What Is the DAT®?
What you need to know about the DAT, DAT scores, and the DAT sections.
About the DAT
Your DAT score is more than just a formality in the admissions process. Dental school admissions committees use your DAT score in conjunction with your academic record to assess whether you have the academic foundation upon which to build a successful dental career. Consequently, a high score on the DAT will have a direct, positive impact on your dental school application.
The DAT is designed to provide dental schools with common measures for comparing the qualifications of applicants. The exam measures general academic aptitude, comprehension of scientific information, and perceptual ability. The test is offered exclusively on computer and consists of a battery of four distinct tests: Survey of Natural Sciences, Perceptual Ability, Reading Comprehension, and Quantitative Reasoning.
Your DAT Score
Scoring on the DAT can be incredibly confusing for the uninitiated. Performance on the test is denoted by a set of seven distinct scores. You will receive a separate score for Reading Comprehension, Perceptual Ability, Quantitative Reasoning, and each of the science disciplines tested in Survey of Natural Sciences—biology, general chemistry, and organic chemistry. In addition, you will receive an Academic Average Score, which takes into account your performance on all of the sections of the exam except Perceptual Ability.
Each of these scores is reported on a 1-30 scale (30 being the highest possible score). A score of 17 typically signifies average performance on a national basis. Scores are based on the total number of correct answers; so there is no penalty for guessing.
Getting Your DAT Score Results
You will receive your test results immediately after completing the exam. With your test registration fee, you can send your official DAT transcripts to all the dental schools you select at the time of your application. Additional transcripts for schools not selected at the time of application are available for $36 each.
A note of caution: You can retake the DAT; however your scores cannot be voided. Your last four test results will be included on any official transcripts.
What are the DAT sections?
The content on the DAT is broken down into four test sections that comprise the exam:
- The Survey of Natural Sciences
- The Reading Comprehension Section
- The Perceptual Ability Test
- The Quantitative Reasoning Section
The Survey of Natural Sciences
Your understanding of biological and chemical concepts, as well as your proficiency in solving science problems, will be tested to its limits on the DAT. It's science-intensive to say the least. On the Survey of Natural Sciences, you will have 90 minutes to answer 100 multiple-choice questions, subdivided into three science areas: Biology, Inorganic Chemistry, and Organic Chemistry.
Biology on the DAT
The Biology subsection contains 40 questions. Concepts tested include: Cell and Molecular Biology, including origin of life, cell processes, and more; Diversity of Life, Vertebrate Anatomy, Developmental Biology, Evolution, Ecology, and more.
General Chemistry on the DAT
General Chemistry accounts for 30 questions on the survey. Concepts include: Acids and bases; atomic structure; periodic properties; gases; liquids and solids; nuclear reactions; and more.
Organic Chemistry on the DAT
Often thought the most difficult subsection, organic chemistry also accounts for 30 questions. Concepts include: Mechanisms, organic analysis, properties of molecules, stereochemistry; bonding; reactions; and nomenclature.
Try a sample question for DAT Biology
The P680 chlorophyll A molecule of photosystem II:
A. oxidizes glucose.
B. oxidizes water.
C. best absorbs light with a wavelength of 700nm.
D. provides electrons that reduce NADH+.
E. more than one of the above.
Answer & Explanation:
The answer is B.
The P680 molecule is involved in noncyclic electron flow. Light striking P680 excites electrons which rush off to fill the electron "holes" in the P700 chlorophyll. The P680 with its electron "holes" is a strong enough oxidizing agent to oxidize water, filling its electron holes and producing O2.
Choice A is incorrect because glucose is oxidized in cellular respiration. Photosynthesis is a reductive process. Choice C is incorrect because P680 is named according to its preferred absorption wavelength, namely 680nm. P700 absorbs best at 700nm. Choice D is incorrect because P700, when excited by light, provides the electrons that reduce NADH+. Choice E is incorrect because only choice B is correct.
Reading Comprehension is the only question type that appears on all major standardized tests and the reason isn't too surprising. No matter what academic area you pursue, you have to make sense of dense, unfamiliar prose. Dentistry, of course, is no exception.
On the Reading Comprehension section, you'll have 60 minutes to address three passages, each with 16 to 17 corresponding questions (for a total of 50 questions). These long, dense excerpts are often filled with scientific jargon and technical explanations. Questions may ask you to identify the main idea or a detail, make an inference, or determine the function of a part of the passage.
The questions are designed to test your ability to retain information and ascertain the structure and purpose of the passage.
The Perceptual Ability Test
The Perceptual Ability Test (PAT) is designed to test your spatial visualization skills, especially your ability to interpret two-dimensional representations of three-dimensional objects. These skills will be useful to you as a dentist as you construct a mental image of teeth from X-rays, deal with casts and fillings, etc. On the PAT, you'll have 60 minutes to answer a total of 90 questions divided into six categories, each consisting of 15 questions.
With keyhole questions, you are presented with a 3-D object and you must determine through which of five openings this object can pass. It pass through the opening in any orientation, but it cannot be rotated.
This question type presents you with two projections of an object. You are expected to determine the third.
In angle ranking questions, you are presented with four angles, labeled 1-4. You are required to rank the angles in increasing order.
In this question type, a square piece of paper is folded one, two, or three times. Then, one or more holes are punched at specific locations. You are required to mentally unfold the paper and determine the locations of the holes.
Cube counting questions present you with several stacks of cubes. Each stack is constructed by cementing together identical cubes. You are asked to imagine that the stack as a whole is painted on all sides except for the bottom. Then, you are asked to determine how many cubes have a particular number of sides painted.
In pattern folding questions, a flat pattern is presented and you are asked to select the 3-D figure into which it folds.
Try a sample question for the Perceptual Ability Test
In this question, a flat pattern will be presented. This pattern is to be folded into a three dimensional figure. The correct figure is one of the four given at the right of the pattern. There is only one correct figure. The outside of the pattern is what is seen at the left.
Answer & Explanation:
The answer is C.
Determine how the different faces meet.
The Quantitative Reasoning section tests your proficiency in mathematics and assesses your problem solving skills. The questions you encounter on this section range from simple arithmetic to more advanced trigonometric problems.
To succeed on Quantitative Reasoning, you need to understand basic mathematical concepts and show proficiency in algebra, geometry, word problems, and trigonometry. On the test, you'll have 45 minutes to answer 40 questions—any of which could draw from these topics.
Try a sample question for DAT Quantitative Reasoning
Which of the following variables cannot be equal to 0 if(v + w)(x - y - z)(x + y + z)z= 3?
Answer & Explanation:
The answer is E.
When the product of a group of numbers is nonzero, none of the numbers can be 0. This is because if even just one number is 0, the product is zero. For example, 7 × 10 × 12 × 0 × 4 × 35 = 0, because the fourth factor is a 0. Here, (v + w)(x - y - z)(x + y + z)z = 3, so (v + w)(x - y - z)(x + y + z)z does not equal 0. So each factor of this product must be nonzero. That is:
v + w does not equal 0
x - y - z does not equal 0
x + y + z does not equal 0
z does not equal 0
The last inequality tells us that z can never equal 0. Choice E is correct.
None of the other answer choices must be nonzero. If v = 0, w = -3, x = 0, y = 0, and z = 1, then (v + w)(x - y - z)(x + y + z)z = (-3)(-1)(1)(1) = 3, and choices A, C, and D are seen to be incorrect, because v, x, and y can each be 0. If v = -3, w = 0, x = 0, y = 0, and z = 1, then (v + w)(x - y - z)(x + y + z)z = 3 and choice B is seen to be incorrect, because w can be 0.
Only z cannot equal 0, and again, choice E is correct.