Words From Your Peers

How to Study for and “Crush” the DAT

Posted by Kyle Groberg on January 28, 2020

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 used.

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 plenty.

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.


Additional Thoughts

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 eating healthy.

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 GoDental.

About Kyle Groberg :

Kyle Groberg

Kyle Groberg 
Class of 2024
Midwestern University College of Dental Medicine-Arizona

Kyle Groberg completed his undergraduate degree in Exercise Science at Brigham Young University in the spring of 2019. He is currently a first-year dental student at Midwestern University College of Dental Medicine-Arizona. He and his wife, Taylor, have one son named Oliver.