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2013 DAT Breakdown – 23/21/24 by aznriptide859

Hello SDN! Long time lurker, first time poster. Under a suggestion of a friend I have decided to post some tips and results from my most recent DAT test. I hope to describe my personal insight on my preparation as well as the final test, and hope that you can draw your own conclusions on how to perform and prepare well for the DAT.

So, first my scores:

Bio: 20
GC: 21
OC: 23
PAT: 24
RC: 26
QRT: 23
SNS/TS: 21
AA: 23

I was pleased with my AA, but not so much with my Bio and TS scores (I’ll explain later).

First, some background:

I’m currently a 4th year Biology BS major applying for the 2014 matriculation year. I’ve prepared for the DAT on/off for about 5-6 weeks (literally bummed around for the first two weeks, then studied the next 2, then burnt out my brain for the last 2). I expected to get a much lower score based on my practice tests (more on that later too), but was ecstatic about my AA and overall performance.

A little caveat however: I’m a pretty damn lazy person. I originally planned to take the DAT back in 2011 (yea I know), and I even bought a book back then (Barron’s: quick tip, AVOID THIS BOOK LIKE THE PLAGUE) in 2010. 

My main problem is I keep thinking I’m overconfident in my skills, and this was definitely true for my DAT preparation up until the end of June. I was raised in a science-filled family (both my parents are researchers at a cancer hospital), and I’ve been acing sciences (mainly biology) since high school. I’ve worked in 3 different research labs for summer/part-time jobs, so cell and molecular biology is pretty much imprinted in my brain.

I was also raised to be a very handy and mechanical person. My dad loves tearing apart and fixing things, and I definitely got those genes from him. Aside from building PC’s, modifying stuff and whatnot, I am an absolutely avid gamer and love learning the inner workings of how things work. I was very shortly a BME major at my first university, although I learned the hard way not to select an engineering major for pre-dental undergraduate studies, and switched to Biology two years after.

So, to me, before studying at all for this test, I was almost 100% confident I would score the best in both Bio and PAT – to me they were (and still kind of are) second nature. Then June came around, I opened my study book, and was baffled at the amount of things I didn’t know. TBH I didn’t plan my studying schedule well at all, since I spent probably 50% of my study time completely focused on biology (and look how well that turned out >.<).

So, what did I use to study? I swear this stuff might seem the bare minimum compared to other “DAT Breakdown” threads:

Main reference book: Princeton Review’s “Cracking the DAT”
Sidenotes: Feralis’ Biology Review (from DAT BootCamp’s Blog); two OC reaction review sheets from college; occassional Khan Academy and/or Googling (for things I really didn’t know); Mometrix Flash Cards (ugh…explained later)
Practice Resource: DAT BootCamp (more on this later), DAT Question Of The Day, ADA 2007 Practice Test, PR book’s included practice tests (x2)

Study schedule included very mild studying (late June, 1-2 hours per day), decent studying for a good part of July (2-3 hours per day at work, then another 2-3 hours per day at home after work), then overdrive studying for the last 9-10 days or so (pretty much 6-8 hours of studying every day up until test day).

Hmm…guess I’ll review my study materials first.

Princeton Review’s Cracking the Dat: I seriously wish I purchased this book much earlier (actually I wish I started studying harder earlier lol), because for the month of June I was reading most of a Barron’s book I bought in 2010. I could rain a s***storm down on Barron’s and how badly their book was prepared, but they were concise in their topics…a little too concise, some to the point where explanations are never given 0_0. I bought the PR book at the end of June, and pretty much read it from cover to cover twice. Say what you may about PR, but they definitely know how to explain concepts and draw comparisons.

On top of providing detailed explanations regarding concepts and equations, they like to draw comparisons to easier-to-understand situations (a dumb example would be kinetic energy of particles visualized as ping pong balls moving in a room). I will say however that PR did get a little too detailed on some topics that I never expected to be tested on (like the difference in polarization patterns/graphs for the sinoatrial node and ventricular contractions).The intro of the book also describes the entire test taking process pretty well, good enough to the point I almost didn’t ask the Prometric staff any questions. I will say, however, that PR absolutely sucks in giving PAT advice – probably since PR is so used to giving out detailed science explanations for the MCAT. All my PAT strategies and tricks were learned from my Barron’s book (hilariously that was the only thing it was good for 0_0; more on that later when I describe my test).

Feralis Biology Notes: My god was this packet long, but holy crap it pretty much covers almost anything you could be tested on for the Biology section. Concise, GREAT for reviewing, and a little too detailed for certain topics (i.e. plant physiology, non-chordate taxonomy). But hey, if you like detailed, read this over and over. And over. And over…until your brain melts X_X. Just kidding, pace yourself.

OC Reaction Review Sheets: I’m almost 100% positive all OC courses in college offer something like this, however I was extremely lucky to have been provided with very detailed reaction review packets as well as an extremely enthusiastic organic professor. Back in OC1/2 our exams consisted of nothing but nomenclature, reactions, synthesis, and mechanism – I put tons of effort to eke out an A in Orgo 1 and a B in Orgo 2. I think this tougher background definitely helped me review OC much more quickly and efficiently than I thought. Of course, our courses split reaction groups differently (since the DAT covers aldol condensation, which we didn’t cover til Orgo 2) – YMMV. Ultimately, if this resource is available to you, I suggest you use it. I’m also willing to upload/share my reaction packets if anyone wants to.

Mometrix Flash Cards: Again, YMMV, but this was a huge waste of money to me. For one, I hate flashcards – I do not study that way (these were kind of bought for me without my initial consent lol). I’d much rather read and memorize facts in my head (and occasionally pull off random photographic memory stints) than sift through 200-300 cards. But Mometrix seems to have pulled their cards from a med school course, because they were WAY too detailed (i.e. you do not need to know the osmolarity calculation equation for filtrate in the kidneys). Some of you may like detailed facts, but 75% of those facts I feel will never be tested on the DAT – I seriously stopped studying them after 10-15 cards. Granted, I may keep these cards for future coursework in dental school, but exclusively for the DAT? Definitely pass on these.

DAT BootCamp/DAT QOTD: I actually lurked around SDN deciding between DATBC, DAT qVault, and DAT Destroyer for practice questions (after all practice makes perfect). The prices seriously scared me away from the latter two, however the lower numbers of tests for DATBC were a bit of a turnoff. Still I purchased the content from Ari (who is probably by far the friendliest and most enthusiastic resource guy I spoke to :)) once they offered the RC/PAT practice questions.

My absolute biggest complaint regarding PR/Barron’s practice tests were their answers were sometimes completely WRONG. Also, their tests had WAY more calculations and busywork than the actual DAT. I will say without a doubt DATBC’s questions were the best representative of the types of questions I saw on my actual DAT. Each test is pretty well tailored, and I was astonished at how detailed the answer explanations were (especially for PAT, since for the Top/Front/Side part Ari actually allows answers to be viewed as 3D models – how cool is that?!). Although I may not have been as thorough as reading my PR book, DATBC definitely taught me a few valuable topics (like what a poikilotherm was :p), and was invaluable to my practice. Some may think 5 total tests is not enough, but since I purchased the content about 2-3 weeks before my actual test, I think it’s just perfect – not too little content to not get yourself accustomed to the test format, yet not too much information that floods and frustrates you. DAT QOTD (also run by Ari and his group) helped make sure DAT topics were fresh on the brain every morning (although I will say it seems QOTD questions were a bit easier than on the DATBC/real test). The different sections were formulated very well. Biology was a good mix of broad and specific concept questions (though on my real DAT, I happened to get more of the latter), and OC was very well mirrored in the real test as well. GC was, I’ll say, just a tad bit harder than what I saw on my test, but the overall question format and type were very similar to the real test. I cannot recommend DATBC enough – it is definitely the best “bang for your buck” practice resource for the DAT.

OK, enough about what I used to study, now let’s see how those translated to actual test day results! Here are my opinions for each of the sections – do note your test content may change, as tests even between months are very different.

Survey of Natural Sciences
Bio: Maybe it was my overconfidence or just not studying certain topics enough, but I definitely did not do as well as I hoped (it is the worst of my SNS scores). There were a good number of specific questions that I had absolutely no idea about – I wasn’t sure if these were just topics I never covered or just didn’t study well enough. Nevertheless I was a bit bummed my Bio score was only 20, and I’m positive if I studied more I could’ve raised it 1-2 points.
GC: DATBC prepared me well for this test, since a lot of answers are conceptual and not calculational (i.e. you’re answering in the equation format/final setup, not the actual final numerical answer). There is a LOT of info to cover in GC (not as much as Bio though), and I did better than I expected at first. I definitely studied GC less than Bio (also because I hate GC), although I feel reading the PR book’s GC section twice in a week maybe helped refresh my test-day memory.
OC: Hilariously, what I thought my worst section would be (since I studied this the least) turned out to be my best in SNS. There were a larger portion of reaction and multi-reaction-product questions, which my reaction packet definitely prepared me well for – YMMV for your DAT.

PAT
Hole-fitting: (or whatever the heck it’s called) I started to time myself and do this section last, frankly since I spent the most time on these questions and the holes the shapes fit through are so damn picky. I can say without a doubt there were 2-3 absolutely “WTF IS THIS” questions that had so many sides and glued-on shapes that I had no idea what the answers were. As a precaution, expect these on your test – SKIP THEM AND SAVE THEM FOR LAST. Also, annoyingly, some of the questions definitely were not drawn to a correct, proportional scale (hell I could tell some questions were pulled from different resources by just the font). Be careful.
Top/Front/Botton: These were easier than some of the practice questions I encountered, mainly because they were much easier to comprehend and visualize in a 3D contest in my mind (of course, not everyone can do this). There were a few questions where the number of lines were a factor – do not overlook this! If you do you’ll probably miss a very simple question that’ll make you say “D’oh”. DATBC offers a 3D image of solutions to their practice tests to make sure you visualized the figure correctly – definitely a HUGE bonus. Did this section 2nd to last.
Angle Discrimination: The bane of all DAT takers. Both my PR and Barron’s book hilariously pretended the angles would be largely different enough for the answers to be easy. THEY WERE NOT. I figured out the ADA LOVES to troll test takers with angles that are 2-3 degrees different with drastically different arm lengths – and DATBC prepared me well for this. Ari offers a random angle discrimination practice generator that pumps out different questions, and (as a welcome bonus) tells you the angle measurements after each answer selection. You’ll find that a good majority of DAT questions for AD have angles that seriously differ only 2-3 degrees apart from each other. I cannot suggest anything for this but practice, practice, practice. I used a multitude of methods (Barron’s parking the angle, the laptop angle/turning your head method, drawing perpendicular lines to the legs, pixel counting, staring at the angles as far as possible from the screen, etc) which all seemed to help in their specific ways. Did this section 3rd to last.
Hole Punching: To me, the easiest section of all, since I folded a lot of origami when I was a child. DAT likes to troll people with diagonal, 1/3-square, irregular, and backwards folds. Make sure you organize the flow chart of folds in your mind properly. Also make sure weird hole punches (such as punches on folds or at corners) are accounted for, because there were more than a few of those on my test. Did this section first.
Cube Counting: Second easiest (hell 1st easiest for some). I use the foolproof Barron’s method: first count all the cubes and mark that down. Draw a line, then start counting the cube faces from the top level down; draw a line between each completed level. If you’re not sure how many faces are shown, start counting the number of adjacent attached cubes, and subtract that number from 5 (since cubes ALWAYS have the bottom side covered) to get the number of painted sides. When done, proofread all the counted cubes to make sure you have your original counted amount. Then, when questions start asking you number of painted cubes, strike out each of the numbers (BE CAREFUL) that you counted in your list. Use different strikes for each # that’s asked, so if you need to, you can go back and immediately recall how many cubes for each # of painted sides that was asked. Did this section 2nd.
Form Folding: Also kind of easy for me. Make sure you account for specific shapes you see in the unfolded sheet, and that you can move certain “panels” to adjacent ones depending on how the shape will be folded. I’m honestly not sure how to suggest methods for this section, since folding shapes together mentally for me is second nature. Did this section 3rd.

Reading Comprehension
Weirdly, this was the absolute easiest portion of the test (I completed it with 10 minutes to spare, and went back and proofread all my questions just because I was bored) – however I know this isn’t true for ALL DAT’s, since my friend took her test back in July and had an absolutely mind-straining RC section. For me, I feel it’s much, MUCH easier for me to understand a reading passage if I like the topic and/or I feel interested in the topic. I had some difficulty with some earlier test RC’s (Barron’s was way too hard, PR’s was way too easy) since some covered topics I had absolutely no interest in – YMMV. DATBC was also a good resource, since they tested on question formats seen commonly in the real DAT’s RC (i.e. those “1st/2nd statements are correct” questions, and/or “statement/reason are correct” questions), although on my test the frequency for these tougher questions were definitely on the low side. Also time yourself well – sometimes on practice tests I ran out of time because I spent too much on one passage. Limit yourself to about 17-18 minutes per passage, mark the HELL out of anything you don’t absolutely know the answer to, and make sure you review your answers.

Quantitative Reasoning Test
To me, this is basically SAT/high school math with a bit tougher word problems mixed in. However, I always disliked trigonometry, and I’m positive the questions I missed were those 2-3 complex trig questions I never bothered to focus studying on. Make sure you, again, pace yourself (some questions take a surprisingly amount of time, and I personally almost ran out of time guessing the last 2-3 questions I didn’t know), and set up equations (or plug in answers if you can’t).

So, guess that pretty much covers it – it’s late and I can’t think of anything else to write. My DAT studying experience may have not been as intense as some other’s I’ve seen here on SDN in the past, but I feel without my effort in the last few weeks I definitely would have scored lower. 

As a general tip, don’t inundate your mind with concepts all at once. Study, take breaks, eat while studying (swear to god I gained 5 pounds in July 0_0), and learn to relax. But, most importantly, practice yourself to recall what you’ve learned. I found that memory becomes much more efficient when you actually try to retrieve that information and recite it out loud. On DATBC’s blog Ari suggests that tutoring/teaching may actually help the tutor and not only the tutee. Of course, everyone’s study methods are different, so try new methods out and see which one works best for you.

Make sure you catch up on sleep 2-3 days before test day, as a rest-deprived mind will definitely struggle to recall memory when you need it most. Staying relaxed the last day or so will keep your nerves calm and not on edge; I was freaking out about Bio/OC the day before my test, and ending up just played World of Tanks until I slept. Know your body/mind’s limits, and apply new knowledge and learning at a sufficient pace specifically for yourself.

Hope you enjoyed reading my breakdown, and sorry for it being so long!

TL;DR: Use DAT BootCamp for practice, don’t fry your brain out studying, and practice applying what you studied! Also, rest and eat well, and don’t live on coffee like I did.

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