What You Should Know Before You Become A Dentist

Being a dentist is a challenging, but rewarding profession. Every profession has its positives and negatives and like any other profession, you should consider both when deciding if a career in dentistry is right for you. The negatives of being a dentist are often overshadowed by the positives so that pre-dental students sometimes have a misconstrued notion of what it is like to be a dentist.

I know when I decided to become a dentist the only negative thing I heard about dentistry was that dental school is expensive, but everyone always told me I will be able to pay off my debt quickly and it was nothing to worry about. Times have changed though since those days and those that told me that didn’t face the hardships of dentistry that I am facing in this time period. Tuition has increased drastically and dentists are not paying off their debt as easily or nearly as quickly as they once did.

It is challenging being a dentist and there are many more challenging tasks that a dentist faces these days besides paying off debt. I’ll go over both the pros and cons as well as share more information related to the field of dentistry to try and paint a more realistic picture of what being a dentist entails to help you make the right decision in regards to becoming a dentist or not.


Respected Profession: Dentistry is a highly respected profession. A dentist is a community figure that is highly respected and trusted by the community in which he/she works. Dental patients rely on and trust their dentist to provide them with the best possible healthcare.

Ability to Help People: Dentistry is a service oriented profession. You will spend all of your time helping other people which is extremely rewarding to you as a dentist. You can make significant improvements in people’s lives by restoring their smile, teeth, self-confidence, self-image, and ability to eat and speak properly. There is instant gratification for you as a dentist when you are able to relieve the pain from a toothache or place a beautiful crown which enhances the esthetics and function of the patient’s teeth.

Stability: Dentistry is an extremely stable career with one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country. Oral healthcare is always necessary and always in demand, but as the baby boomer era of dentists’ retires, the want for cosmetic dentistry increases, and as people live longer the demand for dentists will only increase in the future resulting in more jobs available and a very stable profession.

Income: Dentistry provides a healthy income with a median salary of $146,340 in 2013 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. As a dentist you are able to help dictate how much you make by how much you work and your business model. If you own your own private practice then you can work as much or as little as you’d like and run your practice however you’d like which will influence how much income you make.

Balanced Lifestyle: A career in dentistry can provide you with a balanced lifestyle between your work, family, and social life. If you own your own practice then you can choose how much you work in a week. Most dentists work full-time, but some will work only 3 days a week or some will work more than full-time by working evenings and even weekends.

Self-Employment: Dentistry allows you to be your own boss if you choose to do so by owning your own practice. You can determine how you want your career in dentistry to be. You have much more freedom and can essentially make all the decisions with very little managed care in dentistry which is not common in the other healthcare professions.


Education: In order to become a dentist, you will spend at least 7-8 years in school following high school. It is not a requirement at every dental school to have a Bachelor’s degree to enter dental school, but it is highly recommended and nowadays schools do not typically accept students without one. So you will spend your first 4 years of study at a university earning a Bachelor’s degree in whatever major you choose. There is no specific major for dental school, however, most pre-dental students choose a Science major. There are specific classes that are required prior to entering dental school and each dental school can vary on what they require and what they recommend, but for more information about courses to take during your undergraduate studies then click here.

Following graduation from a university, you will enroll at a dental school after taking the DAT, interviewing, and getting accepted. Dental school is a 4 year doctorate program (3 years if you go to University of the Pacific). It is a very stressful and demanding program. Upon graduation, you’ll receive your DDS or DMD degree, depending upon which degree your school awards. There is no difference between the two and they’re both earned with the same education criteria.

After dental school you will be a dentist. You have the option of going on to post-graduate programs such as a 1 year General Practice Residency or Advanced Education in General Dentistry programs to gain more experience and enhance your clinical skills as a general dentist. You can also elect to specialize in one of the fields of dentistry which these post-graduate programs range from an additional 2-6 years, depending upon the specialty, of schooling in order to complete.

Time: Besides spending at least 7-8 years of your life in school in order to become a dentist you will spend many hours doing demanding and exhausting work on your patients throughout your career. Most dentists work full-time and some will even work evening and weekends. The nice thing about dentistry is the flexibility in your schedule you can have if you own your own practice. You could work less than full-time and not work evenings or on the weekends, but most dentists do due to debt, expenses, etc. As a dentist though, you are responsible for the oral healthcare of your patients and when patients call your emergency line with a severe toothache on a Saturday night at 9PM then you are responsible for them. You must provide a way for them to receive treatment so plan on spending plenty of additional time outside of your normal business hours treating and assisting patients as well.

Debt: No one understands what a lot of debt is better than a dentist. It is almost comical to hear people going through undergraduate studies or other graduate programs complain about their debt, because dental school is one of if not the most expensive graduate programs. An average dental student will graduate with around $250,000 in debt from dental school. The most expensive dental schools will put you at around $500,000 in debt upon graduating from them.

Tack on an average person’s debt from their undergraduate studies, a car, a house, etc. and your debt quickly rises. Now if you want to own your own practice you can either buy an existing practice or build your own. Prices of a practice vary, but you can probably plan on dropping around $500,000 for a practice. Are you getting overwhelmed? It’s very burdensome and stressful to have that much debt so make sure dentistry is something you love before jumping into it.

Stress: You are probably already a little stressed after reading that last point. Debt is a major factor of stress in dentistry. There are also plenty of other factors such as managing patients and staff, running a business, dealing with managed care, competing with other dentists’, and not having many benefits of your own, such as personal time off, due to the high costs of maintaining a practice.

When treating patients there are many variables that contribute to the stress of being a dentist. You spend your entire day working and focusing in a small confined area. The work you do is very tedious and precise. Some patients have a limited capacity to open their mouths, some have tongues the size of car hoods, some salivate or bleed like fire hoses, some wince in pain at the sound of a drill, some gag at the sight of a mouth mirror, some pass out, and some will throw up on you.

You have to keep up with your schedule, which is very precise as well, and one patient that shows up late or an unexpected occurrence during treatment can cause serious delays and kinks in your schedule and much unwanted stress. There are plenty of factors that cause stress in the life of a dentist. You need to be able to handle and cope with the high levels of stress and still manage the stress that you face outside of dentistry.

Physically Demanding: Dentistry is very physically demanding, although many people would probably not think so. Doing precise and tedious work in a tiny area with your hands and having your eyes focused on a small area through loupes for long periods of time are reasons why dentistry is demanding physically. It is tough on your back, hands and shoulders. If you have poor ergonomics in dentistry you will feel and see the results of that in a short amount of time. Carpal tunnel syndrome, chronic back problems, and hypertension abound with dentists. You’ll probably have to find a good chiropractor at some point in your career.

Costs of a Dental Practice: Just like the expenses of dental school are extremely expensive, maintaining a dental practice is also very expensive. Dentists do have a good income and have stable careers, but they aren’t making as much as patients or people often perceive. Patients will complain about paying $1000 for a beautiful crown, but they have no clue that most dental practices have an overhead between 50-70% with most of them between 60-70% and sometimes even higher than 70%.

Most of the money coming in never ends up in the pockets of the dentist. It goes to pay for supplies, staff salaries, taxes, maintenance, insurance coverage, CE courses, new equipment, etc. Dental equipment is extremely expensive; that in house milling machine the dentist just used to make your crown costs over $100,000. Every instrument, piece of equipment, even materials can be very expensive to purchase. Companies are continuously releasing new dental materials, instruments, and equipment and you’re always feeling the pressure to purchase the latest and greatest item. It’s challenging to stay ahead and maintain a modern and high quality practice.

Competition: The competition for acceptance into dental school is increasing by the year. It is difficult and very competitive to get into dental school, because more and more students are applying each year. Dentistry remains as pretty much the only area in healthcare that hasn’t been fully taken over by managed care. More and more students each year are wanting to get into dentistry, because it offers them more freedom and flexibility to do what they want for their career as a dentist. You are expected to go to a good university, have a high GPA, and get better scores on the DAT now when applying.

Once you’re out of dental school you have to compete with fellow dentists for patients. Everyone wants to live in urban areas so nearly every major metropolitan area is well beyond its optimal dentist to people ratio. You’ll have to make sure to allocate a decent amount of money into marketing in order to maintain a practice that is successful.

Managed Care: Dentistry is one of the only areas in healthcare that hasn’t been tampered by managed care. Managed care meaning when organizations like the government or an insurance company manage health care. Just like Obamacare and insurance companies have been ruining the healthcare system this could happen with dentistry in the not so distant future. As of now there are still quite a bit of liberties with managing your own practice, but insurance companies already dictate a lot of the treatment that your patients will receive and government or insurance companies could be taking a more active role in managing dental care in the future as they have done with medical care. You might not be able to own your own practice anymore if that happens.

Vulnerability to Infectious Diseases: As a dentist you are susceptible to illnesses and infectious diseases every day as you treat patients. Patients will show up with a cold or a contagious illness and you’ll be prone to getting it as well. Dentists also work with many sharp instruments such as: needles, scalpel blades, burs, explorers or scalers to name a few. If you accidentally have a needlestick or poke yourself with a sharp instrument then there is always the risk of contracting a blood borne disease such as HIV or Hepatitis C if the patient is a carrier. You become at risk for these life threatening diseases if this happens. The risk of actually contracting the disease is very low, but it is still possible and has happened so its a risk that a dentist faces.

Emotionally Demanding: Dentistry is not only physically demanding, but emotionally as well. You’ll have a patient show up almost daily and tell you they don’t like the dentist. Patients aren’t usually happy, have anxiety, or express discomfort while getting dental treatment. People hate waiting and if your schedule gets thrown off by a patient that showed up late then the rest of your patients will take it out on you. People don’t like being in pain and will be rude and disrespectful to you at times. People will be upset with treatment that fails or when something goes wrong.

There is no guaranteed perfect treatment in healthcare, there are plenty of variables that are beyond the control of a dentist, yet the dentist will pay the price for it emotionally and financially at times when something does go wrong. All of these things create a significant emotional demand on you as the provider. As a dentist you want things to be perfect and you do your best for every patient, but sometimes you can’t make patients happy or some things are beyond your control, so it is straining and challenging to handle these occurrences when they do happen.

Business Management: Running a business is difficult for anyone, especially for a dentist. Imagine spending 4 years in your undergraduate focused on a science major and then 4 years of dental school focused on dentistry and then you graduate and are expected to know how to run a dental practice without any knowledge of how to run a business. Dental school will spend about 1/50 of your time in dental school talking about practice management. You won’t really get anything out of this and it is essentially up to you to figure it out once you’re on your own. It is difficult to do the business side of the practice, but also do all the dental work as well. A dentist wears many hats: he’s a business owner, an entrepreneur, and the main employee providing the dental care.

You also have to manage your staff. Knowing when to hire and fire staff, how to keep them happy financially, provide them with benefits, and dealing with attitudes is frustrating, stressful, and demanding. It can be very difficult dealing with all different types of people and personalities while trying to keep everyone happy and productive. You will have to be able to balance multiple roles as a dentist.

Lack of Benefits: It is not very feasible to take long vacations while working as a dentist, because you still have to pay for the expenses of a practice even when you aren’t there. There are daily expenses that have to be paid whether or not the practice is even open, so taking time off not only prevents you from making money, but it also costs you money which makes your vacation much more costly. Most dentists can’t take more than two weeks off in a row without working which even that can be extremely costly.

You don’t receive designated benefits from an employer. The only benefits you get are the benefits that you give yourself. If you don’t invest and save wisely over the years, you could end up working much longer than you’d want just to have something to retire on.

Miscellaneous Facts

There are various random facts about dentistry and here are a examples of the good and bad ones associated with it.

  • Top 10 Careers: A dentist is consistently ranked as one of the top 10 careers in the country due to its comfortable income, low unemployment rate, and good work-life balance.
  • Suicide: A not so great statistic about dentistry is that dentists consistently have one of the highest rates of suicide among any profession. Dentists are under extreme amounts of stress from working long hours, complaints from patients, and debt. Researchers have suggested that: stress, physical and emotional demands, patient complaints, perfectionism, debt, ease of access to various drugs, and higher rates of mental illness due to stress are all factors that attribute to a higher suicide rate among dentists.

Overview of Dentistry

A dentist is a healthcare professional that holds the title of doctor, Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) – both degrees mean the same thing and are earned by the same education. It is up to the dental school to decide which degree they will award at their school.

Following dental school, a new dentist has multiple options to choose from. They can continue their education and pursue a post-doctorate program or residency for advanced training in general dentistry or one of the 9 dental specialities. The specialty areas of dentistry are: Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery, Oral & Maxillofacial Radiology, Oral & Maxillofacial Pathology, Orthodontics & Dentofacial Orthopedics, Endodontics, Periodontics, Prosthodontics, Pediatric Dentistry, and Dental Public Health. These programs and residencies range from an additional 1-6 years of advanced training following dental school.

If a dentist does not wish to do any advanced training then they may begin working in a variety of different areas as a general dentist. These areas include: academics, research, military, public health, corporate dentistry, private practice, group practice, international health care, or hospital care. There are many options to choose from and you can decide your own path in dentistry and what type of patients or area you want to treat and work in.

Dentistry is a great profession and a very rewarding one as well. I know I have weighed heavily on the negatives of the profession, but in my opinion the positives outweigh the negatives. It is important though, like any career choice, to understand the profession and what it entails so that you make sure you are committed to it and, therefore, committed to your patients as you are responsible for their care and well-being. It is a great responsibility to have and although it can be extremely burdensome at times it is very gratifying and rewarding to provide quality care that can drastically change lives for the better.

If you are ready to start preparing for the DAT exam, check my guide on how to best prepare. You’ll also want to check out the best DAT study materials to make sure you’re prepared as possible.

Also, here are some links from the American Dental Association (ADA) as well as the American Student Dental Association (ASDA) that will provide you with additional insight and information related to a career in dentistry.

What can a career in Dentistry offer you? – ADA

Careers in the Dental Profession – ADA

Life of a Dentist – ASDA



Careers in Dentistry by the ADA


Dental Admission Test

Dental Admission Test InformationWhat Is the DAT?

The Dental Admission Test, also known as the DAT, is a timed multiple-choice exam conducted by the American Dental Association (ADA). The DAT measures the general academic ability, comprehension of scientific information, and perceptual ability of an examinee.

Dental school applicants are required to take the DAT in order for acceptance into any U.S. dental school. Although your DAT scores aren’t the only factor that dental schools consider while determining which applicants to select into their program; it is one, if not the most, heavily weighted factors.

Every dental school has specific requirements including minimal DAT scores that the applicants must meet in order to even have your application reviewed for an interview invite, let alone an acceptance into their program.

If you want to become a dentist then you need to score well on the DAT! I’ll go through the entire test, from start to finish, and break it down for you so you know exactly what you’re up against.

How Do I Apply To Take the DAT?

In order to take the DAT, you need to receive approval from the Department of Testing Services at the ADA. You will first obtain a DENTPIN and then submit an application, which can both be done from here.

Upon approval to take the DAT, you will only have 6 months to take it!  You will not be able to extend that time or receive a refund for your payment so make sure you are committed and ready to go.

How Much Does It Cost?

The current fee is $415, which is a non-refundable and non-transferable fee. The fee includes official score reporting to all of the schools that you have listed on your DAT application (regardless of the number), an unofficial score report issued at the testing center, and official score reporting to your pre-dental advisor (if you chose this option on your application).

You can submit updates to the schools you have selected on your DAT application as long as those are submitted to the ADA’s DTS before your testing appointment. If they are not received beforehand then there is a fee of $34 per report sent out to either a dental school or other recipient.

Is There Financial Assistance Available For the DAT?

The ADA does offer a partial fee waiver for students that are U.S. citizens or resident aliens and have received financial aid at his/her educational institution. The waiver covers 50% of the fee, but does not cover any additional charges for score reporting after the time of the initial application. Examinees that have previously received a fee waiver or who have already taken the DAT are not eligible for the waiver.

Fee waivers are very limited and granted on a first-come, first-served basis only. In order to be eligible to receive a waiver you must submit the fee waiver financial information form, your completed paper DAT application, and your educational institution financial aid award letter. You can request forms at [email protected]. Fee waivers must be requested in writing and you will not be eligible for a waiver if you submit an electronic DAT application.

When Can I Take the DAT?

The DAT is administered year round at test centers operated by Prometric Incorporated. Upon approval of your application to take the DAT, you will be notified via email to visit Prometric or contact them to schedule a testing appointment.

How Many Times Can I Take It?

You have to wait at least 90 days after taking the DAT to retake it. You’ll be required to submit a new application and pay the fee again for each retake. If you have three or more test attempts then you must apply for permission to retest.

Requests for additional testing must be submitted in writing to the ADA’s Department of Testing Services and must include evidence that you have intended to apply to dental school within the last 18 months. Evidence could include:

  • A copy of a completed and submitted ADEA AADSAS application
  • A letter of rejection from a dental school
  • A letter on school letterhead from a dental school admissions officer encouraging you to retest or reapply
  • A letter on school letterhead from a college/university health profession advisor/instructor verifying that you are applying to dental school

Can I Reschedule My Test Date?

Yes you can; however, you’ll be required to pay a fee for rescheduling. Best thing to do is pick a date and stick with it! However, if something does come up and you have to reschedule then here is a table that will let you know how much you will have to pay.

Days Before Test Date








How Long Is the DAT?

The DAT is a timed exam. You will have 4 hours and 15 minutes to complete all sections of the test. There are also 45 minutes of additional time which is optional and used for a tutorial at the beginning of the test, a break at the halfway point, and a survey after completing the test.

I would highly recommend taking the time allotted to you for a break and give your brain a breather before continuing on with the rest of the test. It’s an endurance test, you need to be prepared mentally and physically. The more you prepare through studying, taking practice tests, eating a healthy diet and getting enough sleep; the better you will perform on the actual test. It’s just like a sport, you need to train and prepare in all aspects in order to perform well on game day. Enough ranting, here is a breakdown of the time for the test:

Optional Tutorial

15 minutes

Survey of Natural Sciences

90 minutes

Perceptual Ability Test

60 minutes

Optional Break

15 minutes

Reading Comprehension Test

60 minutes

Quantitative Reasoning Test

45 minutes

Optional Post Test Survey

15 minutes

Scope of Material Covered On the DAT

The DAT is comprised of four tests: Survey of Natural Sciences, Perceptual Ability Test, Reading Comprehension Test, and a Quantitative Reasoning Test. In order to master the material, you’ll surely need a DAT Prep Course. Let’s look at each test and see what material is covered on them.

Survey of Natural Sciences (100 Questions)

Biology (40 questions)

  1. Cell and Molecular Biology – origin of life, cell metabolism (including photosynthesis/enzymology), cellular processes, thermodynamics, organelle structure and function, mitosis/meiosis, cell structure and experimental cell biology
  2. Diversity of Life: Biological Organization and Relationship of Major Taxa (Six-Kingdom, Three-Domain System) – plantae, animalia, protista, fungi, eubacteria (bacteria), archaea, etc.
  3. Structure and Function of Systems – integumentary, skeletal, muscular, circulatory, immunological, digestive, respiratory, urinary, nervous/senses, endocrine, reproductive, etc.
  4. Developmental Biology – fertilization, descriptive embryology, developmental mechanisms, and experimental embryology
  5. Genetics – molecular genetics, human genetics, classical genetics, chromosomal genetics, and genetic technology
  6. Evolution, Ecology, and Behavior – natural selection, population genetics/speciation, cladistics, population and community ecology, ecosystems, and animal behavior (including social behavior)

General Chemistry (30 questions)

Stoichiometry and General Concepts – percent composition, empirical formulae, balancing equations, moles and molecular formulas, molar mass, density, and calculations from balanced equations

  1. Gases – kinetic molecular theory of gases, Dalton’s, Boyle’s, Charles’s, and ideal gas law
  2. Liquids and Solids – intermolecular forces, phase changes, vapor pressure, structures, polarity, and properties
  3. Solutions – polarity, properties (colligative, non-colligative), forces, and concentration calculations
  4. Acids and Bases – pH, strength, Bronsted-Lowry reactions, and calculations
  5. Chemical Equilibria – molecular, acid/base, precipitation, calculations, and Le Chatelier’s principle
  6. Thermodynamics and Thermochemistry – laws of thermodynamics, Hess’s Law, spontaneity, enthalpies and entropies, and heat transfer
  7. Chemical Kinetics – rate laws, activation energy, and half-life
  8. Oxidation-Reduction Reactions – balancing equations, determination of oxidation numbers, electrochemical calculations, and electrochemical concepts and terminology
  9. Atomic and Molecular Structure – electron configuration, orbital types, Lewis-Dot diagrams, atomic theory, quantum theory, molecular geometry, bond types, and sub-atomic particles
  10. Periodic Properties – representative elements, transition elements, periodic trends, and descriptive chemistry
  11. Nuclear Reactions – balancing equations, binding energy, decay processes, particles, and terminology
  12. Laboratory – basic techniques, equipment, error analysis, safety, and data analysis

Organic Chemistry (30 questions)

Mechanisms: Energetics, and Structure – elimination, addition, free radical, substitution mechanisms, and other

  1. Chemical and Physical Properties of Molecules – spectroscopy (1H NMR, 13C NMR, infrared, and multi-spectra), structure (polarity, intermolecular forces (solubility, melting/boiling point, etc.), and laboratory theory and techniques (i.e. TLC, separations, etc.)
  2. Stereochemistry (structure evaluation) – chirality, isomer relationships, and conformations
  3. Nomenclature – IUPAC rules and functional groups in molecules
  4. Individual Reactions of the Major Functional Groups and Combinations of Reactions to Synthesize Compounds – alkene/alkyne, aromatic, substitution/elimination, aldehyde/ketone, carboxylic acids and derivatives, and other. For each area listed above, the following sub-areas apply: general, one-step, and multi-step.
  5. Acid-Base Chemistry – ranking acidity/basicity (structure analysis and pH/pKa data analysis), and prediction of products and equilibria
  6. Aromatics and Bonding – concept of aromaticity, resonance, atomic/molecular orbitals, hybridization, and bond angles/lengths

Perceptual Ability Test (90 questions)

The Perceptual Ability Test is made up of six subtests which include:

  1. Apertures
  2. View Recognition
  3. Angle Discrimination
  4. Paper Folding
  5. Cube Counting
  6. 3D Form Development

Reading Comprehension Test (60 questions)

The Reading Comprehension Test contains three reading passages on various scientific topics. Prior knowledge of the topics is not necessary; therefore, the purpose of this section is to test your ability to read, comprehend, and analyze basic scientific information. Time passes fast when you’re trying to read these scientific passages so you better get some practice in beforehand!

Quantitative Reasoning (40 questions)

This test will cover the following topics:

  1. Mathematical Problems:
  1. Algebra – equations and expressions, inequalities, exponential notation, absolute value, ratios and proportions, and graphical analysis
  2. Numeric calculations – fractions and decimals, percentages, approximations, and scientific notation
  3. Conversions – temperature, time, weight, and distance
  4. Probability and Statistics
  5. Geometry
  6. Trigonometry
  1. Applied Mathematics (Word) Problems

A basic four function calculator on the computer screen that is operated with the mouse will be available to you on this section.

*There was speculation that the QR Test would be changing in 2015 and that questions about numerical calculations, conversions, geometry and trigonometry will be removed and replaced by questions about understanding data analysis, quantitative comparison and probability and statistics; but according to the ADA DAT Guide for 2015 that is not the case and the test appears the same as the format of the previous years. Perhaps this change will happen in the future, but for now the QR Test format is as outlined above.

Can I use note paper or anything else while taking the test?

You will be given two note boards and two fine tip erasable markers to use on the test. You are not allowed to bend them or distort them in anyway. You are also not allowed to touch the monitor screen while taking the test. You can use a basic four function calculator only on the Quantitative Reasoning Test which will be made available to you during that section on the computer and it will be operated with the mouse.

When will I find out my scores?

Immediately upon completing the DAT you will receive an unofficial score report from the Prometric Testing Center. Scale scores are reported in this report and it will be the only report that you will personally receive.

Official scores will be available three to four weeks after completing your test and will be sent electronically to the schools that you selected on your DAT application as well as to your pre-dental advisor if you wanted them to receive a copy. All U.S. dental schools require official score reports. The four most recent test attempts are reported to each school that you selected on your DAT application.

How is the DAT scored?

Your scores are based on the number of correct responses; therefore, you are not penalized for guessing on a question. Don’t leave any questions blank!

Scores are reported in scale scores, which are neither raw scores (correct responses) nor percentiles. Scale scores make it possible to compare the scores of one examinee with the scores of all the examinees. Scores for the DAT range from 1-30. There are no passing or failing scores; a scale score of 17 typically signifies average performance on a national basis.

Each test includes certain questions that play a special role within the testing program. These questions enable the ADA to place different forms of the test on a common measurement scale, thereby adjusting the forms for any differences in form difficulty level. Because of these questions, scores have the same meaning regardless of the particular form that was administered.

Other questions are experimental on the test and these are not scored. The data collected from unscored questions is used later in test construction processes, to ensure that these questions are appropriate before they are included amongst the scored questions.

Before official score reports are released, the DTS conducts a quality review of all results in order to confirm the accuracy of the scores. They will also review test center reports of irregularities and violations of Test Regulations. For a period of 30 days following your test appointment, the DAT program is willing to audit your test results for a fee of $65 made payable to the ADA.

This wraps up the breakdown of the dental admission test or DAT, hopefully it is clear to you what you will face on test day. The majority of this information is made available from the ADA in their Dental Admission Test (DAT) 2015 Program Guide which can be found here. Remember, performing well on the DAT is a crucial step in the process of becoming a dentist and getting into dental school. Be prepared and you’ll do well and soon realize your goals!

Check out the video below from the American Student Dental Association (ASDA) for a basic overview of the Dental Admission Test:

The Perceptual Ability Test

DAT Perceptual Ability TestThe Perceptual Ability Test, also known as the PAT, is one of the four tests of the Dental Admission Test. It is essential to do well on this test as it is scored separate of the other three tests – Survey of the Natural Sciences, Reading Comprehension, and Quantitative Reasoning – that formulate your Academic Average score. Therefore, you want to rock the PAT since its score stands alone from the others.

I also believe the PAT is one of the easiest sections of the DAT to do well on. The Academic Average and the PAT scores are the two scores that will be looked at first. A high PAT score will add strength and a buffer to your application which will help out with any area that may be less than ideal.

General Guidelines for the PAT

Here are some general guidelines that you should follow to help you obtain a higher overall score:

  1. Elimination: Look at the possible answers for each question and find which ones you can eliminate. Eliminating answers will help you get rid of the distractors and come up with the right answer more quickly. This is a helpful thing to do with every question on the DAT; there are distractors on every question.

  2. Time Management: Make sure you are completing the subtests in a timely manner. You have 40 seconds max per question so you can’t afford to waste time on this test. The best way to become efficient in your time management on the PAT is to follow the following guidelines.

  3. Practice: Do practice problems!

  4. Practice: Do more practice problems!

  5. Practice: Do even more practice problems! Do as many practice tests as you can for the PAT; the more the better! This is the only way to crush the PAT.


The PAT has 90 questions in total and is made up of 6 subtests with 15 questions on each one. Here is an explanation of each subtest:

  1. Apertures (Keyholes): A 3D object is shown along with the outline of 5 apertures of openings and you must determine which aperture the 3D object could pass through. There is only one correct aperture for each 3D object. Prior to passing through the aperture, the object may be turned in any direction and/or started through the aperture on a side not shown. Once it has started through the aperture, it may not be twisted or turned. It must pass completely through the opening which is the exact shape of the appropriate external outline of the object. Both objects and apertures are drawn to scale, therefore, it is possible for an opening to be the correct shape, but too small for the object. Differences in size are large enough to determine by eye. There are no irregularities in any hidden portion of the object. However, if the figure has symmetric indentations, the hidden portion is symmetric with the part shown.

  2. View Recognition (Top/Front/End): You are presented with pictures from the top, front, and end views of various solid objects. The views are without perspective; meaning that the points in the viewed surface are viewed along parallel lines of vision. The problems will show you two views of the object with four alternatives of the object in order to complete the missing view. Hidden lines are shown as dashed lines.

  3. Angle Discrimination (Angle Ranking): Four angles are presented and you must rank them from smallest to largest.

  4. Paper Folding (Hole Punches): A flat square of paper is folded one or more times and then a hole is punched in it. The solid lines indicate the position of the folded paper. The folded paper always remains within the edges of the original square. The paper is never turned or twisted. You have to mentally unfold the paper and determine the position of the holes in the original square.

  5. Cube Counting: A figure made by cementing together cubes of the same size is presented for each set of problems. After the cubes have been cemented together they were painted on all sides EXCEPT for the bottom on which they are resting. The only hidden cubes are those required to support other cubes. You have to examine each figure closely to determine how many cubes have how many of their sides painted.

  6. 3D Form Development (Pattern Folding): A flat pattern will be presented which will be folded into a 3D figure. The correct figure is one of the four given to the right of the pattern. There is only one correct figure in each set. The outside of the pattern is what is seen at the left.

Tips & Tricks

Here are some different test taking methods that many people have found helpful for the PAT. I would recommend trying them all out and seeing which ones work best for you. I only used several of these and found that others weren’t helpful to me. You just need to put them in practice and see what helps you the most. The answers for the problems are listed at the bottom of this section.

Apertures (Keyholes)

  • Top/Front/End Method: This subtest is in my opinion the most difficult. There is no method that I’ve seen to make this easy. The best way to approach it is the same as the View Recognition (Top/Front/End) subtest. Visualize each object from the top, front and end views. Remember the answers can be in any of those views or even diagonal views. You really need to practice these problems a lot in order to get good at visualizing the objects from all the different views. I found this video to be helpful at explaining how to visualize the objects for this subtest.


View Recognition (Top/Front/End)

  • Line Counting Method: This is a method that has been used for awhile, but the DAT now has problems on this subtest that cannot be answered with this method. Therefore, don’t rely solely on this method, because it won’t help you with most of the problems. Look at each view (top, front, or end) that is provided in the question and count how many lines there are for that view. Then visualize each answer choice from those respective views and count how many lines there are. Eliminate the answer choices that do not have matching numbers of lines for each view and you’ll arrive at your answer.
  • Top/Front/End Method: Visualize each answer choice as a 3D object based off of the top, front, or end views that are provided in the problem. Compare the 3D object that you have visualized to the answer choices and eliminate the distractors and select the correct answer.

Angle Discrimination (Angle Ranking)

  • Laptop Method: Imagine each angle is a laptop viewed from the side. Imagine one line of the angle is the base of the laptop and will not move and the other line of the angle is the screen and will move. Then imagine which laptop would be easiest to close. The laptop that closes the easiest would be the smallest angle. I found this method helpful to me in completing this subtest.
  • Laser Method: This method can be used to distinguish a smaller angle between two angles. The two angles must have a similar vertical/horizontal line that you can compare to. Imagine the vertical/horizontal line as the base of the laser and is laying flat on the ground. The other line is the gun base that will shoot the laser. The laser with the steepest slope will be the smaller angle. Figure 1 has the smallest angle in this example.

  • Circle Method: This method can be used to distinguish a smaller angle between two angles. I prefer this method along with the Laptop Method for this subtest. Concentrate on the interior areas of the two similar angles and mentally draw a circle around the innermost areas of the angles. Look back and forth between the two angles quickly and you should be able to distinguish between the two which one has the smallest angle. Figure 1 has the smallest angle in this example.

  • From A Distance: I have heard a lot of people say to sit back in your chair and view the angles from a distance for this subtest. Perhaps that helps for the Laser Method or for some people, but I found the opposite. I found it difficult to distinguish between angles when you’re sitting far back and not up close looking at them. I was up close and personal with the computer during this subtest and found that to be the most helpful for me with the Circle Method and even the Laptop Method. I preferred it that way, but to each their own.

Paper Folding (Hole Punches)

  • Tic-Tac-Toe Method: I didn’t use a method for this section. I just visualized the hole and mentally unfolded the paper to determine where the other holes will be. There may be only ½ of a hole punch instead of a complete hole punch in the paper which makes it a little more challenging to figure out. I found this subtest to be the easiest. The method taught, however, is that you draw a 4×4 square and mark an X where the hole is punched in the paper in relation to the 4×4 square. Then mark an X for each square that will have a hole as you unfold the paper.

Cube Counting

  • Cube Counting Method: This is probably the second easiest subtest to do well on. For each figure presented in this subtest make a table like the following:

The numbers represent the number of sides painted on the cubes in the figure. Here is an example of counting up the number of painted sides on each cube in a figure:

Here is your updated table now with the tally count of the number of sides painted for each cube in the figure:

Now you just have to answer the questions according to your table. Pay attention to any hidden cubes, make sure you count right and you’ll ace this subtest.


3D Form Development (Pattern Folding)

  • Side Counting Method: For some problems you may be able to use this method, but it will not work for all problems. Find the largest shape within the pattern and count the number of sides of the shape. Compare it with the answer choices to determine the correct choice, or at least to eliminate some of the choices.
  • Shape Matching Method: Find the largest shape within the pattern and compare this shape with the shapes in the answer choices to determine the correct answer, or at least to eliminate some of the choices.
  • Color Matching Method: This method is similar to the Shape Matching Method except that you compare a shaded part of the flat pattern to the corresponding part on the folded pattern in the answer choices. Make sure that the shaded part is in the correct place on the folded pattern. Continue to make sure that all the shaded parts correspond to the answer choice in order to determine the correct one.

















Apertures (Keyholes)

1. C

2. A

3. B

4. A

View Recognition (Top/Front/End)

16. B

17. D

18. C

Angle Discrimination (Angle Ranking)

31. D

32. C

Paper Folding (Hole Punches)

46. A

47. C

48. C

Cube Counting

61. B

62. C

63. C

64. D

3D Form Development (Pattern Folding)

76. B

77. C

78. A

79. D

80. C


You have 60 minutes to complete the PAT. There are 6 subtests on the PAT, but they all vary in difficulty. Some are easier than others and will vary in how much time they take to complete.

You should try to complete each subtest in less than 10 minutes. However, the Angle Discrimination (Angle Ranking), Paper Folding (Hole Punches), and Cube Counting subtests are much easier than the others and should be completed in well under 10 minutes. This will allow you extra time if needed for the other subtests which are more time consuming.

Review Materials

There are quite a few different review materials for the PAT and they are all fairly similar and good resources. You really can’t go wrong with any of them out on the market today. Some of the many resources available include: Kaplan, The Princeton Review, or Crack DAT PAT.

Overall, I’d say the course that does the best job at preparing you for the PAT is Crack DAT PAT. They are the most similar to the actual PAT as far as difficulty and give you all the tools necessary to get a competitive score. It also has some great benefits such as: unlimited use, instant download, and no expiration date.

Kaplan and The Princeton Review are both great comprehensive review courses that do a great job as well at preparing you for the PAT and would also provide you with the additional review material for the remaining sections of the DAT. They could be great resources as well to consider. You can also see a full comparison of the best DAT courses here.

The PAT can be your best friend or your worst enemy. Some find it challenging to mentally visualize the figures well to others it comes more easily. Either way, you have to put in the time to practice these types of problems. This test is unique and the only way to excel on it is to practice, practice, and practice!

If you have any questions, comments, or advice that you think might be useful to others then feel free to share it below!


Dental School Interview

After months of hard work on your application and studying for the DAT, your phone rings and the call that you’ve been waiting for finally arrives. A dental school representative is on the other end of the phone congratulating you on your achievements and inviting you to interview at their school.

You’re elated to hear the news and spread it like wildfire to all of your family and friends. After your excitement level comes back down and you’ve set your interview date, you wonder “What am I going to do now to prepare for my interview?”

You only have a few weeks or less to figure out how to get to your interview and how to prepare for it. You’ve come too far and have accomplished too much to not do well at your interview and give yourself the best chance at getting an acceptance offer.

Just as you have spent a lot of time preparing for the DAT by understanding the test format and timing, you need to spend time preparing for the interview and understand its format. I’ll take you through everything you need to consider and do in order to be prepared to CRUSH your dental school interview!

What is Being Assessed at the Interview?
Interview Types
Interview Questions
What to Bring to the Interview
Interview Prep Materials


The dental school interview is the one opportunity that you have as an applicant to sell yourself and establish a connection with the dental school. It is the only chance you get to see the school and meet the faculty in person. The interview can determine whether you get an acceptance offer or not. It is crucial to do well on it and be fully prepared.

Most dental schools begin interviewing applicants in September at the earliest and continue to do so through the end of March, but sometimes into April and May. Interviews are typically only held on weekdays so be prepared to miss some school or work in order to attend your interviews. After being notified of your invitation to interview you will select a date if more than one option is available to interview at a school. Interview days are typically held at the end of the week on a Friday, but may also be held on other days during the week depending upon the school.

Every school is different in how they conduct interviews and how many students they have interview at a time. A school may invite only a handful of applicants to interview or it may have fifty or more applicants all interviewing on the same day. This will vary by school. Typically a dental school will interview 3-4 students per available seat at that school. The number of interviews offered by a school can vary as well.

On average, about 30-40% of students interviewed will be accepted at a dental school. This also varies by school and some schools, such as University of the Pacific, have a very high rate of acceptance offers granted to students who interviewed at their school. Schools will accept more students than can actually attend their school, because many students will be accepted at multiple schools and will turn down some offers of acceptance.

Most schools will typically give a definitive period of time, such as 30 days upon acceptance, for the student to elect whether or not to accept the offer of acceptance at their school. Along with a time period that the student has to respond within, the student will also most likely have to place a deposit down to reserve their seat when accepting an offer to dental school. This deposit is typically several hundred dollars and is non-refundable.

Because each admissions office will determine how many candidates are scheduled for a specific interview day, the structure of the interview may depend on how many interviewers are scheduled to meet with the candidates. The actual interview typically lasts between 15-60 minutes and can be conducted in a variety of formats which I will touch on later.

What is Being Assessed at the Interview?

The interview provides the school the opportunity to assess you as an applicant in person. As a dental school applicant you only exist upon paper up until the interview. Everything on your application, your scores, grades, achievements, service, etc., is what earns you an invitation to interview at dental school. Your interview is the opportunity for the school to see and find out what they can’t learn about you from your application.

Everyone that is interviewing has earned the opportunity to interview by making it pass the application review process and being offered an interview. It doesn’t matter what your GPA or your DAT scores are while interviewing, you’ve made it past the first cut and the dental school wants to see who you are as a person now and if you possess the skills necessary to be a dentist. Everyone that interviews is essentially on an equal level and the interview is the time to shine and stand out from the rest.

I know of candidates that have done extremely well in school and on the DAT and received multiple interview offers from school, but were not accepted at any school because they struggled at their interviews. They might have been book smart and looked great on paper, but they struggled in the interview and lacked the skills that a dental school wants in a candidate. There is also the opposite, applicants that don’t appear to be the most qualified on paper, yet they do well during their interview and have the skills that a dental school wants so they get accepted. It really is important to be prepared and do well at your interview.

Once you step foot into a dental school your interview has started even if you haven’t talked to anyone yet. You will be assessed by every person at that school – faculty, staff and students. Always be professional and respectful! Be professional in all settings throughout the interview.

If you have lunch with dental students then continue to be professional and respectful towards them. Don’t talk about how the party life is out at the school, or ask how many hot girls there are at the school. You are always being assessed by someone at the school. The dental students are interviewing you as you are eating lunch with them or touring the campus with them. They can and will sometimes report back to administration about candidates interviewing at their school and these reports can help or hurt candidates.

Throughout the interview day at the dental school you will be assessed for certain skills, the skills that a dental school typically assesses for are:

  • Maturity and Responsibility
  • Strong Interpersonal Skills
  • Confidence
  • Self Awareness
  • Empathy
  • Academic Readiness
  • Dexterity and Perceptual Skills

This isn’t necessarily a conclusive list of skills that may be assessed at the interview, but these are skills that a dental school likes to see in a candidate. A dental school wants to know that: you are capable of handling a heavy and stressful course load in dental school, you can effectively communicate with other people, you are self-confident, you can overcome challenges, you work well with others in a group setting, you have manual dexterity and perceptual ability skills, etc. These are some of the crucial skills that will be assessed.

Be Prepared

You need to be prepared for your interview. Once you find out where you will be interviewing at then you need to start preparing for that school. Every school is unique and you will have to prepare differently for each school you interview at. The best thing to do to start preparing for your interview is to contact your pre-health advisor or contact the dental school directly and find out everything you can about the interview process.

You will be sent information about your interview, but if you still have questions then contact the school to find out. I would also contact any family or friends that have went to that school or are familiar with it. Contact anyone you know that lives in that area and see if they can share with you any information about the school or even the area. Find out everything you can about the school and the area where the school is located.

You should show an interest in the school and area at which you are interviewing. The more you know about the school and the area the more it will show during your interview. A dental school may be excited about a candidate and really want them to come to their school, but if the candidate doesn’t seem to know anything about their school and shows no interest in it during the interview then they will most likely lose interest in you. The more excited and interested you are in a school the more the school will want you to go there.

Review your application before your interview, know it inside and out. It is likely that you will be asked questions based on your submitted materials and information in your application. Know yourself and be able to explain your unique abilities that make you a good leader. Share your interests, including volunteer experiences or activities that have made you a well-rounded person. Know why you want to go to dental school. Be able to clearly and confidently share why you are pursuing this profession.

Know what type of interview will be conducted at the school. Contact the school or those familiar with the school and ask what format the interviews are so you can properly prepare. Each type of interview requires different preparation.

Why is this dental school the best place for you? You should know why and be able to clearly express it in the interview. Research the school and learn about its curriculum, professors, specialty training, etc. You need to be able to convince the interviewer(s) why this is the place for you.

Be familiar with key issues in dentistry and current events happening in the world. Show that you are invested in dentistry and are a well-rounded candidate. You may be asked questions about these issues, such as mid-level providers, or you may be asked about current events, such as the war on terror. You never know what you may be asked during the interview, but you should be prepared and show that you are passionate about dentistry and are well-rounded.

Those conducting the interview are typically faculty at the dental school that are participating in the admissions process. Some schools will have dental students or alumni involved formally with interview evaluations or informally to field general questions about their school. Admissions, student affairs and financial aid staff also occasionally assist with interviews.

Before you interview if they give you any information about the interviewers or faculty then study it thoroughly to get some background information on these individuals. If they have anything in common with you then make sure to find a way to bring that up during your interview. Establish a connection with your interviewer(s) and help them see why you are a perfect fit for their school. This will be so helpful to you and can seal the deal for you on getting accepted at the school.

Interview Types

Many schools will conduct “open file” interviews. This means that the evaluator will have a chance to look over your AADSAS application and any secondary application or supplemental materials the day before meeting with you. This way, the interviewer can gain insight into what you bring to the table in your conversations and explore elements of your application in greater depth. Some schools may exclude any transcript or DAT scores when distributing your file so that an interviewer will avoid fixating on low grades during the interview.

Other schools will conduct “closed file” interviews. In this format, the evaluators interview each candidate without looking at all at the applicant’s file. Because the evaluator is blinded to your application, the conversation is expected to be more organic and exploratory.

Sometimes an interviewer will have access to your file but will prefer to review it after interviewing you. This way, the interviewer gets to know you as a person before reviewing your entire application on paper. Technically such interviews are considered “open file” even though the conversation is conducted “closed-file.”

Another format that has been gaining popularity is the “multiple mini-interview” (MMI). In this case, candidates rotate between stations every 7-10 minutes where they are confronted with a new question. Some of the questions may be associated with hypothetical situations while others may be task-oriented. Every candidate is given the same question or scenario, and each evaluator judges each candidate on the specific question that is asked. The evaluator may also interact with the candidate through follow-up questions.

Traditionally, the interview has been conducted with one evaluator questioning one candidate. Sometimes the interviews are conducted with a panel of two or three evaluators for each candidate. Panel interviews may also mix “open” and “closed” file formats as one panel interviewer might have access to your file while the other is blinded to your file.

More recently, some schools have adopted interview formats that have been created to assess more group dynamics in an interview. As a result, group interviews, in which an evaluator asks questions to three or more candidates, are becoming more common. Sometimes there is a second evaluator who can help facilitate the discussion.

There are different types of interviews and every school is unique in how they conduct the interview. Find out beforehand what type of interview will be conducted and then prepare for it. It would be extremely helpful to hold a mock interview beforehand that is conducted the same way that you will have your actual interview.

Interview Questions

Doing well in the interview is about being an effective communicator, prioritizing the points you want to make and being able to talk intelligently about these topics that don’t necessarily have a right or wrong answer.

Interview evaluators often have the task of asking candidates similar or identical questions in order to allow the evaluator to fairly judge each candidate’s responses. Common questions that are expected include, “Tell me about yourself,” “Identify your greatest weakness,” and “Why are you interested in dentistry?” Some evaluators have a pre-determined set of questions that are required to ask every candidate while others employ a more conversational style where questions are asked spontaneously.

I have put together a list of questions that have been asked in dental school interviews. Review this list, write down main points that you want to hit on while answering the questions, and practice answering them to someone or to even your bathroom mirror. You will find that a majority of your answers go back to the same topics. For example, you can take most questions and find a way to lead them back to highlighting your strengths.

Once you can talk about your strengths you can explain why those are your strengths by talking about your experiences and recounting your volunteer or clinical experiences. Remember to emphasize those critical skills that a dental school wants in a candidate and establish a connection with your interviewer(s) at the same time.
Here is the list of questions that have been asked in interviews and I put questions that appear more commonly in interviews at the top of the list.

  1. Tell me about yourself.
  2. Why do you want to be a dentist?
  3. Why do you think you would make a good dentist?
  4. What would you do if you saw one of your close friends in your dental class cheating on a test?
  5. How do your experiences match well with our school’s mission statement?
  6. What are your three greatest strengths and three greatest weaknesses? (This is a difficult question to answer and it is asked a lot in interviews. The most common answer that students give is that they overload themselves with too much stuff in their lives and wear themselves out. This is a good answer, but they hear it all the time. I would try to identify several weaknesses in yourself that are true weaknesses, but not things that make you look bad. Avoid things like: I’m always late and not prepared, or I procrastinate a lot.)
  7. Why this dental school?
  8. Tell me about a time…. You had to work in a group? Had to deal with a problem? Solved a problem? Had to be a leader? Were not satisfied with your performance? Had to make a difficult decision?
  9. Have you had any experience with dentistry? What has it taught you about the profession? Why is it the right fit for you?
  10. What differentiates you from the rest of the applicants?
  11. I like you and this all sounds great, but what can I go back and tell the admissions committee that will convince them that we want you in our upcoming class?
  12. Why did you apply to our dental school?
  13. What type of dental program are you interested in?
  14. What did you think about our school (ie. facilities, program)?
  15. In the past, what has happened to you that has made the biggest impact on your life?
  16. Can you explain the (A-F) grade you received in this class?
  17. We noticed you withdrew from a class, why?
  18. Why did you decide to major in…?
  19. Your grades slipped your ___ semester, any reason?
  20. Dentists require a great deal of hand coordination. Do you have any relevant experience?
  21. Do you think the role of a dentist has changed, and how so?
  22. Did you consider applying to medical school?
  23. Why not medical school or another medical profession?
  24. If you had unlimited money for a day what would you do with it?
  25. If you are relocating, what do you think of our school’s location?
  26. How did your friends/family react to your interest in dentistry?
  27. Do you have any friends or family who are dentists?
  28. Do you have any plans after graduation?
  29. What would make you happy 10 years from now?
  30. If you had to change anything about yourself, what would it be?
  31. How do you spend your free time?
  32. What do you do to relax?
  33. How do you think the dental profession has changed over the last 25 years?
  34. What book have you read recently?
  35. Who is your favorite author?
  36. What types of books do you enjoy reading?
  37. What would you say was the best day or experience you ever had?
  38. What do you do when you are stressed out?
  39. How do you see yourself, what are your good characteristics?
  40. If you could have dinner with any two individuals that are not related to you and are either dead or alive, who would it be and why?

Ask Questions

Your interview should confirm which school is right for you. Your interview is not only the opportunity for the dental school to interview you, but for you to interview the dental school. You should try imagining yourself in the school and city. You’ll be there for at least four years. Also, consider the type of experiences you want to have while you are there, along with the cost and how you’ll be paying for it.

Almost universally, the interviewer will end the interview by asking you, “Do you have any more questions ?”. By this point you are tired, and would be more than happy not to ask any further questions. But…don’t ruin the dental interview by answering “No, I don’t”. It is essential to end the dental interview in a positive manner by asking at least one last question to show your genuine interest in their school. However, don’t ask questions that have already been answered during the interview and respect your interviewer’s time by not asking too many questions at the end.

Here are some examples of good questions to ask at the conclusion of an interview:

  1. In your opinion, what would you say dental students like most about your school of dentistry?
  2. I have an interest in ______ dentistry (cosmetic or whatever you may be interested in). Are concepts of ______ dentistry incorporated into the dental school curriculum?
  3. Do you foresee any significant changes to the dental school curriculum within in the next year or two?
  4. What opportunities do dental students have to pursue a research project during their studies here?
  5. Do dental students rotate through different types of dental clinics such as VA dental clinics, inner city dental clinics, private dental offices, etc.?
  6. What specialty programs are available?
  7. What is the student-to-faculty ratio?
  8. What is the average class size?
  9. What is the grading system? Is it pass/fail or are letter grades issued?
  10. Can you outline the expected tuition and expenses?
  11. What is the school’s culture like?
  12. Describe the clinical experiences — when do they begin and what kind of patients do we serve?
  13. Is there research funding available?
  14. What regional board exams do your students take?
  15. Does the school use emerging technology?
  16. Will any classes be taken with medical students?
  17. What is your policy on participating in outside activities of organizations such as ASDA?

There are also questions that you should not ask at the end of your interview. Questions that show a lack of confidence in yourself or a lack of passion and commitment to dental school should definitely be avoided. These are questions that you can ask someone else that is in no way involved with the interview at the school. Here are a few examples of bad questions that you should avoid asking:

    1. How long is the summer break between first and second year of dental school?
    2. How many days of vacation do we get?
    3. Can you advise me if I will be able to pay back my school loans after I graduate?
    4. What are my chances of acceptance to your dental program?
    5. How does my GPA compare to others that you are interviewing?
    6. Is my DAT score high enough?


At the conclusion of your interview ask for a business card from everyone that you interviewed with. Then send a thank you card to each person. Let them know you appreciated the opportunity to interview at the school. Re-emphasize the things that interest you about the school and this is also an opportunity to ask any follow-up questions that you may have.

What to Bring to the Interview?

Many interviewing candidates like to bring notebooks and portfolios with them featuring papers they have published, photographs of creative work or an updated resume. You should check with the school that invites you to interview about its preferences in relation to bringing supplemental materials to the interview.

Here are a few suggestions for things that you can bring along with you to make sure your interview day goes as smoothly as possible.

  1. Book: Interview days often involve a lot of traveling and waiting. After arriving at the dental school, you shouldn’t be on your phone, you should be reading through all the information that you were given. If you’ve read through everything and still have time to kill you could always pull out a good book. It will not only give you something to do before your interview day starts, but it can also be a great conversation starter. However, once the day begins, it is also a good idea to be social and get to know the other interviewees.
  2. Mirror: You don’t want the piece of bagel stuck in your teeth from breakfast to be the first impression you make. A quick look in a mirror can prevent that from happening.
  3. Mints: Sometimes interviews are right after a meal. After making sure your teeth are clean make sure your breath leaves a good impression too. Also, offering mints to your fellow interviewees is an easy way to make friends. It’s better to have a mint in your mouth then to have a piece of gum. It’s tacky to chew gum during an interview so don’t do it, you don’t want to make a bad impression on the interviewer by chomping on gum.
  4. Snack: You might be too nervous to eat breakfast, and there is usually a packed schedule before lunch. You’ll be glad you have a snack with you, in case your stomach starts rumbling a few minutes before your interview starts.
    Something supplemental to add to your application: Chances are you will have done something impressive since submitting your application, or there is something you did prior that you couldn’t fit into your AADSAS application. Having something to add to your application during your interview will show that you’ve still been working hard and have even more to offer as an applicant. Some examples include a volunteer project you’re working on, an article you’ve written, or an update to research you’ve been conducting.
  5. Pen & paper: You will be given a lot of information about the school that you will want to write down and remember. Also, faculty and dental students will often give out their email addresses in case you have questions after the interview. Having a pen and paper on you will definitely come in handy.
  6. Weather gear: Each school will take you on a tour of their facilities, some of which will include going outside. Check the weather in advance and bring along anything you may need, such as sunglasses or an umbrella.
  7. The Right Attitude: It is important to have a good attitude, and to be warm and friendly to everyone you interact with at your interview. Remember, everyone will be assessing you and taking note of how you handle yourself and interact with them as well as the other interviewees.

Body Language

Your body language during the interview is just as important as your ability to formulate intelligent responses and express them verbally to the interviewer(s). You need to thoroughly prepare and practice how you are communicating to the interviewer(s) through your body language. Sit up straight and have good posture. Try not to have any nervous habits like a restless hand, foot, or weird facial expressions.

Look into the interviewer(s) eyes, if it makes you uncomfortable or you forget what you’re saying then practice speaking to someone while looking at one of their ears. Sometimes when I was looking into peoples eyes during mock interviews I would forget what I was talking about or going to say and so I would look at their ears instead and no one can ever tell the difference.

Be Yourself

You need to be yourself during the interview, everyone says it and it’s true. Balance honesty with being humble. Don’t be arrogant and annoying. Be sincere and passionate. Don’t say hmm or any other filler words. Don’t talk too fast, take a second and formulate your thoughts and answers before responding to questions. It’s okay to tell the interviewer(s) that you need a moment if necessary while responding to questions, but don’t pause for too long after they ask the question, just a few seconds to gather your thoughts and formulate a quality answer.

Just relax at your interview, there is no need to get worked up and let your nerves fluster you during the interview. If you get nervous or feel that you are getting anxious then take a few deep breaths and relax. Take three deep breaths through your nose and exhale slowly. This is one of the most helpful things to do to calm yourself down and get yourself under control. Try it out and see how it works for you.

Be Professional

I said it before and I’ll say it again, be professional; at all times and at all places during the interview. Dentistry is a professional career and dental schools only want professional people at their school. Professionalism is expected in all things, including: your attitude, your dress, your speech, your demeanor, and your interactions with people.

Dress to impress while at your interview. Dress in business professional attire. Men should wear a suit or a coat and tie. Women should wear a suit or skirt and jacket. Do not wear flashy-colored suits or anything over the top. Keep it classy!

Mock Interview

I would highly suggest having a mock interview before your actual interview. Practice, practice and practice. The more you practice responding to the type of questions that you could be asked during your interview the more comfortable you will be at your actual interview. Your ability to formulate your thoughts and respond to questions will improve as well as your body language and making sure that you are effectively communicating with the interviewer and getting across the points that you want to emphasize about yourself.

Set up a mock interview with the same interview format that you will have for your actual interview. Have a friend or family member act as the interviewer for you. Or if you have access to a career services office at your undergraduate institution, you may want to schedule a session with a career advisor for a mock interview.

Interview Prep Materials

Pre-health offices typically have some resources as well that you can use in order to prepare for an interview. These might be online services that allow you to conduct mock interviews with interview prep companies or it could be a book that offers tips for interviews. Check with your pre-health office to see what they have and take advantage of any resources you can get your hands on. Also, make sure to check out the resources listed below for help in preparing for your interview.

IPrep Dental

iPrep Dental is an online dental school interview prep company. They are the leading dental school interview prep company in the nation and help about 400 pre-dental students and international dentists every year prepare for the dental school interview. They have a 97% success rate in getting their clients into dental school. They offer three different packages ranging from $150 – $350. They are definitely not cheap, but if you need the help then they can definitely prepare you and show you how to ace your dental school interview.

The only difference between the three packages is the number of mock interview and critique sessions that you get with it. The Basic package gives you one customized mock interview with one of their interview experts and one critique session for feedback following your mock interview. The Advanced package gives you two sessions of each type, and lastly with the Ultimate package you get three sessions of each type. The Basic package starts at $150 and each package goes up by $100. They also offer a Motivational call for a small fee which will provide you with a last minute prep call before your interview and review of what you are most likely to encounter at your interview.

The mock interview is a 30 minute interview that is customized to each particular dental school (with the most frequently asked questions in that school), and is also based on the applicant’s DAT score, GPA and personal statement. The mock interview is then followed by a 45 minute critique session where each applicant is coached on how to modify each response to be able to stand-out and shine with their strengths. The weaknesses in the application are also effectively explained and reviewed.

Among the other services available from iPrep Dental is their personal statement editing department where expert editors help their clients to form an effective, well-written and impressive personal statement that helps the application stand out with all the qualities that dental schools are looking for in an ideal candidate.

They have recently partnered with DAT BOOSTER, which is a book of practice questions for the sciences sections of the DAT. The book is comprised of 5 practice exams, each comprised of 40 Biology, 30 General Chemistry, and 30 Organic Chemistry questions. The book was written by experts that scored over 25 on the DAT. The book also  offers detailed solutions for each question with tips and hints of how to attack similar questions on the DAT.

The idea of iPrep Dental is that academic credentials are not enough anymore to get into dental school. Without a strong interview where you manage to stand out, you are more likely to be placed on the “wait list”. They coach their students on how to answer even the most challenging, intimidating questions according to what the dental schools look for in an ideal candidate. Their experts are all individuals that were accepted at multiple dental schools and are familiar with the admissions process.

Gold Standard Medical School Interview + MMI DVD

Gold Standard offers a DVD about the interview that is included with their DAT Complete Package as a bonus item. It can also be purchased separately for a small fee. This DVD was created for the medical school interview, but the dental school interview is extremely similar to it and the DVD can be beneficial to you. The 100 minute DVD contains sample dental school interview questions and tips for the interview. It is a good representation of what you can expect at your interview and how to prepare for it.

Dental School Interview Guide

The Dental School Interview Guide is one of the cheapest resources you can purchase to prepare for your interview. Just because it is cheap does not mean it is not useful, this is a great resource and I would recommend it as an affordable guide to help you be more prepared for your interview.
It offers proven tips and tricks, techniques and strategies for dental school interview preparation. It will not only tell you how to dress professionally during dental school interviews, but equip you with the best methods formulated to effectively distinguish yourself from your competitors. Mock interviews, practice questions, and a unique interview preparation methodology can help prepare you for your interview.

The Dental School Interview Guide can help set you apart from other candidates. Make sure to put into practice what the author teaches to get the most out of the guide. This book will put you to work, but that is the only way to practice and be prepared for an interview. It will help you learn more about your strengths, weaknesses, and goals. Some of the information is basic, but there is still helpful advice in the book. It is also available on Amazon Kindle.

Dentistry Interview Questions and Answers with Full Explanations

The Dentistry Interview book provides an up-to-date review of common questions with full answers and pointers on what the interviewers are looking for in a candidate. Scenarios are given in the book to help candidates formulate intelligent answers to questions related to dentistry. There are questions on topics such as: the sciences, ethics, work, education, dentistry, etc. This book was actually written for dental school applicants in the United Kingdom. Not all of the questions and information are relevant for dental schools in the United States. Many points are relevant, however, and it may still be useful to see how questions and answers are phrased to help with formulating a good answer for a tough question. It can be helpful, but remember that not all things in the Dentistry Interview book are relevant.

Perfect Interview

Perfect Interview is an online company similar to iPrep Dental, except they are a much larger company that works with individuals for all types of interviews and not just dental school applicants. They offer resources that allow you to practice answering tough questions while being recorded on webcam and then allowing you to see how you looked and performed during the interview in order to help you prepare for your actual interview. Their Interview Wizard tool allows you to create a custom interview where you can include your own questions, example answers, and tutorials. You can also access their Resume Creator tool to create your own professional resume.

They can provide you with good practice to prepare for your interview, but they don’t offer the customized assistance and feedback that iPrep Dental offers. Many pre-health offices actually have a subscription to Perfect Interview so if you are lucky then you might be able to access it for free. If not then you can also try a free demo of their resources by signing up on their website for a trial subscription.

Getting to the Interview

It’s not cheap traveling to a dental school interview. I’d suggest first reaching out to anyone that you know in the city of your interview and seeing if you will be able to crash with them while you are out at your interview. You can also check with your pre-health office to see if they have any kind of record of current dental students that are alumni of your university and are willing to assist students with lodging or transportation for interviews. If you have no luck with any of those then perhaps try finding a Facebook page of the dental school and reaching out to the dental students on the page to see if anyone is willing to host you for your interview. You can also contact the dental school directly and ask.


Lastly, if you want to read some feedback from dental applicants that have interviewed at dental schools then you can click here. This page on Student Doctor provides brief feedback on the interview from an applicant’s perspective. There is some helpful information available on it, but not all is completely accurate.

Although it was long, I hope that you were able to get a lot of good information out of this post to help you prepare for your dental school interview. Dental school interviews can be a stressful experience, but you can make it a lot less stressful by following the advice I’ve outlined for you in here which will help you to be prepared to CRUSH your interview!

If you have any other questions or any advice that you found to be helpful in preparing for your interviews, then please feel free to comment below!

Here are some tips by ASDA for the dental school interview:

Free DAT Study Materials

Since I’ve already put together a list for you of free DAT practice tests I thought I would help some more by providing you with a compilation of free study materials to help you prepare for the DAT. There are actually quite a few resources out there that are available to everyone at absolutely no cost.

Some of these review materials are fantastic resources to use for your DAT preparation. I would highly suggest using some of them in conjunction with other materials. I will go through and list all of the free materials and provide you with some information on them so you can decide which materials are right for you.

1. Biology

Biology has the most study materials available for free out of all the sections of the DAT. This is mainly because these resources are not specific to the DAT and can be used by any student studying Biology, that is the case with the majority of these free study resources. Although they are not customized for the DAT many of them are still excellent resources that cover everything on their given topic that you need to know for the DAT.

I would suggest printing out a list of the topics for the Biology section of the DAT if using these free materials in order to make sure that you are studying everything that you need to know and also so that you don’t study things that you don’t need to know. Visit my page, Dental Admission Test, and scroll down to the Biology section to see the list of topics. Do the same for the Chemistry and Organic Chemistry sections, as well as the Perceptual Ability Test, Reading Comprehension Test and Quantitative Reasoning Test. No matter what materials you use to prepare for the DAT it is helpful to have this information along side you while you study.

Now let’s take a look at the review materials for Biology!

  • Feralis Notes: This is a document of notes including some images of everything that you need to know for Biology on the DAT. This is an excellent review document and is used by many pre-dental students. I’d highly suggest using this document for the Biology section and if you have other materials for Biology then still make sure to use this in conjunction with them. There is also an Excel sheet for the Taxonomy section of Biology that you can download from this same page. Check it out and use it for help on Taxonomy. Lastly, there’s a link to download Anki flashcards of the Biology notes. You must have downloaded the Anki software in order to use the flashcards. See the bottom of this post under Additional Resources to read about Anki flashcards and download the program.
  • Crash Course: These are educational videos made by Hank Green that you can access for free through their YouTube channel. There are also several videos on Anatomy & Physiology that they have made as well; these can be helpful videos to watch and gain a brief insight and understanding into these topics which are part of the Biology section of the DAT. These are well made videos that are very helpful and effective at teaching and explaining in a simple manner many complex and challenging concepts. Hank makes learning a lot easier, because he makes it entertaining. Time passes much faster watching these videos than others and you will be able to stay awake much easier by studying with Crash Course. I would suggest using them to gain more clarification and insight into challenging topics. These videos are also helpful, because you can use them in addition to your DAT prep materials to have more variety in your types of study materials and they’re free resources that you can use to help you more fully understand a difficult concept.
  • Khan Academy: These are educational videos made by the Khan Academy that you can access for free through their YouTube channel. These are well made videos that are very helpful and effective at teaching and explaining in a simple manner many complex and challenging concepts. I would suggest using them to gain more clarification and insight into challenging topics. These videos are also helpful, because you can use them in addition to your DAT prep materials to have more variety in your types of study materials and they’re free resources that you can use to help you more fully understand a difficult concept.
  • Craig Savage: Craig Savage has created educational videos for topics in Biology that are available for free through his YouTube channel. These videos are well made and very thorough. He does a good job at explaining concepts and teaching the material. They are not as entertaining and as easy to watch as Crash Course or even Khan Academy, but they are well made and good resources to use for clarification on topics in Biology. Use them in addition to other DAT prep materials to more fully understand Biology.
  • Sumanas: Sumanas has created animated videos with audio explanations of Biology topics that you can use for free. These are well made animations that are really helpful to understand the difficult topics in Biology. They cover almost everything that you need for the DAT and are really helpful in understanding the material better. Use them in addition to other DAT prep materials to more fully understand Biology.
  • Hippo Campus: Hippo Campus is an educational website that has compiled educational videos and materials from a variety of companies such as: Khan Academy and others for students to use for free. The nice thing about it is that there are multiple companies providing the videos and materials for one topic so there is a larger collection of study materials altogether in one place. Pick whatever companies appeal to you and your learning style and use them to gain more insight into those topics. It is a decent resource to use to gain more understanding and insight into challenging topics.
  • Freelance Teacher: Steven, a freelance teacher, offers free educational videos on some Biology topics as well as written documents that cover questions, answers, and concepts from the videos. He does offer video chat tutoring through Skype for a set fee. The material for the Biology section is very limited, but he does a good job at explaining concepts. Steven asks that you do pay, however, for using his study materials, but he only asks that you pay what you seem fit as there is no set price.

2. General Chemistry

General Chemistry also has several resources to use to prepare for the DAT. All of these review materials come from most of the companies that offer free study materials for Biology as well. There are some well made and good materials that you can use to better understand General Chemistry.

  • Crash Course: These are educational videos made by Hank Green that you can access for free through their YouTube channel. These are well made videos that are very helpful and effective at teaching and explaining in a simple manner many complex and challenging concepts. Hank makes learning a lot easier, because he makes it entertaining. Time passes much faster watching these videos than others and you will be able to stay awake much easier by studying with Crash Course. I would suggest using them to gain more clarification and insight into challenging topics. These videos are also helpful, because you can use them in addition to your DAT prep materials to have more variety in your types of study materials and they’re free resources that you can use to help you more fully understand a difficult concept.
  • Khan Academy: These are educational videos made by the Khan Academy that you can access for free through their YouTube channel. These are well made videos that are very helpful and effective at teaching and explaining in a simple manner many complex and challenging concepts. I would suggest using them to gain more clarification and insight into challenging topics. These videos are also helpful, because you can use them in addition to your DAT prep materials to have more variety in your types of study materials and they’re free resources that you can use to help you more fully understand a difficult concept.
  • Hippo Campus: Hippo Campus is an educational website that has compiled educational videos and materials from a variety of companies such as: Khan Academy and others for students to use for free. The nice thing about it is that there are multiple companies providing the videos and materials for one topic so there is a larger collection of study materials altogether in one place. Pick whatever companies appeal to you and your learning style and use them to gain more insight into those topics. It is a decent resource to use to gain more understanding and insight into challenging topics.
  • Freelance Teacher: Steven, a freelance teacher, offers free educational videos on General Chemistry topics as well as written documents that cover questions, answers, and concepts from the videos. He does offer video chat tutoring through Skype for a set fee. The material for the General Chemistry section is much better than Biology and he covers all of the important topics that you should know for the DAT. He does a good job at explaining many difficult concepts. Steven asks that you do pay, however, for using his study materials, but he only asks that you pay what you seem fit as there is no set price.

3. Organic Chemistry

Organic Chemistry also has several resources to use to prepare for the DAT. All of these review materials come from some of the companies that offer free study materials for General Chemistry as well. There are some well made and good materials that you can use to better understand Organic Chemistry.

  • Khan Academy: These are educational videos made by the Khan Academy that you can access for free through their YouTube channel. These are well made videos that are very helpful and effective at teaching and explaining in a simple manner many complex and challenging concepts. I would suggest using them to gain more clarification and insight into challenging topics. These videos are also helpful, because you can use them in addition to your DAT prep materials to have more variety in your types of study materials and they’re free resources that you can use to help you more fully understand a difficult concept.
  • Hippo Campus: Hippo Campus is an educational website that has compiled educational videos and materials from a variety of companies such as: Khan Academy and others for students to use for free. The nice thing about it is that there are multiple companies providing the videos and materials for one topic so there is a larger collection of study materials altogether in one place. Pick whatever companies appeal to you and your learning style and use them to gain more insight into those topics. It is a decent resource to use to gain more understanding and insight into challenging topics.
  • Freelance Teacher: Steven, a freelance teacher, offers free educational videos on Organic Chemistry topics as well as written documents that cover questions, answers, and concepts from the videos. He does offer video chat tutoring through Skype for a set fee. The material for the Organic Chemistry section is much better than Biology and he covers all of the important topics that you should know for the DAT. He does a good job at explaining many difficult concepts. Steven asks that you do pay, however, for using his study materials, but he only asks that you pay what you seem fit as there is no set price.

4. Reading Comprehension Test

This test comes down to your ability to pull information from an article in a timely manner which can be accomplished through effective test taking strategies and proper time management. If reading quickly yet efficiently isn’t one of your strengths then a speed reading course could be beneficial to you. It could improve your speed at reading and help you to more quickly and efficiently pull out the necessary information to answer the questions.

Read Speeder offers a free online course to help you do just that. It is a great tool to use if you need a little help on managing your time and improving your score on the Reading Comprehension Test.

5. Quantitative Reasoning Test

There are probably quite a few other resources available online to help learn and understand topics in Math, however, theses are two of the better resources that I have come across for it and I am not familiar with any other free resources like these. Use them to prepare for the Quantitative Reasoning Test.

  • Khan Academy: These are educational videos made by the Khan Academy that you can access for free through their YouTube channel. These are well made videos that are very helpful and effective at teaching and explaining in a simple manner many complex and challenging concepts. The following topics are covered by Khan Academy: Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry, Statistics, & Probability. I would suggest using them to gain more clarification and insight into challenging topics. These videos are also helpful, because you can use them in addition to your DAT prep materials to have more variety in your types of study materials and they’re free resources that you can use to help you more fully understand a difficult concept.
  • Hippo Campus: Hippo Campus is an educational website that has compiled educational videos and materials from a variety of companies such as: Khan Academy and others for students to use for free. They also offer study materials on Arithmetic, Trigonometry, and Statistics & Probability. The nice thing about it is that there are multiple companies providing the videos and materials for one topic so there is a larger collection of study materials altogether in one place. Pick whatever companies appeal to you and your learning style and use them to gain more insight into those topics. It is a decent resource to use to gain more understanding and insight into challenging topics.

Additional Resources

Here is a list of resources that are not specific to any section of the DAT, but are still helpful to use while preparing for it.

  • DAT Question of the Day: Subscribe for free and get one practice DAT question every single day of the year delivered straight to your e-mail inbox. Questions will come from Biology, General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, and the Quantitiative Reasoning Test of the DAT.
  • Anki: A program for creating flashcards that makes remembering things much easier. This is a very effective way to study and learn material for the DAT. This program allows you to create flashcards with all types of content (text, images, audio, or videos) and customize your cards in a variety of ways such as their layout to the length of time in between reviewing them. I think the neatest feature is the review timing feature. If you answer a flashcard correctly then it will automatically wait a specific amount of time before it shows you that card again and after answering the question correctly a second time then it will wait even longer before showing you the card again. This feature is what makes Anki so helpful in that material that you do not answer correctly will repeat more often so that you learn to remember the material and material that you do know will repeat at longer intervals so that you do not forget anything. This way you can effectively learn the material and retain it over a longer period of time. You can also use their synchronization service so that you can keep your cards in sync and use them on multiple devices (desktop, iOS, & Android). You do have to pay $25 for the iOS App, but all the other devices can download Anki for free.
  • Quizlet: An online website that allows you to create flashcards and study tools for free. This is similar to Anki, but it is more user friendly and everything is stored online and not in a downloaded software program. It does not have the features to customize flashcards as Anki does, but it is still extremely helpful to use. Sign-up for free and begin creating flashcards, tests, and even study games to use in preparing for the DAT. You can also download their free apps for iOS and Android so that you can study on the go. All of your data from your website account will sync with your apps and you can even study offline on your iOS and Android devices.

I have provided you with a compilation of some great materials and resources that are available for you to use in preparing for the DAT. Take advantage of these free DAT prep materials to supplement whatever DAT prep course you’re studying with. Not only will you save money, because they are free, but you will be more prepared for the Dental Admission Test!


Best Free DAT Resources 

RankingDAT Free Study Material
1.Feralis Notes
2.Crash Course
3.Khan Academy
4.Craig Savage
6.Hippo Campus


How To Prepare For The DAT

Tips2Test day, the highly anticipated yet dreaded day for most pre-dental students. It doesn’t have to be a day filled with nerves and anxiety, because you are unsure of what to expect. You should know what to expect before it even comes. You can be prepared and be stress free on test day. I’ll go over what you need to know and do in order to prepare for your big day.

Before Test Day

I have outlined everything you need to do before test day in order to be ready.

1. Apply to take the DAT

Your first step will be obtaining a DENTPIN and applying to take the Dental Admission Test. The information related to the application process can be found here.

2. Choose a date

Once your application has been approved and you have been contacted by Prometric then you are able to choose a date for the DAT. There are multiple things that you should consider when choosing a date for the DAT. You do not want to have to change your test date and incur any extra fees so make the right decision the first time. If you do need to reschedule then you will have to visit the Prometric website and click on the reschedule link to begin the process. Also, for a list of the fees for rescheduling an exam, click here and scroll down the post . Here are some things to consider when selecting a date:

a. Sign-up Early: I would recommend signing up for your test date at least six weeks in advance of your prospective date. The main reason why it is important to sign-up early is so that you are able to get the date that you want. Seats are limited and can fill up quickly at Prometric centers so don’t procrastinate.

b. Pick the right day of the week: When selecting a date consider what day of the week would work best for your schedule. I personally would prefer taking the DAT on a Friday so that once I finish I can go into party mode for the entire weekend to celebrate my achievements. Once the weekend rolls around I am not as focused on my studies as I am during the week, therefore, I would avoid taking the test at the beginning of the week on a Monday or Tuesday since I’ll be fresh off of the weekend and need time to refocus and regroup. I would allow myself several days before test day that are free from distractions and interruptions in order to adequately prepare. If possible, I would suggest taking it on a Friday and making sure that Monday to Thursday of that week are completely open and that you have no other obligations that will take you away from your final days of preparation.

c. Pick the right time of the day: Just as important as selecting the right day of the week to take the DAT is selecting the right time of the day to take it at. There are typically different times available on certain days to take the DAT. Not all days will have the same time options nor will all days have more than one option. You might not have multiple options on your test day and will have to take it at whatever time is available so this advice might not apply to you. But if you do have an option then consider what time works best for your schedule and for you. Are you a morning person or a night owl? If you have an option to take the test in the morning vs. the afternoon and you are a morning person, then obviously the morning would be better for you. If you feel that your optimal levels of performance are in the afternoon, then select a time in the afternoon and take the test then. These decisions come down to what type of person you are and what best fits your learning style and needs.

3. Formulate a study schedule

You should have a study schedule and know what you need to accomplish by the end of each month, week, and day until you reach your test day. Check out my 8 Week Study Schedule for help on formulating your own schedule to meet your needs.

4. Choose the right materials

Learn about each resource on the market and pick those that will meet your needs and learning style. Click here to read my reviews of the various DAT review materials out there.

5. Stay healthy

Stay active, exercise, be social, eat healthy, and get enough sleep. You don’t have to sacrifice your life or put it on hold while you’re preparing for the DAT. Your brain needs to rest as well as your body so use your evenings and weekends to relax and rest physically. Make sure you get enough sleep the night before your test! You will be anxious and restless most likely so drink an herbal tea or something that will allow you to sleep well, yet not make you feel drugged upon wakening. Get in a habit of going to bed early and getting plenty of rest at least a week before your test day so that you develop a healthy sleep pattern. One of the most important things you can do before test day is to get a good night’s sleep! You will score much higher on the DAT if you are physically healthy and alert.

Test Day

The day has finally come, it’s test day. Let me share some advice for what to do and provide the facts as to what to expect at the testing center.

1. Make sure you get enough rest the night before.

2. Wake up at a reasonable time with at least a few hours to spare before your test.

3. Perhaps set an extra alarm just to make sure that you are awake when you need to be.

4. Start the day off with a short jog around the block. Get the blood flowing, take 30 minutes to stretch and exercise. It will help your body to power on as well as increase your energy to help you make it through the test. It will also help you to calm your nerves and be able to perform.

5. Eat a healthy breakfast, something filling yet not greasy and heavy. I’d suggest a glass of orange juice, oatmeal, fruit, and toast. You need to eat something that will give your body the needed energy and brain power for your test and avoid the greasy heavy foods that will shut down your body and brain.

6. Make sure to arrive on time to the Prometric center. I’d suggest driving to the center several days before your test date so you know exactly where it is. It’ll help prevent you from getting lost and it will only increase your stress on test day. I would recommend arriving at least 30 minutes before your assigned arrival time.

7. Bring a lunch with you. You will have a one hour lunch break. Your lunch and other items that you bring into the testing center will be stored in a locker so perhaps bring an ice pack that can keep your lunch cool if necessary. Again, choose foods that will nourish you and give you the energy and brain power to perform well on the test.

8. You can bring some notes to study from in the car before entering the testing center. Do a quick review on any topics that you want to have fresh in your mind when you start the test. Leave the notes in your car along with your cell phone, you don’t want to bring them in and risk getting in trouble at the testing center.

9. I’d suggest making a pit stop at the restroom before checking in as well. Take a few deep breaths, calm yourself down if necessary, all is going to be well. You have prepared yourself for this day, you are ready!

Here is a list of what to expect when checking in at the testing center:

  • You’ll be greeted by a testing coordinator upon entering the testing center.
  • Bring your two forms of identification – 1 identification with a photo (driver’s license, passport, state ID, etc.) and the other form can be with just your name and signature on it (debit card, credit card, etc.). Your name must be matching on both forms of identification as well as on your Prometric reservation.
  • Your photo will be taken along with a fingertip scan of your index finger.
  • You will be assigned a locker and told to empty your pockets and lock your lunch and everything else inside the locker.
  • You will keep your ID as well as your locker key with you while taking the test.
  • You are not allowed to chew gum while taking the test, but you may bring in two Kleenex.
  • You will be given two note boards and two fine tip erasable markers to use on the test. Do not bend them or distort them in anyway! Do not touch the monitor while taking the test!
  • All of the rules of the exam will be explained to you.
  • Before entering the testing room you will have to sign a daily log stating at what time you are entering the exam and a full body scan with a metal detector will be conducted. They will make sure you are not bringing anything into the testing room with you except the allotted items.
  • After signing-in in the book and completing the scan you will be escorted into the room to your assigned desk by a testing coordinator.
  • Upon completing the first half of the test you will bring your ID and locker key with you and exit the testing room. You will have to sign the daily log again stating what time you are leaving and do a fingertip scan.
  • Make sure you know at what time you started your lunch break and return at least five minutes before your break ends so that you won’t be rushed or start late on the second half of the test.
  • After your one hour lunch break you will repeat the check-in procedure with a fingertip scan, full body scan, and sign-in.
  • You are allowed to take a bathroom break if needed during the exam, but you will have to sign out and go through the entire procedure when you return. I would recommend not taking any breaks during the exam!
  • If you do have any questions while taking the test, or if there is an issue with your computer or test then you can raise your hand while in the testing room and a coordinator will assist you.

After The Test

Once you’ve completed the DAT an unofficial score report will appear on your computer screen and the testing center will print the results and give you a copy. Your results will still be checked to confirm the results, but I’ve never heard of anyone getting different scores on the official report vs the unofficial report that you are given upon completing the test. Check out of the testing center, collect your belongings, and get out of there! Congratulations on completing the DAT, go and celebrate! You have earned it so have some fun.

You can also click here for a test day checklist from the ADA. All pertinent information from it is already included in the post. Check out this video below from Prometric for a run down on the check-in procedure at the testing center. Everything in the video was covered in the post, but feel free to watch it if you want!


The Reading Comprehension Test

Reading Comprehension Test DATThe Reading Comprehension Test is one of the four tests of the Dental Admission Test. This test is scored in conjunction with the Survey of the Natural Sciences and Quantitative Reasoning Test to formulate your Academic Average score.

A high score on the Reading Comprehension Test is an easy way to increase your Academic Average score and help buffer any lower scores in other tests or subtests that make up the Academic Average. However, when dental schools look at individual test and subtest scores the Reading Comprehension Test score will not carry as much weight as the Survey of the Natural Sciences subtest scores or the Perceptual Ability Test.

Some dental schools like to see students score well on this test with typically a score of at least a 19 or higher. It is the easiest section to score well on in my opinion and I believe anyone could score 20 or higher on this test.

No prior knowledge of the topics discussed in the paragraphs on the test is necessary. This test comes down to your ability to pull information from an article in a timely manner which can be accomplished through effective test taking strategies and proper time management. Find and implement an effective test taking strategy that works for you and spend time taking practice tests.

General Guidelines

Here are some general guidelines that will help you be a more effective test taker:

  • Elimination: Look at the possible answers for each question and find which ones you can eliminate right away. Eliminating answers will help you get rid of the distractors and come up with the right answer more quickly. This is a helpful thing to do with every question on the DAT; there are distractors on every question. Typically you will always have two answer options for every question that you have to decide between and the rest of the answer choices you should be able to eliminate.
  • Time Management: Make sure you are completing each passage with the questions in a timely manner. There are 3 reading passages with 50 questions in total for the test. You have 72 seconds to answer each question.This is one of the more difficult tests to manage your time on, therefore, it is crucial to time yourself and practice managing your time wisely while practicing for this test. A good and effective test taking strategy will greatly help to accomplish this.
  • Practice: Do as many practice tests as you can for the Reading Comprehension Test; the more the better! You need to take multiple practice tests in order to find and implement an effective test taking strategy that works for you. Also to be more comfortable and efficient with your strategy which will increase your speed at reading and answering correctly the questions. This is the only way to crush it.
  • Speed Reading Course: If reading isn’t one of your strengths then a speed reading course could be beneficial to you. It could improve your speed at reading and help you to more quickly and efficiently pull out the necessary information to answer the questions. You could look for a free online course or pay for one. Read Speeder offers an impressive free online course. You could also click here to visit this website which reviews and lists some of the top speed reading courses on the market; these courses are not free however.


The Reading Comprehension Test has 50 questions in total and is made up of 3 passages with a varying amount of questions per passage. Each passage is typically 1-2 pages in length with around 15 questions per passage.

The passages will be about various scientific topics. There is no need for prior understanding of these topics in order to answer the questions. The test only requires the ability to read, comprehend, and thoroughly analyze basic scientific information.


The following list of strategies are the more common strategies that I have learned and have had experience using them. There may be other strategies that are not listed below, but any one of these strategies could be implemented for this test.

  • Read the Passage: This simple strategy involves reading the passage in its entirety before looking at the questions. Some people might feel more comfortable answering the questions once they have a clear understanding about the passage so they prefer this method.

I would advise against it, because it is the slowest method to take this test and poor time management in my opinion is a major pitfall for this test. It is also difficult to retain that much information in a short period of time in order to answer the questions.

You will spend more time reading the passage with this method than with any of the others, because you will end up having to go back to the passage for each question and re-read the material in order to answer each question. You will end up reading the same material multiple times and use up more of your allotted time.

  • Read the Questions: This simple strategy involves reading the questions first before reading through the passage. Some people might feel more comfortable by knowing what the questions are asking before they begin reading the material so they prefer this method.

I would advise against it, because it is also a slower method to take this test. It is difficult to remember all of the questions as you begin reading through the material to look for the answers.

You will spend more time by having to go back and look at the questions multiple times while you’re reading until you come up with the answer for a question. You will end up re-reading the questions multiple times and use up more of your allotted time.

  • Skim for Keywords: This is probably the most popular strategy for this test and it involves reading a question and then skimming the passage for the keyword(s) from the question.

For example, if you had a passage on pasteurization and a question asked about milk pasteurization then you would skim the passage until you came across milk and read that paragraph until you found your answer.

Typically the first sentence of every paragraph provides the topic for that paragraph. After skimming the passage multiple times as you go through the questions you typically have a good idea of what is discussed in each paragraph and can therefore answer the remainder of the questions more easily.

You will end up going through the passage multiple times, but this method is much faster than the others, because you are not reading the passage multiple times you are skimming it. Try it out for yourself and see if it helps you improve your scores on this test.

I would just caution you to make sure and read the sentences around the keyword(s) that you find for an answer as sometimes you may get tricked or overlook something without enough reading for comprehension.

  • Roadmap the Passage: This is another popular strategy for this test and is the way that I prefer. It involves making a roadmap of the passage in its entirety before moving on to the questions. First, count how many paragraphs there are in the passage and on your laminated sheet that you are given at the testing center number the paragraphs in a column on the left hand side. Then skim each paragraph and write down keywords, topics, names, dates, etc for each paragraph under its assigned numerical value. Then proceed to the questions and refer back to your roadmap for each question to know what paragraph will contain the answer.

We will continue with the pasteurization example but use the roadmapping technique now, here is an example :

There are 9 paragraphs in this passage so we make a column from 1-9 down the left hand side of our note paper.

1. Pasteurization, definition

2. Louis Pasteur, chemist, microbiologist

3. Nicolas Appert, soups, vegetables, juices, jams

4. Milk, CDC

5. Bacteria, Salmonella, Listeria, Staph. Aureus, E. Coli

6. Diseases, tuberculosis, brucellosis, diphtheria, scarlet fever

7. Process, types

8. High-temperature, short-time; flash

9. Extended shelf life

If you have a question on the diseases that pasteurization can prevent then you look at your roadmap and know that paragraph 6 talks about the diseases. If you have a question about flash pasteurization then you look at your roadmap and know that paragraph 8 talks about flash pasteurization.

This strategy may not be as fast as the skim for keywords technique, but it should decrease the amount of time that you spend reading as your roadmap will help you identify where the information that you need to find is at in the passage. It is a more organized and structured strategy which any OCD people like me will appreciate. It will make you more effective at quickly pulling out the answers from the passages and managing your time more wisely.

An effective strategy can make all the difference and help you score 20 or higher on the Reading Comprehension Test. It all comes down to what strategy works for you. Try out a few of them, or find another one not listed above and see what gives you the best results.


You have 60 minutes to complete the Reading Comprehension Test. There are 3 passages and 50 questions in total. You will have 72 seconds per question on this test, but remember that if you are reading the passages in their entirety or road mapping them then this will take away from your time available to you to answer questions.

If you are going to read the passage in its entirety or roadmap it then you should plan on spending no more than 3 minutes per passage. This will decrease your allotted time for answering questions, but you will still have around 60 seconds to answer each question which should be sufficient.

Review Materials

There are several different review materials that you could use to prepare for the Reading Comprehension Test. They are all very similar to the actual DAT and are all considered good materials to use. You really can’t go wrong with any them whether that’s Kaplan, The Princeton Review, or another review source.

I like the fact that if you purchase Kaplan’s materials then you have access to five full-length practice tests where you can practice for the Reading Comprehension Test and additional quizzes and section tests where you can get even more practice. Kaplan will provide you with a lot of practice and experience for the Reading Comprehension Test.

The Princeton Review will provide you with four full-length practice tests where you will also have ample practice questions and tests. You should get enough practice with this review course as well for this test.

Crack the DAT has excellent testing software for the DAT including the Reading Comprehension Test. They will give you up to 10 practice tests for this test depending upon which edition you purchase.

There are more sources out there so find one that will give you what you need in order to have enough experience and practice to be ready to crush the Reading Comprehension Test. If you need help finding a review course then feel free to message me!

If you have any questions, comments, or advice that you think might be useful to others then feel free to share it below!