What’s Tested on the DAT: Quantitative Reasoning

The Quantitative Reasoning section of the DAT is designed to test the math skills that will be required in dental school. The section contains 40 multiple-choice questions, and you will have 45 minutes to complete it. A basic on-screen calculator similar to the one below will be available only in this section. It can be opened by clicking the “Calculator” button at the bottom of the screen. The calculator can add, subtract, multiply, and divide as well as take square roots, percentages, and reciprocals.

Note that the calculator cannot perform the complex functions of a scientific or graphing calculator. You also can’t input to the calculator by typing and instead will need to click every number and operation you want to perform, which can be quite time consuming and lead to making mistakes. For these reasons, avoid using the calculator as much as possible and instead use mental math and quick scratch-work calculations, saving the calculator for the rare questions with difficult multiplication or long division. Developing your ability to complete calculations without a calculator will also be helpful for the Survey of Natural Sciences since you won’t have access to a calculator during any of that section.

Quantitative Reasoning Content

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 Quantitative Reasoning 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, especially the Word Problems category, which accounts for 25% of the section.

Algebra (9)

• Equations and Expressions
• Inequalities
• Exponential Notation
• Absolute Value
• Ratios and Proportions
• Graphical Analysis

Numerical Calculations (6)

• Fractions and Decimals
• Percentages
• Approximations
• Scientific Notation

Conversions (3)
• Temperature
• Time
• Weight
• Distance

Probability and Statistics (4)

Geometry (4)

Trigonometry (4)

Word Problems (10)

Quantitative Reasoning Strategies


Since you will only have just over one minute for each math question, it’s important to be able to use efficient test-taking strategies to ensure you have enough time to complete each question. Many students find the timing of the Quantitative Reasoning section to be the most difficult to manage during the DAT, and this is compounded by the fact that Quantitative Reasoning is the last section, which means many students are exhausted by that point.

Although you may normally feel comfortable using traditional math to solve all the types of questions you’ll see on Test Day, trying to complete all of the questions using the methods you usually use is likely to result in you running out of time. Instead, think about the most efficient way to answer each question, using the fact that the entire section is multiple choice to your advantage. You might be able to work backward from the answer choices to find which one is correct or pick specific numbers to work with instead of variables where it makes the math easier.However, a well-placed guess can sometimes be the best tool you can use for a problem. Because of the severe time constraints, you need to stay on a steady pace. If you fall behind, it’s a good idea to guess on the hardest problems and mark them for later rather than completing the full calculations right away. That way you’ll get back lost time instead of falling further behind. And while you shouldn’t be afraid to guess, you should be afraid to rush! The test makers write problems in complicated ways, and rushing almost always leads to misperception of questions (not to mention errors in arithmetic). This is a problem because the test makers base many wrong answers on the most common misperceptions. Rushing through a problem almost always guarantees a wrong answer. It’s far better to guess as needed, skipping some questions and taking the time you need on others, than to rush through an entire section.

Even if you are ahead of schedule during a section, sometimes you simply will have no idea how to approach a problem. Instead of throwing away three or four minutes becoming frustrated, make a guess. If you don’t know how to approach a problem, you aren’t likely to choose the right answer anyway, and you can use the time you save to solve other problems that you stand a better chance of answering correctly.