Everything You Need to Know About the DAT

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By Shorelight Team
Last updated on August 3, 2023

Interested in dental medicine graduate programs in the US? If so, you will have to take a dental school exam. Here is a guide for international graduate students to prepare for the Dental Admissions Test (DAT).

Two dental students practice on dummy replica patients.

If your dream is to become a dentist, you have probably heard about the Dental Admission Test, or DAT. As an international student, you may be wondering what is the DAT? Made up of multiple-choice questions, the DAT is an entrance test that is required for admission to dental school in the United States. 


December 2022 update 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Prometric, the global testing services provider, initially closed selected test centers that administered the DAT exam. At press time, however, Prometric has resumed testing in more than 90% of their global testing centers, while continuing to monitor the situation. Reopened test centers are strictly following health measures to ensure your safety, and test takers are required to wear a face mask during the exam. Test center policies and procedures are regularly updated with the most recent guidance from local governments, the CDC, the WHO, and epidemiology consultants from Johns Hopkins University

If your appointment for the DAT exam is affected, Prometric will notify you and guide you through next steps: you can choose to cancel or reschedule. You receive a full refund if your exam payment was processed through Prometric. Generally, your appointment is rescheduled to a new date depending on when testing resumes. You are entitled to one free reschedule for your exam. It is important to note that Prometric currently does not accept IDs that have been expired for more than 90 days. 

If you are unable to travel to an official testing center because of illness or travel restrictions, there is nothing to worry about. You can email your concerns to testingproblems@ada.org; in your message, be sure to provide your DENTPIN and request to reschedule or cancel your appointment.

For more specifics, please visit the Prometric COVID-19 FAQ website. 

If you have any questions or need assistance, please reach out to a Shorelight representative. 


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The DAT college entrance exam mainly measures a student’s aptitude in biology, general chemistry, and organic chemistry as they will relate to the study of dentistry. 

How hard is the DAT? That depends on your scientific know-how, and as with all grad school tests, how your English language comprehension might affect your ability to take the test, especially if you are an international graduate student

According to U.S. News & World Report, being a dentist is ranked among the best jobs in the US, so graduate admissions to dental schools are competitive. Here is everything you need to know about the DAT, including how long does the DAT take, how the DAT score is calculated, and what is considered a good DAT score. 

DAT Structure

Knowing what to expect before you begin the process of studying for the DAT can help you prepare for the hard work that goes into any standardized test

How Many Sections Does the DAT Have? How Many Questions Are on the DAT?

The DAT has four sections, which include:

  1. A 90-minute survey of natural sciences, including 40 biology questions, 30 general chemistry questions, and 30 organic chemistry questions.

  2. A 60-minute perceptual ability (PAT) assessment comprised of six problem sets related to three-dimensional manipulation and spatial reasoning.

  3. A 60-minute reading comprehension section with questions related to the content of three academic essays. (International students may need to allocate more study time to this section if they have concerns about English-language comprehension.)

  4. A 45-minute quantitative reasoning section, with math questions similar to those on the SAT including algebra, fractions, roots, and trigonometry.

A detailed DAT Candidate Guide is available from the American Dental Association (ADA), which includes links to sample questions and practice tests. 

How Long Is the DAT? When Can I Expect to Receive My DAT Scores?

The DAT takes a total of four hours and 30 minutes. Since the DAT is a computer-based entrance exam, results are available immediately upon completion.

How Is the DAT Scored?

DAT takers receive eight standard scores ranging from 1 to 30: 

  • The first six scores are based on individual test section results of perceptual ability, reading comprehension, quantitative reasoning, biology, general chemistry, and organic chemistry.

  • The last two scores are summaries of the previous six. Those two numbers represent your Academic Average (the average for your quantitative reasoning, reading comprehension, biology, general chemistry, and organic chemistry scores), and your Total Science score (based on the biology, general chemistry, and organic chemistry questions).

PRO TIP: Each question answered correctly on the DAT earns one point, which adds up to a raw score that will be converted into a scaled score. There is no penalty for wrong answers, so it is a good rule to never leave any questions blank (even if time is running out). 

What Is a Good DAT Score?

The DAT score ranges from 1 to 30. According to the test prep experts at Kaplan, competitive DAT scores that rank in the top 25% DAT score percentile are 19 to 20 points. So, a top score would be 22 or higher. The average DAT score is 17.

DAT Logistics

When is DAT Registration? 

You must apply to the ADA to obtain a DENTPIN®, which is a code that enables you to take the DAT. It takes about ninety days to receive a DENTPIN, and it is valid for six months. 

Once you have your valid DENTPIN, you can then take the DAT almost any day of the year at a Prometric testing center. Plan your DAT date for when you will have had enough time to study, and in order to meet graduate school application deadlines

How Much Does Taking the DAT Cost?

Non-refundable exam fees for the DAT are $510, each time you take it.

How Many Times Can DAT Be Taken?

You can take the test three times before requiring special permission to retake it. There is a 90-day waiting period between each exam before you will be allowed to repeat it. All scores will be recorded and cannot be voided. Many graduate applicants take the DAT the year before they plan to apply to dental graduate programs. DAT scores are valid for two years.

How to Study for DAT

Knowing when to take the DAT depends on how much time you can commit to studying. 

University of Illinois Chicago students, like Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) candidate Michael Carrera, recommend starting early. 

“Start preparing for the DAT around the middle to end of your junior year in undergrad,” he says. “Check out the SDN (Student Dental Network) forums for the latest and most effective materials/methods for studying for the DAT.”

Using a DAT study guide, like the one available from the ADA or the DAT Destroyer, provides helpful DAT practice questions. Wondering how far in advance to study? A typical course recommended by Kaplan takes a total of 200 to 250 hours, which breaks down to at least three hours per day, five days per week, for three months (thirteen weeks). Of course, you can study more hours per day to shorten the duration of preparation, if that works best with your learning style. It all comes down to the amount of time you can dedicate to studying for the DAT and the programs’ application deadlines.

Good luck and keep smiling!

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