Breaking Down Your DAT Score: What It Means and How to Improve

Are you wondering what exactly your DAT exam score means? Read here to break down your DAT score and find out what it means and how you can improve.
The Dental Admission Exam (DAT Exam) is a standardized test evaluating a student's academic preparedness for dental school. Administrators use the DAT score to judge a candidate's probable success.

Below we explain the DAT, including its format, content, and scoring system. This article also provides score-improving strategies for pre-dental students.

Want to boost your chances of dental school admission? Read on to learn all about the DAT and the best ways to ace it. 

DAT Exam Overview

All dental schools in the United States use DAT scores as part of their admission process. Available year-round and administered by the American Dental Association (ADA), the test fee is $535. Applicants may apply for a fee waiver based on financial hardship, but those cover only 50% and are limited in number. 

Prospective dental school candidates must register for the test using their DENTPIN, an identifier provided by the ADA. Once registered, you will receive a letter confirming your testing eligibility. You should complete this process at least 60 days before your hopeful test date.

When Should You Take the Exam?

Students should take the DAT a year before they expect to start dental school. Most people want to enter dental school as soon as they finish their undergraduate degree. Year three of undergraduate studies is the ideal time to register and take the test. 

To qualify, you must complete all biology and chemistry prerequisites. 

Can You Retake the Exam?

If you're unsatisfied with your score, you can retake the test. You have to wait 60 days after your test to retake it.

Retakes are limited. Students can only register and take the test three times in any 12-month period. Although you can take the test multiple times, aiming for the highest score possible the first time is best.

Dental schools all have different admissions processes. Some schools use your highest score, while others may use an average or the score of your most recent exam. 

Should you consider retaking the test?

  • Higher scores make admission to prestigious schools more likely
  • The second and third tests ease testing anxiety 


What is the DAT Exam and What to Expect

DAT is a multiple-choice exam divided into four distinct parts:

  • Survey of Natural Sciences
  • Perceptual ability - Two and three-dimensional problem-solving
  • Reading comprehension 
  • Quantitative reasoning 

The Survey of Natural Sciences covers the following:

  • General Biology
  • General Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry

The Perceptual Ability Test assesses the following subjects:

  • Spatial reasoning
  • Visualization and interpretation

The Reading Comprehension Test measures the student's ability to read and comprehend scientific material. The Quantitative Reasoning Test evaluates the student's mathematical skills.

Every university has a different GPA requirement for admission. A good GPA score is crucial. Your DAT score carries more weight if your Grade Point Average (GPA) is at the low end of the acceptable range.

Understanding the DAT Score

Each section of the DAT has a score range of between 1 and 30, with an average score of 17 -18.

These individual scores combine for the Academic Average (AA) score. AA scores range from 1 to 30 and are the primary score used to evaluate applicants. 

What Is A Good DAT Exam Score?

A competitive DAT score range is within the top 25% DAT score percentile. 

Achieving a top score of 22 or higher increases the chances of admission to dental school. The average DAT score is 18, but it varies depending on the dental school's requirements. More prestigious schools want higher scores.

Pre-dental students should aim for a score that exceeds the demands of their preferred dental schools.

How to Improve Your DAT Scores

Pre-dental students should start preparing for the DAT before their intended test date. Like any other exam, effective study strategies and hard work yield results. Here are some strategies to boost DAT scores:

Understand the Format and Content of the Exam

The DAT is a computer-controlled test. The DAT consists of multiple-choice questions presented in English, and includes a battery of four tests:

  • Survey of the Natural Sciences (100 items)
  • Perceptual Ability (90 items)
  • Reading Comprehension (50 items)
  • Quantitative Reasoning (40 items)

Create a Study Schedule

To maximize DAT score potential, pre-dental students should create a personalized study schedule. This study schedule should align with their learning style and their timetable. 

We all have busy schedules, and pre-dental students are no different. Daily life combined with a heavy course load presents time constraints for studying. One way to create a study routine is to use a "time blocking" strategy. 

Time blocking involves making a "to-do" list for each day and devoting a specific amount of time to each task. Make a schedule and stick to it. Doing so ensures adequate DAT study time. Use your smartphone to schedule your days.

Creating a daily schedule is easy with modern technology. Smartphones have scheduling apps, and these apps block your time and send you reminders for certain tasks. 

A consistent study schedule and routine can improve learning retention and find areas needing improvement.

Use Study Materials

A wide variety of DAT study materials exist to help students with their test preparation. Effective use of the following prepares students for test day:

Sample and Practice Tests

Using practice test offered by the ADA is a helpful way for pre-dental students to prepare for the DAT. Practice tests simulate the actual test environment. These tests familiarize students with the following:

  • Exam format
  • Question types
  • Time constraints

Practice tests also help:

  • Identify areas of strength and weakness
  • Highlight topics requiring additional attention
  • Build test-taking confidence
  • Reduce testing anxiety

Study Guides

DAT study guides give an overview of the exam format and content.

Study guides include practice questions and explanations, which reinforce knowledge and improve test-taking skills. These guides serve as a reference tool for complex concepts and formulas.

Flashcards For Easier Learning

Flashcards are a study tool that helps students:

  • Memorize important concepts
  • Memorize definitions and formulas

Flashcards work great for last-minute study sessions. Reviewing flashcards enhances your recall abilities and improves your test performance.

Focus on Weaknesses

Practice exams are a fantastic preparation tool because you can score yourself and find where you need improvement. Identifying areas of weakness or knowledge gaps helps bring focus to your study strategy.

Spotting weaknesses isn't enough. To excel in the DAT, pre-dental students must find their weaknesses and devote extra study to those areas. Students can improve their skills and knowledge by focusing on the topics that pose a challenge.

Through targeted studying and practice, students can overcome their weaknesses and succeed on the exam.

Practice Time Management

In total, the exam takes over five hours. The test time includes a tutorial, optional break, and post-test survey. Though five hours may seem like a long time, each section has an assigned time limit:

  • 15 minutes for the optional tutorial
  • 90 minutes for the Survey of Natural Sciences
  • 60 minutes for Perceptual Ability
  • 30 minutes for an optional break
  • 60 minutes for Reading Comprehension
  • 45 minutes for Quantitative Reasoning
  • 15 minutes for the post-test survey

To prepare, students should use a timer when taking practice tests to simulate the test environment. By doing so, students learn to pace themselves and allocate sufficient time to each section to maximize their scores.

In addition to timing, learning how to use the optional break helps achieve higher scores. Pre-dental students should take advantage of these breaks to do the following:

  • Have a rest
  • Re-energize the body and mind
  • Refocus on the exam

Breaks are optional, but a smart test taker knows that using the provided downtime is crucial during a five-hour test. 

Take Advantage of Resources

Tutoring and online forums are two valuable resources available to students studying for the DAT. 

These tutoring classes and online forums offer invaluable help and support from peers and professionals and provide the following:

  • One-on-one guidance
  • Personalized study plans
  • Feedback on practice tests.

Online forums allow students to connect with others preparing for the DAT. They can share tips and strategies. They can also access study materials and practice tests. Using such resources can help students overcome challenges, build confidence, and achieve success on the DAT.

Gain the Confidence You Need for the DAT Exam

Are you ready to take the DAT Exam?

If you're a pre-dental student preparing for the DAT, there are many resources available to help you succeed. Orgoman's website provides high-quality DAT prep materials and online tutoring services.

With Orgoman, you can gain access to expert guidance and support to help you achieve your best possible score on the DAT. So don't wait until the last minute to prepare for this crucial exam. Contact Orgoman today and take the first step toward your dream of becoming a dentist!

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