What’s Tested on the DAT: General Chemistry

The middle subtest of the DAT Survey of Natural Sciences is General Chemistry. Questions 41–70 require you to understand both the theoretical concepts and practical—often mathematical—applications of various inorganic chemistry concepts, including stoichiometry, kinetics, equilibria, thermochemistry, and states of matter. Since you will not have access to a calculator during this section, you’ll also be tested on your ability to quickly and accurately complete calculations. However, since every question has exactly the same value on the DAT regardless of difficulty, don’t let yourself get slowed down by the most difficult or lengthy calculations. Instead, make educated guesses and use the mark functionality to indicate that you should come back to them later. If you do run out of time on a section, it’s much better to have answered six 30-second questions correctly rather than one 3-minute question!


General Chemistry Content on the DAT

The American Dental Association (ADA) has published a DAT User’s Manual on their Dental Admission Test (DAT) page that establishes what content can be tested on the DAT. The following outlines the exact content you will need to know for the Organic Chemistry section, and the numbers in parentheses reflect how many questions that primarily test that subject are likely to be on any given DAT administration. Note that many questions require knowledge from more than one content area listed, and some questions also require knowledge from Biology, General Chemistry, or other fields, so having a well-rounded background will still be helpful.


Stoichiometry and General Concepts (3)

• Percent Composition
• Empirical Formulas
• Balancing Equations
• Moles and Molecular Formulas
• Molar Mass
• Density
• Calculations from Balanced Equations

Gases (2)

• Kinetic Molecular Theory of Gases
• Dalton’s Gas Law
• Boyle‟s Gas Law
• Charles‟s Gas Law
• Ideal Gas Law

Liquids and Solids (3)

• Intermolecular Forces
• Phase Changes
• Vapor Pressure
• Structures
• Polarity
• Properties

Solutions (3)

• Polarity
• Colligative Properties
• Non-colligative Properties
• Forces
• Concentration Calculations

Acids and Bases (3)

• pH
• Strength
• Brønsted-Lowry Reactions
• Calculations

Chemical Equilibria (2)

• Molecular
• Acid/Base
• Precipitation
• Calculations
• Le Chatelier’s Principle

Thermodynamics and Thermochemistry (2)

• Laws of Thermodynamics
• Hess’s Law
• Spontaneity
• Enthalpies and Entropies
• Heat Transfer

Chemical Kinetics (2)

• Rate Laws
• Activation Energy
• Half-life

Oxidation-Reduction Reactions (2)

• Balancing Equations
• Oxidation Numbers
• Electrochemical Calculations
• Electrochemical Concepts and Terminology

Atomic and Molecular Structure (3)

• Electron Configuration
• Orbital Types
• Lewis-Dot Diagrams
• Atomic Theory
• Quantum Theory
• Molecular Geometry
• Bond Types
• Sub-atomic Particles

Periodic Properties (2)

• Representative Elements
• Transition Elements
• Periodic Trends
• Descriptive Chemistry

Nuclear Reactions (1)

• Balancing Equations
• Binding Energy
• Decay Processes
• Particles
• Terminology

Laboratory (2)

• Basic Techniques
• Equipment
• Error Analysis
• Safety
• Data Analysis

Studying General Chemistry for the DAT

Since the DAT blends theoretical knowledge with practical application, understanding both is essential for Test Day success. For the Survey of Natural Sciences, knowing the reason why intermolecular bonds form is just as important as being able to calculate the energy required to break them. You may be tempted to study these two aspects of chemistry separately, but the best test takers are able to integrate that knowledge to answer even the most difficult chemistry questions. Therefore, when confronted with a new equation, don’t focus only on how to perform each mathematical step. Instead, also consider what each variable truly represents, the proportionalities that are implied, and the reasons behind those relationships. Having this conceptual understanding will not only help you answer questions but will also make memorizing equations easier and may even allow you to determine a mathematical relationship on Test Day if you can’t recall the correct equation to use.

To facilitate learning the material this way, it’s important to intersperse learning content with practicing questions. By utilizing a variety of resources, you’ll see the material from different perspectives and gain a deeper understanding. After you finish studying a topic, take some time to reflect on how that knowledge connects to what you’ve already learned. If you form a narrative describing how an atom is formed, attaches to other atoms with intramolecular bonds to create a molecule, and connects with other molecules via intermolecular forces to determine its phase of matter, then you’ll be much more likely to remember the material and apply it on Test Day. Once you’ve learned the material in the context of General Chemistry alone, you’ll be able to apply it to other test sections, allowing you to truly master the DAT.