If you’re planning on applying to dental school this cycle,
chances are the Dental Admission Test (DAT) has been on your mind a lot. You
may have questions, such as “How do I best prepare? When is the best time to
take the DAT? Do I really need a 25 in order to be a competitive applicant?”
Please let me be the first to tell you not to worry. With the right plan,
resources and effort, you can be prepared to do well on the DAT. You might even
surprise yourself. Also, be aware there is no one-size-fits-all solution
regarding DAT preparation. Everyone has different circumstances and learns in a
unique way. However, there are some tips and tricks you can use to make sure
you are calm and ready on test day to do your best. Here are the ones that I
Pick a Good Study Program
I strongly recommend *DAT Bootcamp for a few reasons. Aside
from it being the most realistic representation of the DAT, it also is
extremely easy to use and the study guides and materials are fun to follow.
You’ll still need to dedicate a fair amount of time to studying, but with 10
full-length practice tests, countless practice problems, in-depth explanations
and a thriving support group of other motivated students, I really don’t think
you can go wrong with it. It’s also the least expensive option I’ve found,
which is another plus, especially when you are trying to save money for
application and school expenses.
Eliminate Distractions Where Possible
I started studying for the DAT as soon as the school year
ended in April 2018 of my junior year. I studied five days a week for eight
hours a day—with four hours on Saturdays and Sundays. I didn’t have classes and
I only worked part time so that I could focus most of my time and energy on DAT
preparation. It only took about two months of this high-focus preparation
(following DAT Bootcamp’s 60-day study guide) to feel ready. Your time to
achieve test readiness will depend on your individual learning style.
Put your phone away and close all your other tabs on the
computer except for DAT study material. Make sure your notifications are off or
on silent mode so you can really focus 100%. It takes work and dedication, but
you can do it.
Study Smart, Take Breaks
Practice what will actually be relevant to the test. You may
be thinking, “But everything could be on
the test!” That is partially true, but DAT Bootcamp does an excellent job
of making sure all their material is highly relevant.
And while you’re practicing, remember to take breaks. This is
critical to your learning because the brain learns better when it is given rest.
Try starting out with 30 minutes of study followed by five minutes of break.
You can work your way up to 50 minutes of study followed by 10 minutes of break,
if that works better for you. For me, 30 minutes on, five minutes off was
My suggestion: base your studying on practicing the problems,
rather than just grudgingly reading material. The DAT is a fast-paced test
(think 45-60 seconds per problem) and you need to work on your timing just as
much as you need to work on your memory and problem-solving skills. Again, the
best way to do this is to focus on practice problems and use a timer. (DAT
Bootcamp has one built in.) When you’re done, review the questions you missed
and make sure you understand how to complete them next time.
Something else that helped me tremendously was to realize that
my body, mind and spirit are all connected. I know this may have different
meanings for each person reading this, but you should think more along the
lines of eliminating negative influences from your life and keeping a healthy
conscience. You won’t be able to focus well on test day if your mind is racked
with guilt about the lie you told your spouse, or if you’re stressing over a
fight you had with your sibling. While studying for the DAT, I made sure I
always got eight hours of sleep every night, exercised as much as possible and was
One last little trick that went a long way for me was to take
a practice test every day for one week leading up to the real test and to eat
the same snack during “break time.” When the real test day arrives, bring that
snack with you to eat during break and it becomes a little mental cue that
you’ve done this before and everything will be okay. We are creatures of
habit—use that to your advantage.
I hope these tips are helpful to those of you preparing to
take the DAT. This is a big test and you should be proud of all the work you
are doing to get ready for it. Lastly, please remember that you are more than a
number. The DAT is important to the admissions process, but you don’t need to
be an All-Star test taker and get the highest score in order to make it.
Plan to do well but play the game to your strengths and become a well-rounded
person. At the end of the day you will be working with people, not pages. They care more about who you are as a person
than about what score you got on an admissions test.
*DAT Bootcamp is a separate product not sponsored by ADEA