How Anna Went From an 18 AA on Her First Practice Test to a 25 AA on Her DAT

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Two critical advantages that Bootcamp has over other study programs is that: 1. The questions they ask are very similar to questions found on the actual DAT and 2. The format and interface of their Full Length Tests are almost identical to the DAT itself.

Anna Giek

Hello! My name is Anna, and I just completed my DAT in November of 2022. Bootcamp was the only resource that I used to prepare for the test, and it enabled me to go from an 18 AA on my first practice exam to a 25 AA on my actual DAT. This prep course is the absolute best resource available to ace the DAT and was recommended to me by everyone that I asked for advice regarding study programs, including current dental students who had wished they used Bootcamp instead of other programs to study.

Disclaimer: While all of the following worked really well for me, everyone has a different method that will work best for them, and no two methods are the same. My hope is that you will be able to use my story and others to discover the best techniques for you to do an amazing job on your DAT.

Three Months Before the DAT

The first thing I did to study for the DAT was take Bootcamp’s Full Length Test #1, which I scored an 18 AA on. This ended up being a great decision because it gave me a baseline for the rest of my studying, showed me which subjects needed additional attention, and helped me conceptualize what I was getting myself into. Up until this practice test, studying for the DAT was a theoretical abstract that I had no idea how to approach, so starting with a simulation of the exam put me in the right frame of mind to begin my prep plan.

After taking Full Length Test #1, I followed Ari’s Study Schedule for the entire two and a half months leading up to my exam. This worked extremely well for me because I am very task-oriented and do well when I have a checklist that I can complete while studying for long periods of time. Not only did this method help me feel a sense of accomplishment during a season where progress can be hard to visualize on a daily basis, but it gave me a comprehensive review of all the concepts that I needed for the test without getting bogged down by unnecessary details. Ultimately, I devoted around 3-4 hours per day (15-20 hours per week) to DAT prep for the duration of the 70-day study schedule. (Helpful hint for time management: if you fall behind in the study schedule, no worries! Instead of attempting to finish multiple days’ worth of work at once, just complete two days’ worth of work one day at a time until you are caught up in your schedule, then go back to one day of work as the study plan outlines. It may mean some longer days for a while, but this method will ensure that you don’t fall so far behind that the thought of catching up in time for your test date is utterly terrifying.)

Two Months Before the DAT

Throughout the study process, I benefitted greatly from working in accordance with my academic strengths and weaknesses that I was already familiar with. Here are breakdowns of how I approached each section in the context of the Study Schedule:

Biology

Because I had a strong background in biology, I re-learned important concepts by reading the DAT Bootcamp High-Yield Biology Notes aloud to myself (a trick for memorizing content that I highly recommend for anyone who is an audio-visual learner) instead of taking the time to watch through the biology videos for each subject. I would start by reading through a chapter of the Biology Notes, completing all of the Bio Bites for that chapter, reading the chapter again (usually the next day), and then completing the question bank for that chapter.

General Chemistry

Because general chemistry was not my strongest subject, I watched through every one of Dr. Mike’s videos, did all of the quizzes embedded in the lessons, and completed every question bank in full. If you’re looking for a good resource to learn chemistry for the DAT, then I absolutely recommend Dr. Mike’s videos. They are extremely helpful in mastering important concepts because the videos were specifically created for the DAT, meaning that you don’t waste any time going over details that you do not need to know. Because there are so, so many details regarding chemistry, targeting your learning only towards applicable concepts will make all the difference.

Organic Chemistry

Just like general chemistry, organic chemistry was one of my weaker subjects starting out, soI watched through all of Dr. Mike’s videos, did all of the lesson quizzes, and completed every question bank in full. I also spent considerable time working through Reaction Bites for concepts that I was struggling with. Something that worked well for me was familiarizing myself with the mechanisms of difficult reactions in order to determine reactants, reagents, or products based on the information given in a question whenever I was stumped by the answer choices. Additionally, I approached questions by using process of elimination for the given answer choices to determine which one was correct; for example, if I could figure out from a reaction that the product I was asked to identify must have been a tertiary alkyl halide, then I could eliminate all answer choices that didn’t fit that description.

Perceptual Ability

The PAT turned out to come more naturally to me than other subjects, so I viewed preparing for this section as a “break” from more intensive subjects such as the sciences. I watched through every PAT Academy video to learn the best ways to approach each section (for example, the tallying method for cube counting) and then utilized the question banks and PAT generators throughout my study schedule. Additionally, I downloaded Bootcamp’s app onto my phone so I could complete questions on the go. (Helpful hint for timing yourself on the PAT: try to finish each one of the 15-question categories in around ten minutes to ensure that you finish all 90 questions in under one hour.)

Reading Comprehension

To start, I watched through all the RC Academy videos to learn different strategies, but ultimately realized that the best strategy for me was similar to the one that I had used on my SAT and ACT a few years prior: because this DAT section is composed of three passages in one hour, break it down into one passage every twenty minutes. Use the first ten minutes to read through the passage in full and then use the second ten minutes to quickly search and destroy each question.

Quantitative Reasoning

To review for each quantitative reasoning concept, I started by working through the related question bank. If I was making consistent mistakes on the first few questions, then I would watch through the corresponding video lesson to re-learn how to solve problems pertaining to that concept, and then go back to the question bank. If I was still struggling with certain questions, then I would watch through the explanation video in full and re-work the question until I got it right.

One Month Before the DAT

The most significant thing that I did to prepare for my DAT was completing as many Full Length Tests as I could before the big day. Two critical advantages that Bootcamp has over other study programs is that 1) the questions they ask are very similar to questions found on the actual DAT and 2) the format and interface of their Full Length Tests are almost identical to the DAT itself. Because of this, taking and reviewing these practice tests was the most efficient way for me to review exam content in the weeks leading up to the DAT. (Helpful hint regarding review: take the time to review all of the questions on your Full Length Tests after completing them to learn why your correct answers were right as well as how to fix your mistakes.)

Utilizing Bootcamp’s practice tests enabled me to not only review exam content but to learn the timing and flow of the DAT, the format of the questions, and the mental endurance required to complete five full hours of testing. Something that I made a point of doing was taking practice tests in settings that mimicked what my experience would be at the Prometric testing center. This meant taking all of my Full Length Tests in my school’s computer lab instead of using my personal laptop, not checking my phone in between test sections, and working with scratch paper instead of the iPad thatI take notes with during class. By getting used to what my actual exam session would be like, I was able to make sure that simple changes wouldn’t throw me off during the DAT, and that I could devote all my energy to answering questions quickly instead of learning to adapt to a new testing environment.

The Day Of the DAT

Something that I absolutely recommend doing is fully resting the day before the DAT and not doing any more review. Even though I wanted to finish one more Full Length Test, I knew that the time I took to rest would make a greater difference on my DAT than any amount of studying done in place of that rest. One thing that I did to rest was to take a relaxing drive to the Prometric testing center, so that I would have no worries finding it the following day. Even though visiting the testing site the day before is not a necessity, it ended up being an awesome idea for me, because it gave me the opportunity to go on a mini road trip and listen to my favorite music with the windows down (which is something I love doing to relieve stress)and to make sure that I knew how to get to the test center.

On the day of my DAT, I made sure to eat a good breakfast, get to the test center early, and make friends with some of the other people waiting in the lobby to take exams (a great way for an extrovert like me to calm down and get my mind off of the test). During my actual DAT session, I utilized every single break that I could to allow my mind to recharge in between sections. For example, when I finished the Survey of Natural Sciences early, I took a few minutes to take deep breaths and stretch before entering the time crunch that is the PAT. During the 30 minute break, I used the restroom, ate a power bar, walked around outside, and drank some water to mentally reset for the last two sections of the test.

Overall, I did my absolute best to shift my focus from the implications of this test to answering the individual questions. My advice to anyone on test day is to forget about what this score means for your future; instead, direct your focus to the question on the screen. You’ve been studying this for months and you know how to answer these questions. Even if you come across a question that stumps you at first, take an educated guess, mark the question, move on with the test, and then go back to it at the end of the section to take a look at it with fresh eyes.

My Advice to You

The most important thing that I can recommend to anyone studying for the DAT is this: do not give up. I know it sounds cliché, but it is the cornerstone of your success not only on this test, but throughout dental school as well. Completion of this test (let alone earning an excellent score) demonstrates the character traits of resilience and determination to dental schools who are looking for those qualities in their applicants. Dental schools invest a significant amount of time, energy, and resources into training their students to become excellent dentists, and they want to be certain that the applicants they accept will complete the long and arduous process of dental school, no matter how difficult it may prove to be. Having a great DAT result helps assure them that the same values that enabled you earn that score will empower you to work hard throughout dental school regardless of how challenging it becomes.

This test is intimidating and requires months of preparation, but you can do this. I believe in you. You are absolutely capable of earning a fantastic DAT score through dedication and hard work, and I cannot recommend DAT Bootcamp more highly as the absolute best method in order to do so. Feel free to reach out to me through my Instagram @annagiek if you ever have any questions or need encouragement. I wish you all the best!

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