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2013 DAT Breakdown – 23/25/19 by ivanlo01

I’ve been stalking the forums religiously since my first attempt at the DAT was unsuccessful to say the least. I couldn’t schedule an appointment on time for my first attempt at the only Prometric center available in Vancouver, BC so I had to make my trip down to Washington just to get absolutely destroyed by this exam. Needless to say, it was the longest car ride back to Vancouver ever.

First Attempt:

PAT: 20 

Reflecting on that attempt, I really did underestimate the exam. Having only studied 1 week for the Canadian DAT (midterms, only 2 times per year blah blah blah) and scoring respectably, I thought this exam would go much better having studied for a month. 

ATTEMPT 2: Jul. 5, 2013

I really took the exam seriously this time and went out of my way to start looking for material that helped everyone on this forum achieve such high scores. First, my scores:

PAT:19 (62.7%) 
QR:20 (88.3%)
RC:21 (77.1%)
BIO:26 (99.7%)
GC:28 (99.0%)
OC:22 (88.7%)
TS:25 (99.3%)
AA:23 (98.1%)


I started studying about 2 months in advance but the first month really was a feeling out process and I also had a lot of graduation stuff to take care of (ie. I only studied 3 hours tops). The last month was probably an average of 6 hours a day, with probably 8-10 hours of studying during the last week.

Kaplan Blue Book

I used this heavily on my first attempt but not so much my second attempt. Kaplan is a great resource to use to simply introduce the topics for each section. The math section also goes over many key equations that were relevant to the exam. I used Kaplan mainly to get the topics in my head. If there were topics that were less familiar to me because I hadn’t seen them in my undergrad science courses, I would look for more clarification online or with Cliff’s AP, Campbell’s or the Internet.


My average for 7 out of 10 tests was a 21 (with a range from 19-22)

I bought Crack DAT PAT with about 3 weeks left before the exam and worked on a test every other day until I got the hang of PAT. I would definitely recommend buying all 10 as they were good practice for getting the hang of each section and practicing different methods.

Compared to the real exam

(Read the PAT section under “ACTUAL EXAM”)

DAT Destroyer 

Absolute best resource for practically every section on the DAT in my honest opinion. The questions that were presented might be tricky but they are an excellent source of detail as far as things the real DAT might trick you with. I used this book near the end after watching all of Chad’s videos once and having done the quizzes after the videos. 

Compared to the real exam:

Many people say the Biology section in the DAT Destroyer is a little overkill and I really don’t think this is true. The real exam is completely random and having done most of the Biology section in the DAT Destroyer (that is equally as random) really helped. The GC and OC sections were very indicative of what would be a challenging question on the exam. Also, most of the calculations in the GC section don’t require a calculator as they would appear as a derivation on the answers section. Supplementing this with Chad’s videos is more than enough to get you through these sections. I made sure I went over the GC and OC sections twice before the exam. A lot of people have said that they started with the DAT destroyer stuff before doing much studying on the sections. I would advise against this because it would probably be a huge confidence killer if you don’t already have a strong sense of what you’re doing when you tackle these problems.

Math Destroyer

I suck at math so I needed more affirmation that I really did suck at math and that my 17 on my first attempt was not a fluke. Math destroyer was perfect for this very task. I had trouble with the problems even without timing and would need close to an hour to finish the tests. I grew to love this book as I got to the 5th – 6th tests because I started to understand the types of problems that were likely to show up on the exam. The problems really are just a variation on a certain type of problem and it really helps to know every method of going about solving the same sorts of equations that you’re likely to see on the real exam. Don’t get discouraged with Math destroyer. It’s very difficult at first, but once you get the hang of the questions, you will start to see a trend in the sorts of problems that can be asked. 

Compared to the real exam:

I only finished up to Test 8 as I focussed more on the sciences and PAT than QR (even though I suck at math). The real exam was similar in some areas but there were some “gimme” questions thrown in there that helped with the timing. On the real thing, I think I guessed 4-5 questions that I hadn’t seen before but I think I was able to score well on the ones that I did know how to do. I also didn’t practice with a calculator ever so having that on the real exam was actually really useful (wait… were we always allowed a calculator?).

Cliff’s AP Biology

I read Cliff’s roughly twice over. I used KBB for some parts of the hormone section and some of the ear and eye physiology. The material is quite heavy, especially near the taxonomy, animal diversity and plants but it is vital to know as much information as you can for the biology section. I loved the questions at the end of the chapters as they do a good job in solidifying the vocabulary of the chapter.

Chad’s Videos / Quizzes (OC / GC)

As many have said before, Chad is the man.The most valuable part of Chad’s videos and quizzes is how condensed everything is, but also how focused the material is towards the common “tricks” that often show up on the real exam. I went through most of the videos (especially the ones that I didn’t have a strong grasp of initially) once over and did all the quizzes twice over for the GC and OC sections.

Compared to the real exam:

The quizzes were very representative to what you’ll find on the exam (esp. the OC section). Many of the quizzes are ridden with the tricks that Chad goes over in his videos so doing these near the end is crucial.


Organic Chemistry 5th Ed. (Bruice)

Really just used this for mechanisms and going over some really obscure reactions..

Campbell Reece Biology 6th Ed.

Phylogeny / Taxonomy stuff and also some detail on plants / fungi.

Chemistry 12: A Workbook for Students

Used this for titration questions and a lot of the acid/ base stuff that I found rather tricky. I also tried to memorize most of the solubility table which didn’t really come in handy for the real thing. 



Average AA: 19
Average TS: 19
Average PAT: 20
Average RC: 21
Average QR: 20

I thought the level of difficulty for the science sections for the three Topscore tests to be on par with the actual exam. There were some questions in the Biology section that might have a little bit more detail and less application type questions. The Math section was also a tad easier than the actual exam as there were less word problems. Other than that, the GC, OC and RC was on par with the real exam. I left Topscore until the last week of studying to gauge how prepared I was for the actual exam. 


Average AA: 18
Average TS: 17
Average PAT: 18
Average RC: 18
Average QR: 18

I started doing Achiever with about 2 weeks of studying left and only got through 3 exams (I know.. wasted a lot of money..). The exams that I did do, I was scoring pretty horribly on all of the sections (16s on Bio or in GC). I used Achiever as a motivation tool to continue studying hard and to look for topics that I was weak in (which turned out to be a lot of sections). Looking back, I think using the Achiever PAT will really prepare you for the real exam (especially the key-holes and hole punching sections). I would have definitely spent more time using Achiever PAT if I were to do this all over again. 


Survey of the Natural Sciences:


This section was completely random. The bulk of my questions came from speciation, ecology and human physiology (quite a bit actually on female pregnancy and menstrual cycles). While I had about 8-9 questions in the Biology section marked, there were no questions where I just absolutely did not know the answer to and couldn’t even make an educated guess on. I absolutely recommend going through Kaplan, Cliffs and DAT Destroyer for this section as I was at least able to make strong guesses on some of the questions (ie. cut down the answers to just 2). I probably spent a bit more time than usual just because I wanted to be sure I had read the questions properly and didn’t miss any details that would change my answer.

General Chemistry:

I actually don’t remember a whole lot about this section (which might be why I did a little better on this than other sections). Chad is absolutely the best here as I did his quizzes twice over and my run through DAT Destroyer was much smoother than if I had not gone through the videos beforehand. I made sure to take notes on the problems that I was doing wrong on the DAT Destroyer and made sure I knew all the little tricks that would show up on the exam. In terms of the types of questions I got, there was a good split between calculations and conceptual problems. All the calculations were broken down into derivations (which actually made things harder for me because I found myself having to convert my own answers to the answers given in the question) and the conceptual questions had to do with acid/base, electrochemical cells and balancing redox equations (ie. how many e- transferred). GC was probably the lowest score I had on all of my practice exams so this was a complete shocker.

Organic Chemistry:

Again, Chad was absolutely money here. He goes through all of the possible tricks that there are to know. My approach again was to use Chad’s videos to start and using DAT Destroyer to hammer home the concepts and to learn harder calculations. There were no reactions that I hadn’t seen before (although I think there was a question that dealt with diazonium salts) and the questions were generally straightforward. I had only one question that had to do with the number of signals in CNMR. Overall, just make sure you know the types of reactions there are and the limitations / exceptions there for each. I did relatively well on Organic Chemistry during my undergraduate degree and I “enjoy” this section the most out of all of the other sections.

Timing / Overall Thoughts: 

I took a lot longer during the exam than during my trial runs. I only had enough time to check over my BIO and GC sections (I was so worried after my sciences section… I think after this section, I looked exactly like :scared:) In my head, I was already thinking about how much of a drag it would be to re-take this exam. Before I could gather my thoughts and regain any semblance of confidence I might have had left, the PAT section started…

Perceptual Ability Test

Keyholes: These were so hard. I definitely marked over half of these keyholes and was lucky enough just to have enough time to go over this section a second time (which only helped me answer 3 or 4 more with some sort of certainty). This section was DEFINITELY harder than CDP on my exam.

Top / Front / End Views: This was probably split half / half in terms of difficult versus easy to visualize. I usually perform well on these sections but was having a hard time visualizing some of the shapes. Luckily, there were some easier shapes near the end of this section that definitely helped with time.

Hole Punching: This section was my best section on CDP (I probably scored 100% on 6 out of the 7 tests) but was in shock when I saw at least 4-5 patterns with 1/3 folds. Luckily, I took the Achiever PAT as well and went over the 1/3 folds than showed up in a few of the practice exams and had at least some exposure to those types of problems. I’m not sure how I performed in this section but I think having some practice with 1/3 folds will definitely be a good idea.

Angle Ranking: I thought this section would be the crippler of all the other sections on PAT. As should be expected on the real DAT, the reverse was actually the case. This section was a lot easier on the real DAT and was comparable to some of the angles that were on the Topscore PAT. I thought all of the angles were easily distinguishable. Half of the questions had only two choices that could be selected for smallest/largest angles. 

Cube Counting: As many have pointed out in the past, there are less cubes on the real exam than CDP. However, I think the real exam had more “holes” and blind spots than CDP so be wary.

Pattern Folding: I read from other people that this section was much harder on the real exam. While most of the PAT went horribly, I thought this section was the most reasonable. About half the questions could be singled out by elimination (ie. some shapes were not given in the unfolded pattern) and the dice / colored stripe patterns were easy to visualize.

Timing / Overall Thoughts: ABSOLUTELY DREADFUL! I had only 3 minutes to spare to go over the entire keyhole section in which all 15 questions were essentially marked. From what everyone was saying about the success of CDP preparing you for this and how indicative it was to the actual exam, I was caught completely off guard. I did not expect to have back to back to back key hole questions that dealt with 1/3 folds. The graphics were also a little spotty at times in the keyhole section (ie. diagonals looking a little off). I was probably lucky to pull a 19 in this section because if the Sciences section had me scared, this section all but sealed my fate on a second re-take. 

BREAK — I took a break just to collect my thoughts, hydrate and go to the washroom. I stood dazed at the computer screen watching the timer tick down before the RC and was absolutely stunned by how hard the actual exam turned out to be. Before I could think about tanking the exam and leaving, the RC section started…

Reading Comprehension:

I had to read a paper on a symbiotic bacterial strain in the stomach, quantum particle and waves (having to read this felt like someone just felt like rubbing it in at how badly the exam was going) and hurricanes. My method for approaching RC was to read through half of the paper on the “big” screen and going through the questions while scrolling / reading the rest of it. I tried doing the search and destroy method that is so popular on here but I never got the hang of it (could never really finish). I also tried doing the road map approach but I always felt like tried skimming too quickly and would miss key words (which completely defeats the purpose). I had underestimated my own ability to remember and recall where key words were so I was surprised at how well I was doing by not writing a single word down and just skimming the passage. The paper on quantum wave particles was pretty ridiculous. I only had 2 tone questions throughout the entire section so I guess it wasn’t thaaat bad.

Timing / Overall Thoughts: I had about 3 minutes to spare after I finished the last question. I had about 3 questions marked from the quantum wave particles passage. There was also a trick question in there that asked for how many “pairs” of lasers there were. In the passage, they described a system where air (which were used as an analogy to the lasers) in from the bottom, top then left and right (ie. 4 directions). I had to distinguish what they meant by the number of lasers (ie. knowing that the air was an analogy of lasers) and that they were asking for PAIRS (ie. 2 pairs since 4 lasers total) of lasers. Needless to say, search and destroy would NOT have worked well for this passage. 

Quantitative Reasoning:

The biggest skill that I acquired from doing Math Destroyer was the ability to know that I don’t know how to do a problem and to skip it. I probably guessed 4-5 questions on this section and saved time doing so. Being naturally terrible at Math (against my Asian stereotype), I took advantage of using the laggy calculator while working as fast as I could on the problems that I did know how to do. To be honest, I just wanted to get through this section so that I could go home and sulk. 

Timing / Overall Thoughts: I’m really glad I did Math Destroyer and that I timed myself so that I could at least complete the tests having tried all of the questions. I only had about 1 minute left to check over my answers (which really made no difference). I really just wanted to go home at this point. It didn’t help that there was that stupid survey at the end. I honestly was a lot harsher on that survey because I thought I’d do terribly again on the exam. 

LUCKILY, things went a lot better than I expected. My science scores were a complete surprise. I think I might’ve scared the old dude at the security monitor with my best impression of :eek:. With blood shot eyes and shaky hands, I took the print out copy of my marks and probably pissed off the guy who was trying to take my finger print so that I could sign out but couldn’t because I kept shaking so much. It feels so good to be done and I’m looking forward to applying to these schools with newfound confidence in my application. 

I hope this is helpful to anyone who has yet to take the exam or was entertaining to those who’ve “been there and done that”. The biggest thing I wanted future exam takers to know is that the exam is absolutely and utterly ridiculous. Your expectations of what your marks are will almost ALWAYS be reversed. Going in, you’ll always have those sections that you’re confident in. Not only are those sections probably not going to be easy or go as well as you’d think but the sections you thought would have been worse often turn out better. Or maybe it’s just me. Who knows. Anyways, just PM me if you’ve got any questions and thanks for allowing a noob to share his experience with all of you on this wonderful forum.

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