A key part of being an effective dentist is based on
communication with patients. Dentists must process a large of amount of patient
files each day and be able to create understanding relationships with their
patients. Because of this, applicants to dental schools are heavily assessed on
their language skills during the admissions process.
Most institutions require international students to submit a
TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) score. When it comes to the DAT
(Dental Admissions Test), many international students struggle with the Reading
As an international student myself, I’d like to share how I
prepared for the TOEFL and the DAT Reading Comprehension section: by reading
You may have experience reading different materials but have
not found it beneficial to your English skills. I will give you specific
strategies that helped me improve my English skills and will hopefully help you
What Type of Articles
Should I Read?
Read articles on a topic that interests you most. Reading
regularly is important for developing your English skills. A consistent and
engaging topic helps you make a habit out of reading.
In my case, I read three dentistry-related articles every
day. Because I am so fascinated with current issues in dentistry, it was not
difficult to make reading these articles a habit. You do not have to limit your
reading to academic articles, but try to include them in your reading list.
TOEFL and DAT RC passages cover various topics in science, history, economics,
etc. You must read and process the material quickly so that you can solve up to
15 questions in 20 minutes. By reading academic articles, you can exercise
assimilating a large amount of new and technical information at a fast pace.
Where do I find the
Most standardized tests today are computer-based. Reading
text on a computer screen is often more challenging than reading words on
paper. For instance, you often cannot underline a sentence or make a mark on a
specific spot in an online passage. You need to depend solely on your instant
concentration and memory to keep the flow of reading. Therefore, online
articles are good practice materials for the format of the tests you will be
Things to Do while
Utilize a Thesaurus.
At least one question per TOEFL passage asks you to choose a
substitute word for a given word in the text. When you encounter a new word in
an article, try not to look it up in a dictionary of your own language.
Instead, search for its synonyms in a thesaurus. Practice inferring its
definition from the synonyms given, and re-read the original sentence after
replacing the word with a familiar synonym.
This way, the newly acquired word stays in your memory
longer than when you simply memorize its definition. You will begin to make
connections between several synonymous words, which will diversify your word
choices when writing essays.
Take Note of Common
Use of colorful expressions enriches your essay writing.
These phrases are often not self-explanatory, so you need to know their exact
definitions and usages to accurately interpret a passage. Whenever I read
creative expressions, I write them down in a notebook.
I read the following sentence in an article a few weeks ago:
‘That decision is music to the ears of dental professionals’
If I were the author, I would have used ‘That decision was
good news for dental professionals’ instead of using the idiom, ‘music to the
ears.’ These phrases convey the same meaning, but the latter sounds more
Pay Attention to
International students tend to form wordy sentences. A long
sentence is sometimes okay but extra words can easily cloud the original meaning.
Articles are the works of professional writers. Pay
attention to how they organize their words and form sentences. I try to read
long sentences out loud and memorize them. This helps me learn complex grammar
usages and teaches me how to process information-heavy sentences.
Reading articles does not have to be a stressful experience.
Try to avoid putting yourself in exam-mode while reading. Making this an
enriching and enjoyable experience is your first priority; improvements in your
English skills will naturally follow. Think of reading articles as a chance to
communicate with the world around you while learning what is happening outside