DAT Test Breakdown
DAT or Dental Admission Test is a standardized test for prospective dental school students. It is a competitive test administered throughout the year in America. The exam ensures that every student selected for the courses of dental training is worthy of the selection. Although dental schools and colleges have other admission criterions as well, DAT serves as the only criterion that sketches out the abilities of students required for dental training and compares them against each other. Hence, it provides a measure of comparison that makes the job of granting admissions easier for dental schools.
However, DAT does not only make the job of dental schools easier, but also helps students willing to be dentists equally. It provides them an opportunity to prove their mettle to schools that are unaware of their skills. DAT is the only way that dental schools can effectively predict the performance of students in dental schools. Hence, students can make the most of this opportunity by portraying themselves as above average students capable of undergoing the training given in dental schools.
Why is it important to understand DAT structure?
Although it is not viable to know what items would appear on the DAT, it is possible to predict its format, which gives a lot of input for preparation. Understanding the testing format makes it possible to prepare for DAT in the specific way that DAT calls for. Not only does a student familiarize himself with the syllabus that he needs to prepare, but he also gets to know the skills, types of questions and time required to answer DAT questions. Such information facilitates preparation in the desired direction, which helps to attain the best score possible in DAT.
Features of DAT
- DAT is a computer-based test.
- It can be taken in Thompson Prometric test centers.
- There are four sections in DAT, which are:
- Survey of Natural Sciences
- Perceptual Ability Test
- Reading Comprehension Test
- Quantitative Reasoning Test
- All questions asked in DAT are multiple-choice questions.
- The total time taken to conduct DAT is about 4 hours and 30 minutes.
- There is an optional break of 15 minutes after the completion of two sections of DAT.
- 15 minutes are allotted to a tutorial in the beginning and 15 minutes for post test survey in the end.
Process of Construction of the DAT Testing Items
The testing items undergo several levels of checks and revisions before being included in the DAT. At the initial stage, science and mathematics instructors, special consultants and staff of American Dental Association contribute towards testing items that can be included in DAT sections. These items are reviewed to meet the requirements of DAT. Test items are then pre-tested in DAT without being scored. This is again followed by revision of the testing items according to the psychometric standards for the DAT. The testing items undergo an analysis on the level of difficulty and discrimination index, whereupon the items are either incorporated in DAT or discarded.
Detailed Explanation of the DAT Format
DAT has four predefined sections for testing students’ skills. These are explained below.
1. Survey of Natural Sciences
This is a 90 minutes long test. It has a total of 100 testing items. It is further divided into three categories as follows.
- Biology – This test contains a total of 40 testing items. The content of the testing items comes from topics like Cell and Molecular Biology, Life Diversities, Vertebrate Anatomy and Physiology Developmental Biology, Genetics, Evolution, Ecology and Behavior.
- General Chemistry – There are 30 testing items based on General Chemistry. The content asked in this category is based on a wide range of topics like Gases, Liquids, Solids, General concepts, Acids, Bases, Solutions, Thermodynamics, Thermochemistry, Atomic and Molecular Structure, Nuclear Reactions and Laboratory Techniques.
- Organic Chemistry – 30 testing items are based on Organic Chemistry. The topics included are Chemical and Physical Properties of Molecules and Organic Analysis, Stereochemistry, Nomenclature, Acid-Base Chemistry, Aromatics and Bonding, Individual Reactions of Major Functional Groups and Combination of Reactions to Synthesize Compounds.
Since the content asked in this section requires the knowledge of science subjects of the undergraduate level, this test is called the achievement test. However, the questions asked require students to possess various skills apart from cognitive abilities to answer them to perfection. Reading comprehension questions and questions based on problem solving skills are also included in this section. Hence, students must exhibit a wide range of skills to answer these questions correctly.
2. Perceptual Ability Test
The Perceptual Ability Test, also called PAT, is tested in 60 minutes. There are a total of 90 testing items in this section. Out of these, only 75 testing items contribute towards your score, while the rest of the 15 testing items are unscored pretest items included for the purpose of testing questions for future tests.
The testing items included in PAT are two-dimensional and three-dimensional problems. There are six subtests in this section, which contain 15 questions each. These are apertures, orthographic projections, angle discriminations, paper folding items, cube-counting items, and spatial form development items. Questions require the students to possess skills like angle-discrimination, block counting, paper folding, form development, and object visualization. Such skills are considered necessary to judge how students can perceive minute differences.
3. Reading Comprehension Test
This is also a 60 minutes long test. There are three reading passages, which are followed by 16 or 17 questions each. The passages are about 1500 words long and are taken from topics related to dental science, clinical science etc. These topics may be new to students taking the test, but the questions can be answered without any prior knowledge of the subject matter.
This test predicts if students will be able to read and understand textual information as is required to be read by dental students. The students are required to understand the concepts and ideas presented in the passage and answer the questions based on this understanding.
4. Quantitative Reasoning Test
This test must be completed in 45 minutes. There are a total of 40 testing items in this section. There are two subtests, which are:
- Mathematics Problems – This subsection contains 30 questions in all based on Algebra, Numeric calculations, Conversions, Probability, Statistics, Geometry and Trigonometry.
- Applied Mathematics (Word) Problems – This subsection contains 10 word problems.
The purpose of conducting this section is to test the basic mathematical knowledge acquired by students, which is considered necessary for dental college studies. It does not however, require students to learn advanced mathematics problems.
Scoring the DAT Test Sections
The scores received in DAT tests are derived from the number of points gained from correctly answered questions. No marks are deducted for incorrect answers. Hence, students can go ahead to guess the answers when they are in doubt without any worries. All questions carry equal marks.
The standard scores received in DAT range between 1 and 30. For Survey of Natural Science separate sub-scores are reported for 3 subsections along with a total score. Separate scores are reported for Quantitative Reasoning Test, Reading Comprehension Test and Perceptual Ability Test as well. An Academic Average score is reported in the score report, which is the total score in DAT excluding the PAT score.
Groundwork Required for DAT
Students can either train themselves for DAT independently or under the guidance of an expert. Whichever method they choose, they should remember that preparation for DAT is not an overnight job. It requires regularity, commitment and focused learning for about three months. Since two of the tests are achievement tests, you must brush up the content of undergraduate level to fare well in them. Moreover, many schools lay significant emphasis on the score in PAT and the Reading Comprehension tests. Hence, there is no doubting the fact that all the aspects of DAT require good amount of preparation.
Reassure Yourself to Take the DAT
The profession of a dentist is extremely rewarding since it provides immense job satisfaction by serving people along with a handsome salary. However, the road to becoming a dentist is not easy and requires years of struggle. Taking DAT well by understanding its features is only the beginning. Make the most of this beginning and kick start your career with a good attempt in DAT.
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