Do-it-yourself guide to online DAT prep

Gaining entry into dental school means taking and passing the Dental Admission Test, or DAT. This test is actually more of an assessment of your critical thinking, math and science skills than of any actual dental knowledge. In fact, the DAT is used to gauge your potential for success--so becoming familiar with the material can be helpful in passing the exam.

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The DAT is an American Dental Association sponsored test available for taking at test sites throughout the country. The test is computerized and comes in a number of editions, but each contains four unique sections:

  1. Natural sciences (biology, general chemistry, and organic chemistry)
  2. Perceptual ability (two- and three-dimensional problem-solving)
  3. Reading comprehension (dental and basic sciences)
  4. Quantitative reasoning

Overall scores range from one to 30. A score of 19 or above is typically needed for admittance to dental school, but it's important to remember that your DAT score is not the sole predictor of your potential dental school success. Other indicators, such as your GPA, are also used to ascertain whether you would make a good dental-school candidate.

Sinking your teeth into your DAT studies

Studying for the DAT on your own allows you to save money and work at your own pace and schedule. These tips can help make study time easier:

  1. Study class notes. Most students take the DAT between their junior and senior years of college. By this point, you've likely accumulated a wealth of class notes; now is the time to put them to good use. Study all the concepts that could apply to the DAT.
  2. Give yourself plenty of time to study. Preparation for the DAT should begin several months before you plan to take the test. Studying for at least two hours per day is ideal. However, as the test date approaches, plan to invest more time.
  3. Take practice tests. Take as many practice tests as you can. These will test your knowledge on all the subjects and help you understand what kind of questions to expect from the real exam.
  4. Use flash cards. Are you always on the go? Flash cards can help you study anytime, anywhere. Create flash cards that focus on key concepts and definitions, and then refer to them when you are on a break at work, sitting in a traffic jam or riding the train.
  5. Join study groups. Consider joining a study group either in person or online. Study groups can help you pick up pointers, keep you accountable and provide support.
  6. Try open book exams. Go back to those practice tests, but this time use books and resources to help you find the answers. This can help you pinpoint which concepts will be emphasized on the test as well as give your knowledge a boost.

Options to prep for DAT online

If you aren't comfortable with studying for the DAT on your own, there are numerous options for online DAT prep. Some of the most popular include:

  1. ACE Online. This program offers practice tests, strategies and workbooks as well as online tutoring, more than 40 hours of online lectures and over 4,000 study questions.
  2. Crack the Dental Admissions Test. This program offers an interactive experience that includes 3-D explanations, a comprehensive score report and more.
  3. DAT Achiever. This program can be downloaded instantly and offers up to 1,960 practice questions. The license is only good for up to 150 days, however, so choose this option only if you are sure you will take the DAT within a few months.
  4. Kaplan. This popular review can be done in person, through online classes or at your own pace. If the fee seems a bit too steep, however, Kaplan books are great for self-guided study.
  5. Topscore. Touted as the most popular review available since 1998, Topscore is a thorough test simulation that offers detailed analysis of the answers and a unique pace setting tool to help you prepare for the testing experience.

Though most reputable online DAT prep programs require a fee to use the full service, they can also offer free trials and plenty of practice questions that can be accessed with no charge. Cost-conscious test takers should take advantage of every free option first to decide if they will work for you before paying for the full prep service.

More on how to prepare for the DAT

One of the most important ways to prepare for the DAT is to take the practice test offered by the Dental Admission Testing Program. This practice test can be taken on paper or online. The online DAT prep test is timed, which can give you a very accurate idea of how to pace yourself when you take the real exam. There is also a tutorial offered that can give you expert advice on test-taking strategies.

In the days prior to the test, set aside plenty of study time--but on the night before the exam, relax and give your brain a chance to rest. On the day of the exam, eat a light breakfast, get to the test center early and try your best to relax. Your constant preparation should provide you with the confidence you need to make it through the test and feel positive about the results.