Like the title says, if you can study effectively and efficiently for this painful test, you don?t have to dish out another hundreds of dollars ($460.00) and relive the stress and anxiety episodes all over again. I am going to share my experiences, the resources I used, the strategies I tried, and all the above to help me get the score I got. But remember, my method worked for me and may not work for you. Take it with a grain of salt and structure your strategy in a way that works for you. If someone like me can get a score like this then chances are you have the potential to do even better.
Brief Background About the DAT:
The dreaded dental admission test (DAT) is a computerized standardized test all students take at some point in their undergraduate years or after graduation. Kind of like how we all had to take the ACT or SAT to apply to college, the DAT is that exam students need for admission into dental school. As you can see from the photo, there are 6 total sections students are tested on. The test (with tutorials and optional break included) totals to 5 hours in length?.talk about a marathon. Most dental school class profiles have acceptances of AA scores ranging from 18?21. Anything above that then you are in good shape. I won?t drag on too much about the details but you can find more information in the DAT guide on the American Dental Association website.
DAT Study Schedule:
For me specifically, I dedicated 3 whole months (January-March) studying for this exam while taking one class: Organic Chemistry II lab. I usually woke up between 9?10am and started my day of studying following Ari?s Schedule and studied the entire day (except during lab hours) before going to bed at 12?1am. This schedule is a 10 week schedule (5 weeks learning the material then 5 weeks of practicing/testing/reviewing). There were many days where I fell behind or needed more time to focus on certain topics/problem-sets so don?t feel discouraged if you start to fall behind. This schedule is only a GUIDE, remember that.
Take the time you need in order to learn the material, don?t compare yourself to others who took less time/worked part time/took classes and did well?they are not you and your way of learning and preparing is different from theirs. The biggest mistake you can make is downplaying yourself by comparing to others.
Now some of you probably don?t think you can or even want to study 10+ hours a day like I did, but what I did was extreme. I am generally bad with timed/standardized tests. I had many nightmares about the SAT during that phase of my life and it stressed the hell out of me because I always under-performed compared to mock practice exams I took out of the CollegeBoard books. Throughout undergrad, I had plenty of experiences where I could have and should have done better on exams but I was always a bit slower in finding the correct thought process than my peers, especially under timed conditions. Now with another standardized test at my doorstep with even greater weight and all those past experiences haunting me, I decided to do anything and everything possible to make sure I didn?t screw this up. This meant that 6 out of the 7 days in the week I gave up my social life, my gym life, and literally barricaded myself in my room.
But I couldn?t keep up that streak forever. I ended up having a couple ?cheat? days where I just decided not to study and do something relaxing like play Overwatch/PUBG, watch a movie, play sports, or drink with friends. This was very much needed because I had episodes where I thought I was going crazy?take advantage of rest days and don?t worry if you need more than the schedule suggests.
Main resources I used were:
- DAT Bootcamp (used to be $247 for 90 days, now is $347 for 90 days)
- DAT Destroyer (orgo, gen chem, bio, QR) + Math Destroyer Combo ($199.95)
- Chad?s Videos ($50 per month)
- Dr. Romano?s Biology Notes (free on DAT Destroyer Study Group Facebook page in ?files?)
- Dr. Romano Orgoman practice problem videos on YouTube (free)
- DAT Bootcamp Study Group on Facebook
- DAT Destroyer Study Group on Facebook
How I split up the topics:
- For the review phase of Ari?s Schedule, I followed it almost exactly. However, after week 5 it got difficult to follow all the problem sets AND reviewing my wrong answers AND studying other areas.
- For weeks 5?10 I decided to break it up:
Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday = PAT, Math, Reading Comp.
Monday, Wednesday, Friday = Biology, Chemistry, and Organic Chemistry.
- Two weeks before my exam date, I did fully-timed mock exams first thing in the morning, took an hour break, and then began reviewing the wrong answers. DAT Bootcamp provides 5 of those and I did one every other day while continue reviewing on the days I didn?t take it. This part is draining but it helps you get used to how you?ll feel throughout the actual exam.
Now to break it down per section?
Resources: DAT Bootcamp
I actually had the most fun with this section because I am a very visual learner. My experiences in sports, gaming, and designing helped me start off with a strong foot in this section but I was still nowhere perfect.
There is no better resource than DAT Bootcamp for this section. The best thing about DAT Bootcamp are the generators and large number of practice questions for each subsection in the PAT section. If you are weak with angle ranking or keyholes, you can practice those specific questions to your hearts content. I noticed that this is generally a difficult section for many students because they never had this kind of exposure in their curriculum as a tradition science major (Bio, Chem, BioChem, etc.) But don?t worry, this section is all about practice and you will improve with time. Sounds novel right?
You need to train your brain to see these shapes, to recognize patterns, to rotate objects in your head, and to pick out subtle differences in objects just like a dentists will need to do with patients.
- Practice this DAILY.
- Following Ari?s guide, practice sets of 15 initially untimed to enhance accuracy. It is very important that you start developing mini-strategies for certain types of problems, especially with angle ranking, keyhole, and pattern folding.
- After many many practice problems and now you feel somewhat comfortable, aim for speed and see how many and how accurately you can do 15 problems in 10 minutes. You will likely see that your accuracy sinks when you do this?that is OKAY. You are now training your brain to recognize these patters faster and as a result accuracy will suffer initially. This will improve over time.
- Once you are comfortable with the speed and accuracy improves even by a little bit, now you can start focusing on your weak sections. My weak sections were Keyhole and Angle Ranking. Those sections would often take me the longest (12?15 minutes for 15 questions). Keyhole I would often miss 5 or 6 questions. Angle ranking I would often miss 7 or 8 questions.
- Specifically with angle ranking, I struggled the most with obtuse angles and Bootcamp is notorious for giving you difficult obtuse angle problems. I always tried imagining a right angle and visualize which supplementary angle was larger and go from there.
- For acute angles, what really helped me was thinking these were sharp teeth or pointy objects and trying to see which I don?t want to be poked/bitten with. The smaller the angle, the sharper the object?and I would rank from there.
- For angles with one short side and one long side, I would just drag my mouse along the shorter side to see how it would look if that side was longer and compare from there.
- Other strategies is simple process of elimination by looking at the answer choices and seeing which are falsely ranked that you can easily distinguish. For example, if you know angle 4 is for sure larger than angle 3 then eliminate all answer choices that say otherwise.
- On the actual DAT there?s a specific order of which sections start first: (Keyhole, TFE, Angle Ranking, Hole Punching, Cube Counting, Pattern Folding). I tried jumping around doing the sections I was most comfortable with first but that was too much a hassle so I just practiced going through sections in the same order as the DAT and if I caught myself taking too long in a section, I marked and moved onto the next section.
- Once you recognize which sections take you longer/shorter, you can estimate how much longer you can spend in other sections.
- I can?t emphasize enough to practice practice practice.
The Bootcamp questions are meant to be challenging. You WILL get many wrong because it is designed to be more difficult than what you may see on the actual DAT. So don?t freak out if you?re not doing well, everyone else across the country is experiencing the same thing. There were days where I did very well and missed 1?2 from each section. Then there were days where I missed half from some sections. Just keep practicing and understanding what you got wrong and why.
DAT Bootcamp Scores: |20|20|21|20|20|
Resources: DAT Bootcamp and DAT Math Destroyer
Kind of like the PAT section, I always enjoyed math because of how absolute an answer was. There was no subjective answer. It was either right or wrong. Again with this section though I understand not many pre-dental students fancy mathematics and have not even revisited math after taking their basic requirements freshman/sophomore year. But again, with practice you can catch up and master these problems.
DAT Bootcamp provides some videos that can refresh your memory on these topics and you can even find videos on YouTube to help supplement if you need. This section is all about practice problems and getting exposed to as many different problem types as possible. You will see a general pattern in the type of problems they commonly ask and the way to solve those problems. DAT Bootcamp is good because it has practice sets for each topic specifically (Applied Mathematics, Geometry, Statistics, etc) and also has many Quantitative Comparison questions which is a newly added question type on the DAT to replace trigonometry problems. Yup that?s right, there are NO MORE trigonometry problems.
DAT Math Destroyer is a book filled with a TON of practice tests (40 questions each) that will challenge your understanding of the math concepts further. The destroyer books are known to be more difficult and discouraging to many students but that is how you learn! These two resources will definitely prepare you well for the DAT.
By facing your weaknesses, you will realize how much more you are capable of. Don?t be afraid because you ?are not a math person?. Face your fears, fail forward, and fail often to learn as much as you can.
- Review the videos provided by DAT Bootcamp on the math topics covered on the DAT. If a topic or video doesn?t make sense, either post/ask about it in the Facebook group or look for supplemental videos on YouTube to better help your understanding.
- TAKE YOUR TIME REVIEWING. You most likely have not seen this material in a looong time so expecting you to get it down right away is unrealistic.
- Do practice questions/tests in accordance to Ari?s schedule initially. These tests will be untimed at first, then timed later on. It is VERY VERY important that you review the correct answers and why your thought process or answer was wrong. It?s not about doing the most amount of problems, it?s about understanding each problem you do.
- After going through the Destroyer book fully once and a few Bootcamp tests, make a note of what your weak areas are. You also can start branching way from Ari?s schedule at this point because with his schedule, you?ll repeatedly do full length practice tests which will eat up time when instead you could use that time to focus on your weak areas specifically and not waste time on questions you?re already comfortable with.
- Utilize DAT bootcamp?s specific subject problems and practice practice practice on the weak areas.
My weak areas were statistics, applied mathematics, and quantitative comparison. I used to get those questions wrong every time I saw them. However, with enough practice I saw general patterns in statistic questions. I became better at interpreting the applied mathematics questions, and better at thinking of scenarios to answer the quantitative comparison questions.
DAT Bootcamp Scores: |20|20|20|
Resources: DAT Bootcamp, Scientific American articles, DAT Destroyer Facebook Group articles
I was the most scared for this section?and biology which I will get to later. Reading comprehension was always not my forte because I hated reading as a kid. I hated the books they would make us read at school and never found them appealing or interesting. Even during the SAT, I grudged through the passages. Reading comprehension was always one of my lowest scoring sections and I would always drift in and out while reading the paragraphs, interpret something wrong, or forget what I just read and just keep reading. The first several DAT Bootcamp reading comprehension tests I took I got a 15. I began to think I would always be bad at reading comprehension, but I refused to accept that.
Unfortunately, this is weird section to prepare for because all you can do is?.well, read.
I initially avoided this section as much as I could. Why? Because this was a WEAK section for me and I still hated reading boring articles. But I knew I needed to overcome my fears and gradually forced myself to read more and change how I viewed reading. This shift in mindset is crucial with any section you are scared of in the DAT.
- Make it a habit to read a scientific article daily. Then throughout the day try to remember what the article was about, maybe talk about what you read with a friend or with family to help your recall memory.
- Expose yourself to a wide range of article topics. If you struggle with biology articles or chemistry articles then seek those out and read those more.
- Try a bunch of strategies proposed in DAT Bootcamp (Search and Destroy, Vicviper, Vanilla Method, etc). See what works best for you and then create your own strategy based off of that.
- I didn?t like any of those strategies so I just made up my own. Anything requiring me to write something down broke my concentration. I would waste time writing or thinking of what to write and would have to glance down repeatedly to remember what I wrote?it was just a mess. So what I did was read 5 paragraphs as thoroughly as I could be while highlighting what I thought were important dates, facts, words. Then go to the questions and try to answer as many as possible ONLY based off of what you read so far. Now at this point you have a general sense of what the questions are that you couldn?t answer. Read another 5 paragraphs thoroughly while highlighting and repeat the process until you are done with the first passage. By breaking it up this way, you are not overloading your head with tons of facts and you don?t have to worry about searching for a specific fact in 15+ paragraphs. Plus you get exposed to all the questions so as you continue you read?you may think ?hey that word/fact looks familiar from one of the questions I could not answer before? and it will make the hunt for the answers easier.
- What also helps is that when reading, keep thinking that this is the best freaking article about whatever topic it is of all time. You?ve probably heard that one but it actually helps a little to get you more focused into the passages.
Each strategy will take time to get used to so again, you will have to practice to get these strategies down. Choose what is more comfortable with you? if none of these strategies work for you then you will have to create your own that suites you. Also, the reading passages in DAT Bootcamp are meant to be difficult. I would often get 16 or 17 on many of the practice tests and would often not finish in time. They are choosing difficult reads to prepare you as best as possible so don?t be discouraged like I was! Bootcamp also puts you in the worst-case scenario where the questions are not chronologically presented. I gradually improved my score to average 20 on the Bootcamp practice tests and did much better on the actual DAT!
DAT Bootcamp Scores: |less than 15|17|17|18|18|21|
Resources: DAT Bootcamp, DAT Destroyer, Romano?s Biology notes, YouTube videos
My second most feared section?before taking biology 1 and 2 in the year of 2017, I had not taken a single biology related course since 2008. Although some of the information was still fresh in my head from class in 2017, there was still a lot that I didn?t know or understand. What makes this section difficult is the shear volume of topics they can ask you about. But remember, ?breath over depth.?
I initially started with Cliff?s AP Biology 3rd Edition and Feralis Notes as many students suggested and read through these once while taking notes. However, I soon realized I was hardly retaining any of these because they were very very dry reads. I also found myself returning to the book/pdf instead of the notes I wrote down so in the end I was just wasting time writing down notes.
The AP book is informative but not in depth enough. Feralis Notes are super in depth but very difficult to read and nothing seemed to flow so I couldn?t connect the dots. I used these materials for about 1.5 months before I decided to switch to something else. That something else was Romano?s Biology notes. His notes were like a hybrid of the the AP book and Feralis Notes and it flowed much better. He runs his own DAT preparation program and students generally do well (20+) on the Biology section.
For the practice questions, both DAT Bootcamp and DAT Destroyer are very good. Again, Destroyer questions will be more difficult but both test your knowledge on the topics well. I have heard some people just use DAT Destroyer and get above 22.
Don?t get caught up too much on the details, but don?t neglect the details. Know these topics enough where you can distinguish it between the other answer choices or at least narrow it down between 2. Remember breath over depth and get as much exposure as possible.
- Ari?s Schedule does not use Romano?s notes so you may have to adjust it a little. Romano?s notes has a total of 45 chapters with many of them being 10?15 pages each. So for the review phase, you could do 1?2 chapters a day.
- If you need to spend an extra day or two on a specific chapter to understand it then do it! Use YouTube videos to supplement your studying like Khan Academy and watch whenever you can (during your breaks, while you?re eating, or before you go to sleep).
- After fully going through Romano?s notes once, go through the practice questions and take note of your weak topics. Review the answer choices and go back to those topics for further review.
- I also used the Anki app (free) on my desktop which allowed me to create flashcards, insert pictures (Quizlet you have to upgrade $$ to insert pictures), and kept track of questions that were difficult for you (based on how you?d rank it) so the app would ask you those questions the next day.
- I originally made flashcards for each chapter of Romano?s notes but realized I couldn?t get through reviewing a whole chapter within a day and often never reviewed some chapters I made flashcards for so I shifted strategies again and just made a set with questions I got wrong, the answer choice, and the explanation. This I reviewed every day.
- Utilize DAT Bootcamp?s mnemonics!
- This is a section that you will constantly have to review until the very last day since this is a ton of information.
When I first started this section I was getting a ?less than 14? on my score reports. That?s literally what it said. It was very discouraging because I kept getting low scores since I obviously didn?t know everything. But instead of sulking over it, I took every defeat as an exciting opportunity to add to my knowledge. So I was happy when I saw a 19 on my score report because that was better than most of my score reports throughout DAT Bootcamp.
DAT Bootcamp Scores:|less than 14|15| 15|
Chemistry and Organic Chemistry:
Resources: DAT Bootcamp, DAT Destroyer, Orgoman YouTube videos, Chad?s Videos
The same strategies can be applied to both so I will combine them here. There are two main review sources that are probably the best ones out there: Chad?s Videos and Mike?s Videos. DAT Bootcamp subscription comes with Mike?s Videos but Chad?s Videos are something separate which you?ll have to pay extra for. I personally didn?t like the way Mike talked or executed his videos. He seemed a bit cocky and talked with a ?you should know this and if you don?t you?re stupid? kind of tone. I liked Chad?s Videos because he was engaging, respectable, and his notes were also spot on with what to expect on the actual DAT. I?ve heard that Mike?s Videos also prepare you well, it?s just a matter of personal preference.
Even if you did bad in your undergrad classes or had nightmarish experiences, these will not be as bad! The DAT covers general topics and doesn?t dive too deep into each concept like in your classes at school. However, there is still some level of proficiency you will need to have. I have read testimonies of people who did bad in their undergrad chemistry and organic chemistry classes but manage to pull 20+ scores. It?s possible!
- Review Chemistry and Organic Chemistry through either Chad?s/Mike?s videos. Both comprehensively cover the topics that you?ll need to know for the DAT. This should take about 5 weeks or less depending on how many lessons you go through in the day.
- Take notes as you go through the videos and if you need to spend more time on a certain topic, do it.
- When you start hitting practice problems, it will start off untimed at first so you can start to get in the rhythm of things and eventually you will start doing timed tests/practice question sets. Record and review all questions you get wrong.
- Both sections have specific subsection topics on DAT Bootcamp for extra practice if you?re weak in a specific area.
- DAT Destroyer is definitely more difficult than DAT Bootcamp but develops your understanding of the material on a deeper level and is excellent practice. It also has reaction Roadmaps that are really helpful to memorize. These will help you breeze through reaction related questions on the real exam. DAT Bootcamp also has their own version of reaction roadmaps which is also good so use both!
- Supplement these with watching Orgoman videos on YouTube! It?s a nice light, quick review with videos being around 4?7 minutes long and Dr. Romano uploads videos on a daily basis.
I actually enjoyed Chemistry and Organic Chemistry since Chemistry was half math, half conceptual and Organic Chemistry was half reactions, half conceptual. There were a few sections I struggled with both on the conceptual side but with enough practice and exposure, you will improve your scores.
DAT Bootcamp Scores (Chemistry): |19|18|19|17|21|
DAT Bootcamp Scores (Organic): |19|21|17|20|
2 Weeks Before Your Test Date:
Now that you?ve grinded up to this point, you should start taking the 5 full-length practice tests under similar testing conditions provided by DAT Bootcamp. This means find a place where no one will disturb you for 5 hours and go through an entire practice exam. Afterward you should take a break and come back to review the questions you got wrong. This will condition you so that when the actual test day comes, you will have gone through the motions and you it will be like a casual practice test day.
At this point you will feel like you want to die. You will be so tired of studying and you might even think ?F$#k this? but this is the final stretch of the marathon. You will be at your limits and anxiety will have started to kick in. It is mostly important to not get discouraged by the full-length practice test scores. Keep focused with the mindset ?what did I do wrong, what can I learn from this? and move on. Do not freak out and dwell on that you didn?t do as well as you wanted.
Practice Test 1?5 Scores:
- Biology 19 | Chemistry 24 | Organic 20 | PAT 24 | RC 23 | QR 20 |
- Biology 15 | Chemistry 19 | Organic 20 | PAT 28 | RC 19 | QR 22 |
- Biology 16 | Chemistry 26 | Organic 18 | PAT 26 | RC 21 | QR 19 |
- Biology 26 | Chemistry 22 | Organic 21 | PAT 23 | RC 19| QR 24 |
- Biology 21 | Chemistry 21 | Organic 21 | PAT 24 | RC 21 | QR 22 |
If you need to push your exam date back because you KNOW you are not ready then push it back. There is no shame in that. Paying a small extra fee is better than paying for another full exam. I was scheduled to take the DAT after 2 months of studying but I was not ready so I pushed it back 1 more month and am glad I did.
By now I am sure you see a common theme in my strategies. You need to face your fears, tackle each problem as an opportunity to learn something, keep a positive attitude despite your failures, accept that past experiences don?t have to be the present or future, and always review your answers to understand the what and why of the questions/answer choices. You don?t need tons of resources around you. You just need to use a few resources the right way.
I am not some super smart person who eases through classes. I am just a hard worker. I have had many times in the past where my hard work would not even compare to some of my peers. I always complained how unfair things were. I would spend long nights producing the same result my classmates could do in 1 hour. But despite all of this I knew that I had one thing going for me: grit. You should NEVER give up. Keep trying, keep failing, keep learning?one day you will see the result of all your sacrifice and hard work. You don?t have to be a prisoner to your past experiences and you certainly are not predisposed to have a certain level of intelligence. That is a fixed mindset and you need to scrap that if you want to continue on the road toward success.
You have every capacity to achieve these scores and even do better. You need to be aware of what works for you and what doesn?t. Change your strategies if they aren?t working. Put yourself in a setting where there is less distraction so you can focus. Block social media when you study so you are not breaking your concentration. Do what is necessary for you do the best you possibly can.
Temporary pain and sacrifice can lead you to a lifetime of opportunity. This is a test you want to take once, the right way. Do NOT compare your journey to someone else?s. You have been raised under different conditions and have lived a different life from everyone else. Utilize other people?s journeys as inspiration and references but don?t try to mold your life into theirs.
I hope this helps those on their journey into dental school. Good luck studying and remember that you are not alone in this journey. Be open to support around you and don?t close yourself off. Do what you need to so you don?t go insane in the process. You can do this.