particularly for the reading comprehension portion of the DAT exam. Taking notes while studying will help keep detailed information concise for those who speak English as a second language. They help you discover more about what questions could appear and make memorizing information much easier.

Writing out notes in your own words helps build your understanding of the study material. Good note-taking practices include: 

  • bullet points
  • diagrams
  • numbered lists
  • highlighting important information 

For other DAT reading comprehension tips, make sure to check out Orgomon.com. You’ll find lots of helpful resources to get you into study mode and give you the best chance of taking a successful DAT, even as an ESL learner.

2. Break Down Complex Words or Phrases

The DAT Reading Comprehension questions associated with each passage are designed to test your ability to read, comprehend, and analyze basic information in a scientific context . While this is important to know if you want to get a good DAT Exam Score, some of these words and phrases are particularly challenging for ESL learners.

Reading Comprehension. This sections contains three passages consisting of approximately 14 paragraphs. Each of the three DAT passages will be accompanied by 16–17 questions for a total of 50 questions per section. The questions associated with each passage are designed to test your ability to read, comprehend, and analyze basic information in a scientific context

The best way to tackle these words and phrases is to simply break them down. When you come across a sentence that you find difficult to understand, begin by highlighting the words you already know. These are the ones you don't have to stress about.

Next, highlight any words you haven't seen before. When you've done this, you can research what the word means online or find it in a textbook or dictionary. When you find the definition, read it through several times to ensure you understand it fully.

Now return to the full sentence that you weren't sure about. With your new knowledge of all the words in this sentence, it should be much easier to understand what it means. If you're still stuck, try breaking the meaning down into even simpler terms until it makes sense to you.

If you are studying with someone else or working with a teacher, they will also be able to help clarify anything confusing.

3. Work With a Tutor

Working with a tutor before the DAT Exam can help prepare you for any challenges you face during it. If you speak English as a second language, a tutor can offer simple explanations for difficult words or phrases. They will also work with you to improve your written communication during DAT reading comprehension practice.

If you decide to work with a tutor, it's best to find one who has dental knowledge or who has helped with the reading comprehension DAT section before. While no two tests will ever be the same, a tutor who has some knowledge of the DAT will help you prepare for the structure of the reading comprehension section.

Tutors can also help with practical elements of reading and writing, such as spelling, grammar, and sentence structure. Working with a tutor means you get real-time feedback on any problems you’re having and can easily ask for help if you need it. You'll have their undivided attention throughout your studies and they can even build specific lesson plans to offer you the best help possible.

Many tutors offer great rates that suit a student's budget. You can work with them to arrange how often you choose to meet and how long each study session lasts.

4. Maintain a Good Study Schedule

Making a study schedule is a good idea for anyone preparing for the exam, particularly those who are ESL learners. It will help you stay on top of everything you need to do and give you adequate time to work on areas you find difficult.

To build a good study schedule, follow the tips below:

Build it Around Your Work/School Schedule

If you have other commitments while you're studying for the DAT, you can build your study schedule around them. For example, if you work during the day, commit to studying for a few hours in the evening.

By making time for regular life while you study and take practice tests, you'll find it easier to prioritize what you need to do. Getting a calendar or diary and marking out days and times when you want to study will help you commit to your planned study times with ease. 

Take Regular Breaks

Your mind can only concentrate for about 45 minutes at a time before needing a break. So build your study schedule around this time. 

After 45 minutes are up, step away from your desk and computer. Grab a glass of water and try and get some fresh air. After a 15-minute break, come back to study again and briefly check what you can remember from the previous section. 

By studying in this way, you'll learn more efficiently and be less likely to experience study burnout. 

Make Each Study Section Focus on a New Topic

Unless you're in a time crunch, try and pick a new topic to study during each 45-minute section. Going over the same section, again and again, can make it repetitive and boring, and you might have trouble concentrating.

If there's a particular section you're struggling with a lot, try coming back to it the next day. You'll already have briefly looked at the material, and this will help you remember it when you come to try and learn it again. 

Don't Take on More Thank You Can Handle

Studying is difficult, especially when it's for a medical-related exam. Plus, if you're an ESL learner, reading long, technical passages could become frustrating. 

Make sure you are practicing good self-care while you study. Eat healthily, take regular breaks, and get enough sleep. Exercising daily can also make you more alert and will help release dopamine, which will help you to enjoy the study process more!

5. Skim the Study Material

DAT reading comprehension practice involves a great deal of focus and commitment, especially for ESL learners. One way to make things slightly easier is to first skim over the material before you sit down to learn it in detail.

Skimming over the material doesn't mean you don't take anything you read on board. It simply allows you to get an advanced idea of what the section will cover and what you should be prepared to learn.

Skimming the material will help you to pick out similar words in each section. It will also make it easier to find words you already know. 

6. Build Summaries for Each Section

When it comes to the reading comprehension DAT section, you'll likely have a lot to learn. If you're an ESL learner, making summaries for each study section can help you to memorize the most important details of everything you learn.

A good summary should only be about half a page long. It should cover what you've learned in each section, but only in brief detail to make it easier to remember.

Of course, a summary doesn't mean you don't have to learn much more information to do well on the DAT. However, it helps you focus on what you've learned, which is particularly useful if you're nervous about the exam. 

7. Take Your Learning Digital!

Sometimes the best way to learn new words, especially complex medical ones, is to hear them and have a spoken explanation. There are many online videos available that discuss dentistry terminology and medications that may appear in the DAT reading comprehension section.

Research a specific word and you'll likely find a video explaining what it is and how it may be used in a sentence. These videos might be long or short depending on what kind of definition they offer. If you need a more detailed explanation, ensure you watch a long video and take notes as you go.

Some people learn better through audio processing. Watching videos on particular words can also help improve your pronunciation. While this might not be necessary for the DAT, it will come in handy in your future career as a dentist.

You're Ready to Ace Your DAT Reading Comprehension

The DAT reading comprehension might seem daunting to those who speak English as a second language. But by giving yourself enough time to study and breaking difficult words down, you'll have no trouble acing the test.

Working with others in the same boat can also be very useful when you're studying. Never be afraid to ask for help if you're unsure about any words or phrases you come across. After all, it's better to learn and understand them now than after you become a qualified dentist!

For more DAT tips and tricks, contact our team here

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