When to Take the DAT

What is the Dental Admissions Test (DAT)?

The Dental Admission Test (DAT for short) is the required exam for entrance into dental school in the U.S. You will need to take the DAT as part of the application process to dental school (your application will not be considered complete until your DAT score is submitted).

Why do I need to take the DAT?

Short answer, because it is required to get into dental school. More importantly, the DAT exam is your chance to shine. It is a HUGE factor that dental schools take into consideration when deciding who to interview for positions.

Want to get more interviews from dental schools (and hopefully acceptances)? Do well on the DAT!

Our Recommendation

In general, we recommend taking the DAT exam between your junior year and senior year of college. Ideally, the best time would be to take it around May in order to have your application ready to submit early in June.

Keep in mind, it does take a couple of weeks between taking the DAT and AADSAS (Dental School application service) to receive your score.

Because we recommend having your application ready to submit in the first couple weeks of June, mid-May would be ideal. Of course, when to take the DAT isn't a one-size fits all question.

When should YOU take the DAT?

Now that you have a bit more information about the DAT and our general recommendation when exactly is the best time for you to take the DAT? Let's dive into the factors that can affect your decision.

When are you applying?

Most students apply between their junior and senior years of college. However, that is not always the case. But, you will need to take the DAT before your dental school application in order for your dental school application to be considered complete.

In a nutshell, you should take the DAT before, or at the latest right around the time, you plan to submit your application.

Personally, we would not recommend taking the DAT later than June of the year you plan to apply.

What classes have you taken?

Another factor you should consider is which classes you have taken so far. It is recommended that you have completed your college-level required courses-general chemistry, organic chemistry, and general biology courses before taking the DAT.

The DAT does not cover biochemistry, so it's not necessary before taking the DAT.

Now, there are students out there who have taken the DAT without finishing these courses. We wouldn't recommend this, though. Learning organic chemistry with a professor is hard enough, don't try and teach yourself and expect to do well on the DAT.

Do you feel ready?

One of the most important factors to consider when deciding when to take the DAT is if you feel ready to take the test. Do you feel confident in how you have done in your required courses? Have you taken at least one practice test and were happy with your score? If not, maybe you'll want to spend a bit more time preparing for the DAT.


Below, we will cover more frequently asked questions about the DAT.

How do I study for the DAT?

There are tons of DAT prep courses to help you in your studying for the DAT. Take a look at multiple to decide which test prep service is best for you. Here are a few that we have partnered with to get you discount codes and promo codes!

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Mometrix Test Preparation: Check out their DAT Secrets Study Guide and DAT Flashcards

How long should I study for the DAT?

This question is hard to answer because it varies so much person-to-person. If you really want to do well on the exam. We would recommend setting aside 2-4 months for studying. The American Dental Association (ADA) has recommended about 250 hours of study hours. Now, some of that time you may still be taking classes and won't be studying full-time, so factor that into your decision.

Are you studying full-time? You will probably be on the lower end of that range in order to feel ready to take the DAT.

Are you working or going to school full-time? You may want to be closer to the 4-month mark.

What does the DAT cover?

The DAT consists of 4 topics:

  1. Survey of natural sciences (science-general biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, etc.)

  2. Perceptual ability (PAT-perceptual ability test)

  3. Reading comprehension

  4. Quantitative reasoning (Mathematics)

How long is the DAT?

The DAT is a 5-hour test. It consists of 280 total questions. Here is the breakdown:

  1. Survey of Natural Sciences-100 Questions

  2. Perceptual Ability-90 Questions

  3. Reading Comprehension-50 Questions

  4. Quantitative Reasoning-40 Questions

How much does the DAT cost?

The current fee to take the DAT is $415 and is non-refundable.

How is the DAT scored?

The range for DAT scores is 1-30 with 1 being the lowest and 30 highest. DAT scores are determined based on a raw score based on the number of correct answers you have in each section. No penalty is given for any incorrect answers, so do your best to answer all the questions. If you are running low on time but are not finished, it is best to at fill in an answer for the rest of the questions.

The raw score is then converted to the DAT scale of 1-30. DAT scores are given for each section of the DAT along with a composite (overall) score.

Where do I register for the DAT?

Before signing up for the DAT, you will need to create a DENTPIN. DENTPIN is short for DENTal Identification Number. We like to think of this as your social security number for dental school. You will use it for both the DAT and your dental school application.

Once you have your DENTPIN, you will need to apply to take the DAT.

You can find more information about how to apply for the DAT through this ADA (American Dental Association) article.

When is the DAT offered?

The DAT is offered year-round at Prometric testing centers throughout the U.S. and its territories and Canada. Once you register to take the Dental Admissions Test, you will have access to see locations where the test is offered and times. Tests are almost always available on the weekend, but you will want to register well in advance.

How far in advance should I register for the DAT?

We would recommend scheduling a testing date 2-3 months in advance to ensure that you will have a seat reserved on a day and time to take the DAT that works well for you. Having a date set will also keep you accountable as you are studying!

Can I reschedule my test?

Yes, but there is a cost associated with rescheduling.

  • 1-5 business days before the test-$100 (Note: rescheduling must be done at least 24 hours before the exam is scheduled to begin)

  • 6-30 business days before the test-$60

  • 31+ business days before the test-$25

We would recommend doing your best to successfully plan when you will be ready to take the exam in order to avoid this. Create a study schedule for yourself and hold yourself accountable to stick to it. You can find an example of how Ana managed her time well and what she did to study for the DAT here.

Can I take it once as practice and then take it again?

While this is an option, it is an expensive one. In our mind, why not study your best and do well once rather than pay an extra fee?

Final Thoughts & Recap

The Dental Admission Test is a crucial step on your journey to dental school. You should take the DAT when you are prepared, but, it is in your favor to be prepared early to submit your application earlier.

We recommend taking the DAT exam between your junior year and senior year of college. Ideally, you will take the test before June in order to have your application ready to submit as close to June 1st as possible.

Of course, one size won't fit all when it comes to when to take the DAT. Perhaps you will take a gap year to give yourself time to study. Maybe you would like to take a year off before taking the exam.in order to save up some money. Overall, push yourself, but don't rush yourself into taking the DAT. You will feel so much better going into the exam knowing you did all you could to prepare, and the results will show!

What questions do you still have about the DAT? When did you take the DAT and do you wish you had taken it at a different time? Did you take a gap year to study? How did that help you in your preparation for the DAT? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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