How to Ace the PAT Section on your DAT

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Reviewed by
Dr. Ari Rezaei
Key Takeaway

The good news is that anyone can learn how to beat the PAT. It’ll be frustrating at first, but if you stick with it and carefully review the solutions, you’ll begin to know what to look for. We’ll be using DAT Bootcamp's PAT Academy, PAT generators, practice tests and explanations.

Table of Contents

    Unless you’re in architecture or engineering, it’s unlikely you’ve encountered this material before. You have 60 minutes to complete 90 questions that test your spatial and perceptual abilities.

    The 90 questions are broken up into 6 sub-sections of 15 questions each, in this order:

    1. Keyholes
    2. Top-Front-End (TFE)
    3. Angle Ranking
    4. Hole Punching
    5. Cube Counting
    6. Pattern Folding


    A 3D object is presented and you have to determine which aperture it will perfectly fit through, like a key in a lock.

    Always start by looking at the answer choices and try to match them up to the 3D object. Use the process of elimination, look for which answer choices will NOT work and eliminate them. Often these questions will be proportion-based, so you will have to judge distances and slopes.

    PAT Academy Keyhole Intro:

    Continue watching these videos on the Keyhole section

    Top Front End (TFE)

    Two 2D images of a 3D shape are provided and you are asked for the third 2D image. A solid line is a change in elevation that you can see; a dotted line is a change in elevation you cannot see. Check out these tutorials for an in-depth explanation: DAT Bootcamp TFE Tutorial

    Tackle these problems by focusing on one single piece of the image in the two given views. You should focus on any walls or unique looking pieces of the image. Using that information, try to determine which of the answer choices matches up correctly to that area. Eliminate answers that do not properly match. If you cannot eliminate any answer choices, choose a different piece to focus on and see if you can eliminate answers. Rinse and repeat until you have the correct answer.

    It’s important you DO NOT use the line counting method when practicing for this section. Line counting is an old technique that used to work on older versions of the DAT. However, line counting will eliminate either none or only one of the answer choices on the updated DAT. You need to be able to visualize the 3D object.

    PAT Academy TFE Intro:

    Continue Watching these videos on the TFE section

    Angle Ranking

    A set of four angles is presented and you have to rank them from the smallest angle to the largest angle.

    This section is probably the most frustrating to get better at. Play our Angle Ranking Generator game to keep getting new angles to rank. Try to spend the least amount of time on this section. You are much more likely to get other questions correct if you spend more time on them. Spending more time on an angle ranking question doesn’t usually mean you’ll have a better chance at answering it correctly.

    PAT Academy Angle Ranking Intro:

    Continue watching these videos on the Angle Ranking section

    Hole Punching

    A square piece of paper is folded multiple times and hole punched. You must unfold the paper and determine where the holes lie on the paper.

    Draw a 4x4 grid on a piece of paper before you attempt to do these problems. Then, starting with the last fold, unfold the paper one step at a time. Anytime you see a hole punch in the paper, mark where it is located on the 4x4 grid. Continue to unfold the paper one step at a time until you have your solution on the grid, and then match it up with one of the answer choices.

    PAT Academy Hole Punching Intro:

    Continue watching these videos on the Hole Punching section

    Cube Counting

    A set of ~15 cubes are presented and you must determine how many cubes have x amount of sides exposed. Usually one figure is presented for 3 questions, but it can vary between 2 questions to 5 questions per figure.

    To tackle these problems, make a 2-column chart shown below:

    Example of a cube counting tally chart

    Then, go one-by-one to each cube and determine how many sides each cube has exposed. Make a tally each time you count the number of sides a cube has exposed on the right. The bottom of a cube is never counted as an exposed side.

    PAT Academy Cube Counting Intro:

    Continue watching these videos on the Cube Counting section

    Pattern Folding

    A flat 2D image is shown and you have to fold the image into a 3D shape. It’s important to note that you have to fold the image INTO the plane of the paper, NOT up and out of the plane of the paper. Again, the trick here is to focus on just one aspect of the shape. Try to match one of the shapes in the answer choices to the image in the question. Then, determine which piece would be connected to that piece.  Don’t try to fold the entire image in your head, just focus on figuring out the orientation of 2 pieces at a time and eliminate answer choices that don’t work.

    PAT Academy Pattern Folding Intro:

    Continue watching these videos on the Pattern Folding section

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    Hannah Brein, DAT Bootcamp Student