Guide to the dental school admission exam

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Passing instruments to the dentist on our pre dental study programIf you are planning on applying to dental school, one of the admissions requirements is taking the Dental School Admissions Exam (DAT).  The exam is a multiple choice test, which measures general academic and science ability as well perceptual ability. According to the American Dental Association, the exam should be taken at least a year before you plan to attend dental school.

Preparing for the dental school admissions exam

The dental admissions exam contains questions on a variety of subject areas, especially science. Students should complete science classes including chemistry, biology and math prior to taking the exam. Science and math classes not only help prepare you for the exam, but they are usually a requirement to get into dental school.

The old saying “practice makes perfect” may be true when it comes to taking standardized exams, such as the dental admission exam. Before taking the actual exam, take several practice tests. Taking practice tests is helpful in a few ways. It allows you the opportunity to get a feel for the type of questions asked and the exam format. It also gives you the chance to find out what areas you excel in and determine what subjects you need to work on in order to improve your scores. Dental school admissions exam content and practice exams can be reviewed on the American Dental Association’s (ADA) website under the DAT candidate’s guide.

Before you can apply to take the exam, you will need to obtain a DENTPIN from the ADA website. The DENTPIN will be used as your unique identifier, and it is also required when applying to dental school.

Test content

The computerized exam consists of multiple choice questions divided into four different sections. The four sections of the exam include reading comprehension, quantitative reasoning, science and perceptual ability.  You are allowed five hours to complete the exam, but some sections have their own time limit.

Perceptual ability involves solving two and three-dimensional problems, while quantitative reasoning will include math problems, such as conversions and algebra. The science section will consist of questions related to organic and general chemistry as well as biology.

Check the ADA’s website under the dental admission exam for the most up to date information on the cost of the exam and registration information. You will need to apply to take the exam through the ADA website. Once you receive your eligibility letter, you can schedule the test at one of the approved testing centers listed. Tests are offered year-round. 

Scores and retesting

Immediately after the exam, you will know your score. The exam uses a scale scoring system. Scores between 1 and 30 are calculated for each section of the exam. The scale scoring system is done in order to compare the test results of one examinee with the performance of all other examinees.  According to the ADA, an average scale score is considered 17. Official test scores can be sent directly to the dental programs you are applying to by including school information on your dental admissions exam application. 

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