How Anita went from a 14 AA to a 21 AA in 21 Days

Author image
Star icon
Star icon
Star icon
Star icon
Star icon
"I gave myself only 3 weeks to study for the DAT, and I scored a 21 in January 2024 thanks to DAT Bootcamp."
Anita Nguyen
21 AA

I gave myself only 3 weeks to study for the DAT, and I scored a 21 in January 2024 thanks to DAT Bootcamp. While I intended to study for a full 6 months starting in August 2023, I personally found it difficult to consistently study for both my fall courses and the DAT. My co-curriculars also took up a substantial amount of time as I served as Pre-Dental Society President and Honors Student Body President at my university. In addition to this, I spent many hours in my research lab and service activities so my packed schedule had very little room for my DAT endeavors. Although it wasn’t my initial plan, the pressure of knowing that my dream of becoming a dentist was on the line is what really pushed me to give it my all for 12 hours a day during the final 3 weeks throughout my winter break.

When it comes to picking a date to schedule your exam, I recommend looking ahead at your timeline for the year to see if you have any pockets of time where you don’t have much going on. Balancing life with DAT studying can be very difficult so if there is any way you can work in some time to solely focus on this test, then you can definitely make a lot of progress in a short amount of time. I chose to have my DAT the day after winter break ended so I could utilize my break for uninterrupted studying.

I would say that overall, I spent 50% of my time on Biology, 10% on General Chemistry, 20% on Organic Chemistry, 5% on PAT, 5% on Reading, and 10% on QR.

The First Week

It's very important to not get discouraged when you start out at first. I took my first practice test on DAT Bootcamp as a diagnostic to see where I stood and scored a 14, which admittingly frightened me but I thought to myself “just keep going” before I had any major doubts. I spent the first week combing through material to assess where the majority of my weaknesses were and built my strengths throughout the week. I would say that Biology, Organic Chemistry (OC), and Quantitative Reasoning (QR) gave me the most trouble. I quite enjoy General Chemistry, so this section was my favorite.

Biology is such a wild card because the topics are so broad. For this one, I recommend that you use DAT Bootcamp’s Bio Bites and Question Banks. I found these convenient because the Bio Bites are very thorough with the fundamental information of each topic while the Question Banks get you to start critically thinking. I highly recommend taking the DAT after completing courses like Biochemistry and Physiology since a lot of material from those classes apply in the DAT Biology section.

While General Chemistry is one of my favorite topics, it’s not everyone’s favorite. If this is something that you struggle in, I would say that one of the first things to learn is the periodic table and its trends. A lot of the questions on the GC tests can be contextualized with periodic trends to help you choose an answer. Dr. Mike’s videos come in handy here.

Organic Chemistry isn’t my strong suit, so I worked quite literally every question I could find and reviewed all mechanisms with Dr.Mike’s videos and studied any possible shortcuts. DAT Bootcamp provides very useful charts especially when it comes to the C-NMR and Proton NMR spectrums.Try to memorize those values to save yourself some time. Also! Don’t skimp on those nomenclature questions. Use elimination strategies anywhere you can.

PAT is something I recommend you a little bit every day. One of your goals when practicing PAT should be speed. If you can answer each question roughly within 15 seconds, you should be in good shape. I recommend that by the half-time mark, Keyholes, Top-Front-End, and Angle Ranking should already be completed. That leaves you with Hole-Punching, Cube Counting, and Pattern Folding left to complete with the remaining half. I usually try to complete Keyholes and TFE within 20 minutes, and then Ankle Ranking gets 10 minutes. Hole-Punching and Cube Counting get 20 minutes, and Pattern Folding gets 10 minutes. Before you know it, your PAT hour is up, and it’s time for your break.

Please (for both the practice tests and the real test) take the whole break, or at least most of it. Even if it means just staring at the“SECTION BREAK” screen. Allow yourself to decompress.

For Reading, find a tactic that you enjoy best, and it’s totally okay to complete the passages out of order if you feel like it’s best to save a difficult section for later. Just be mindful of the time crunch on top of the exam’s lag between each page. On my practice tests, I did everything in order, but on my real DAT, I completed passage 1, jumped to 3, and then finished with 2 since I struggled with the second passage.

I found Math a little difficult mostly due to the time crunch like PAT. The word problems will take you the longest since it will take at least 2 minutes to read and comprehend each problem if you’re looking at it for the first time. And you really don’t want to spend more than a minute per question. I recommend going through all of the word problems in DAT Bootcamp become familiar with each type of problem. Get comfortable with mental math if it saves time from writing everything out. You’ll start to notice a pattern with the type of formula you need and the numbers associated. At some point you’ll be able to predict the formula within reading a few words of the question. 

The Second Week

I spent my second week taking a test every morning and reviewing each question of that test for the rest of the day. Don’t forget to always review the provided reasons after each question in DAT Bootcamp, even if you got it right! This way, you get to solidify what you for sure know and see explanations on why the other answers are incorrect. You may even learn something about the other answer choices in the process.  

Also! Consider getting yourself into a routine at this point to prepare your body for test day. If your scheduled exam is at 8am, try waking up every day and do what you would want to do for the morning of the test. I always had the same breakfast every morning and wore a variation of the same outfit. I had a lucky sweater for the day of. 

The Third Week

I spent maybe the first half of this week continuing with doing a test every morning followed by review. The second half of the week was spent with me working on any specific subject areas that needed some more attention right before the big day.

Final Notes

I know that this can be a very rigorous and overwhelming time for anyone having to endure this. While I’m someone who functions best under pressure, I think it is very important to get to know yourself before you choose your ideal study method. If I had to do it all over ahead, I think I would try my best to stretch my studying over 6 months rather than have it condensed into 3 weeks because even through it works for me, it is by no means any fun. Despite that, putting your all in this test is one of the best investments in your future that you could make. Just know that if you do find yourself in a similar situation, it is completely possible to score well on the DAT in a short amount of time. I wish you the best of luck on your DAT journey, and I highly recommend using solely DAT Bootcamp to get you to your ideal score.

Score Report
Save 100+ hours of your life studying with

Get everything you need in one place. Start studying today for free.

Start Studying for Free
Hannah Brein, DAT Bootcamp Student