The Dental Admission Test: What is DAT About?

By  Layton Funk

Published on  June 4, 2019


Basic Information

If you are planning on going to dental school, you must take the Dental Admission Test. You probably already know that, but we decided to provide you with some information and resources to maximize your studying and results! The DAT is a dental education admission test created and administered to dental education programs and schools a way to gauge an applicant’s skill level and overall potential. You can only take the exam three times without special permission to take another and each one costs nearly $500, so make it count! The entire test is multiple choice and contains questions about biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, problem sets to test perceptual ability (three-dimensional and spatial reasoning), three academic essays to analyze, and mathematics questions. These types of questions and problems are categorized into four sub-tests, being Survey of the Natural Sciences, Perceptual Ability, Reading Comprehension, and Quantitative Reasoning.

DAT Format

Each section of the test is very distinctive in what kinds of questions it will ask and what concepts are covered. Firstly, the natural science section is self-evident and requires college-level knowledge of biology and chemistry. Secondly is the perceptual section, designed to test one’s ability in terms of three-dimensional manipulation and spatial reasoning.  Thirdly is the reading comprehension portion that includes three academic essays to read, followed by questions meant to test each passage’s content and meaning. Lastly, the quantitative reasoning section tests basic to intermediate mathematics skills, mainly emphasizing algebra, fractions, roots, trigonometry, and critical thinking. One could directly compare this section to the math sections of the SAT and not be far off. The timing and the format are as follows:

Section Questions Time Limit
Optional Tutorial 15 minutes
Survey of Natural Sciences 100 90 minutes
·         Biology 40
·         General Chemistry 30
·         Organic Chemistry 30
Perceptual Ability Test 90 60 minutes
·         Keyhole 15
·         Top/Front/End Visualization 15
·         Angle Ranking 15
·         Hole Punches 15
·         Cube Counting 15
·         Pattern Folding 15
Optional Break 30 minutes
Reading Comprehension Test 50 60 minutes
Quantitative Reasoning Test 40 45 minutes
·         Mathematics 30
·         Applied Mathematics 10
Optional Post-Test Survey 15 minutes
Total (without options) 280 4 hours
Total (with options) 280 5 hours

DAT Scoring

It’s quite an exhaustive and comprehensive exam, so you must act as soon as you can to prepare for the long haul with as much tutoring, materials, and practice as possible! Just to compare your practice with the average score, I will quickly mention scoring works and the statistics. You will get eight scores on a scale of 1-30 which are assigned to the following: perceptual ability, reading comprehension, quantitative reasoning, biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, Academic Average (average of all previous, except perceptual ability), and Total Science (standard score based on all 100 natural science questions). An average score on the DAT is 17, a good score would be 20, and an exceptional score would be 23 or more. A 25 is typically in the top 99.9% of scores. Any dental program or school will be chomping at the bit for any score over 20!


Here at Victory Step, we can help you learn what you need to get a great score on the DAT. We have tutors adept at this level of mathematics, we have biology and chemistry specialists, and we have the passion and drive it takes to work with you to reach your goal! Below we’ve provided some links to good practice material, mostly free and some of it official from the ADA itself, that you should look at and really focus on. There are other resources you may find online as well, but these are good starting points, at least. A lot of this you may have covered or learned in college or even high school, but it will help immensely to brush up on things. Best of luck! Hopefully with these study materials you’ll pass easier than by the skin of your teeth.

Full Length Practice Test and Modules

DAT Bootcamp has some great learning modules and study guides as well as a free full-length practice test! Sign up here: and then click “Full Length Tests” on the sidebar and take the free one! Be prepared for the long haul, the DAT is nearly 5 hours long. Once you’ve completed the test, “Past Test Results” should have a breakdown of how you fared.

Free Official Study Material

Here is a link to a guide all about the content, scoring, fees, scheduling, and other information for the DAT provided by the ADA, simply click on the PDF link:

Further, here is some test prep materials for the DAT provided by the ADA, some at cost but one is free (DAT Sample Test Items at the bottom of the page):

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