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2013 DAT Breakdown – 25/25/25 by athomas

Hi all,

I found previous breakdowns in this list really helpful in preparing for my DAT, so I thought I would submit my own experiences and advice in case they will help someone else achieve the scores they are dreaming of.

Instead of the usual breakdown style with practice test scores and in-depth reviews on each study resource, I wanted to do something a little more general for people who may not have even started their DAT prep yet. I spent hours just doing research about what the test entailed and how questions were formatted before I began practice tests, so I wanted to include that information here (specifically for the PAT).

I wrote this for some students who are in a summer program at my workplace, so if it seems like it’s addressing someone who is unfamiliar with the DAT, that’s because it is. Deal with it :D

Even though I covered a lot of material while studying, I tried to make sure I wasn’t putting in time when I wasn’t being efficient. If I felt like I needed a break, I took one and came back when I was ready. If I needed a day off, I took one and started again the next day. Studying for this test is a long process, and you need to be physically and mentally sharp during your studies and during your test, or you won’t perform to your best abilities. I personally only studied about 4-5 hours per day during the week, and 6-12 on the weekends (which varied more since I took some days off and doubled up others).

Oh yeah, I guess you probably want to see my scores too :oops:

PAT 25 98.6
QR 21 94.0
RC 27 99.0
BIO 25 99.1
GC 28 99.0
OC 24 94.9
TS 25 99.3
AA 25 99.8


The following is just my opinion and a description of what worked for me; you can take it or leave it depending on how you as an individual learn most effectively. Also if you just want the list, skip to the end, because first I will go through my strategy and study schedule.
I chose the route of not taking a prep course such as Kaplan because of the expense, and because I heard from a few people that they didn’t feel all that well prepared after it. I figured I could spend less money and get just as well prepared on my own, and that strategy ended up working well for me. However, if you know that you have a hard time keeping yourself to a schedule, it might be worth the investment to take a class. Using only these materials requires you to be very diligent in your studying because if you fall behind, you won’t be prepared for your DAT the way you want to be. The DAT is a very expensive test, and you only have 6 months of eligibility once you submit your payment. If you schedule your test 4 months out and then decide you aren’t ready, the most you can push it out is another 2 months to the end of your eligibility. Make sure you keep this in mind when you are scheduling your test to give yourself the right amount of time to prepare.

I knew I only wanted to take my DAT once if I could help it, for several reasons: it’s expensive to take twice, you have to wait 3 months between tests, and you have to study all over again. That’s not to say there is anything wrong with taking the DAT twice, which you definitely can do if you want to improve your scores.

I studied for the DAT while working full time, so for those of you who may have jobs—it can be done! However, I would really not recommend trying to study during the school year if you can avoid it; it’s hard enough to keep all of the DAT material in your head without trying to do it on top of other classes. Give yourself a summer to prepare, but if you have to work a summer job, you can definitely work your studying in around it if you are efficient.

Budgeting for study materials can be a struggle, but my viewpoint was that if I scored poorly and had to pay to take the DAT twice, that extra $385 could have bought a lot of study material. For anyone who will be applying for a partial fee waiver (which you definitely should if you are eligible, check out the ADA’s DAT guide), you are only eligible for it once so if you have to retake the DAT you have to pay full price.

Now I will go through each section, which resources I used for that section, how I used them, and what my opinions are about them. The SDN forums are your friend, and I really recommend researching before and during your DAT prep. 
Perceptual Ability—The PAT consists of several sections including 1.) apertures, 2.) view recognition, 3.) angle discrimination, 4.) paper folding, 5.) cube counting, and 6.) 3D form development

Apertures are also commonly called keyholes, and they require you to select the view through which the given object can pass. You have to be able to mentally rotate the shape to compare the various views of the object to the keyholes given, and decide if the shapes and proportions match up. There are often subtle differences in shape or proportion that make an answer incorrect, so it’s important to practice this section and make sure you can avoid the trap answers. Remember that you can move the object through from ANY side, but you cannot rotate it once it starts through the keyhole, and it must be an exact fit.

View recognition is the second section in the PAT, also called orthographic projection or top front end (TFE). In this section there is a 3D figure which you cannot see that has a view from the top, front, and end (looking from the right side of the object). You will be given 2 of these 3 views and asked to pick the missing view that corresponds to the object. This section requires you to mentally create a 3D object from a 2D representation, and lots of practice is the best way to prepare for this section. Some people use a strategy called line counting in which you compare views and count the number of solid and dashed lines to rule out incorrect choices. This is a useful technique for some questions, but on the real DAT there will be questions where this will not work, so you need to get a lot of practice at trying to actually visualize the shapes.

Angle discrimination gives you a set of 4 angles that you need to arrange from smallest to largest. The angles may all be acute, all obtuse, or a mix. Often there are differences as small as 3-4 degrees, so it’s important to develop a strategy that allows you to get as many of these correct as you can without squandering too much time comparing subtle differences which may or may not give you the correct answer. There are a lot of techniques out there for angle ranking, and using one or several that work for you can help you gain speed and accuracy in this section. I personally used the laptop technique, the reference angle technique, and the rapid glance technique of comparing the vertices—if you have questions about these you can search the SDN forums or PM me. This video is a good start:

Paper folding is also called hole punching, and it involves folding a square of paper, punching one or more holes in it, unfolding it, and then selecting the answer that shows the correct number and placement of holes. If you are really good at this you may be able to mentally unfold these papers without needing a specific technique, but I found myself getting tripped up by trick answers so I decided to use a more systematic approach. This video goes through a technique called the line of symmetry, and with practice this can help you get 15/15 on this section which can really boost your PAT score if you have trouble in another area. You may have to watch this video a few times to really understand what he’s saying (I think I watched it five times before it finally clicked), but once you get it you will be great at this section.

For cube counting, this is another section where practice and a systematic approach can help you get fast and accurate to get all 15 questions right and boost your PAT score. I personally like the tally technique, which I believe is what Kaplan teaches. You create a tally sheet with Total, 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 and you make a tally mark for each cube you count and then compare your total with the number of tally marks to make sure you didn’t add or miss any cubes. Practicing cube counting helped me get much faster at this section, so I really recommend not leaving this section unpracticed just because it seems easier. Make sure you don’t miss any hidden cubes in this section, as those are an easy way to get your totals wrong. The only hidden cubes will be those that are needed to hold up other cubes, because no cubes float in the air (some practice materials have hidden cubes that throw you off—don’t worry, that won’t happen in your real DAT).

Finally, 3D form development, also called pattern folding, requires you to fold up a 2D pattern into a 3D shape and select the answer that represents the correct shape. This section can be tricky, so again, practice is very important. Another thing to remember is to always imagine the shape folding away from you into the screen, not toward you out of the screen. The strategy I used was to first compare shapes if applicable to the problem. If there were no glaringly obvious shape differences, I would then address the shading or pattern. I would pick a distinguishing side and find an answer where I could see that side. Then, compare the side connected to that piece and decide if the orientation or shading of those pieces matches the 2D pattern. If not, discard that answer choice and repeat for the other options. This section can be difficult if you don’t leave yourself enough time, so I recommend making sure you have 8-10 minutes left for this if you can. For me, this meant I had to get much faster at keyholes and TFE.

First, I read through the Kaplan Blue Book’s PAT section and did their practice problems. I found it pretty lacking, so I went on SDN and searched for alternatives. This is a great thread on SDN that goes through some PAT tutorials . I also purchased Crack DAT PAT and DAT Achiever. Many people like the Crack DAT PAT (CDP) software for practicing the PAT section, and I think it has its uses, but it is a little bit too easy in some sections. The keyholes in CDP are too easy compared to the real DAT because many of them are shape-focused, whereas the real DAT has more problems where subtle differences in proportion are the difference between right and wrong answers. I think DAT Achiever is much more representative for this section. For top front end I think CDP is too easy because line counting works for many of the answer choices, which is not the case on all of the problems on the real DAT, though Achiever is just slightly too hard. For angle ranking, both CDP and Achiever are good practice for the real DAT. For hole punching, CDP and Achiever are both pretty representative of the real DAT but there are some problems where there are hidden cubes which you could not have known about, and some of their problems have too many cubes. For this section, I sometimes got tripped up if there was an area in the shape that had no cube (like a visible hole in the center), so make sure you get practice deciding on these types of structures. CDP’s pattern folding is a little too easy because it focuses mostly on shapes, but Achiever’s is a little too hard because it focuses on patterns and shading with more complex shapes; the real DAT lies somewhere in between. Other resources that I did not use for PAT but I have read some people like are ************ PAT prep videos and tests, DAT qVault for PAT, and Topscore.

Biology—Biology covers a huge breadth of information, and depending on where you are in your academic career when you take your DAT, you may not have seen some of the information in a class yet. I took microbiology, biochemistry, and physiology before taking my DAT and I thought physiology in particular was very beneficial to have before the DAT. The best study material I used was the Cliff’s AP Biology study guide. It covers almost everything you need to know, and it’s available on Amazon’s Kindle app so it was great to always be able to sneak in a few minutes of studying on my phone when I was on the bus or waiting for people. I also purchased the Cliff’s AP Biology 5 practice test book which I think was a good investment.

Though Cliff’s is very good, it doesn’t cover some important topics such as details about the musculoskeletal or integumentary systems. Some people recommend using the Campbell’s Biology textbook for these sections (I believe it’s chapters 19-21) but since I didn’t have that textbook I used notes which I found on the SDN forums. I can’t find the exact file, but these are close: . The notes were really helpful because it saved me the time of typing up all of my own notes, but the margins were wide enough that I could make notations for myself. It also includes some pictures which I found helpful.

DAT Destroyer’s biology section is a great tool for learning some of the more random facts that aren’t covered in Cliff’s, but more importantly a really good way to see what your weaknesses are and where to focus your studying. Make sure you understand why every right answer is right and why the other choices are wrong; it isn’t enough just to get the question correct because it may be presented differently on your actual DAT. If at any time you encounter information you haven’t seen before, right it down in your notes and do a quick search on it if you need more information. The biology section of DAT qVault is also really helpful at getting your timing down, and for testing your weaknesses.
I tried to review as much of my biology notes as I could every day, especially for the subjects like plants and fungi which I had to teach myself from Cliff’s. Because biology covers such a huge breadth of information, I personally feel that I was never going to feel 100% ready no matter how much I studied. It’s important to remember that the test is multiple-choice and there is no guessing penalty, so if there are a handful of questions out of the 40 that you need to make your best educated guess on, it isn’t the end of the world. I also took DAT Bootcamp’s free quiz the day before my test as a refresher and a final benchmark.

Organic chemistry—Ochem was my weakest science in college so I wanted to make sure I did well on this section to offset that a little. My favorite study resource for this section was Chad’s videos on *********** . com because he does a great job of helping you really understand the chemistry instead of just trying to memorize the reactions, which for me really helped with retention of information. He also does a great job of telling you what kinds of reactions will and will not appear on the DAT. The way I used his videos was to watch them all at the beginning of my studying and take thorough notes. Then, I reviewed all of my notes at least three times per week, and did DAT destroyer practice problems daily while referring to my notes as needed. Then I would go over every question I got incorrect or marked for further review, doing internet searches on reactions I didn’t fully understand and adding those details to my notes. My second time through DAT Destroyer I focused only on those questions I got incorrect or marked for review the first time through. I did all of the course saver . com quizzes the day before my DAT, and took DAT Bootcamp’s free quiz.

If you are like me and have a hard time remembering the reagents and reactions, make flashcards for yourself that you study a few times a day for 20 minutes. Essentially, I had to treat it like I was learning a new language; understanding the chemistry is kind of like learning the grammar and how to structure sentences, but without remembering your vocabulary you can’t actually say anything.

General chemistry—This has been one of my favorite subjects since high school, but since I hadn’t taken a genchem class since freshman year of college I knew I needed a lot of review. Again, Chad’s videos on course saver . com were an invaluable resource. This guy really knows his stuff, and he really knows what will and won’t show up on your DAT and the best way to solve common types of problems. My study method for genchem was the same as for ochem. The way I used his videos was to watch them all at the beginning of my studying and take thorough notes. Then, I reviewed all of my notes at least twice a week, and did DAT destroyer practice problems daily while referring to my notes as needed. Then I would go over every question I got incorrect or marked for further review, doing internet searches on reactions I didn’t fully understand and adding those details to my notes. My second time through DAT Destroyer I focused only on those questions I got incorrect or marked for review the first time through.
I paid special attention to making sure I was quick and accurate on my solubility and acid base calculations, since those tripped me up sometimes and I didn’t want to lose those points on the DAT. I probably practiced 30 solubility and acid base questions the day before my test with course saver . com quizzes. I also took DAT Bootcamp’s free quiz the day before my test.

Reading Comprehension—This was the section I prepared the least for because I have always been a strong reader, but if you struggle with this section DO NOT neglect it. Some schools give this section quite a bit of weight, so this isn’t a section to go into unprepared if you don’t feel confident about your reading abilities. I had DAT Achiever so I did one RC test just to get familiar with the format, but I have heard some people say Achiever is not very representative of the real test (I have no opinion on this since I only took 1 test). Some other people really like Crack DAT reading and DAT qVault reading. I think what prepared me the best for this was just reading for classes, especially those where I had to read a lot of journal articles because it forced me to learn how to quickly read a dense publication and take away the most important information. If you haven’t had many classes where you had to read a lot of journal articles, see if you can find some online and practice a couple per week.

Quantitative reasoning—Don’t be scared because none of this math is hard; this section is difficult mostly because of the time pressure. For this section, I prepared by watching Chad’s videos on *********** . com to learn ways to get faster at certain types of problems. I took extensive notes on all of the videos which I read through in their entirety at least twice per week. I then went through 6 practice tests in Math Destroyer, but did not do any of the QR questions in the back of DAT Destroyer because I was pressed for time and heard that it was easier than Math Destroyer. If I could teleport back and give myself more study time, I would have wanted to finish the rest of the Math Destroyer tests to get really well prepared. This section is supposedly seen as less important by some dental schools, but even those schools will sometimes have a cutoff below which you cannot be accepted, so don’t neglect this section entirely even if you are really good at math. I wouldn’t really recommend using the calculator on this section because you have to click each number with your mouse it’s very laggy.
If you have a limited study budget, these are my top recommended resources.
Cliff’s AP Biology ~$10
•You can pick up a used copy for less, and there is also a pdf on a high school’s website that you can use if you like to read on your computer Biology.pdf

Chad’s DAT videos on course saver . com $50+
•You pay for a subscription to these videos and quizzes, I would recommend getting the videos for your full study time because it’s very nice to be able to go back and watch them if you are struggling with a particular topic and need more of a refresher than just your notes. Also, having the quizzes the day before the test was really nice.

DAT Destroyer $150+
•This is really an awesome resource, and even though it’s expensive it covers biology, organic chemistry, chemistry and quantitative reasoning. This isn’t good for simulating the testing experience because it’s on paper, some of the questions are a little too difficult, and the phrasing may be a little different. If you can spare an extra $50, I would go for the DAT Destroyer and Math Destroyer Combo Package which is $200 because it has much more math practice and it covers more difficult questions which may appear on your DAT. I wouldn’t spend the money to get the Organic Chemistry Odyssey because it’s overkill.

DAT Achiever $70+
•I was very short on time so I only did the 1st practice test the whole way through, and the rest I only used the PAT tests. If you struggle with PAT, get the 5 or 7 test version if you can afford it. It’s an expensive program, but it’s also expensive to have to retake the DAT. The PAT section is the best PAT preparation for the real DAT that there is, in my opinion, but you need to be ready for it by using the other (free) links I mentioned first. If you are brave, you can use Achiever’s other sections, but know that they are much more difficult than the actual DAT so you want to use it to identify your weakness rather than as a predictor of your real DAT score. Seriously, don’t even look at your science scores because they will be frighteningly low, only look at what you did wrong and how to do it right.

DAT Bootcamp $0+
•They have some free quizzes which are really good, as well as an upgrade to get more quizzes in the sciences and math for $77. I only used the free quizzes, but if I had more time and was really struggling with the sciences, this would have been a great purchase. Their quizzes seem to be very on target in terms of types and difficulty of questions.

If you can afford to increase your study budget a little bit, these would be my next choices.
Cliff’s AP Bio, 5 Practice tests ~$10 
•I bought this on my Amazon Kindle app and quizzed myself on the bus. I think it was really good practice for biology and it’s so inexpensive that it’s really a great purchase if you are having trouble with biology.

•This is a little too easy in most sections compared to the real DAT, but it is great practice before Achiever if the PAT problems don’t come naturally to you. I would not rely solely on this for PAT preparation, and if you can only afford one I would definitely recommend Achiever over this. Also, be warned that although it’s not a subscription, their customer service is horrible and if you replace your hard drive or your computer dies they will NOT give you a code to re-authenticate your software (you will have to buy it again or pay to upgrade). 

DAT qVault $50+
•I only used biology from this site, but it was really great and worth buying if you can afford it. Their pricing is $50 per section, or $200 for everything. I have heard that their reading, general chemistry, and PAT are not bad. I have heard that there are quite a few errors in organic chemistry and some in PAT as well. 

If you have a bigger budget or different study needs, these are potential options. I did not personally use these, but I have heard good things about them.
Crack DAT Reading $70+
TopScore Pro $55
Barron’s AP Biology ~$10

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