The average pre-dental student may spend over 200 hours preparing for the DAT across several months, but what happens if you realize that your test date is a month away and you haven’t started your study plan yet? Studying for the DAT in one month is a challenging task, but if you already have a very strong science and math foundation and are able to devote a significant amount of study time per week, then you may still be able to earn the score you need by following this week-by-week plan.
Before you get started, you’ll need to gather together your study materials. Here is our recommended list:
With these or similar resources in hand, it’s time to start studying. With only four weeks, you likely won’t have time to memorize every fact that could appear on the test or master particularly challenging topics that have given you trouble for years. Instead, focus on completing a broad overview of the test content so you can pick up easier points from every section. Don’t completely neglect your strengths but also don’t allow yourself to focus solely on them; although it can be comforting and easier to review material that is fresh for you, it won’t earn you as many points as going back over content you were once strong with but haven’t reviewed in many years. Use the following plan to guide your studies.
- Start by taking a practice test or question set that covers all the topics from the DAT to familiarize yourself with the test and establish your baseline performance. The DAT Sample Test Items from the ADA is a great resource for this.
- Use your initial test results to determine which content areas you need to work on both. Modifying the study plan below accordingly. For example, if you did well on all molecular biology questions, you might only study those topics briefly and spend more time on a Biology subject you didn’t do as well with, such as anatomy and physiology.
- Fill in your calendar with study blocks, planning to study at minimum for three hours per day, six days per week. Leave one day off from studying per week so you have time to recharge.
- Devote one full day this week to each of Perceptual Ability, Biology, General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, and Quantitative Reasoning.
- PAT: learn the rules of each subtest and the strategies you will use for each
- Bio: cell and molecular biology
- Gen Chem: atomic and molecular structure, periodic trends, and stoichiometry. Use stoichiometry questions to practice Quant. strategies as well.
- Orgo: nomenclature, stereochemistry, and aromaticity and bonding
- Quant: numerical calculations, algebra, and conversions
- Devote one full day this week to each of Reading Comprehension, Perceptual Ability, Biology, General Chemistry, and Organic Chemistry.
- Reading Comp: learn the strategies you will use and practice getting through the passages quickly
- PAT: practice to improve your speed and accuracy across all subtests
- Bio: anatomy and physiology and developmental biology. Don’t get overwhelmed with the A&P; it will be tested in less than 25% of your Biology questions, so don’t stress if you don’t know all the details.
- Gen Chem: equilibrium, thermodynamics, kinetics, liquids and solids, and gases
- Orgo: properties of molecules and reaction mechanisms
- Spend one day at the end of the week taking a full-length practice test. Consider taking it in a library or similar location that will provided test-like conditions: no snacks or drinks during the test except for during breaks, no music, a quiet—but not silent—environment, and a test taken all in one sitting.
- Start the week by reviewing your practice test, looking over every question and using the results to modify your study plan if needed. Spend extra time reviewing Reading Comprehension, re-reading the passages to determine what information you actually needed and what you didn’t.
- Devote one full day this week to each of PAT, Biology, General Chemistry, and Organic Chemistry.
- PAT: continue to practice to improve your speed and accuracy across all subtests
- Bio: genetics; evolution, ecology, and behavior; and diversity of life
- Gen Chem: solutions, redox reaction, acids and bases, and nuclear reactions
- Orgo: reactions (including multi-step reactions)
- Take a second full-length practice test at the end of the week. If you have time, travel to the testing center first to ensure you know how to get to the correct building, where to park, and which room your test will be in. Having all these logistics out of the way will help reduce your stress on Test Day—and ensure you aren’t late!
- Once again, start the week by reviewing your practice test, looking over every question and using the results to modify your study plan if needed. Spend extra time reviewing Reading Comprehension, re-reading the passages to determine what information you actually needed and what you didn’t.
- Devote one full day this week to Quantitative Reasoning.
- Quant: geometry, trigonometry, and probability and statistics
- For your remaining three days, spend time reviewing the content areas that were your biggest opportunities on your last test. If you’ve never truly mastered a topic, though, now is not the time to attempt to learn it. Instead, focus on the material that you struggled with the first time through but that you think you can master given just a little more time.
- Take the day before the test completely off; your brain needs to rest before the marathon of test-taking to come! Eat healthy, balanced meals and get a full night of rest so you are mentally and physically prepared for Test Day. On the day of the test, wake up with plenty of time to spare, and be sure to eat breakfast before leaving to give your brain the fuel it needs.
With this plan, you should be well on your way to success on Test Day. But remember: if you don’t feel prepared for your test after 30 days or aren’t scoring anywhere near where you want to be on your practice tests, then you may want to change your test date so you don’t end up with a less-than-ideal score on your DAT transcript. It’s much better in the long run to push your plans back a bit than than to not do well and then have to retest anyway.