DAT Study Schedule

DAT study scheduleI procrastinated studying for the DAT, because I was so overwhelmed and didn’t know where to begin. I didn’t follow any of the study plans I found on the online forums because they all required certain study materials that I didn’t have and didn’t want to buy. As a result, I ended up creating my own study schedule to prepare for the DAT which I think you’ll find very useful.

After going through the rigors of dental school and passing the NBDE Part 1 & Part 2 Boards, I have gained a much better idea of how to study effectively. My goal is to provide you with a general study schedule and some valuable tips that will help you study more efficiently and score well on the Dental Admission Test.

I don’t think it is beneficial to lay out a detailed plan with specific materials in preparing for the DAT because everyone is different in how they prefer to learn and what they already know. Some of you are chemistry nerds, while others like me, are not. Everyone is coming from a different background and is at a different place in their studies. So I would rather put together a general study schedule that anyone can take and modify according to their needs.

8 Week Schedule

I have chosen an 8-week study schedule because I think this is enough time for the average pre-dental student to properly study and score competitively on the DAT. If you have a strong science background or a weak one then I would recommend either decreasing or increasing the length of your schedule, but I would keep it to less than 12 weeks max and at a minimum of 4 weeks

I would have considered myself as an average pre-dental student as I spent 10 weeks preparing for the DAT.  However, If I would have known the information that I’m about to explain, I would have only spent 8 weeks or less in preparing for the DAT.

I received my Bachelor’s of Science in Biology degree, which seems to be one of the more common pre-dental majors for undergrad. I felt more comfortable with Biology, but I always struggled more with General Chemistry and Organic Chemistry. Therefore, I spent more time on those subjects and less time on Biology. You should adapt your studies according to your strengths and weaknesses like I did.

How To Prepare For the DAT

I’m going to outline some key points to consider when setting up your study schedule so that you can create your own personal schedule that meet your needs.

#1 – Treat your preparation like a full-time job

I recommend putting in around 40 hours of studying per week, but if you can’t do that much then do what you can. You might have days where you feel like you need more time so you spend 8+ hours per day and there might be days that you spend less than 8 hours. However, don’t take a multi-day break during the middle of your studies. You’ll digress more than you think and it will be hard to get back in the study groove again. I had a family emergency during my third week of studying and had to take a week off. Once I returned to studying I felt like I was starting all over again.

#2 – Analyze your strengths and weaknesses

Adjust your studying and the length of your studying based off of these. Skim the material that you know well and study the material you don’t know. If you have a very weak science background then lengthen your schedule to 8+ weeks and spend more time learning the sciences. If you are weak in Biology then spend more time on Biology and less time on areas that you’re strong in.

#3 – Don’t overwhelm yourself with too many prep materials

I’ve seen many pre-dental students, as well as dental students, try to prepare for the DAT or board exams with every possible prep material on the market. You will stretch yourself thin by doing this and not perform as well as you could. Keep it simple and try to stick with three or less study resources that fit your needs.

#4 – Pick the right study 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 courses.

#5 – Don’t get sucked into only studying one topic at a time

I found myself wanting to just focus on one subject and then move on to another one after I finished. When I took practice tests on subjects I was no longer studying, my scores dropped big time. You need to keep things fresh and study a variety of topics each day.

#6 – Do lots of practice questions and tests/quizzes!

This is vital in order to succeed and score well. You should be doing practice questions every single day. You will learn the most in your studies by doing practice questions! Your practice test scores are not the most important thing. It’s all about what you learn from the questions you got wrong on the practice tests. Your scores are only important once you actually take the DAT. Every question you get wrong you should figure out why you got it wrong and learn from it. After you take a test, take note of the areas that you struggled in and study them more. Look up the information, take notes, and make that weak area one of your strengths.

#7 – Be healthy! Don’t let your body rot away while you study for the DAT

Stay active, exercise, be social, eat healthy, and get enough sleep. You don’t have to sacrifice your life or put it on hold. Your brain needs to rest as well as your body so use your evenings and weekends to relax and rest physically. You will score much higher on the DAT if you are physically healthy.

 DAT Study Plan

Now, to outline a general study schedule that you can modify according to your personal needs. The purpose of this is to provide you with a template that you can take and make your own.

I listed subjects to study according to the amount and difficulty of the material on each subject. For each subject I have listed on the schedule, you should start with one section under that subject and work on each one until you complete it (i.e., General Chemistry – Acids and Bases). Once you complete a subject, go through it again and focus on the sections that you are weak in.

I would make sure that you have done a complete overview of all the material on the DAT by the end of week six. I would spend the last two weeks focused on taking practice tests and doing practice questions and reviewing material that you are still deficient in. I would take at least three full-length practice tests before taking the DAT; the more the better! I made this schedule to accommodate six full-length practice tests. Kaplan and The Gold Standard have the most practice tests with 5, so this schedule allows enough time for all of those plus any others you may find helpful.

You should be doing practice questions and quizzes throughout your studies though. At the end of each two-hour block you should conclude that block by doing practice questions about the material that you studied during the block. During your last two weeks of studying, you can spend the entire block doing practice questions for each subject, or review sections that you are deficient in. Learn from those practice questions, make sure you can answer them and if you can’t then go back and figure it out before you move on.

The Perceptual Ability Test, Reading Comprehension Test, and Quantitative Reasoning (QR) Test are not as dense as the sciences and therefore don’t need as much preparation. Although these tests don’t require as much studying as the sciences it is necessary to have experience with these types of questions. It is also important to learn the tips and tricks for performing well on these tests which I discuss in other posts.

The Perceptual Ability Test requires a lot of practice and experience doing these types of problems. Spend time doing practice problems and you will get the hang of it. The Reading Comprehension Test also requires practicing in order to get your time management down and become effective at pulling out the necessary information to answer the questions. An effective strategy for this part will greatly help you achieve a higher score. The Quantitative Reasoning Test will require some studying and lots of practice problems also in order to help you get the score that you are aiming for on this test.

8 Week Study Schedule

Week 1

8-10 AM BiologyBiology Biology Biology Biology Biology
 10-12 PM Gen Chem Biology Gen Chem Biology Gen Chem Gen Chem
 1-3 PM O Chem Gen Chem O Chem Gen Chem O Chem
 3-5 PM PAT O Chem PAT O Chem PAT

Week 2

8-10 AM BiologyBiology Biology Biology Biology Biology
 10-12 PM Gen Chem Biology Gen Chem Biology Gen Chem Gen Chem
 1-3 PM O Chem Gen Chem O Chem Gen Chem O Chem
 3-5 PM QR O Chem QR O Chem QR

Week 3

8-10 AM BiologyBiology Biology Biology Biology Practice Test
 10-12 PM Gen Chem Gen Chem Gen Chem Gen Chem Gen Chem Practice Test
 1-3 PM O Chem Gen Chem O Chem Gen Chem O Chem
 3-5 PM PAT O Chem PAT O Chem PAT

Week 4

8-10 AM BiologyBiology Biology Biology Biology Biology
 10-12 PM Gen ChemGen Chem Gen Chem Gen Chem Gen Chem Gen Chem
 1-3 PM O Chem Gen Chem O Chem Gen Chem O Chem
 3-5 PM QR O Chem QR O Chem QR

Week 5

8-10 AM BiologyBiology Biology Biology Biology Biology
 10-12 PM Gen Chem Gen Chem Gen Chem Gen Chem Gen Chem Gen Chem
 1-3 PM O ChemO Chem O Chem O Chem O Chem
 3-5 PM PAT O Chem PAT O Chem PAT

Week 6

8-10 AM BiologyBiology Biology Biology Biology Practice Test
 10-12 PM Gen Chem Gen Chem Gen Chem Gen Chem Gen ChemPractice Test
 1-3 PM O Chem O Chem O Chem O Chem O Chem
 3-5 PM QR O Chem QR O Chem QR

Week 7

8-10 AM BiologyPractice Test Biology Practice Test Biology Biology
 10-12 PM Gen Chem Practice Test Gen ChemPractice Test Gen Chem Gen Chem
 1-3 PM O Chem Review O Chem Review O Chem
 3-5 PM PAT Review QRReview PAT

Week 8

8-10 AM BiologyPractice Test Biology Practice Test Light Review DAT
 10-12 PM Gen Chem Practice Test Gen Chem Practice Test Light Review DAT
 1-3 PM O Chem Review O ChemReview Relax Celebrate!
 3-5 PM QR Review PATReview Relax Celebrate!


Following this basic study schedule, here is a breakdown of how many hours you will spend on each subject:


Time (Hours)



General Chemistry


Organic Chemistry


Perceptual Ability Test


Reading Comprehension Test


Quantitative Reasoning Test


Full-Length Practice Tests (6)


That’s my basic study schedule for the DAT. You should personalize it and use it as a template to help you successfully prepare for your exam.

I would recommend taking Sundays off every week, but still try to get a few hours of studying in on Saturdays if possible. If you don’t want to study on Saturdays then don’t do it. However, I would plan on spending around 8 hours of studying per day from Monday through Friday. I would take an hour lunch break and short 5-10 minute breaks after each two-hour block of studying.  Again, adjust your time spent studying according to your needs and your strengths.

As with everything though, what you put into it is what you get out of it. Hopefully, this will be beneficial to you as you prepare to take the DAT! If you have any specific questions I’d love to help, please leave them in the comments section below. Also, feel free to add your own advice or thoughts about studying for the DAT that you think might be beneficial to others!


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!


When To Take the DAT?

When to take the DAT?This is a common question most people ask in preparing for the Dental Admission Test. I’ll address this question as well as provide some useful information that will help you plan out your undergraduate classes and take the DAT at a reasonable time.

Most people would recommend that you take the DAT right after finishing your General Biology, General Chemistry, and Organic Chemistry required courses so that everything is fresh in your mind. That could be either after your Sophomore year during summer or after your Junior year during summer. I would take it when you are ready and not rush it.

Most students will have their required courses done by the end of their Sophomore year and could take it during the summer before they begin their Junior year of college; but if you aren’t feeling completely ready to take it at that point then postpone it, no worries. You won’t be applying to dental school till the summer before your Senior year so there is no need to rush it and take the DAT when you are not completely ready. There are pros and cons to taking the DAT after your Sophomore year or taking it after your Junior year.

After Sophomore Year

By taking the DAT during the summer after your Sophomore year you will have your DAT done and scores ready to be submitted along with your application when you apply the following summer. You will have your Biology and Chemistry courses more fresh in your mind as you just finished completing them which will help to make your studying easier for the DAT and it will help you to perform better on it. You can focus on just the DAT and not worry about preparing your application until next summer. You will also have a year before you submit your application in order to retake the DAT if necessary, however, don’t even consider retaking the DAT as an option.  Take it once when you are ready and be done with it.

After Junior Year

By taking the DAT during the summer after your Junior year you will most likely have a more well-rounded education and knowledge at this point, since you’ve had more time to take more elective courses. These other elective courses that you could take beforehand, such as: Anatomy, Physiology, and Zoology; could be beneficial in helping you to perform better on the DAT. However, most people complete their General Biology and Chemistry courses after their Sophomore year and these courses are the bulk of the DAT.

By waiting to take the DAT until after your Junior year this material will not be as fresh in your mind and will probably require more studying and refreshing on these topics before taking the DAT. You will also have to make sure you have your application complete and submitted shortly after the application cycle opens. You will have to juggle your application with your DAT studies if you have not taken the DAT by time the application cycle opens up during the summer before your Senior year. You can submit your application without having taken the DAT yet. It is best to get your application done and submitted shortly after the application cycle opens and take the DAT after submitting your application if needed. I would recommend taking the DAT no later than July of that summer however. Whenever you decide to take the DAT, you’ll need as much help as you can get to do well on it. Take a look at the DAT prep books I recommend to ace the exam.

Application Review

Most schools review applications as they get them on an on-going basis. If your application is not complete, because your scores aren’t submitted, or for any other reason then your application will not be reviewed until everything is received and it is complete. You will only make the application process more stressful and frustrating by not having your application complete and your scores submitted in a timely manner. Schools will not begin to review applications until August typically so as long as you get the DAT done by July your scores will arrive before your application is reviewed and you should not have any delays in the review process.

It really comes down to the point that the best time to take the DAT is when you feel that you are competent and ready for it. If you feel rushed or are not ready after your Sophomore year then wait a little longer until you take it. Get it done by July at the latest following your Junior year and you’ll be good to go.

I didn’t take the DAT till July after my junior year, yet I was still able to get my scores into the schools that I was applying to in a timely manner. However, I would try to give yourself more breathing room if possible and take it sooner than I did.

When To Take the Necessary Classes For the DAT

You should have your entire undergraduate career for all four years planned out with which classes you will take each year and even each semester. This will help to ensure that you have taken the essential courses beforehand and are ready to take the DAT and apply to dental school.

Before starting your undergraduate studies if possible, sit down and plan out what courses you will take for every single semester of your undergraduate career. Make sure you have the necessary classes completed by the time that you would like to take the DAT and then take any additional electives or necessary courses for dental school after completing the DAT. You will be properly prepared for the DAT and have much less stress by doing this.

If you haven’t completed the necessary courses beforehand then postpone taking the DAT until you have. It would be a mistake to take the DAT without being properly prepared.

Dental school equates to around 20 credits a semester for an undergraduate student. Therefore, I would make sure to plan some of your semesters with more credits to show that you are capable of handling a heavy load, but make sure to still do well in your classes. Don’t kill yourself every semester trying to take heavy course loads; plan out your courses wisely so that you have a balanced course load yet still get good grades.

The following courses are necessary to be completed before taking the DAT:

  • General Biology

  • General Chemistry

  • Organic Chemistry

The following courses are either required or beneficial for the DAT or dental school:

  • Molecular Biology

  • Cell Biology

  • Human Anatomy

  • Physiology

  • Developmental Biology

  • Evolutionary Biology

  • Genetics

  • Zoology

  • Ecology

  • Biochemistry

  • Physics

  • Psychology

  • Mathematics (College Algebra/Trigonometry/Pre-Calculus/Calculus)

  • English

  • Art Course (Ceramics, Sculpting, Painting, Drawing, etc.)

  • Business Course (Business Management, Accounting, Finance, Marketing, etc.)

I would recommend taking the courses you’ll need for the DAT at the following times in your undergraduate studies:





General Biology, General Chemistry, Other Electives


Organic Chemistry, Other Biology Electives, Math, Other Electives


Dental Admission Test


Physics, English, Other Electives


Possibly Biochemistry, Other Electives

Hopefully this will aid you in your preparation for the DAT and I can promise you that by planning out your courses beforehand you will have less headaches and more success in your studies and preparation for the DAT and dental school. Make a plan and follow it!

If you have any questions or comments then feel free to share them below!