Personal notes • Summary
What DAT Score do I need for dental school?
Be honest with yourself.
Before designing a DAT study schedule, check which dental schools you wish to attend. Aim for the needed DAT score and a bit more. If you are aiming for an average DAT score, stop trying to chase the DAT study schedule of students who have scores that landed them in Harvard or Yale. They should be congratulated on their achievements but their way of studying likely included spending a significant amount of time chasing details that rarely become part of the real DAT. Assess your needs and then stick to your program.
Click here for DAT scores by dental school
How long should I study for the DAT?
A high science GPA, natural 2-3 D spatial intuition and a habit of reading English editorials, books or journals (meaning you can read English and/or research articles quickly and efficiently) will usually result in a great DAT score even with little preparation (i.e. just a couple of weeks, mostly spent completing and reviewing practice tests). For most students, quality prep materials and a disciplined DAT study schedule (average 3 to 6 hours per day for 3 to 6 months) are needed to get the score to be accepted to dental school. Within that range, in general, higher GPAs require less time while lower ones require more time to review.
The best DAT study schedule should include rewards, breaks and limitations in review materials. Be sure that good study habits are rewarded with breaks to go out and socialize, play sports or enjoy some other hobby. The best study habits also include a strict limitation on your study materials. Some students see DAT prep as an opportunity to accumulate a private DAT library of materials! Avoid the trap of stocking information that you cannot fully review and worse, may lead you to rush through the most frequently tested material in attempt to “see everything”. Such a strategy could lead to a suboptimal DAT score. Of course, we believe that the Gold Standard DAT materials, along with TopScore and the official exams from the ADA are all that you require in order to obtain a DAT score that would get you accepted to any dental school in the country. Should you use other DAT prep materials, you should still try to minimize what you accumulate.
DAT study strategy
Buy into a DAT study strategy that works for you. Of course, everyone is different, but we will describe a strategy that works for most people. The central dogma for DAT prep is: content review -> practice questions -> full length exams.
Content review during your DAT prep is normally when you review a book like the Gold Standard DAT. Our strategy with review guides is that your aim is to read a chapter once. Reading a chapter is clearly the least efficient way to study (well, unless you are including attending a typical university class which is even less efficient in terms of retaining information). So we will describe how you can retain information more efficiently.
Always ‘map’ first: ‘Mapping’ means that you never read a chapter before having already gauged where you are going. Start by reading the first page of the chapter which describes what you should memorize, understand, etc. You also read all the titles and subtitles in the chapter, review all tables and images (as well as their captions). Now you are ready to read and you have the proper concept and objectives.
Some students like to watch science review videos before or after reading a chapter. Depending on how you learn best, content review can be optimized through the synergy between video and reading material.
The next step is to complete chapter review questions so that you get feedback on your understanding of the material that you read. And finally, you must encode your review and practice experience in quality personal notes. Once the content review and chapter review questions are complete, then you are ready for full length DAT practice tests.
Your DAT prep personal notes
“I know I studied that 2 months ago, how could I forget?”
When starting your DAT content review, if you read a chapter, it should result in a half page or less of notes. Ideally, you read the chapter like it’s the last time you will ever see it (even if it is 6 months before the real test). Every line you read is a decision: Do I know this already? Is this related to something else I read? Is this a core DAT topic or advanced?
The personal notes you write are more like hieroglyphics than course notes. You are trying to write study tips or notes that trigger an idea. For example, you should never have notes with PV = nRT because presumably you know that already. But you may have been unclear on the reasons that the ideal gas law breaks down: this presents a need to take a brief note that triggers the concept.
What's the point? Studying is an active process. You can't sit in front of a book and demand: "Learn me now!" While you read you are continually asking questions, relating facts and taking very, very, very brief notes (for selfish reasons, we call them your Gold Notes!).
You read those notes 2-3 times per week and then every day in the weeks leading up to the exam. You never forget, not because you are some memory freak on 60 Minutes, but because you have seen the same DAT prep content dozens, if not hundreds, of times. You were not spending most of your time studying. You spent most of your time consolidating.
You finished a full length DAT practice test? One-half to one page of Gold Notes should have been created. After all the 5-10 DAT practice tests you may take, you have about 5 pages of truly Gold Notes. What do you look at the night before the real exam? (ummm, rhetorical)
Of course, a special note has to be made regarding DAT PAT: it is not really about content review but rather about strategy and practice. You should be exposing yourself to DAT PAT practice throughout your DAT study schedule (i.e. either a little every day or every few days). Our Gold Standard DAT PAT book comes with over 1300 practice questions and counting.
There are many websites, including our own, that have a free DAT question of the day which can give you that little push along the way. Also, on our Members home page, you’ll find a Science video of the week (even for free accounts). Depending on your learning style, you may find one or more of our Gold Standard DAT products helpful like books, DAT apps, mp3s, DVDs, online videos, online practice tests, and more. Whatever you may choose for your DAT prep, we hope that you take the time and energy to achieve your goal. Good luck!