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Frequently Asked Questions

Questions about the DAT

When is the DAT offered?

The DAT is now totally computerized. You can take it at any time you wish. You contact the DAT folks, pay your money, and they will send you a registration ticket to the Sylvain Learning Centers here in Denver. You would then call Sylvain, set up a time to take the exam, and go there to take it. Unlike the MCAT, you can take this around your schedule and at just about any time you want.

What is the best time to take the DAT?

There is probably no absolute best time to take this exam. What I would recommend is to take it within 3-5 months of the time you are going to apply to dental school. At the same time, you want to make sure you have had all the pre-requisite courses that are required, as this exam will cover that material. You also want to make sure you have given yourself plenty of time to study and be ready to take this exam. So it is going to take some pre-planning and organization to time things right, and to maximize your time and effort

What subject matter does the MCAT cover?

    Survey of the Natural Sciences

    Biology: Cell and Molecular Biology - origin of life; cell metabolism (including photosynthesis)/ enzymology; cellular processes: thermodynamics; organelle structure and function; mitosis/meiosis: Diversity of Life: Biological Organization and Relationship of Major Taxa (monera, planti, anamalia, protista, fungi, etc.) using the five kingdom system; Vertebrate Anatomy and Physiology: Structure and Function of Systems - integumentary, skeletal, muscular, circulatory, immunological, digestive, respiratory, urinary, nervous/senses, endocrine, and reproductive; Developmental Biology - fertilization, descriptive embryology, and developmental mechanisms; Genetics - molecular genetics, human genetics, classical genetics, and chromosomal genetics; Evolution, Ecology, and Behavior - natural selection, population genetics/speciation, cladistics, population and community ecology, ecosystems, and animal behavior (including social behavior).

    General Chemistry: Stoichiometry and General Concepts - (percent composition, empirical formulae, balancing equations, moles and molecular formulas, molar mass, density, and calculations from balanced equations; Gases - kinetic molecular theory of gases, Dalton's, Boyle's, Charles, and ideal gas laws; Liquids and Solids - intermolecular forces, phase changes, vapor pressure, structures, polarity, and properties; Solutions - polarity, properties (colligative, non-colligative), forces, and concentration calculations; Acids and Bases - pH, strength, Bronsted-Lowry reactions, and calculations; Chemical Equilibria - molecular, acid/base, precipitation, calculations, and Le Chatelier’s principle; Thermodynamics and Thermochemistry- laws of thermodynamics, Hess’ law, spontaneity, enthalpies and entropies, and heat transfer; Chemical Kinetics - rate laws, activation energy, and half life; Oxidation-Reduction Reactions - balancing equations, determination of oxidation numbers, electrochemical calculations, and electrochemical concepts and terminology; Atomic and Molecular Structure - electron configuration, orbital types, Lewis-Dot diagrams, atomic theory, quantum theory, molecular geometry, bond types, and sub-atomic particles; Periodic Properties -representative elements, transition elements, periodic trends, and descriptive chemistry; Nuclear Reactions - balancing equations, binding energy, decay processes, particles, and terminology; Laboratory - basic techniques, equipment, error analysis, safety, and data analysis.

    Organic Chemistry: Mechanisms (Energetics, Structure, and Stability of Intermediates) - SN1, SN2, elimination, addition, free radical, and substitution mechanisms; Chemical and Physical Properties of Molecules and Organic Analysis - inter and intra molecular forces, separation, introductory infrared spectroscopy, 1HNMR spectroscopy, 13CNMR, chemical identification, stability, solubility, and polarity; Stereochemistry - conformational analysis, optical activity, chirality, chiral centers, planes of symmetry, enantiomers, diastereomers, and meso compounds; Nomenclature - IUPAC rules, and functional groups in molecules; Individual Reactions of the Major Functional Groups and Combinations of Reactions to Synthesize Compounds; Acid Base Chemistry - resonance effects, inductive results, and prediction of products and equilibria; Aromatics and Bonding - concept of aromaticity, resonance, atomic orbitals, molecular orbitals, hybridization, bond angles, and bond lengths.

    II. Perceptual Ability

    Angle discrimination, form development cubes, orthographic projections, apertures, and paper folding.

    III. Reading Comprehension

    Ability to read, organize, analyze, and remember new information in dental and basic sciences. Ability to comprehend thoroughly when studying scientific information. Reading materials are typical of materials encountered in the first year of dental school and require no prior knowledge of the topic other than a basic undergraduate preparation in science. The Reading Comprehension Test contains three reading passages.

    IV. Quantitative Reasoning

    Mathematical Problems: Algebra - equations and expressions, inequalities, exponential notation, absolute value, ratios and proportions, and graphical analysis; Numerical calculations - fractions and decimals, percentages, approximations and scientific notation; Conversions - temperature, time, weight, and distance; Probability and Statistics; Geometry; Trigonometry, and Applied Mathematics (Word) Problems.

    Test Session

    The candidate will have a total of 4 hours and 15 minutes to complete the four tests in the DAT battery. A 15 minute break is optional after completing the second test in the battery. If a candidate opts to take the break, the testing session will resume automatically after 15 minutes have elapsed. Eating and drinking are not permitted in the testing room.

    The DAT battery includes:

    Survey of Natural Sciences                 60 Minutes
    Perceptual Ability Test                       60 Minutes
    Break (optional)                                  15 Minutes
    Reading Comprehension Test                60 Minutes
    Quantitative Reasoning Test                45 Minutes

It will ask questions that require you to integrate biology and organic chemistry together to answer questions. In addition, you will not be allowed to take in cards or papers with formulae already written out. It is strongly advised that as part of your regular class studying, you learn these now, rather than trying to memorize them before the DAT. It can not be stressed enough that you must know not only objective facts about all these subjects, but also know and understand the concepts of these subjects, and how they interact with each other. You must be able to apply your knowledge to solve problems.  Make sure you have sufficient reading skills.  Many students score poorly because they do not finish.  Start NOW reading EVERY day for speed and comprehension.

How is the DAT scored?

The DAT is scored on a scale of 1-30. Each test administration is adjusted so that a score of 15 is roughly the 50th percentile for that test administration. Most dental schools look for students with an average score of 19 or better. A score of 20 is approximately the 75th percentile. Scores of 28-30 are in the 99th+ percentile. I have seen one score of 24. They are extremely rare! Do not feel badly if you do not receive these types of scores. Scores of 21 or better are superb scores and will make you competitive at virtually any dental school in the country.

How long does it take to get scores back?

There are two ways to answer this question. You will have access to your scores the day you take the test. But they are not official. Typically, you can plan on 6 weeks before official scores are released. However, there have been instances where they have taken longer. I do not get your scores that much earlier than you do. I cannot release your scores to you if I do happen to get them before you do.

How long are DAT scores valid for?

This will depend in part on the school. For many schools, your scores will be valid for five years. However for some, they will be valid for only three years. The dental schools count backward from the time you would matriculate into dental school to determine how old your scores are. So to determine if your scores are valid, determine when you would start medical school, and count back 3 or 5 years.

Are the prep courses that are available worthwhile? Which one is best?

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There are several prep courses you can take to prepare for the DAT. These are offered by companies such as Kaplan or Princeton. The medical school itself also offers a prep course once in awhile for the DAT as well as the MCAT. As to whether or not these courses are worthwhile, and which one is best, this is a difficult question to answer. Prep courses work if you remember two things. First, they will not teach you facts or concepts you have not learned once already. They are indeed review courses. If you never learned about substitution reactions, these courses will not help you out. Secondly, they will not help you out if you do not follow their program exactly and completely. This includes a great deal of time outside of class.

The two advantages I see to these courses are these. First, you are exposed over and over to the actual test style and conditions that you will face on the day of the actual test. This is beneficial no matter how you look at it. Secondly, I am convinced that the DAT is as much a mental thing as it is anything else. If taking a preparatory course will help you feel better about the test mentally, then I think it is something you should consider. If however, it will simply create more stress because it is one more thing to do, then I would recommend reconsidering taking a prep course.

There is no prep course that is better than the other. I have talked to many students who liked and disliked both Kaplan and Princeton. It is a personal decision. They approach the material from different teaching styles, and you need to determine which one is the best fit for your particular learning style.

How else can I study for the DAT if I don't want to take a commercial prep course?

There are numerous ways to approach preparing for the DAT. NOTHING, repeat, NOTHING substitutes for learning the material the first time through when you are taking the classes. However, other things students have done that seemed to work include the following. Some formed study groups with one or two other people, and met ach week for 3-4 hours and worked on the material. Others use commercially available books that you can get from any book store. Others have simply used their old text books and done things on their own. It is my opinion, based on many years of talking to students, that the LEAST effective way to prepare for the DAT is to study alone. You tend to study those things that you understand or like, and ignore those things that are hard or you don't understand. Again, it is important to stress that the best way to prepare for this test is to use a method that will help you feel the most confident about your ability to do well.

How many times can I take the DAT?

You can take the DAT up to three times without special consideration. After that you will need a letter from me to take the test a fourth or fifth time. It is strongly recommended that you take this test as few times as possible. More and more schools are beginning to evaluate you on how many times it took you to get acceptable scores on the DAT.

How do the dental schools evaluate multiple DAT scores?

Most, and the key word here is MOST schools take the best set of scores. Some look only at the most recent, some at the first. They do not average them together, nor do they take individual scores from different administrations to form an aggregate set of scores. I STRONGLY recommend you not take the test "for practice". Assume you only have one shot at this test, and approach it accordingly.