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How to Ace the DAT – Advice from a Student
By Sarah D.
The time has come to begin thinking about your DAT. In this post I will share my approach to studying for the DAT and review what I would do differently if I had to take the test again. Most importantly, I am here to tell you that achieving a good score is very much doable if you put in the time and study strategically. Thanks to the tips I will share below, I finished the test with a score of 22 in the sciences, 25 in the perceptual ability test, 22 in reading comprehension, and a 23 in quantitative reasoning.
If you are like me, one of the first obstacles you might encounter is coming up with a plan to effectively cover all the material you need to know. When I first started planning my DAT preparation, I took advice from several people who had used CrackDAT as a resource and found it very helpful. I began the CrackDAT study program 8 weeks before my planned test date (note: you should register 90 days before you intend to take the DAT). In hindsight, I am glad I chose an 8-week plan because my scores dramatically improved in the last two weeks of studying. One of the first steps in the 8-week program was to take a few diagnostic tests to assess my baseline performance. These diagnostic tests were not full-length tests but comprised a group of 8-13 questions in each subject. On the first diagnostic test, I received a score of 17 in the sciences, 13 in quantitative reasoning, less than 10 in the reading comprehension, and 12 in the perceptual ability test. Though these initial scores were a bit demoralizing, I continued with the program, learning the different parts of the perceptual ability test, watching the chemistry videos, and reading a book that summarized the essential concepts I needed to know for biology.
With three weeks left until my test date, I was consistently scoring in the mid to upper 20s in the perceptual ability test and the quantitative reasoning. I was also getting scores in the low twenties in reading comprehension. But my science scores were consistently in the mid-teens. I knew at this point that I would need to add another resource to help me improve my science scores. I got in touch with a friend who suggested DAT Bootcamp to prepare for the science section. I began taking DAT Bootcamp practice tests but was left feeling defeated when I scored in the high teens. I reviewed the questions I was getting wrong and found that anatomy, physiology, and taxonomy were areas where I was struggling the most. I decided to get an anatomy and physiology tutor to teach me the important topics in these fields in the limited time I had left. This dramatically improved my scores as I made flashcards from our tutoring sessions and continued to review missed topics. Four days before my test, I took the 2007 DAT which projected scores in the low twenties in the reading comprehension, mid-twenties in the sciences as well as in the quantitative reasoning, and high twenties in the perceptual ability test.
I think both of the resources I used to prepare for the DAT were very valuable. Although different students may have different preferences, I liked the format of CrackDAT because it was very user friendly. I found that the perceptual ability was very reflective of the questions on the actual DAT and similar in level of difficulty. The science sections however were very specific and more difficult than questions on the actual DAT. In contrast, the science material covered in DAT Bootcamp were a better representation of the material on the DAT in my opinion. For reading comprehension, if you struggle with understanding how to critically read, either platform would help enhance these skills in my opinion. In the reading comprehension section, one challenge I initially had was getting through the passages and questions in a timely fashion. I decided that to be efficient, it would be best to initially skim through each passage and use my whiteboard to write down 1-3 key words about each. I then went through each question and came back to sections of the passage that were most necessary. As for the quantitative reasoning, the material on the real DAT was a mixture of both what I saw on CrackDAT and on DAT Bootcamp. The format was perhaps more closely aligned with DAT Bootcamp but the difficulty level more with CrackDAT.
Now that I have shared with you some of my experiences, I would like to tell you how I would proceed with studying if I were to do it again. I would once again allow myself 8 weeks to study, focusing more on learning the material in the first 4 weeks and doing practice tests in the final 4 weeks. I would choose DAT Bootcamp to review the science sections. I would adhere to their day by day study plan. If my score in one section of the sciences remained low for a few weeks while other sections were consistently high, I would study less of the subjects which I was doing well in. For the perceptual ability test, even if my scores were very high, I would make sure to practice it the day before the test to brush up and keep the format fresh for test day. I would also make sure I had consistent exposure to quantitative reasoning by practicing the problems regularly.
To master the topics in the sciences, I would create flashcards from videos or biology books that I read during my study time and constantly refer to them to review. I found flashcards very helpful and would recommend them even for topics that are familiar. I would also use my performance on tests to guide me on the flashcards I should make. In fact, this is something I did, when I was preparing. Each time I missed a question on a practice test, I would make flashcards about not just that specific topic but the broader concepts related to that question. For example, in biology, if I missed a question about active transport, I would write flashcards about all kinds of transport mechanisms and review them. I also found flashcards very useful for the reactions in organic chemistry. I suggest reviewing the stack of flashcards daily during free times outside of formal studying.
Some final pieces of advice: when you go to take the DAT, wear something you feel comfortable and confident in. If possible, schedule the test for the time of day you feel you are most productive. Avoid doing too much studying the day before; merely review major facts and formulas you may need to know but avoid learning new in-depth concepts. Remember that last-minute studying will not likely improve your score by much if at all. It will also cause you stress as you remind yourself of the things you do not know. Despite my strong scores, I feel there was still a very large sum of information that I had not mastered before the test. This means that you do not have to have every topic mastered to do well in the test.
All suggested resources provided in this post are the sole recommendation of the author and not of Admissions Helpers.