DAT Percentiles: How to Interpret Your Score and Improve Your Chances


At least 14,000 people take the DAT exam each year, meaning that if you’re a pre-dental student and have taken the Dental Admissions Test or are preparing to do so, you should congratulate yourself on being part of a small, elite pool of individuals.

Whether you’ve taken the test or plan to do so, you may wonder exactly what your score means. Many students are unaware of other factors to consider aside from their overall number, such as individual percentile scores. 

Understanding this information can provide more insight into how you performed and ultimately help improve your chances of acceptance into a dental school. We’re here to help you make sense of DAT percentiles and how to interpret them for optimal success in the admissions process.

 Overview of the DAT Exam

 The Dental Admission Test (DAT) is a standardized exam aspiring dentists must take to apply for admission into dental school. The DAT comprises various subjects, including:

  • Survey of the Natural Sciences
  • Perceptual Ability
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Quantitative Reasoning

This test is used to measure the aptitude of prospective dental students as well as gauge their comprehension of relevant subject matters.

Taking and passing the DAT can be an important step in helping one gain admittance into 66 dental schools across the United States and 10 in Canada. (remove?)

The exam offers great benefits, such as providing a competitive edge by allowing students to demonstrate their knowledge and skills nationally. While it’s required to get into dental school, a better score can help you get accepted to more competitive schools.

Overall, the DAT allows future dental students to showcase their knowledge on topics pertinent to dentistry. Aspiring dentists should view it as an important milestone towards achieving success and realizing dreams within this field of work and study.

 How Does DAT Exam Scoring Work?

In 2023, the Dental Admissions Test is evaluated on a scale of 1 to 30

Did you know that your Dental Admissions Test (DAT) score is not simply a sum of correct answers? The DAT is scored on a 1 to 30 scale, with multiple-choice questions worth one raw point each. However, your raw score won't be visible on your score report. Instead, your scores will be scaled to fit within the 1-30 range that schools receive. So, even if you're unsure about an answer or running out of time, always fill in something - there's no penalty for guessing. Don't let your time run out without filling in every question. With that in mind, aim for a successful scaled score that reflects your true capabilities.

In addition to scaled scores for individual sections, schools are also provided a composite score, which is a scaled score that factors in your performance on all the sections. Your composite score is not merely an average of the scores from all the sections but rather an evaluation of your performance on the entire test.

The DAT can provide valuable insight into how prepared you are for future studies in dentistry, so taking it seriously and investing some time into studying for the test can pay off in the long run.

What Are DAT Score Percentiles?

DAT percentiles are a way to measure your performance on the Dental Admissions Test. 

As provided by the ADA, these scores indicate the percentage of test-takers who achieved scores lower than or equal to yours. A higher percentile means that you performed better in comparison to other examinees.

For example, if your percentile is 90th percentile, you did better than 90% of all those who took the exam. Similarly, a 50th percentile indicates that you did better than half of all test-takers. 

DAT Score









These DAT score percentiles provide an easy way to examine your performance relative to others. It is important to remember that while percentiles may provide valuable insight into your performance, they should not be used as the sole determinant of success on the exam, as many factors may contribute to each individual’s score. It's also important to remember that they're relative.

Because they are percentiles that rank you against other students who took the test, a lower percentile could simply mean that you took the exam with many other top, competitive students. Just because you scored in the 50th percentile doesn't mean you aren't a great candidate for dental school; it could simply mean the competition is currently tough.

Keeping up with your studies and striving for improvement should always remain at the forefront of any aspiring dentist’s journey to success.

 What Is a Good DAT Score?

According to the ada.org, there is not an official passing DAT score as each educational institute makes its own determination in the matter. Generally, according to the DAT Scores by Dental Schools in the US and Canada report, a score over 21 is a great and very competitive DAT score. Scores of over 23 are pretty rare and would put you in the 98th percentile of test takers. However, remember that it’s all relative. What is considered a “good” DAT score can vary depending on the exam section.

For example, a score of 19 or above in the Quantitative Reasoning section is considered “good,” whereas that goes up to 23 for Reading Comprehension and 22 for Perceptual Ability. 

If you didn’t get a scaled or composite score of at least 21, that doesn’t mean you don’t have a competitive score, though. For example, you would still be in the top 25% of test takers if you scored 19 or 20 on the DAT exam. 

Even an average of 18 would put you ahead of the pack in terms of percentile. However, anything lower than that and you might find it hard to compete with other students applying for some of the top dental schools.

The bottom line?

If you are seeking acceptance into most US or Canadian schools, aim for a score of 17 or higher. Most admissions professionals are looking for students who scored at least a 17 on each exam section. Scoring higher is beneficial, though, as it’ll help bolster your application and make you a more competitive candidate.

 Should You Retake the DAT Exam?

As mentioned above, you can apply to most dental schools with a DAT school of about 17 or 18. However, you might not get accepted, especially if you’re applying to a competitive school. Does that mean you should retake the DAT exam and apply at a later time?

First, it’s important to note:

  • Candidates must wait 60 days between testing attempts on the DAT, with a maximum of four (4) such administrations permitted during any 12-month period of time. 
  • Candidates with three (3) or more attempts on the DAT must apply for permission to test again, providing proof of recent application to dental school with each subsequent application to test.
  • Subsequent to the candidate’s fifth DAT attempt, the candidate may retest only once per 12-month period.

 Consider retaking the exam if you fall into the following categories:

  • Scored lower than a 17 on any individual exam section
  • Scored lower than an 18 on your composite score
  • You left more than three questions blank on the exam
  • You would be a lot more competitive as a candidate if your score increased by two points
  • You know you did not perform well and could do better

Overall, if you believe you could improve, it’s worth focusing on exam studying tips and retaking the exam. You want to put your best foot forward on your dental school application, and your DAT score is one of the best ways to do that.

 How to Improve Your DAT Scores

Are you going to retake the DAT exam? Or, have you taken a practice exam and want to improve your score for the real test? Either way, there are some things you can do to improve your DAT score to ensure you’ll be in a higher DAT percentile.

First, focus on acquiring a good foundation of knowledge in each exam area. This will help you answer questions more quickly and accurately. If you know what you got wrong, go back and study that specific area.

For example, if you performed poorly in the biology section, identify which area of biology you need to study more. This could be genetics or physiology, for example. Hone in on that area and go over key terms and basic knowledge.

Knowing how to recognize keywords or phrases can indicate what type of answer they’re looking for while helping you narrow your choices when presented with multiple options.

Try to identify which kinds of problems you’re getting wrong. For example, do you have trouble visualizing the question? Are you missing a key component that makes it difficult to develop a systematic approach?

Whatever the reason, identifying exactly what you’re getting wrong helps you formulate a study strategy. Quickly recognizing similarities between structural diagrams can also give you an edge when solving more complex problems, especially in exam sections such as chemistry.

Ready to succeed at the DAT exam? Dr. Romano developed the perfect DAT study resources to help you get a great score on your exam.

Through their comprehensive curriculum, you can build a strong foundation in all the key areas tested on the exam, such as biochemistry, genetics, and anatomy. With a thorough understanding of these topics, along with practice exams and one-on-one guidance, you too can join the hundreds of students who have improved their scores significantly using our program.

Now is your chance to join this elite group and achieve success on your DAT exam! Click here to learn more about our upcoming classes.


Older Post Newer Post