Information Regarding DAT

DAT stands for Dental Admission Test. It is a computer based standardized exam that is essential for obtaining admission into a dental college in America. The test is conducted by the American Dental Association (ADA) at Prometric Test Centers. ADA, established in 1959, has over 156,000 dentist members, 53 state-territorial and 545 local dental societies. It is a professional association of dentists that carries out programs in advocacy, research and education.

The test is conducted to test entry level students for their academic capabilities, scientific thinking abilities and abilities to perceive. The test helps to judge whether the students applying for dental courses are capable of completing the challenging course of studies successfully. The test is but only one of the many criteria used by admission authorities to judge students.
Studies conducted by ADA show that a combination of college performance record along with the results is a good predictor of dental college performance. The test is, thus, a reliable test that colleges depend upon heavily for admission purposes. Besides, it is conducted by the oldest and largest national dental association in the world, the ADA.

DAT Structure and Format
There are four tests comprising DAT. In all there are 280 testing items and all are of multiple-choice type.

  1. Survey of Natural Sciences: This test consists of 100 items including 40 on Biology, 30 on General Chemistry and 30 on Organic Chemistry. The test has to be completed in 90 minutes.

  2. Perceptual Ability: This test consists of 90 items. These are spread across six subtests on apertures, angle discrimination, 3D form development, view recognition, paper folding and cube counting. There are 15 items based on each subtest. The time given to complete this test is 60 minutes.

  3. Reading Comprehension: There are 50 items in this test based on three passages which test the student’s ability to read, classify, evaluate and recall new information in dental sciences and basic sciences. The passages are of the level of first year of a dental course and do not require any prior knowledge in the subject. This test lasts for 60 minutes.

  4. Quantitative Reasoning:  There are 40 items in this test which test your abilities related with solving mathematical problems, numerical calculations, conversions, probability and statistics, geometry, trigonometry and applied mathematics or word problems. 10 items are based on word problems and 30 on computations. The test has to be completed in 45 minutes.

For appearing for the exam, you should have studied Biology, General and Organic Chemistry for at least one year during college education. You should contact the dental school you intend to join for specific admission requirements. Some colleges might require pre-dental education courses to be completed as an admission prerequisite.

Registration and Cost
Electronic registration through the website as well as paper application through US mail is possible. The cost of application is $205. After submission of the application, you shall be notified about your eligibility through e-mail or US mail and you shall also receive instructions about how to schedule your appointment at a Prometric testing center.
The best chances of booking your first choice of test date, time and testing center occurs when you register 60-90 days before the intended test date. If you delay scheduling your appointment, you might have to settle for another date, time or location, which might not be the best bet for you and could cause you inconvenience of some sort.


  1. The number of correct responses contributes directly to your score.  Wrong responses are not given any consideration at all; they do not earn you negative credits.

  2. Eight standard scores are reported, each ranging from 1 to 30. The Quantitative Reasoning, Reading Comprehension and Perceptual Ability scores are reported as per the tests. For the Survey of Natural Sciences test, four standard scores are reported, one each for Biology, General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry and Total Science which is the score obtained in the complete Survey of Natural Sciences test. The last score is the Academic Average score, which is the average of standard scores in Quantitative Reasoning, Reading Comprehension, General and Organic Chemistry and Biology tests. Your standard scores are reported to dental schools.

  3. There is no passing or failing score in DAT and a score of 17 is considered average. Percentile ranks are reported for each score.

  4. There are two types of additional items administered in each test called equating and pretest questions. Equating questions are used to equalize the difficulty level of the exam across all administrations. Pretest questions are used to test questions for being administered in future conducts of the exam. These items are not scored.

  5. When you finish your attempt at DAT, you shall be given an unofficial score report. This report shall contain standard scores and percentile ranks. This score report cannot be used for any official purpose. An official score report shall be sent to the dental schools after 3 to 4 weeks of your taking the test. The names of these dental schools are mentioned on your application form by you. You are advised to list the schools you are interested in even if you haven’t yet applied to those schools. Submitting additional names of schools later shall result in extra expenses and delay. The official score report is not sent to the applicants. You can indicate in your application if you intend to send your scores to a predental advisor.

  6. The results of up to four recent-most attempts at DAT are listed on your score report. The total number of attempts made is also mentioned.

  7. You cannot nullify your scores once you have taken a test.

  8. A retest can be taken after 90 days of previous testing. Special permission has to be sought for every attempt after the third one.

Interpretation and Utility of Scores
Scores are compulsory for all dental school admissions. The scores shed light on the ability of students to complete the first year of a dental course successfully, as is shown by studies conducted by ADA. This is the main reason why colleges rely on test scores. Besides, it is a fair and reliable test which measures the abilities of students without any bias.

Most colleges take into consideration your DAT scores, GPA, predental education, undergraduate course subjects and interview for making admission decisions. Where a GPA above 3 is generally acceptable, a DAT score above 17 is required by most colleges. For instance, University of Florida requires a minimum score of 15 and a GPA of 3.2 or above. University of Iowa requires the student to obtain the minimum national average in each test along with a GPA above 3. Some universities have more definite requirements than others. For instance Tufts University requires an Academic Average score of 16, Perceptual Ability score of 15 and the Total Science score of 16, with GPA being above 3.3. Some universities put a time limit on the appearance. For instance, University of Washington requires that the test should be taken before 31st October of the year prior to admission.

It is amply clear from the above illustrations that an average score in the exam is merely an application requirement, whereas you shall have to score well above average to secure a seat in a dental college. An average score does not only limit your chances of admission, but also puts your other capabilities in doubt. Since the test is specifically for dental school admission, you are expected to take it seriously and score well in it if you are serious about taking up a career in dentistry.
With a low score in the examination and a high achievement level in other admission requirements, you shall alarm admission authorities and they are sure to inquire the reasons for it while they interview you. Moreover, the four most recent scores achieved in the test are shown in your score report. Thus, endeavor to obtain a fruitful result in the least number of attempts. This is achievable by only well informed and dedicated students. Those who show any laxity in gathering information or preparation cannot hope to achieve a competitive score. Understandably so, such students shall not even be able to complete the demanding course of dentistry in future. Hence, DAT is not merely a test of your knowledge, but also a test of how hard you can work and how motivated you are to pursue the career.

Preparation for DAT

Preparation for the exam can be summarized in the following steps.

Step 1: Gather information about the exam regarding when the test is conducted, what the eligibility requirements are, how to schedule a test appointment, what preparation is required etc.

Step 2: Gather information about the colleges you intend to apply to. Contact the colleges to understand the admission prerequisites including the minimum DAT scores and GPA required, the predental courses to be taken and their duration etc. If you register for the test before making such inquiries, you might miss out on some important limitations placed by some colleges.

Step 3: Register for the test, according to the time you have in hand for preparation and the requirements of colleges if any. Keep sufficient time in hand for preparation and apply for a test date that does not coincide with other commitments and exams.

Step 4: Prepare a study plan and implement it after carrying out intensive research about the sources of preparation that shall suit you best. A preparation strategy that takes into consideration your specific needs and your capabilities works best, provided it is implemented sincerely.

Fear can paralyze even the most intelligent minds. On the other hand, confidence can help you overcome the most difficult obstacles in life. Keep your spirits high through the testing experience and good preparation is sure to show you results.